Thursday, July 26, 2012


Everyone was excited for today's adventures.  We were going to go to Alcatraz.  This was the one place that everyone really wanted to see.  So, we got up, got dressed and headed out.

The girls took a little mini break outside in front of the fire pit.  This was right outside our hotel.  There were several of them lined up along the entrance.

We had some time to kill before our boat took off so we made our way down to Pier 39.  It was a short walk from our hotel and it was a beautiful day out.

We had time for a little bit of shopping.

Stopping for some lunch at Boudins for soup in yummy sourdough bread bowls.

The girls stopped for a photo op.  They are so funny!

Another photo op with Coit Tower in the background.

Then we waited to board the boat to go to the island.  We met some nice people from Ireland while we were waiting.  Plus a french couple with a son.  It was fun to meet other people from other parts of the world.

Most of the girls had purchased a t-shirt or hat that said something about Alcatraz so they wore them.

The boat ride over was a lot of fun.  It was a beautiful day out.  the water was pretty and the sky was clear.

We loved watching Alcatraz getting closer and closer.

But, being out on the water was super windy.  If you stood up you felt like you were going to be blown away.  Of course, the girls stood the whole time, loving every minute of it.

Soon we were there.  It almost seemed to short of a boat ride.  However, since we all so excited about getting off to explore it was fine.

We first listened to the guide tell us a bit about where things were.  Then we headed out to explore.

We first walked around and explored the outside, then we headed into the Main Prison area. 
They found everything about the prison to be interesting.  However, they did all say they were NEVER going to do anything to end up behind bars for real. 

I think it's a good thing for kids to see what prison life is really like.  Then they know they don't want to end up there when they get older.

Inside we saw rows and rows of cells.  It was easy to picture how loud it would be in there with everyone yelling, banging and screaming.  It felt cold and very unhappy in there.

The cells were very small.  Picturing having to live in there for made us all uncomfortable.  No one would enjoy being here for real.

We all got headsets to listen to as we walked around.  The recording was by some of the real guards and inmates that actually worked and lived there.

We got to actually step into the cells of the inmates that we were listening to as they told us what life was like back when Alcatraz was open.

Going into the "Hole" or solitary confinement was a scary feeling.  We saw how when the prisoners didn't follow the rules they would be locked up away from everyone, with no light, no windows, no furniture. 

They slept on the cold, hard floor and had to go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground. 

They had some cells set up just as they were back when they were open.  Each inmate got a very limited amount of items. 

The beds had to be made daily, the cell clean and tidy.  There were a lot of rules that had to be followed and if they weren't the inmates were quickly punished.

The inmates were allowed visitors but had no contact with them.  They had to look through this tiny window and talk on a phone.  Visitors were very limited and the time was short that they had to visit with their loved ones.

We also heard about how inmates would try to escape.  How they used dummy heads they made to fool the guards when they would walk by at night.  Of course they got caught or killed.  There was a few that actually made it off the island but they were quickly found and returned.  One was never found.  It's not known if he was killed in the water or actually made it to freedom.

There is a light house on the island too.  The island was first used by our Military.  The prison was first built to hold prisoners at that time.  When they closed down the Military location, they kept the prison running to hold them.

Then the State purchased the prison to use to hold what was thought to be the most harden criminals throughout the country.

Once Alcatraz was getting to old and to costly to maintain, they moved the prisoners to other prisons.  The Island sat empty.

Indians went over and tried to claim it as their own.  It wasn't long before the State came over and kicked them off and shortly thereafter, opened it up to the public to tour.

While it was open as a prison, the guards actually lived on the island.  Down below the prison area there were houses built for them.  Kids would go on the boat every day to school on the main land.

The houses are no longer standing.  Time, weather and lack of care has all but removed them.  You can still see a few walls that have crumbled down but not much else.

We got to see the yard where the inmates were allowed to go to get some exercise.  I was surprised at how large the yard actually was.  I could picture the inmates out there in groups, talking, playing sports, cards or board games.  Some plotting getting back at either other inmates or guards for something that was done to make them made.

I have no doubts many fights broke out in this yard.  However, while we were there we could actually notice the beauty of the old building and the history of the place.

One thing many people don't know about is behind Alcatraz there are beautiful gardens.  They were planted and tended to by inmates back when the prison was open.  After it closed many volunteers helped to take care of them.

Alcatraz is now also known as a bird sanctuary.

We even got to see a lot of baby birds that were born a short while before we got there.

It is sort of strange to think that a prison could be though of as actually beautiful but there was beauty all around us.

Yet, we all agreed that the most beautiful thing about Alcatraz were the views.  Looking back towards the city was lovely.

As we made our way back to the boat we went through this old tunnel.  It was built back in 1856.  It was fun to think of all the people who had walked through this tunnel all those years ago.

The guard tower was one of the last things we saw as we got on the boat to go back.  No matter how much fun we had, how pretty some things seemed or how lovely the views were, this tower reminded us that this place was an actual prison full of criminals that we are lucky to have never come across.

After Alcatraz we went back to our hotel and got our car.  Then the girls wanted to go to China Town.  We went to the fortune cookie shop.  They actually make their cookies by hand like they have done for years and years. 

We watched the man pull the warm cookies off the machine and fold them with the fortunes in them.  They then got bagged and sold. 
They let us have a sample and they were sooo good.  We ended up buying a bag that had both the normal fortune cookies and also chocolate fortune cookies.  YUM!

After having a snack of cookies, it was time for shopping!

By the time we got there, many of the shops were closing.  Yet, we were able to find enough still open that the girls all bought several fun things.

They all wanted to buy things not only for themselves but also for their family.  How thoughtful!

There was so much to pick from.  Toys, clothes, fans, jewelery... What to get?  What to get?

Once they all bought what they wanted they were in a hurry to head back to the hotel as they all wanted to go swimming. 

What?  They could go swimming back home.  Why would they want to spend their time going swimming on vacation?

On the way back to our hotel we took a little detour to go down Lombard Street.  Known as the crookedest street in the world.
Yes, that's us in the black mini van.  Michelle got out of the car to run down and take our picture.  We laughed so hard at her.  We had a blast going down. 

It normally is so busy on that street that it goes so slow but we were lucky, no one was in front of us and only a few cars came after us.

It was so fun, we wanted to go again.  So we went around the block and this time NO ONE was there.  The street was empty except us.  So, we let the girls get out with Michelle this time and run down the street. 

They had so much fun.  Laughing the whole way down.

We ended up going down about 5 times before we headed home.  We made sure to follow the girls running so no other cars would be able to get to them.

The girls were tired from our long day and again asked to go swimming.  So, we drove back to our hotel room.

Along the way we all noticed the lovely old buildings.  They were all so pretty.

Once back to our hotel, the girls quickly got in their bathing suits and I took them to the pool while Maureen and Michelle walked to get sandwiches for dinner. 

The girls were so excited to swim they didn't even want to eat dinner but of course that was part of the deal if they went swimming. 

So they ate dinner then got right into the water.  Let me tell you, once they started to eat I think they saw they were hungry as they all ate every bite.

These girls had so much fun swimming.  I think the fact we were at a hotel, away from home and it was night time that it made it much more fun then swimming at home.

When it was time for the pool to close, we went back to the room.  Everyone was super tired.  We took showers and got ready for bed.  Watched a little tv and packed.  We couldn't believe it was going to be time to go home in the morning.

Thankfully we had a late flight and would have time to still have some fun before going home.

Our last day in San Francisco will be told in the next post.