San Francisco – joy, then Alcatraz

I just visited San Francisco – what a wonderful place to visit. It’s so easy to get around and is buzzing with a unique and intriguing energy.

I wanted to share a few joyful things I saw there, and also share a bit about Alcatraz Island where the infamous penitentiary was.

Everyone knows about the cable cars in San Francisco but the wait was really long (up to 2 hours) to ride them. What many people don’t know about are the streetcars that can take you to Fisherman’s Wharf for only $2.  It was fun to ride these.

San Francisco retro streetcar

San Francisco retro streetcar is fully functioning, not just for tourists.

Every so often you hear a street musician who’s super talented and you think he’ll make it big one day. We found one – his name is John Vicino.

John Vicino street musician

John Vicino street musician – he’s playing a ‘harp guitar’ and look at his feet – he creates a drumming sound with each foot.

Then, a visit to Alcatraz.  It was a maximum security penitentiary that closed in 1963. The cells are only 5′ x 9′ and of course housed famous prisoners such as Al Capone and Robert ‘birdman’ Stroud. Families and children of the staff actually lived on the island.

You take a short boat ride to the island and get a self-guided audio tour, and can spend as much time as you like on the island. It’s very fascinating and well presented. But the feeling you get while wandering about this place is eery. Here are some photos.  I struggled to find the piece of ‘joy’ in this to share with you, but perhaps all I could find is the last photo which were lovely gardens on the island.

Alcatraz  island

Alcatraz island

Alcatraz tour

Inside Alcatraz. This row is called ‘Broadway’.

Alcatraz cell

This is a typical 5′ x 9′ cell with a cot, cold running water and a toilet.

Alcatraz solitary confinement

A solitary confinement chamber used when a prisoner disobeyed the rules, they were kept in total darkness with nothing but the concrete walls and floor.

Alcatraz fake head

If you saw the movie ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, you’ll remember that some escapees fooled the guards by making fake heads so they could escape one night without being discovered until the next morning. They chipped away at the grate under the sink and escaped through the wall into a ventilation shaft.

Alcatraz gardens

The only joyful thing I could find on Alcatraz.

Although eery, Alcatraz is well worth visiting.  If you go, just remember to book tickets online days in advance as it’s so popular you can’t just walk up and expect to go on the tour.

6 thoughts on “San Francisco – joy, then Alcatraz

    • This prison was the place that the worst of the worst were sent to. Those who broke the rules from other prisons, especially those who escaped from other prisons were put there because it was deemed impossible to escape from and the conditions were very harsh and grim.

    • I didn’t hear about the wedding! The gift shop was actually very well done, as tastefully as I could have expected. I didn’t see anything about a wedding – I wonder why anyone would want to do that, unless it was an inmate who was getting married?

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