Tag Archives: san francisco

*Special* California Day Nine and Ten

Monday…

We were booked in for an Alcatraz trip, so we got up, walked down to Market Street and jumped on a cable car down to Pier 33. We were just in time to jump on the boat, and before we knew it, we were there!

Welcome to Alcatraz!

Welcome to Alcatraz!

There is so much history to Alcatraz, so we started off on the landscaped garden trail, looking out at the lovely views of San Francisco and the bridges, as well as the gardens on Alcatraz, planted by the guards and their families and tended by the inmates.

View from the island of the city

View from the island of the city

Alcatraz prison sign

Alcatraz prison sign

Panoramic view from the Rock...

Panoramic view from the Rock…

We reached the Parade Ground, where we could see the ruins of the guards apartments, then wandered down to the prison.

The Parade Ground

The Parade Ground

We watched a brief Discovery Channel film on the history, not just the prison, and the riots and escape attempts, but also what happened to Alcatraz after it was closed in 1963. The Native Americans occupied it as a protest in the late 60s – early 70s, and it became a protest to rase awareness of their plight.

Graffiti on the water tower from the American Indian occupation

Graffiti on the water tower from the American Indian occupation

Before it was prison, the island was a military fortress during the American Civil War, until 1907 when it officially became a military prison.

An old cannon from the days when it was a fort

An old cannon from the days when it was a fort

We then went up to the cells and did the audio tour, which showed us around the cells, library, dining hall and administrative offices, told how life was inside the prison for the inmates, and also told the stories of the riot – the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946 when 5 inmates escaped using a bar spreader, and took the guards hostage before killing 2 of them, and the escape of Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris in 1962, when they burrowed out of their cells and escaped on a boat made of a raincoat.

Inside a prison cell

Inside a prison cell

The gallery and prison block

The gallery and prison block

Another cell - very dismal...

Another cell – very dismal…

More prison blocks - very cheerful...

More prison blocks – very cheerful…

The solitary confinement block. Chilling...

The solitary confinement block. Chilling…

One of the best audio tours we have had (and we have had a few now!) – it really was interesting listening to the stories from former inmates and prison guards of life inside Alcatraz, not just as a prisoner, but also as a job, and having your family live there too. Apparently it was quite a nice place to live as a child, and looking around at the gardens you can almost see why. It was also very thought provoking, not just the prison side of it’s history, but also the occupation by the Indians, what they went through before the American government changed the laws, how they were being forced to lose their identity and culture. I am really glad we went to Alcatraz, it’s much more than just a prison.

We jumped on the boat back and headed back to the mainland, and grabbed a coffee whilst watching the cable car turnaround. Then we jumped on a cable car back to the motel. I still find it amazing that they still have these cable cars, they are quite slow, and temperamental… ours broke down on the way down to the pier… but still an experience, all the same!

Turning the cable car around

Turning the cable car around

Still turning...

Still turning…

...still turning...

…still turning…

Later in the evening, we headed to Brainwash – a laundry/cafe/open mic night. There were a few comedians and musicians who played to a small crowd whilst we washed and dried our clothes, and had the best burger we’ve had in America! Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area…

Tuesday…

Tuesday morning, we packed up our bags and headed out of San Francisco. Before we left I got one more picture of the hills. It’s incredible that a city this size has been built on such hills! It’s like Brixham! San Francisco is the hilliest city in the world with over 40 hills. And some of them are pretty steep too!

The hills...

The hills…

Over the Golden Gate bridge, we headed north to the redwoods.

 Back over the bridge

Back over the bridge

The further north we went, the worse the weather got, and we had a few showers along the way…

Oh my god! Clouds!

Oh my god! Clouds!

The landscape also got a lot greener, and there were many more trees. Along the way we also saw the leaves turning – it was very beautiful, we seemed to have picked the right couple of days to drive north, just autumn was rolling in and the leaves were changing and falling – loads of lovely colours…

Autumnal leaves...

Autumnal leaves…

...trees, trees everywhere!...

…trees, trees everywhere!…

...and even a nice bit of lens flare!

…and even a nice bit of lens flare!

We drove quite far north until we entered the Avenue of the Giants… huge redwood trees, wide and tall, and very beautiful! We were on the hunt for a camping ground, but most had closed for the season, which worried us that perhaps the weather was not right for camping. However, we persevered and found a campsite a few miles along the avenue.

Driving through the redwoods

Driving through the redwoods

Huge trees on either side and up above - very pretty

Huge trees on either side and up above – very pretty

The lady who runs the site warned us of the rain, but we gave it a go… for about 3 hours. I pitched the tent, I cooked some food, we ate it in the tent to get out of the rain, we lit the fire, we sat in the tent for a bit, then we realised that the seams of the tent were leaking.

So we slept in the car 🙂

TTFN,
Laura and Gareth xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*Special* California Day Seven and Eight

Saturday…

A busy day – starting off with a trip to the City Lights Bookstore “City Lights is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.” After spending too much money on books, we went for brunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, where Gareth had steak and eggs… he had been looking forward to it all holiday!

City Lights Bookstore

City Lights Bookstore

We spent some time mooching around the area famous for the beatniks, looking at the art on the pavements and the walls, and looking at nearby Chinatown.

On the pavement...

On the pavement…

and art on the walls...

and art on the walls…

Words on the street

Words on the street

In the afternoon, we headed out towards South Bay and walked along the beach there, watching the surf and getting some amazing photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. There were loads of people out and about on the beach, including a few nudists who were also skinny dipping – very brave, it was too cold and windy for us! The views were amazing, and the beach was gorgeous – what more could you ask for!

Quite a long walk to Mexico...

Quite a long walk to Mexico…

Beautiful...

Beautiful…

The tide coming in

The tide coming in

Lots of frothy surf

Lots of frothy surf

Another amazing view...

Another amazing view…

We then headed over to Marine Drive on the other side of the bridge, and sat and watched the sailing and kite surfers for a while, soaking up the sunshine. This part of San Francisco is lovely, really beautiful, away from the crowds and the cars. We really liked this park over in Presidio… it reminded us of home. There were hot dog carts here – so very different to the ones in NY – proper meat, with a choice of different sausages, onions, nice bread… mmmm.

Some amazing trees on the way to the other side of the bridge

Some amazing trees on the way to the other side of the bridge

Alcatraz from afar

Alcatraz from afar

Me and Gareth in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Me and Gareth in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

In the evening, after a brief stop back at the motel, we headed down to Market Street to watch the cable cars turn around and catch one down to Fisherman’s Wharf. We were in a rush, so we weren’t able to stay and watch, or catch one, due to the huge cues, and ended up walking down to the front. However, they looked pretty impressive, and hopefully we’ll catch one before we leave. They are still turned by hand!

Old school cable cars down at Market Street

Old school cable cars down at Market Street

The turning point for the cable cars

The turning point for the cable cars

We took a night time Segway tour of San Francisco – absolutely amazing. After a brief training session, we went down to Little Italy, Chinatown and the Embarcadero, on Segways. They took a little getting used to, but after a while were pretty easy to use and we were cruising down the hills of San Francisco with no problems… until we had to go up a curb. I ran into difficulty and fell off mine… doh! But still got back on and carried on unscathed! the guide was brilliant, she was really funny, had loads of interesting information about the history of the city, and also managed to steer us through the streets of San Francisco, up and down the hills, and in and out of the traffic without any of us getting knocked over by a car! We were cheered along as we went by many drunk people in the bars we passed…

Me and Gareth on our Segways

Me and Gareth on our Segways

We learnt about Chinatown – which has the biggest population of Chinese people outside of China, who speak Cantonese rather than Mandarin, which is unusual; we learnt about the Italians and the Bank of Italy which became the Bank of America; the Gold Rush, where thousands of people rushed to find gold that had already been found or wasn’t there; and the people who then sold tickets to the Chinese, telling them there was gold, to make money out of them. We learnt where the phrase Shanghai-ed (meaning kidnapped) came from – where men were kidnapped, spiked with opium and put on boats to Shanghai to work them as sailors – and how, these men were singled out as men who might have sailing experience because they ate with their elbows on the table – which is why mother’s told their sons not to eat with their elbows on the table…

Another flattering shot of the whole group :)

Another flattering shot of the whole group 🙂

After three hours of Segways, we headed back into North Beach and found a bar with 30+ beers on tap. We were far too tired to even attempt to try all of them, and after a particularly nice IPA, decided to head for home, via a cable car…

With a quick stop in at a Burger King for a very late but much needed dinner, it was off home, via a taxi (for the last little bit, no cable cars…) driven by a very chatty and friendly cab driver.

Sunday…

We got up late and drove over to the nearest Staples so Gareth could pick up a cable to charge the GoPro as the last one had got mislaid. After a soulless hour or so in an American mall, we headed back over to Fort Point on Marine Drive over in Presidio. We sat and watched some catamarans racing, an AC boat out and about touring the bay, and loads of yachts out for a jolly whilst enjoying  some food – the sun was shining and it was bliss.

Cats racing in the bay

Cats racing in the bay

Sailing in front of Alcatraz

Sailing in front of Alcatraz

The birds finishing off our lunch...

The birds finishing off our lunch…

We then walked 4 miles along the front to Fishermans Wharf.

The old Lifeboat stations

The old Lifeboat stations

Panorama of the beach along the bay

Panorama of the beach along the bay

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The Beach - awesome

The Beach – awesome

Some more trees... I like trees :)

Some more trees… I like trees 🙂

We had some world famous crab chowder and the best crab sandwich I have ever had, then walked back along the front. On the way, we met the infamous Bush-Man, a guy who hides behind bins disguised as a bush, and jumps out and scares people for entertainment. He is homeless, but claims to make $60,000 a year! I’ll post the video as soon as I am home 🙂

We were back just in time for Gareth to catch the Golden Gate Bridge at night.All in all, one of the best days of our trip – very chilled out.

Gareth's night shot

Gareth’s night shot

TTFN,
Laura and Gareth xxx

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*Special* California Day Five and Six

Thursday…

Thursday morning we woke when the sun came up and started to think about packing up and moving on. I loved our little spot in the woods, and would have happily stayed longer but time is moving on, and we wanted to get to San Francisco. After packing up the tent, sleeping bags and little amount of camping equipment, we had a shower and started the drive to San Francisco…

Driving through the woods...

Driving through the woods…

Driving through the hills

Driving through the hills

We decided to have a brief stop at Cupertino for lunch and a trip to Apple HQ.

Apple HQ

Apple HQ

Yes, we are geeks. 1 Infinite Loop is pretty easy to find, and after a bite to eat, we went and miraculously found a parking spot! You can’t go inside, and there are no guided tours, you just get to have your photo taken outside the sign, and then you get to go to the Apple Store…

Gareth at 1, Infinite Loop...

Gareth at 1, Infinite Loop…

The store is like a small version of the normal shops, with the hardware and accessories, but they also have a range of t-shirts and souvenirs, keychains, business card holders, baby clothing etc. etc. with witty slogans like “I hear the next t-shirt is going to have a pocket” and “Rumour has it I visited 1 Infinite Loop”. Gareth bought me a t-shirt and him a hoody so we can wear our geekiness with pride…

Then it was onwards to San Francisco. In rush hour – not good! We parked up in the middle of the city and popped to an Irish bar for a beer and to find a hotel online, before heading to Nob Hill to our motel. By this point it was absolutely boiling – even at 4pm!

After a long and exciting day, we got changed and headed into town for a bite to eat at the nearest Thai restaurant – very nice Pad Thai – before picking up a bottle of wine at the local liquor store and heading home for an early night.

Friday…

We were up and out early and off to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

We wandered around the front for a while and onto Pier 39, looking at all the tourist shops and attractions – a bit like home but more up market 😉 and of course, there is a big Ben and Jerry’s store…

Ben and Jerry's... yum

Ben and Jerry’s… yum

Pier 39

Pier 39

Gareth wanted to have a look at the WW2 submarine on one of the piers. It was small and claustrophobic, especially in the red room, and made me feel a bit sick, but Gareth enjoyed himself 😉

The WW2 Sub

The WW2 Sub

The red room in the sub

The red room in the sub

The claustrophobic below decks of the sub

The claustrophobic below decks of the sub

We also had a look round the Musée Mécanique – an antique coin operated arcade.

Musée Mécanique

Musée Mécanique

It was absolutely brilliant, and had games from all different eras. There were extremely old games and displays through to pac-man tables and air hockey – brilliant!

Arcade games galore...

Arcade games galore…

We changed up a few dollars and played on the machines for a bit, the old 3D picture viewers were pretty awesome, but sadly I couldn’t find the Zoltar machine from Big!

Very old machines...

Very old machines…

Gareth looking at porn... ;)

Gareth looking at porn… 😉

We stopped at Bubba Gump’s for lunch – a Forrest Gump themed restaurant (yes, you read that right). It was actually not too bad, food wise, and we tried out one of the locally brewed beers – Anchor Steam.

Gareth as Forrest at Bubba Gump's...

Gareth as Forrest at Bubba Gump’s…

After lunch, we wandered over the watch the sea-lions… and watched the seagulls steal ice creams literally out of the hands of children…

The sea-lions on Pier 39...

The sea-lions on Pier 39…

...they turned up here after the 1989 earthquake

…they turned up here after the 1989 earthquake

We stopped at a Ghirardelli chocolate shop, where we found the biggest Jelly Bean selection ever, and the best chocolate I have ever had in America…

Gareth's heaven

Gareth’s heaven

Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate...

Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate…

We then got in the car and decided to drive the three bridges… we drove across the Bay Bridge, up the coast past Berkeley and Richmond, over the San Rafael Bridge and then down and over the Golden Gate bridge, before heading back to the motel.

Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

San Rafael Bridge

San Rafael Bridge

The Golden Gate bridge appearing through the mist

The Golden Gate bridge appearing through the mist

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge

After all that excitement… we retired to our motel with a bottle of Knob Creek and the jelly beans 🙂

Knob Creek and Jelly Belly

Knob Creek and Jelly Belly

TTFN,
Laura and Gareth xxx

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