Thursday, March 5, 2009


We know you're all just dying to see our photographs, but we haven't got any way to upload them to Flickr just yet. Don't worry, we're working on it, and eventually we'll update this post with some pretty ones.

On our first full day in San Francisco it had stopped raining, so we headed for Alcatraz. We caught a tram there, after eventually figuring out where it stopped. The trams in San Francisco are all quite old: they maintain really old ones that they have purchased from around the world. The one we rode on was from Milan, and it was dated 1928.

We arrived at Alcatraz Cruises rather early, and had little to do for about 40 minutes while we waited. Eventually we got to go on, and after a 20 minute ferry ride, we arrived at the island and headed up to the prison block to do the audio tour. It was very interesting, and pointed out the cell that Al Capone stayed in (he got done for tax evasion rather than anything gangster-related). We also heard about the various escape attempts, including one succesful one, where three guys used spoons to dig around the air vent and climbed up to the roof using their sheets as ropes. They're not sure if the guys actually made it to land or not, as no sign has ever been found of them.

One thing we both noticed was that the cell block was very cold. The windows seemed very draughty, and although we were visiting on a warmer day we could imagine how cold it must have been in the middle of winter. On the tour, they mentioned that the prisoners on one side of the block could sometimes hear the sounds of parties in San Francisco when the wind blew the right way, and that it always seemd to on New Year's Eve.

Alcatraz Island is actually a national park, because of all the birds that like to nest there. After the cell block, we did a short island tour with one of the National Park guides. We listened to Ranger Dave who told us how the island was basically just rock before people got there, and how soil was imported from another nearby island and piled around the guns to stop the shells from bouncing around everywhere (this was when it was a fortress, before it became a prison). People planted flowers and plants in the soil and now the island has lots of wildflowers etc. It's also become a haven for birds and is a bird sanctuary.

After getting back to the mainland we tried to go on a walking tour but were about 15 minutes late, so instead we caught the cable car to Lombard St, aka the Crooked St. It is awesome, especially when you're looking back at it from the opposite hill. We also went to Coit Tower, which has good views of the city. Coit Tower was built by the city when one of its former citizens bequeathed a sum of money to be used to beautify the city. It essentially looks like a giant fire hose. Over on Alcatraz we saw some paintings one of the prisoners had done of the San Francisco cityscape, and Coit Tower was the dominant feature. When we looked, it was hard to make out amongst all the other skyscrapers.

The tower's carpark apparently used to have great views, according to the tour guides we read, but we think that the trees have grown significantly since then because we couldn't really see anything over them. The tower itself has murals painted all around the inside, which date from the Great Depression. They depicted working people's lives during the depression, and apparently some were controversial at the time.

After that we walked down the hill and walked around Fisherman's Wharf for a bit. It was very quiet there because it was getting dark, but it's meant to be the touristy area of the city. It showed -- there were lots of touristy activities you could do, like all kinds of Believe it or Not style museums and restaurants. There were a few curbside seafood diners as well, and as we walked past plenty of people tried to hustle us inside. Instead, we caught a tram home, and that was the end of day one.


  1. Sounds like you are having an awesome time! Yes you both will be so proud of us! we have got broad band! yes yes we do! its quite exciting i can do anything all around the house! Hope all is going well, we are going to cambridge for a crazy 65km sub ride! well I am, and llewe is my supporter! cuz I will need it. hope all is well.

  2. Ooo let's see if my comment works this time. I didn't know Alcatraz was a national park. That's really interesting!