San Fran – Wednesday 11th Dec ,2013

We had to get up early today, ate a bagel on the way, and walked down to Pier 33 to catch a ferry.   We went to see Alcatraz Island, well known as a scary prison type place.

 

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I found a super friendly park ranger, complete with hat!
I found a super friendly park ranger, complete with hat!
Alcatraz!  Red writing by the native americans who were protesting
Alcatraz! Red writing by the native americans who were protesting

We got to watch a video, wander around most of the island, and take the guided audio tour of the cell blocks.  They gave each of us a headset and remove that hung around our neck, and then you could play and stop it as you wished, but it talked you as it guided you to walk through the cellblock.

Tiny cells
Tiny cells
Cells
Cells

We got to look in the cells, see the ones they tried to escape out of, hear stories of people who were incarcerated there, and the tour was narrated by some of the previous wardens.   It was quite interesting.  The audio tour was neat, you could take it at your own pace, and it gave you heaps of information about the place, and talked a bit about life in the prison, and some of the escape attempts.

The last guard tower left.  They apparently had to do 8 hour shifts in the tower, freezing and boring.
The last guard tower left. They apparently had to do 8 hour shifts in the tower, freezing and boring.
The main cellblock and exercise yard
The main cellblock and exercise yard
Main cell block and pretty gardens - some of the inmates planted most of the island in gardens.
Main cell block and pretty gardens – some of the inmates planted most of the island in gardens, which I’m sure was much more fun than sitting in their cells.
Parade ground and Bay Bridge
Parade ground and Bay Bridge
Lighthouse
Lighthouse
San Francisco Skyline
San Francisco Skyline
Hummingbird.  Cute, tiny, and very fast when they want to be
Hummingbird. Cute, tiny, and very fast when they want to be
Escaping Alcatraz
Escaping Alcatraz

 

Was very cold though, out on the water.  After Alcatraz, we walked further along to Pier 39 again, where Dale had chowder in a sour dough bowl, and I had the special – half a sandwich and a soup in a sourdough bowl… Their whole sandwiches must have been huge though, coz I couldn’t finish half my lunch.

Clam chowder in Sour Dough bowls
Clam chowder in Sour Dough bowls
Yay chocolate!
Yay chocolate!

 

We stopped at the seals again, still being noisy, boisterous or lazy, then walked back to our backpackers for a restful afternoon, before heading out to the Valencia area in the evening.

Fighty sea lions
Fighty sea lions

I stopped at Safeway (supermarket), and spent ages wandering, just comparing the different things they have here.    Like the amazing amount of icecream flavours; the weird milks, what on earth is half and half?  Why not just have full cream milk???  and their cheeses are weird.  And their biscuits are weird, and nothing I recognised.  None of their chocolate seems to be as good as Whittakers (Boo), however they love cookie dough flavour things (yay).  Muesli is granola.  Fruit is the same, but weights are in pounds and stuff, who knows what that is ><

Dale’s friend Tobias took us walking around the Mission district, where we happened across the Mission San Francisco de Asís, which is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco, built in around 1791.  It has since survived earthquakes, and many homeless people sleeping around it.

Mission Dolores Basilica by night. Apparently one of the oldest structures in San Fran
Mission Dolores Basilica by night. Apparently one of the oldest structures in San Fran

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Tobias then took us for dinner at a cute ramen place, somewhere along 16th street.   The food was delishuz, and Tobias gave us some tips for our travels.  We are getting good at the train, but haven’t attempted buses yet.

Other things:

People seem really nice here, especially in the main parts of town…If I’m walking with a map, and look even a little lost, someone usually stops to ask if they can help.  Has happened a few times now.  I must look like a tourist.

The money is a bit of an issue… not the notes, they are easy to figure out, even if they look like toy money. It’s the coins: they have a quarter, 25c, easy.  Then a 10c dime, 5c nickel, and 1c penny.  Why name them different things? And their $1 are notes.  So don’t bother looking through your wallet for dollar coins.

We have walked. A lot. All over San Fran.  Was totally worth buying the shoes we got on the first day, I think I have already go to my money’s worth of walking out of them.

There are fire hydrants everywhere, just sticking up.  And they have pipe outlets in the walls, for getting water up the tall buildings.

Crosswalks are weird, there is no noise to tell you to go, so if you’re me, and staring at everything else, you have a tendency to miss your crossings.  Also, the cars are going the wrong way.  I have to look both ways, multiple times.

So far it has been sunny.  And sunny.  Albeit a winter sun, but sun all day nonetheless.

The light switches are the wrong way!  How confusing.

 

Golden Gate Bridge in background
Golden Gate Bridge in background
Cannonballs
Cannonballs

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Pretty buildings
Pretty buildings