Published: December 16th 2010December 15th 2010
Little Italian place for breakfast
This place had real character and again..great food!
It was worth waiting for...a truly spectacular day. Started out looking promising and then delivered in spades with blue skies and this familiar but not recently seen large yellow orb up there as well.
Tried a cafe we had walked past a couple of times for breakfast - Cafe Pescatore. Another great start to the day but this place had real character to go with the good meal.
A bit later on walked down to Pier 33 (about a 20 minute wander) to get the tickets for the Alcatraz excursion. Along the waterfront were good views of the Bay so finally were able, in the absence of the fog, to see the layout of the place. Both bridges could be seen clearly and in sunlight the islands looked completely different to the previous few days.
Best view of Coit Tower we had seen also, had been on the to visit list but with the fog the way it is has been did not really see the point as there would have been no real view. Otis Reddings 'Dock of the Bay' was very relevant today...did not know that that song was recorded 3 days before he died in
Visible when the fog clears and you get a clear blue sky like this..
a plane crash.
The trip out to Alcatraz was $79 for a family pass, normally $26 for an adult and $16 for a child. Very well organised with the boats going every 30 minutes or so. The trip across was brilliant and a great way to get a perspective on city behind and the Bay around. About 10-15 minute trip. Once on the island a few minutes induction and rules session as this is now a National Park. That in itself seemed a little incongruous - a prison being turned into a national park! - but became clearer as the day went on. The reality is that it was 'just' a prison...there was no torture, experiments or executions here but the slots were inhumane to lock guys up for more than 16 hours a day. The cell block seemed to be treated with a degree of reverence more akin to a cathedral but this may be in part attributable to most of the people wearing headphones and listening to the audio tour. It was an interesting insight into a now defunct and partially derelict prison. What we found more interesting, and perhaps more relevant to its status as a
national park was the fact that the island was occupied by Indians in 1969 as a protest of their treatment and the loss of their lands to the government...probably something we are a little more used to as Kiwis.
The visit to the prison was worth while but the views from around the island and the wildlife were completely unexpected. It would be a completely different experience on a day when the weather was closed in. There was an array of birdlife - including the photo featured hummingbird or related (did not take long to get those photos - not!!) which the kids were fascinated by but probably not the best subject matter, despite his keenness to try, for Reubs to start on the camera with as those fellas move at amazing speeds and only hover for a few seconds before flying off. He gave it a really good effort and was quite determined. At the rear of the island, from alongside the exercise yard and looking out towards the Golden Gate was a small rock with a number of sealions and cormorants on it.
Trip back just after 3pm and back to the hotel to get the
now 'melting' kids out of their thermals...apparently the 'Rock' is always cold and windy!! Not our experience. On our way back passed a street person with the sign, "Why lie? I need a beer.." Honest at least.
Next stage of the day was a cable car into Chinatown. Got there just a little before dark (that's around 5 ish or a little later) so wandered through that for an hour or so and just scraped the surface but it was interesting for the kids as well as us. Being innovative thinkers we thought, "Chinatown, hey, lets have Chinese" so had dinner in the Far East Cafe Restaurant. This was a bit of an experience also as they have booths and the restaurant is fairly old (think 1920's from the wall plaque but not sure). The meal was spectacular...particularly the Lemon Chicken and the calamari, and the wontons. Also very reasonably priced. Kids had first experience of Fortune Cookies. One of them read "A friend or partner will be giving you needed information. Listen!". Suspect Sandy ordered that one in advance for me but one of the kids got it...apparently I am going on a business trip shortly and Sandy
needs to write to someone.
From there, because Missy would not let it go and we did not have the heart to say no, we walked down to Union Square to have another crack at the ice skating. Now I was keen to do the ice skating with Caitlin, but darn it, that shrapnel in my leg just keeps playing up, so Mum had to do it. The next session was a couple of hours off but the guy formed a line for those that just wanted a quick skate as the people from this session came off the ice early...so as luck would have it Sandy and Caitlin were ready to go on the ice about 15 minutes later, which was great for them, but annoying for Reubs and I who had just got ourselves comfortably ensconsed (and no I don;t spell check these...its a blog!!) in the Il Cafe alongside, with hot chocolate. Meant we had to leave those warm environs and stand out in the cold again!
Well the girls got onto the ice for close to an hour and it was pretty packed, predominantly with accomplished skaters...so the Kiwis looked like their namesakes on
ice..surrounded by swans and peacocks! They made good use of the walls to get around the rink but there are two wide entrances so Reubs and I were stationed at one each to assist them across the entrance and back onto the next part of the wall. Now Caitlin said at the start she wanted to skate in the middle with the good skaters...this seemed unlikely but soon she left Mum behind and started to get faster and more accomplished and after a couple of mishaps, both without fuss, she was away. By the end of it, our first time skater WAS in the middle with the good skaters and just so proud of herself...as were her parents. This in many respects was the highlight of the day and will probably stand as one of our fondest memories of San Francisco...our determined 6 year old teaching herself to ice skate in Union Square...that's not a bad momento from this leg of the trip.
Reuben was equally proud of his little sister but for very different and very boyish reasons...one of the skating mishaps and a real heart in the mouth moment for Dad was when Caitlin, as the innocent
party, got cleaned out huge by two much larger 18+ year olds...Caitlin went down under the heap, but was the first to surface, straight back onto her feet and away again with no fuss. Her co-combatants stayed down and one staggered straight off the ice. Reubs thought little sis was super tough.
Caught the cable car, our last, back to Fishermans Wharf and back to the hotel.
A good day all round.
Minor note...from Alcatraz we were able to get a better perspective on the distance between Pier 39 and the Exploratorium...our hosts were right, it was a very long walk...
There are more photos below