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Published: April 11th 2012
After our doughnut breakfast, we got a cab to Pier 33, to pick up our tickets for the Alcatraz Tour.
The tour cost $26 each and is sold out months in advance, so we had bought our tickets in Frbruary.
We got the 10am ferry for the 15 minute ride across to Alcatraz Island. As you boad the ferry, staff take your photo in front of a fake Alcatraz backdrop and then charge you $15 for a 6x4' copy of it.
The prison is quite imposing as you get up close. It was closed by Kennedy in the 1940's as it was badly damaged by the weather and was too expensive to repair and maintain.
The $26 ticket price included an audio tour, which was brilliant. It included interviews with ex-prisoners and wardens and took you through each area in the prison, describing events that took place and how the prisoners lived. I found it fascinating and well worth the money. The only downside was that they let too many people on the island at once. You cant keep up with the audio tour as you are constantly trying to navigate round people to get to the next area.
The prison officers livedon the ialsnd in a separate house next to the prison with thwir wives and children, which I found quite bizarre - a strange upbrining.
I didnt realise that 3 men successfully escaped from Alcatraz - (although no one knows if they survived or not).
We got the ferry back to San Fran about two hours later and walked along the seafront to pier 39. I had forgotten how tacky it was - it is packed with overpriced jewelllery stores, arcade style machines, tourist shops, but also a range of nice seafood restaurants. We got fish n chips and clam choiwder from Pier Market ($7.50) which was delicious and then carried on walking down the seafront until we got to the end.
We had our cable car tickets from yesterday, so waited for over an hour to get on (at the star band end point of the cable cars, people queue to get on the cable cars) and there are always about 60 people in lineand the cable cars are infrequent,so we were waiting some time. We were 'entertained' however, by an old man with his electric guitar, singing Led Zeppelin and David Bowie songs - badly.
I loved the cable car ride - up and down really steep hills and past Lombard Street (the windiest and steepest road in the USA). Zoe and Faye made friends with a Mr T looking character on the tram, while I watched the guy driving the thing. It looks such hard work.
We got back to Market Street and freshened up and then headed back out to have dinner in the North Beach area. We got the number 45 bus from Sutter/Stockton Street and at at Cafe Puccini's (recommended in our Lonely Planet Guide). It was good food, but the Americans have a tendency to take away your plates before all of your party have finished eating and dump the bill on your table when you are halfway through your meal, which I find quite rude.
North Beach is a nice area for food and nightlife - if we had more time, I would have liked to see more of it.
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