San Francisco, Alcatraz, Sausalito, Monterey & Carmel


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North America » United States » California » San Francisco » Alcatraz
February 9th 2014
Published: February 10th 2014
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5th & 6thFebruary San Francisco



Arrived San Francisco early morning, and passed under Golden Gate Bridge just after 5.15 am.



Before disembarkation for our trips we had to pass through immigration (AGAIN). Our allotted time was 07.45 am. An hour and a half later we passed through the immigration channel. You can imagine the frustration in the queue which literally stretched the length of the ship at one stage. No one was leaving the ship until everyone had been seen!! And there’s always one (or in this case three) that held up proceedings!!



This stop is also a changeover port and some 1400 passengers will disembark over the next two days. There will also be some changes in the crew including the captain. It will be interesting to see how the dynamics change with new passengers on board.



An overview of what we are doing over the next two days.



Day one is a trip to Alcatraz Island and then on the small town of Sausalito, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Because the ship is staying overnight we will have time to look around the harbour area, particularly Pier 39 and Fishermans Wharf



Day two is a longer trip down the coast to Monterey and Carmel



San Francisco (Spanish for "Saint Francis") was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for St Francis of Assisi a few miles away. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. Most of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. During World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theatre. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalising attitudes, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a centre of liberal activism in the United States.



San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the world; the city is renowned for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former prison on Alcatraz Island, and its Chinatown district. It is also a primary banking and finance centre.



Alcatraz Island



Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco. Often referred to as "The Rock", the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. In November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Native American Indians from San Francisco who were part of a wave of native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.



Today, the island is managed by the National Park Service. We reached the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman’s Wharf.



It is home to the abandoned prison, the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the US, landmarks on the island include the Main Cell house, Dining Hall, Library, Recreation Yard, Water tower and Lighthouse.



I suppose we all tend to think of Alcatraz for the infamous prison, with its austere facade and bleak buildings in the centre of the bay shrouded in fog. We arrived in glorious sunshine and after a briefing by one of the Park Rangers ‘about do’s & don’ts’ on the island we were able to start our look around. Alcatraz was a prison from the outset, as a military garrison, soldiers were incarcerated from as early as 1859. It became a Federal penitentiary in 1934 after being a military one since 1915 and closed in 1963 when rising costs made it unviable. There were only 1500 inmates during its time as a federal penitentiary (some more than once) the more infamous ones being Al Capone & Robert Stroud (The Birdman of Alcatraz). Stroud actually never kept birds on Alcatraz; he only was allowed birds at Fort Leavenworth.



The main part of the visit was the tour of the cell house with an audio link, doing it at your own pace. The stark interior of the corridors bought home how dark & dismal it must have been to spend upwards of 10 years on the island. The interior was considerably colder, so emerging into the sunlight in the prisoner’s recreation ground to the warmth; you could imagine how the inmates must have felt during their stay.



There was a rule book for the prisoners and the one I liked was Rule 5 from the Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulations, 1934 ‘You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege’



Unfortunately as on all these type of trips, time caught up with us and we had to get back for the ferry to Pier 33.



We could have easily spent another couple of hours on the island but not 10 years!!



Sausalito



From Pier 33 we travelled to the small town of Sausalito. The problem with organised tours is that they have to put a ‘shopping’ element into each one and to be honest it would have been (from our point of view) better to have spent the extra time on Alcatraz.



Sausalito is situated near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and prior to the building of that bridge served as a terminus for rail, car, and ferry traffic. Its character now has a reputation as a wealthy and artistic enclave, a picturesque residential community (incorporating large numbers of houseboats), and a tourist destination.



During the era of Prohibition in the United States, Sausalito was a center for bootlegging. Because of its location facing the Golden Gate and isolated from San Francisco by the same waterway, it was also a favorite landing spot for rum runners.



It was very picturesque with lots of art & craft shops but after arriving, the guide gave us 45 minutes before getting back to the coach. So a little frustrating.



Back at Pier 35 where Queen Elizabeth was berthed, after the trip we wandered down the wharf to the famous Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. A foodies paradise, especially the clam chowder but all of the seafood dishes were fresh. It’s also a major tourist area and with another cruise ship in port the ‘Costa Delicianza’ (sister ship of the Concordia) with over 4000 people on board it was pretty busy in port.



Hope tomorrow brings some warmer weather as it got colder as the day went on.


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