Day 7 | San Francisco, Alcatraz etc

What an amazing day. We got up early, 7.00am (which was hard for us). We got a cab and experienced a trip over the Bay Bridge with stunning views. Angus went to take some pictures and realised we had left the camera memory stick back at the hotel – bugger.

We arrived at Pier 33 at 8.30am ready for our ferry ride to Alcatraz at 9.10am. Lucky for us we managed to buy a new memory stick before our ferry left.

After a quick ferry trip we arrived at the island – we were given some brief instructions – like no eating on the island and you had to leave by 6.10pm, there were others but we weren't really listening.

We walked up the steep hill and commenced the audio tour of the prison. Headphones on and we were taken to another world for two hours.  The kids really enjoyed it too.  The theme of the island is the phases that the island has had, misnamed (apparently Alcatraz means pelican but this isn’t the island with the pelicans on it), misused (to deter invasion from the English, the Russians and a whole lot of others that never came), mis-spent (as an expensive Federal prison, inmates cost more to keep in the island that the most expensive New York Hotel at the time) and finally shut by Bobby Kennedy when it was going to need a sewerage system installed. A local Native American tribe also occupied it for a time in the 60’s. It was interesting seeing the little cells and hearing the stories in the words of the inmates and the guards on the audio tour from when it was a prison. It is so close to SF city that the inmates could hear music and laughter at night when the wind was right. For a small place it certainly has a large reputation.

Back on the ferry and a quick trip back to the city.  We wander around to find where to get the Hop on Hop off double Decker bus. Eventually we found it and got on board. It was an incredible trip around San Francisco. IT WAS FREEZING OMG we were sooooo cold. Sitting on the top open deck of the bus chilled to the bone. We saw the financial district, Union Square, the painted ladies (the houses in Mrs Doubtfire and Full House), and lots of other cool sights and then the ultimate ride across the Golden Gate bridge – the wind just about blew us off the top of the bus. There was an audio description of the bridge and it went “longest span...”(huddled down on the top deck in the freezing wind shivering “...opened.” as we reached the cover on the far side and began to emerge. Once we reached the other side we could finally move down inside the bus where we started to thaw out.

We got back to the beginning and needed something to eat. We also bought fleece lined jackets (matching of course) to try and recover from the freeze. We noticed that every tourist in San Fran was wearing the same jackets. Too funny.

We had lunch at Rainforest Cafe – the most amazing restaurant we have ever seen. It was a sensory overload. The walls, ceilings, tables etc were decorated like a rainforest and there were large fish tanks around the place. They also had life size animals that moved every ten minutes or so. Near our table were two large elephants that trumpeted very loudly. We don’t really remember what the food was like as the experience was so amazing, the food was fine.

Now we were warm and fed we decided to go back on the bus to visit Union Square. There were so many amazing shops and department stores like Neman Marcus, the biggest Macys we have ever seen, Tiffiany and Co and so many more.

It was now about 6.00pm, beginning to get dark and we were ready to go home, how to do this? We stood looking for a cab and it seemed impossible. We were approached by a lady offering assistance – for a price she told us what we already knew that we needed to cross the street and wait by a hotel to get a cab.

Off we went and stood in line with 20 others. The doorman was hailing cabs like there was no tomorrow and it still took about 20-30 minutes for it to be our turn.In we all got and the cab driver said ‘No I cannot take you where you want to go, its the end of my shift-get out’ . Umm what! So back in line we stood for the next THREE cabs that all refused to take us back to our hotel!

Apparently there was a ball game on and the traffic across the bridge was at a stand-still and none of the taxis wanted to go over and not be able to get a fare back. Panic – how were we going to get home. The door man was so helpful and suggested the only other option we had was to catch the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport – train). We had also paid him to get us a taxi.

We walked about 15 min to the nearest station and asked for directions at the information desk (of which we understood we needed to get a ticket from the machine and catch a train) LOL we put money in and stood not understanding the next step, we were asked for more money by a drunk lady. Beginning to feel VERY uncomfortable!Then a nice young man standing behind us (he did smell of alcohol) showed us how to use the machine (thank goodness) of course this information also cost us money (the trip home so far had cost about the same as the cab ride over).

Okay so we knew we had to get on a Pittsburg or Richmond Train and get off at MacArthur station– freaking out now. So far so good train arrives and we get on – we arrive at the MacArthur station. Um how do we get to our hotel – apparently not the right part of town to walk around in. We ask at information and apparently a shuttle bus will arrive shortly and take us there, and it did. You have no idea how relieved we felt getting off outside our hotel in one piece. That was an adventure and a half.

Back to our room, small snack and off to bed. Not sure what to do tomorrow as its Easter Saturday and not sure what’s open.

Highlights of the day:

O’Regan – hotdogs and the bus over the bridge.
McKay – going over the Golden Gate bridge on the open top bus.
Rosie – Victoria’s secret WOW, and the bus ride over the bridge, it was thrilling (and my new warm jacket).
Angus – O’Regan and I had our boots shined by the famous shoe-shine guy at the Westin St Francis at Union Square Hotel. I shine shoes but this guy was a professional (he did call himself “the Doctor”)


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