Saturday, September 25, 2010

San Francisco: Part 2 - Alcatraz Island

Our second day in San Francisco we got our tickets for the Alcatraz Island tour. We were very excited as we both like learning about history. Take notice of the blue sky... more on that a few photos down.

Here's our cruise ship for the tour! It leaves from a pier in San Fran and takes the approx. 1.5 mile trip in the Bay to get to the island.

One of the bonuses of the ride: getting to see San Fran from the Bay itself! Notice again: pretty blue sky.

This is a bit close to Alcatraz Island, with San Fran and the Bay Bridge in the background. Notice: FOG! No more blue sky.

The fog made approaching the island where many criminals of terrible crimes were held feel even more eerie...

I snapped this one from the boat as we approached the island. Later, we learned this is the prison Warden's home that burned down years ago with the light house behind it.

Welcome to Alcatraz Island. This is the only port boats can dock and only people paying for this tour can board the island; it's very isolated (good choice for a federal prison back in the day, right?!)

"Indians Welcome" was added after the prison closed (1963) as Indians took over the island for a short while...

Here's the outside of the prison itself.

The aisle of prison cells - it's weird thinking about the criminals that walked these same halls...

Notice that the cells aren't much taller than Nick

We learned about some of the famous criminals to be sent to Alcatraz; Al Capone "Scarface" (far left in the photo above) being the most famous.

Famous inmates continued

The D Block or isolation cells; it felt very eerie to me in this area. This is where the worst of the worst prisoners were held on bad behavior

Nick standing in one of the isolation cells: the cell is behind him, then there's the gate, then the big door to shut out daylight. Notice our cool audio tour gear Nick's wearing by the way.

The area the inmates played baseball and other outdoor games when they had the privileges to do so

One of the cells. They're small; a bed, sink, toilet. Some learned to paint or crochet (give imprisoned criminals crochet needles? This one made me question...) and decorated their cells.

The inside view of the burned down Warden's home - it was a mansion and had something like 12 bedrooms...

Family housing of workers at the prison that also burned down after the prison closed... eerie in the fog! It was VERY foggy, typically San Fran can be seen from the island (only 1.5 miles away) but today you couldn't see anything outside of the island (creepy!).

They told a story that on New Years Eve, there would be a big party at the piers in San Francisco each year and many times the laughter/music/food smells would carry across the water and be heard by the inmates. Prisoners said it was torturous to hear freedom so close yet be so far away.

An escape attempt at Alcatraz, a prisoner used a spoon and enlarged this vent to escape. It's a really dark picture I tried to lighten. He also made a "dummy" head out of soap and other materials he found so the escape wouldn't be noticed right away.

Breakfast menu in the cafeteria the last day the prison was open

Prison closure photo (a little blurry) - 1963 - inmates were moved to other federal prisons as this one was aging and was getting too expensive to maintain.

A photo of the whole island - pretty small! Back in the day, the prison staff's families actually lived there (and felt safe!). They had a grocery store and everything for the 75 people or so who lived on the island. The kids took a ferry to and from San Fran every day for school.

A photo of the prison from back when it was open

Some pretty plants with one of the family houses on the island in the background

This was taken on the ship leaving the island - security on this island was taken very seriously. A few prisoners escaped from the island while they were there and were never seen again, believed to have drowned in the raging currents/frigid water of the Bay.

On the boat on our way back to SF. It was pretty windy near the bay so I figured this photo isn't the best but at least demonstrates the wind :)

In the Bay that day, they held an annual sailboat race; there were tons of them!

Arriving back at our pier in SF

It was actually chilly on the island and I had been craving Ghirardelli hot chocolate after knowing the square was right in Fisherman's Wharf, so we went straight there once we were back in SF.
Ghirardelli Square: we missed the annual chocolate festival by ONE week! Are you kidding me?! It had my name all over it... but maybe it's for the best ;)

This sounded amazing AND came with a chocolate caramel on the side. I'll take one, please!

It was very neat in there; they even had chandeliers and made it look fancy but there were too many people to snap a photo that direction.

Enjoying my chocolate and pumpkin spice caramel hot cocoa. Amazing. The hot cocoa was so thick, creamy and rich - the best kind of hot chocolate (in moderation of course:)) In the shop there, they sold any chocolates you'd want, in large quantities, and even passed out samples of their seasonal pumpkin spice caramel squares for FREE. They had me at "free chocolate". Yum :)

The old headquarters building - I'm not sure if it's used anymore or not?

After we left the square, we pulled over by an apartment building to set our GPS (we rented one to navigate our way around the city... GOOD choice for sure!) and a few minutes later, we were surrounded by fire trucks and firemen throwing on their gear and running inside the building. It was crazy and felt like we were in a movie or something. We couldn't see any smoke or anything so hopefully everything was ok...

The pretty view on our short drive over to the Golden Gate bridge

Remember the fog at Alcatraz? Yep, it was surrounding the bridge too making it hard to see and felt anti-climactic. You can see it better in this photo than we could even see it in person. But at least we drove across it (in rush hour!) and could kind of see it.

More to come of the rest of our trip soon...

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