And it was very difficult and extremely dangerous. Haha just kidding.
Thanks everyone for posting! Feels more like a conversation that way :o) Yes, climb in the ball pit... love you all... this blog should provide a few good tips for a trip out here and others we can tell you at the next bbq... Scott says thanks for the virtual hugs from Mom and Zoey, and yes brudder a BBQ would be good (and wtf is ftw?).
We caught the Cal Train early this morning, navigated our way on the street cars up the Embarcadero, and managed to get to the place to get Alcatraz tickets. All told took about two hours from Sunnyvale.
Between streetcar transfers, we stumbled upon a farmer's market on the street and managed to get some nice looking pears and oranges. Score, one goal accomplished without even trying!
When we got to Pier 33 to buy the tickets to Alcatraz (which is now a national park), there were protestors outside. I guess the union workers lost the contract to run the ferrys to the island to another company, so they're protesting and have been for a year or something like that. I kind of feel bad for them, but the reason we're here is because Jim lost his job... anyway. So we bought our tickets anyway for the next available ferry, which was at 12:45. It was 10:15, so we had some time to kill.
We walked our way down the rest of Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf. The last time I was here on my 9 hour layover tour two years ago, this was a completely different world since it was 5am then and nobody was awake yet (and nothing was open). After some meandering and pictures, it was 11:00 and places were finally open for lunch. My 7am Cheerios had already worn off, so we stopped at Alioto's (I think) for an early lunch. This place was supposedly the first fish stand (now restaurant) on the wharf and has been in business since the 1930s. Eating up in the high-class dining room (which had a great view of the bridge and the bay) was a trip, I felt like I'd stepped right into the 1950s, and suddenly I felt out of place in my capris... I needed a dress, and a hairdo that involved hairspray. I had fish, and it was great. Jim had some scallop pasta thingy that he kept raving about. And the San Francisco Sourdough rolls were great as always.
We walked back to Pier 33 just in time to get in line for our ferry to Alcatraz. Couldn't have timed it better. We even got seats on the top part, hurray! As soon as we got onto the bay, things got windy and it felt about 10 degrees cooler. I was glad I had my jacket, but poor Jim was cold. (How's that for role reversal?)
A sign greeted us on the island, saying that if we helped any prisoners escape we'd be subject to imprisonment. I got a little worried. ;o)
They had signs for audio tours all over, but I never feel like they're worth the extra money (especially on top of $21 tickets), so Jim and I spent about an hour wandering around the island watching a free video they had playing and giving ourselves a tour and taking pictures. There is a beautiful view of all of the bay from the island, and tons of birds and plants (all plants on the island have a historical timeline to them... as people brought them to the island).
Alcatraz Island was discovered in the 1700s and named for all of the birds that called it their home. In the 1800s (civil war era) it was turned into a military base to defend the bay, because at that time whoever controlled San Francisco controlled the world. They built a fortress on it. In the early 1900s they built on top of the fortress (or was it citadel?) to make a military prison. Then it was converted to the federal penitentiary it is famous for in the 1930s. Characters such as Al Capone served time there. It operated until the early 1960s, when the last prisoners were escorted out (was it March 21, 1963?) because the island was too expensive to maintain, it was falling into disrepair (lots of wind and the sea air taking a toll), and prison views were changing from punishment to rehabilitation (go the 60s). Then American Indians took it over in demonstrations from 1969 to 1971 (look it up, a lot to explain). Later in the 70s it became the national park that it is today. That's my brief history from memory, but it's interesting so look it up. You can use Scott's Company's website and it will do a great job ;o)
Anyway, while reading all of the plaques and wandering around the island, etc., we noticed that almost everyone had the audio tours. Why was everyone paying for this? This was unusual. Our wanderings eventually accidentally took us to the audio tour pickup, where we figured it out: turns out the audio tours are included in our tickets. Why isn't this advertised more clearly? We debated for a while, but since we were already there and they were free, I decided we should go ahead and get them. Worst case scenario, I could fast forward through it and just give it back.
It ended up being really good, and in the end the way we did it worked out for the best. Some of the places Jim and I found on our own were not on the audio tour... and we hadn't found some places that were on the audio tour. Plus, it would have been difficult to take pictures while on the audio tour anyway. Tour complete (too much to explain, you'll just have to go to Alcatraz yourself), we made our way back to the ferry and were back on the Embarcadero at around 4:30.
Tips for Alcatraz:
-bring a jacket
-bring water and a snack (even having eaten just before, we ate granola bars on the ferry back)
-wear comfy shoes
-just get the audio tour since it's included
-explore the island without the audio too
-plan at least 4 hours for it, if you take your time
-don't buy tickets online (they're $10 more contrary to what they claim, I thought that might be the case so I'm glad we didn't) and just buy them at the pier, but get there as early as possible... they were sold out for the day by noon.
We were hungry again by the time we got back (hey, it had been over 5 hours)... and we had walked by a delicious smelling bakery on the way back from Fisherman's Wharf earlier that day... so we decided to head back there to get the "world famous" clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Mmmmm it was soooo good. The San Francisco valley has a very unique strain of yeast, which is what makes San Francisco sourdough so amazing. And the soup was great too. Apparently this is a very popular and famous bakery that's been around since the 1800s called Boudin. Definitely worth the look around. We'd have done the tour of their very own museum except they don't run on Tuesdays, maybe tomorrow.
After we finished eating we looked around the bakery shop for a while, but after a few minutes my wrists started itching like mad. Jim thought I was going crazy, because it was driving me nuts so I was acting nuts too. It was so itchy I couldn't ignore it, and eventually had to find a nearby table to set my bag on so I could check it out. I pulled up my sleeves to discover that I had hives on my wrists, weird! I have no idea what caused it. As far as they found when they tested me I'm not allergic to food, so all I can figure is that since I'm allergic to so many molds maybe there was a weird one in the air or on Alcatraz or something, I have no idea. It could be anything really. It was even more strange because the intense itching started subsiding in 15 minutes, then I washed my hands (took me that long to find a place), then it subsided some more but we stopped at a nearby Walgreens and I took some Benadryl anyway. I'm fine now, but I'll talk to the allergenist when I get home... and tomorrow I'll have Benadryl and Hydrocortizone cream riding in my bag with me. I guess from now on I should just take those with me everywhere, dammit, even more to carry around.
Jim and I spent the rest of the afternoon/evening wandering around the shops on Fisherman's Wharf and getting a sweatshirt for Jim because 1) he was cold and 2) he only owns one other sweatshirt anyway, so he could use it.
I thought the Cal Train ran every half hour, but turns out after 6:00ish it's only every hour, so by the time we walked/transferred our way to the train station, we arrived at 7:25 to have just missed the 7:20 train.
So to kill the hour until the 8:25 train, we found a nearby Starbucks in a Safeway and sipped our coffee in the station. The trains are pretty nice so the ride back was pleasant. Our feet and backs really hurt, and turns out these shoes I got in Reno are actually probably a half size too small so my toes were really crowded all day (and one of my toenails was digging into another toe all day, that explains the pain). Scott's complex has a hot tub, so we all went out to that for a while (man, it was boiling, though) and now it's time for bed.
Tomorrow we're going back into the city, the only remaining big mission being Sushi (i.e. Japan Town... San Fran not San Jose). We also saw a guy giving bay tours for $10 on the wharf, so we might try to find him (you know how I love boats). We might try to do the bakery museum tomorrow... and we're going to try to buy a loaf from them so it's fresh for the trip to Vegas just before we head back. It's just going to be another nice day, but this time we'll head back earlier.
Love and hugs to all... I'm beat :)