With Alice to Alcatraz

On Sunday I got a visit from Alice and her man Mike. I’ve known Alice since I was a sophomore at UNC. Which is actually quite a bit of time, though it doesn’t feel like it.

I’d never met Mike, and she’d never met Stephanie, and she was serious about spending the day with us to remedy that. I think we got a voicemail at 7:30am (I don’t know, I was sleeping), and another call at 9am just as I was getting out of bed. They’d spent the night in San Mateo after arriving at SFO, and had driven up the East Bay and down into the city via the Golden Gate Bridge that morning. They came over about an hour later, and we walked down to Cafe de la Presse for some breakfast and some catching up.

From there we strolled through Chinatown looking (unsuccessfully) for a backpack to coordinate with Stephanie’s scooter. I made sure we stopped at the Cable Car Museum on Washington and Mason because it is radical.

From there we walked all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. We did the crab stand thing for lunch, and then meandered over to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions. There were lots! Lots like several hundred, and many pups. Afterwards we did a 3D simulated rollercoaster ride (something I’d never done before) of a haunted mine, before splitting to let them explore and let us rest.

I met up with Alice and Mike later (Stephanie had dance class), and we caught a ferry to Alcatraz. Got some nice pics as we approached the island and circled it to reach the docs on the far side. I thought it quite photogenic for an island fortress-cum-prison.

Approaching Alcatraz
An Alcatraz drive-by
Alcatraz Island in full
The end of Alcatraz

I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as the tour experience. Turns our we had a nice guide bring us from the docks up the hill to the top of the island. He told us “alcatraz” was spanish for pelican, but as far as he could remember, he’d never seen a pelican on the island. There were however thousands of sea birds who make Alcatraz their home.

Once inside the prison, we were processed, which meant receiving an audio unit around our necks. The audio-guided tour was excellent. In particular, the background sound quality was eerily evocative of being in the operational prison. When the prisoners were all making a racket because something was going on, I felt the urge to join in the hoot ‘n hollerin’. It was narrated by an actual Alcatraz guard who led us down the various corridors discussing the history and escape attempts that were made.

An Alcatraz Cell

Of course it was getting late and the time zone difference was wearing on our east coasters, so we made tracks to their hotel, met back up with Stephanie, and had a lovely dinner at Panta Rei in North Beach.

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