Wednesday, 17 July 2013

San Francisco

After a short flight from LA, we arrived in San Francisco for the next leg of our tour. Once we found the hotel we dropped the bags off and headed straight for Fisherman's Wharf, which is best known for being the location of the famous 'Pier 39'. We had read that it was one of best tourist attractions so it seemed like the right place for us to begin our San Francisco adventure. It was during our walk down to the Wharf that we first caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and 'The Rock'. The views from the bay were awesome but I couldn't wait to see them close up!

Once we arrived at the Wharf we found it to be a real tourist hotspot with lots of restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops lining the streets. There were plenty of street performers there too. The world famous Ghirardelli Chocolate company was founded in San Francisco and the Chocolate Factory where it all began is also located on the Wharf. It has now been converted to an open-air center called Ghirardelli Square, which again was filled with shops and restaurants.

Our aim for the first day was to walk down as far as Pier 39 so we could see the sea lions, which apparently are a tourist attraction in their own right! No-one really knows why the come there...............maybe they like the attention!

Hello San Francisco!
The view of 'The Rock' from Fisherman's Wharf.
Ghirardelli Square
What a great name for a restaurant!
The entrance to Pier 39...............we weren't the only tourists there!
I had never seen bridges on a pier before....................they definitely eased the congestion!
Houdini's Magic Shop on Pier 39
No city would be complete without a Hard Rock Cafe!
The sea lions at Pier 39..................they were a bit lazy if you ask me!
More lazy sea lions..............with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
The next day we had tickets to Alcatraz Island. Unfortunately the night before we ate something that did not agree with us and we both woke up with food poisoning. Aicha's case was more severe than mine so she chose to stay at the hotel whilst I went on alone. It was a good job that she did as the island itself was not easiest place to walk around. There were lots of steps and steep hills so it would have been quite a mission for an expectant mother! I was also not feeling 100% myself but I didn't care. I've been wanting to go to the The Rock' for years and now my opportunity had finally arrived.............

Pier 33.............the landing dock for 'The Rock'
Some people say 'rules are there to be broken'...................idiots.
Alcatraz from the landing dock.
Not a cloud in the sky but I was freezing on that boat! It was very windy on the bay!
Approaching the dock....................
The former residential quarters for the workers and prison guards of Alcatraz.
San Francisco from the landing dock on Alcatraz.
Welcome to 'The Rock'!!
Alcatraz Island was once occupied by Native American activists for a brief period during the 1960's. Some of the graffiti done during this time is still visible today, most notably on the water tower.
Once we entered the cell block we were given an audio tour. Over the years Alcatraz has housed some of America's most ruthless criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the 'Birdman of Alcatraz') and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.
The three-story cellhouse included the main four blocks of the jail named A, B, C & D. This cell was on B block, which the prisoners renamed 'Broadway'. As you can see they were not very nice!
The view up Broadway.
Like in Manhattan, Times Square was located on Broadway!
The Exercise Yard
The steps to the exercise yard. People familiar the movie 'The Rock' will recognise these steps as those which Sean Connery walks down when he gives himself up to the bad guys!
This is D block. This housed the worst inmates and five cells at the end of it were designated as "The Hole", where prisoners who stepped out of line would be sent for punishment.
Escape from Alcatraz!
In June 1962, 3 inmates successfully escaped Alcatraz but it is unknown if they made it to the mainland or died in the attempt. They fabricated dummy heads from a mixture of soap, toilet paper and real hair, and left them in their beds to fool prison officers making night-time inspections. They escaped from their cells by crawling through holes in the cell walls which they had dug with spoons over the course of a year. 
After the tour I stepped outside to get some more views of the city. They say that one of the worst things of being imprisoned on 'The Rock' was that you could see freedom every day in all its glory!
The Golden Gate Bridge
The Famous Lighthouse
The Warden's House...................just a lick of paint and it will be as good as new!
The Social Hall. This was destroyed by a fire during the Native American occupation.
Again those familiar the movie 'The Rock' will recognise this from the end of the movie.
The Model Industries Building....................which basically was the laundry room!
Inside the New Industries building, which is now an exhibition room. This previously contained a clothing factory, dry cleaning plant, furniture plant and a brush factory, where prisoners of the federal penitentiary could work for money. 
Alcatraz was a real treat for me and it felt good that I could finally tick that box. Unfortunately as the day went on I became more and more ill so I cut my trip short and headed back to the hotel. By the following day we had both recovered from our illness so the rest of the trip was all about the sight-seeing...................

The Golden Gate Bridge
The happy couple!..................this could make a good postcard!
Check out those stats! Each of these huge cables was made up of smaller cables inside...............80,000 miles of cable to be precise!
More pictures of the bridge
Rather than just take some snap shots, I suggested we walk out onto the bridge. It took more than 10 minutes to walk to first suspension tower!
Aicha and baby bump!
The Palace of Fine Arts
The famous 'Painted Ladies' of Alamo Square.
Union Square from the top of Macy's
Chinatown Gate
The famous cable cars of San Francisco
Unfortunately we didn't get to ride on these as the queues were you can imagine my annoyance when I saw one that was empty!
The world famous Lombard Street.
The view of Alcatraz Island from the bottom of Lombard Street.
The view from the top of Lombard Street
................and from the other side!
The Transamerica Pyramid, which is the tallest building in San Francisco
I couldn't leave without getting a shot of a fire truck!
Sunning it up in the financial district!
The Bay Bridge
The Port of San Francisco Building Ferry building
City Hall
Next it was onto Las Vegas. I enjoyed my time in San Francisco but having seen what I wanted to see, I do not feel the urge to go back. Aicha's experience was dampened by the food poisoning and the amount of walking that we needed to do to see all the sights. When we did use the public transportation it was always cramped because of all the tourists, so it wasn't the most luxurious way to get around! On paper the place itself is not very big so we decided to walk around most of the time but what the map doesn't tell you is where all the hills are! The landscape was crazy and it was definitely not the best place for a women who was 5 months pregnant with no car!

I'll leave you with a little example of what we had to content with............

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