San Francisco: Day 3 Alcatraz

The whole family together in the foggy city, why take any chances, take us right to prison! Alcatraz penitentiary was our first stop today. We loaded an early morning cruise ship that took us over the 1.25 miles across the bay to “the rock”. 1.25 miles may not seem like too far of swim, but the strong currents and frigid temperatures kept prisoners at a painful distance from freedom.

The view of San Francisco from the island.


The rock.
The island had so much cool history which we experienced in an informational video, garden tour, and audio tour of the cell house. The island was first used in the civil war for military purposes as union soldiers feared attack. The island never saw military action, but did always house prisoners, the first being rowdy military.

Eventually, the purpose changed to the maximum security prison it is known for. Before being closed in 1963,  about 1500 prisoners served time on the rock, some of the most famous being Al Capone and the bird man.  When our boat arrived on the island we were greeted by a man who actually lived on the island as a child. He was the son of a guard, and lived a normal life amongst the families of other guards. I found it really interesting how life seemed so normal to these families. They went on a 15 minuet boat ride to school in San Francisco, and came home to life on Alcatraz. A seemingly normal life with other children to play with, and beautiful gardens to view. He said they hardly even realized their neighbors were convicted felons. The tall, thick walls provided safety and separation.


The gardens recreated by volunteers of the park are so beautiful.

Entering into the cell house was like an entirely different world. With out the beautiful bay view and luscious gardens,  the place was cold, damp, and drab. Alcatraz was home only to criminals who caused issues in their first jail assignment. The worst of the worst. There was a set of basic, yet harsh rules. Prisoners were given food, clothing, and health needs. Everything else must be earned: books, time in the recreation yard, letters, visiting, everything.


The regular cells were tiny little rooms 5×9 feet, with a bed, small sink, toilet, and table/stool combo. 


Prisoners that caused problems were put in an area called the D block where they were only allowed out of their cell once a week for a shower. Their cells got the worst of the wind and rain. Even worse than the D block was solitary confinement. This was a pitch black tiny cell. No toilet, no bed, just darkness. The audio tour was really cool because the speakers were previous residents of the rock, including ex-cons, guards, and guards families.  If you ever have the chance to come to San Francisco, this is definitely worth your time.

We boated back to Fisherman’s wharf for lunch at the Boudin sourdough bakery. They say the secret is using a hunk of dough from the batch before to continue the use of the original mother batch. The bread was delicious, and dad and Will enjoyed the famous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. (Us girls aren’t into sea food too much, we had sourdough sandwiches and pizza).


They made loaves shaped as cute animals too!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the views and shops of fisherman’s wharf. One area was a great viewing sight of the sea lion bachelor pad. Over 40 sea lions just basking in the sun on these docks was quite the sight. When the female sea lions head south to mate, some of the immature or lazy males stay behind. They were entertaining to watch as they waddled around and fought for the best dock  real estate. 


Sea lions

We visited Ghirardelli square where got chocolate samples yum! We then decided to head back to China Town to get more delicious cherries to snack on.  


Mom’s loves, Dad and chocolate, on their anniversary (mom and dads anniversary that is).

I didn’t get this post up as quickly as I had hoped. Vacation is wearing me out! I promise to fill you in, even if its a day behind!


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