Well, here goes for another entry..............
In March 2002 i decided i wanted to visit a few places in America (and one in Canada) the places I chose were San Fransisco, New Orleans, Washington and finally Toronto. I like to visit places where when you see a landmark or an area you can associate it immediately with the place.
Well my first stop was San Fransisco (not San Fran or Frisco) but know by the locals merely as THE CITY. The sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Cable Cars running through the street and the nortourious prison Alcatraz instantly make you aware that you are in San Fransisco. I would recomend to anyone considering a trip to The City that a ride on the cable cars is a must, so to is a trip accross the Golden Gate Bridge, however the thing that i enjoyed the most was my visit to Alcatraz.
I boarded the boat on a Tuesday morning, the journey out of the harbour towards Alcatraz makes the hairs on your neck stand up, knowing all the events that have taken place over the years at this prison. Although it wouldn't happen you can't help but think what the journey must have been like for prisoners who had been sent there. Upon arrival to the island where Alcatraz is located you are greeted by the overshaddowing prison up above you at the top of the hill. I would advise you to hang around here for a bit as a guide operates (i think every 30mins) who will walk you up to the prison itself telling you all interesting facts along the way. When i arrived at the prison entrance i went to a cliff edge and looked at the Golden Gate Bridge, which in an instant became engulfed in fog, and dissappeared for quite some time. I entered the prison and was given an audio headset which guides you around the prison, telling you all the facts and pointing out lots of interesting items along the way (YOU MUST DO THIS). I was fascinated by the stories of the Birdman of Alcatraz Robert Stroud (who never actually kept birds on Alcatraz!!!) see this is educational too. When you walk around the prison you feel goosebumps ariving and departing many times when you look at where the likes of Al Capone were once resident. It was amazing to see the cell where one of the famous escapes took place, you can actually see the cavity which they climbed up to escape from as it is preserved behind perspex. I entered a cell and thought what it must have been like to spend half a lifetime behind the bars, although when i entered the cell i did keep a foot in the door just in case.
I made my way to the yard where the prisoners could exercise, its worth having 10 minutes here just to take the whole thing in. On my way out i decided to pop into the souvenier shop, where i bought a book on the Birdman by an author called Jolene Babyak, i read the book from cover to cover within 3 days, just couldn't put it down, so much so when i returned to the UK i bought two more of her books. Jolene actually grew up on Alcatraz as her father worked there, and her knowledge and stories about the place, for anyone remotely interested are throughly enjoyable. I would recomend anyone interested in Alcatraz to have a read of her books, by the time you finish them you will feel like you have already been to Alcatraz.
Upon my return to dryland i spent the next 30 minutes just gazing back at the US Penitentiary and star of so many films, and was truly honoured to have visited ALCATRAZ.
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