Alcatraz and the Golden Gate

Trip Start Apr 08, 2005
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Trip End Apr 09, 2006


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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

We found Alcatraz tour tickets were sold out yesterday until Thursday afternoon. So in an attempt to get two tickets, we queued at 7 am along with 30 other people, and thankfully got two tickets for today.

Just a few blocks from where we are staying is America's crookedest street, Lombard street. The steep and hilly street was created with sharp curves to switchback down the one-way hill past beautiful Victorian mansions. The street is paved with bricks and is an amazing site to see as it is alive with color, as the chrysanthemums, and other well tended flowers are in full bloom.

We then hire bicycles and cycle along the San Francisco Bay to and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Its a tough cycle against the strong winds, but good fun, we're both warped with hunger by the time we get back to Fisherman's Wharf.

We take the short boat trip across the SF Bay to Alctraz where we take a self guided tour of the prison, some interesting facts we learn include;
1. The cell house clock on the wall was referred to as Times Square and the aisle between the cell-blocks, Broadway
2. Alctraz was never full
3. Prisoners who took a prison job were in their cells for 18 hours a day compared to non-working prisoners who spent 23 hrs a day in their cells.
4. The dining room was known as the gas chamber. Although never used, there were tear gas cannons on the ceilings in case the 200 prisoners got unruley!
5. The view from the windows and recreation yard of San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and SF city is excellent. But at the same time it was a form of torture for the prisoners... to know that only 1.5 miles away was freedom
6. We visited "isolation" or "the hole" as it was known. The hole is a cellblock of 42 cells, all roomier that the general prison cells, BUT, they were the coldest,dampest and draftiest of cells on the island.
7. Cell block D-E was also known as "Park Ave". These were the most coveted cells by the prisoners. This was because of their proximity to SF Harbour, if the wind was blowing the right way, prisoners could hear festival music from SF, not to mention the beautiful sun sets over the Bay.
8. Prisoners were allowed one hour per month of visitors.
9. Famous inmates include Al Pacino (known as Scarface), Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Stroud the so-called "Birdman of Alcatraz" (although he never had birds here but rather previously at Leavenworth prison.)

SF is just like the movies portray... the streets are very steep, with tram cars winding up and down and of course a blanket of fog all day!

We meet up with some of Fergus's friends from Mayo, Enda Moore and Kenneth Mahon for a few drinks. Kenneth takes us for an evening tour of SF city sites in his convertible. Amongst other things we see, Golden Gate bridge by nite, Twin Peaks (excellent), Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, Coit Tower and Union Square. Our thanks to Enda and Kenneth.
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