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Before I go to sleep, I check the Alcatraz site to see if it says anything about being open the next day. It does not. It still has the information about being closed for the government shutdown.
In the morning, the very early morning, (I’m an insomniac and even going to bed after midnight in a wine soaked stupor does not keep me from waking up early), I check the site again and it looks like it did before the shutdown, so I take that as a sign that they are back in business today. Yay! I don’t have a lot of things planned for San Francisco and this was one of them and I wasn’t sure what we’d do if it didn’t happen. I am not a sight see until you drop kind of girl.
We start out feeling like we have plenty of time. We decide to eat at the hotel restaurant, One Up, for breakfast because the menu looks really good. They have a buffet, but it seems pricey at $25, even if it does include eggs and breakfast meats.
I get what caught my eye in the first place, the Maple Bacon Eggs Benedict with spinach and calabrian chili hollandaise. It’s got spinach, which cancels out anything bad about bacon and hollandaise, right?
It tasted good, although not as good as it sounded and looked.
Zung got……..wait for it……an omelette! Which was also buried in the hollandaise.But I’m sure those green things in it, whatever the are, cancelled out the hollandaise. Or they should. Anything green cancels out anything bad.
It took quite a while for our food to come and then we started getting concerned about the time. Our reservations for Alcatraz was at 10:30 and you are supposed to get there about a half an hour early.
We went back to the room and got our stuff together and headed out.
We called for an Uber car to come pick us up. We went out front and there were black town cars all over! I asked a couple drivers if they were there for us and then our driver called and he was right across the street. He took us to Pier 33. We arrived a few minutes before it was time to que up for the ferry. We walked around and enjoyed the view. We had printed our tickets out at home, so all we had to do was get in line when it was time.
When it is time, we get in line. All the workers seem happy to be back at work.
The line starts to move, slowly. They make you have a cheesy picture taken with a large picture of the island in the background. We eventually get on the ferry. There are great views of the bridges and the city and Alcatraz and Angel islands.
The ferry ride was about 15-20 minutes long. Alcatraz is old and it looks old.
There is a brief orientation and then you have the choice of exploring on your own or doing a 45 minute tour with one of the rangers who tells you about each of the attempted Alcatraz escapes.
We opted for the escape tour with Ranger Benny.
There were a lot of obnoxious and aggressive flies around the dock area, so we were glad when we were taken away from that area. Ranger Benny talked about many other things than the attempted escapes. I would recommend doing this if you go to Alcatraz.
There were more great views of the Golden Gate bridge.
There are beautiful gardens on the island that the prisoners had planted and taken care of originally.
There were more very old buildings.
We wandered around a bit and then tried to find the audio tour, which took a bit of searching. Remember, there are lots of steep hills here. I was not feeling one bit guilty about not working out.
Once you get the audio tour you go into the cell block. While the outside has the beautiful views and beautiful gardens juxtaposed against the old, crumbling buildings, the inside is grim.
The audio tour is done by former guards and prisoners.
The tour takes you through the cell block and the different areas and tells different stories about inmates and events and the different areas. It’s really very interesting.
They talked about how hard it was for the prisoners being so close to San Francisco. A lot of prisons are in the middle of nowhere. Alcatraz was in the middle of somewhere and they could see the city and actually hear it. The other interesting thing I learned was that there was staff that lived on the island with their families, including children. They thought it was very safe with all the armed guards. Most of the time it was, I guess.
We had been there for a long time, about 3 hours. Longer than I expected us to stay. I was suddenly “done.” Tired and hungry. We went back to the dock to wait for the ferry. We ate one of our little loaves of cranberry walnut bread that Quince sent us home with last night.
There was the same nice view on the way back.
There is a lot to do in that vicinity of Pier 33, and we had originally planned to get something to eat and check out the tourist trap/mecca (depending on your point of view – it seems the locals hate it and the tourists love it) of Pier 39.
However, the other thing I really wanted to do was have Afternoon Tea at Neiman Marcus in the Rotunda. That was back at Union Square. And I still hadn’t found THE shoes. We quickly made the decision to ditch Pier 39 and go back to Union Square. I ordered up an Uber, which we were quickly deciding was the best thing ever. It was like having a personal car service.
It was there quickly, and quickly we were at Neiman Marcus, sipping champagne. I know it’s called Afternoon Tea, but it’s so much better with a glass of champagne.