Escape from Alcatraz!!
Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
45Trip End Jul 26, 2004
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Well this may be another mammoth as we have done a lot since we last wrote - Vegas seems like a long long time ago now - British Politics seems to be our headlines at the moment and I see that not just New York is susceptible to the odd power failure. Anyway here goes with the latest Travelpod!! I have split it into two entries so that you don't all skive work on Monday morning reading and read it in two manageable chunks. Thanks as always for all your emails. Anyway here goes with San Franscisco. Enjoy.
Friday 22nd August
We got up early to see what San Francisco had to offer as we were not in the mood to take any of it in after our late arrival last night. Our hotel, which we had booked till Sunday, was very cool, very Art Deco and in a fabulous location right on Union Square in Downtown
The libraries here are very impressive and this one was no disappointment, a huge 6 story building with central glass balconies and a cafe. We stayed here for a while (typing Travelpod - Vegas) checking emails, offering priceline silly money for a Sunday night in San Francisco and also checking out car hire. I made an offer on priceline for 30 pounds and got a different hotel from the one we were at but it still looked good. It was called The Harbour Court and was featured in our Dorling Kindersley guide as being the only hotel on the Harbour. It was in Japantown and right next to The Ferry Building.
We headed out into the streets and did a bit of wandering
Saturday 23rd August
Today was another gorgeous day so we decided to walk to The Golden Gate Bridge. We walked through downtown amongst skyscrapers, plush shops and chic boutiques. Then you get to the busy Pier area with all its shops and toursit attractions and all the local fisherman busy unloading the days load and people preparing clam chowder and fresh crab for you right in the street. Then round the next corner you are on the beach watching people sailing, water ski-ing, paragliding, parasurfing, jogging, flying kites, walking their dogs, sunbathing and swimming
The Golden Gate Bridge is preety impressive and looks amazing at the edge of the bay. It equally looks good when you walk across the bridge and look at San Francisco in all its glory. You can see the steep streets, the skyline of downtown, the beach, Alcatraz and the beautiful blue bay. Its such a compact city but has it all.
We headed back into town via Lombard street which is so steep they had to make it chicane so it is the worlds most crooked street. It was just a zigzag hill and the residents on the sides of the street had it all planted with bushes and flowers so it looked really good. There was an endless stream of cars driving down it. We headed back down to Fishermans Wharf where it was now really bustling as it was evening the pavement cafes were doing a storm in boiling and selling fresh crab. The people were spilling out onto the streets. After a long day we walked back to the hotel which was still really busy with all the shops still open at 9pm. We went into Borders Books and chilled for a couple of hours reading magazines and travel guides. We had our Blighty catch up with Hello, OK and Heat magazines and see nothing much has changed - still Westlife marriages and Ulrika stories!
Sunday 24th August
We had to check out of the Sir Francis Drake today and walked the dozen blocks down Market street to our new hotel. It had amazing views of the bay and an amazing lounge with a big open fire which felt lovely in the Air Conditioned chill!?! They had complimetary Starbucks Coffee in the Lounge and a huge bowl of apples for guests. The receptionist invited us to attend their daily "Napa Valley Wine & Micro Brewery Hour" between 5 and 6 every evening. We expected it to be a bit of a sales drive but we thought we would head down if we were around at the time. We headed up to the Library to book our train tickets for Thursday morning to Los Angeles and to get somewhere to stay for our first night in LA while we decided what we would do when we got there. We got a good hotel in Little Tokyo which had spa facilities for just 30pounds. I checked out their website and they had a special offer on for just $179 so another bargain sought! It was also just 2 blocks from the Amtrak station which is what I wanted as we didn't get in till 7pm and we didn't fancy walking too far on the LA streets late at night. We also pricelined for a cheap hotel in Oakland which is a city on the other side of the bridge from San Francisco as this was where we were dropping off our hire car and where our Amtrak left from the next morning. I heard it wasn't that great a place so we just wanted somewhere near the station for a sleep and quick getaway in the morning.
We then headed to Pier 39 which is a shopping pier on the Wharf which is famous for having lots of Sea Lions. We wandered around the shops for a while and then started to hear the noise similar to that of a Sea Lion or a crazed lunatic
We headed back to the hotel as it was nearly 5pm and we figured we had a good enough excuse not to be forced into buying a crate of wine to take home with us!! We walked into the lounge area and there was nobody there except another couple and they pointed at a sideboard and told us that it was help yourself. There were half a dozen bottles of red wine, half a dozen bottles of white wine and three big pitchers of local beer. So we grabbed a glass and had a very sociable piss up! We chatted to this couple who were from New York and over in San Francisco on vacation. We had a bowl of pretzels that kept getting filled up for us and it wasn't exactly an hour it was more a case of the hotel provide a dozen bottles of wine and 3 pitchers and when it is gone it is gone. The good thing is that when there are only a dozen poeple in the room it lasts for a while!! After many glasses of Napa Valleys finest we headed next door to a Sushi Bar called Ozumo. We were told that San Franciscos Sushi is amongst the finest in the US and I wouldn't disagree
Monday 25th August
We got up and left our bags at the front desk and then headed up to Pier 41 to catch our ferry to ALcatraz. It was only a few miuntes on the ferry and then you get dropped off on the island and you are pretty much left to wander at your leisure. Ferries head back every half hour and you can catch anyone you want. They had an intro video at the dock and a number of park rangers are on site giving talks. We headed up to the cells where we were given an audio headset for a self guided 35 minute tour. It is narrated by an actual prison officer from Alcatraz and features interviews with ex inmates and other prison officers. You can walk all through the prison and enter the cells which are pretty small. You can see Al Capones cell and "The Hole" where prisoners were put in solitary confinement in complete darkness sometimes for as long as a month. Its hardly surprising some went mad. You heard accounts of attempted escapes and of course one made famous by the film "Escape from Alcatraz". The three men thet escaped that day have never been found it isn't known if they drowned in the sea or if they got away
I will leave it there for now and fill you in on the next exciting installment when I have more internet time. We are in LA at the moment so we are off to cruise Sunset Strip. I will try and get more of an update for you tomorrow. I am trying very hard to get some photos up here before we leave the US on Sunday night so fingers crossed I can sort that tomorrow for you.
You all take care and keep emailing.
Liz and Simon xxxxxx