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Alcatraz – Home sweet home?

San Francisco, CA

We didn’t get too many attractions in today, but the ones we did see were quintessential San Francisco – Alcatraz and Coit Tower.

We started our day with a tour of the infamous former federal prison just off the shore of the city. The boat ride there took 10 minutes at most.

As soon a we got off, we saw an Alcatraz sign that had “Indians welcome” written on it like graffiti. I wondered what that meant. My question was answered when we watched the orientation video – the island was occupied by Native Americans in the 1960s, as a sign of protest against the US policy of sending Indians to reservations and occupying their ancestral lands. I also learned that Alcatraz used to be a military fort first before it became infamous as a federal penitentiary housing the worst and baddest gangsters of the prohibition era, including Al Capone.

The self-guided audio tour was awesome. It described life on Alcatraz very well, and it also recounted the few escape attempts. Who would have thought that prisoners can dig through concrete with a spoon? Or that they would all be in the dining hall armed with regular forks and knives? It was all pretty fascinating, especially the testimony of kids who grew up on the island because someone in their family worked there. To them, Alcatraz was a tranquil place without traffic and gorgeous views of the water and the city.

The cells were pretty small and dingy, but even worse was D-block, where the worst prisoners were held in solitary confinement. But today, there are also pretty areas of Alcatraz – a team of volunteers cares for a garden on the premises. Chris liked it so much that he checked us in at Alcatraz with the caption “Home sweet home”. 🙂

What comes next? Well, take a guess… it was around 1 pm or so, so chances are the next stop was a…. BEER STOP!!! There was a Hillstone right across from Pier 33 where we boarded our cruise, so we sat down for a drink and a bite to eat. It was quite necessary as the next sight involved a hefty climb up.

Coit tower was built atop Telegraph Hill in 1933, at the bequest of Lillie Coit. She was rescued by SF firefighters from a hotel fire at age 8 and became a sort of mascot for the fire department. Her will called for over $100,000 to be spent on adding beauty to the city, and that’s how Coit tower came about. It is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco, and the view from the top is gorgeous. You can see the city from every direction, and since the weather was still spectacular, we got to see the city in all its glory.

Our last stop for the day was the Ferry building. There are lots of ferries still leaving to travel across the bay from its terminal, but there is also a great marketplace there.

8.1368967680.ferry-building

We picked up some food for dinner, than boarded the historic F-car back to our hotel. Only one day left in SF – time’s flies when you’re having fun!

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