A week ago we’d booked our tickets for Alcatraz for this morning – we’d been warned that it gets booked out well in advance – by buying online we avoided a queue, and having to come back two days later. However, we didn’t get to choose the weather, and as we’d gone to bed last night there was a thick fog in the air, and it was raining. As we got up this morning there was still a light fog, but the sun was definitely up there shining above it. As the picture shows – it was hanging low in the bay – but the Golden Gate bridge rose through it
As we walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf, we got a great view of Alcatraz in the middle of the bay. The wind was strong, so the mist blew across the bay quickly, sometimes completely blocking the view to Alcatraz, and other times opening a completely clear view across.
As the boat took us over, we talked with the girls about how they might feel if they were going there as a prisoner, rather than just for a day trip – Charlotte got quite deep about it all, while Emily merely protested that she hadn’t been naughty, and then went on to test the boundaries of what she’d have to do to get incarcerated!
Once we were there we found it pretty impressive – a short film as introduction, and then into the jail house itself, with a guided audio tour in the form of an MP3 player hanging round our necks, with a commentary from ex-prisoners and prison-officers. It was very, very good – it really helped the prison to come alive, and the sound effects were so life-like, I ended taking of my headphones once or twice to see if the riot was on the tape or some tourists were getting out of hand.
Inside the building seems pretty small, whereas from the outside it seems huge. The cells were pretty tiny too, but Sarah and I reckoned we stayed in some similar hotel/hostel rooms last time travelled! But we only had to sleep in them for one or two nights – not twenty years.
In all we spent 3 ½ hours there, getting back to the dock around 2:30 – and went straight to look for some lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent traveling downtown on a tram, a quick bit of shopping (essentials like underwear for the girls and a mini-tripod for the camera), and then hopping onto a cable car back up and down the steep streets to end up at the dock again.
We finished our day wandering the dockside at sunset, with a fantastic sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge, and a perfectly clear evening. We got back to the hotel around 8pm, with the girls exhausted from all the walking they’d managed during the day. Their stamina is pretty impressive, especially in cities. In the countryside they complain incessantly about walking any distance, but we’ve found that in a city we can get them to walk a mile or two by saying that we’re “walking to the bus stop”. We’ll have to try that trick next time we’re in the wilds!