Friday, July 18, 2014

San Francisco- Alcatraz Island- Fisherman's Wharf- Cable Car- Chinatown- July 18, 2014

Alcatraz Island
We started off the morning with a visit to Alcatraz Island.  I had booked these tickets about 3 months ago as it sells out weeks in advance and I knew this was something we did not want to miss!  We were on the second ferry of the day at 9:10am.  We lined up and they had a very organized que and got everyone boarded quickly- reminded me of Disneyland! :)
To prepare for this trip, we rented the old Clint Eastwood movie "Escape from Alcatraz" and watched that with the boys.  We also watched a Discovery Channel special and a Mythbusters special about the famous escape.  These shows really had us all excited about our visit- so glad we did this!

Riding the ferry to Alcatraz Island

San Francisco Skyline

The Rock!

After we exited the ferry, we went into one of the buildings and we watched a movie that told all about the history of Alcatraz.  It was originally built as a military base, evolved into a military prison, then became a Federal Prison.  After it closed in the 1963, it sat empty for years.  In the late 1960's Native Americans claimed the island and had an "Indian Occupation" that lasted about 18 months in an effort to raise awareness and reclaim land for Native American use.  After that ended, Alcatraz was turned into a National Park.  It currently has the oldest working lighthouse on the west coast, and is a bird sanctuary 
A water tower with writing left from the Indian Occupation
After the movie, we headed into the main part of the prison to get our Audio tour headsets.
The Shower Room

Touring the prison!

A typical cell

 The Rec Yard

See the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance?
"D-Block"- where the prisoners in isolation went!

One of the Park Rangers let us into "the Hole" and closed it all up!  It was crazy how dark it was inside!  You couldn't see a thing- not even your hand in front of your face.  I can't imagine being locked in there for days or weeks at a time!


The Library

The ruins of the Warden's House- it was destroyed by a fire during the Native American Occupation.

Prison Escape Attempts

This is the most famous escape- the only 3 prisoners that actually escaped and were never seen again.....

The prisoners worked for months to prep for their escape.  They made paper mache fake heads.  They used spoons and tunneled out from air vents at the back of the cells.  These lead into a narrow corridor between the cells and climbed up to the roof.  They used old raincoats and sewed an inflatable raft to brave the water around the island.  It was a pretty clever and long-planned escape and the 3 men were never seen again!  Did they make it out??? We think they did!

The dining hall

We thought the knife outlines were pretty cool!  The guards would quickly be able to identify any missing knives!

 These are our FAVORITE regulations!  HAHAHAHA!

 We walked around outside the prison to check the gardens. 

There was a volunteer Naturalist who gave us a lesson on how Alcatraz is a a bird sanctuary and a large nesting area for the Brandt's Cormorant birds.  Logan was very interested in this!

The garden's were beautiful and kept up by park volunteers.  They do a great job!

Fisherman's Wharf
After we finished at Alcatraz, we took the ferry back to the Fisherman's Wharf area.  We had clam chowder in bread bowls from Boudin's Bakery for lunch. Yum!
We walked along the pier and came across these infamous sea lions! You can see all the crowds on Pier 39 watching them.  We enjoyed our less crowded view from the next pier!

We headed down past shops and restaurants to the Musee Mechanique.  This is a really neat (free) Video Game Museum.  They have really old games and moving, coin-operated machines.  They had some really fun old video games like Pole Position, Star Wars, Pac-Man, etc. We spent about an hour here and had a blast!  A great find!

We stopped at Ghiradelli's to split some icecream sundaes.

Cable Car
Then we headed over to ride the famous Cable Car!  We were at the turn-around station and waited about an hour to get on the cable car.  They were having some problems with one of the tracks and that was what caused the long wait.  It was pretty cool to watch the cable cars come in and see them manually turn the cars. 


Straight down!

The Cable Car Driver

We hopped off the cable car as we approached Chinatown.  It was about 7:00pm when we arrived, so most of the shops were closed up for the day.  We probably should have come during the day to really get  a feel for the neighborhood.  But we did try to visit the Fortune Cookie Factory.

They were done making fortune cookies for the day, but the man gave us a few sample cookies and then for $1.00 let me take a picture.  LOL!

We stopped and watched these boys practicing their Karate moves with weapons.

We found a restaurant that had decent reviews and decided to get some good Chinese food for dinner- The Great Eastern Restaurant. 

The food was mediocre.  Didn't really care for it and it was super expensive.  We had really wanted to do Dim Sum and thought this place offered it, but they only do it at lunch.  Oh well- next time!

The boys had fun learning how to try and use chopsticks.  To eat with.  Or to be Wolverine with!

Or Harry Potter....

We did a bit of shopping and had fun looking in the stores in Chinatown.

After playing around, we walked back to our hotel and settled in for the night! 
A great day full of iconic San Francisco!