Monday, 14 January 2013

The Expected Journey Part 2: San Francisco

 It's super-easy flying from tiny Victoria, Canada directly to San Francisco.  Two and a half hours later, we were checked into the Marriott in Union Square and reunited with our great pals from Geneva, the Millers, who live in the mid-west United States.

Though J and their two girls were practically raised together for three years, they hadn't seen each other in almost four.  They circled each other like cats for the first few minutes but muscle memory eventually kicked in and they reverted to their remembered dynamic very quickly.

It was the day before New Year's Eve and San Francisco was BUMPING  (to quote the twenty-somethings).  The streets were crowded with tourists, and queues were long everywhere.  After being quoted 90-minute wait times at most of the restaurants we had hoped to try, we eventually found a fantastic modern-Indian place, where we shared our traditional coupes,  plates of vindaloo, butter chicken, koorma, and naan, and reconnected with each other.

The next morning, the seven of us hopped onto a streetcar and headed over to Pier 35 at Fisherman's Wharf to catch a ferry out to "The Rock" - Alcatraz.  It was a fascinating experience learning about its evolution from Army fortress to federal maximum security high risk prison housing some of American's most notorious hoodlums including Al Capone, the psychotic Robert Stroud - the Birdman of Alcatraz, and Machine Gun Kelly. 

Alcatraz with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

TheAlcatraz exercise yard
Alcatraz lived up to it's reputation of being inescapable.  During its short 29 years as a federal prison, 36 prisoners attempted to escape, none ever succeeded.  One of those attempts resulted in the notorious and bloody Battle of Alcatraz in 1962.  Alcatraz is cold, grim and gloomy and clearly was a place of last resort for America's most hardened criminals.  It was interesting, however, to read the histories of a handful of Alcatraz's last prisoners (it closed in 1963).  Following their releases, they have worked to contribute to society by working extensively with at-risk youth providing intervention services.

We explored Fisherman's Wharf after returning to the mainland, laughing at the antics of the Sea Lions lolling about Pier 39, finally settling on The Fog Harbor Fish House for dinner with a marvelous view of the harbour and the Sea Lions.  Another coupe may have started our meal...

We headed back to the hotel amongst the throngs of New Year's Eve revellers, had a swim, and a soak in the hot tub before sharing a couple of bottles of champagne: one Australian, one American to ring in the 2013.

New Year's Day found the city much easier to navigate as many of the tourists seemed to have cleared out early.  We walked up toward Union Square and hopped on one of San Francisco's famous cable cars and rode it up through Little Italy, Chinatown, and Nob Hill before disembarking back at Fisherman's Wharf.  We chose the San Francisco landmark Sicilian restaurant, Alioto's, for lunch with a marvelous view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

After lunch, we walked and walked and walked, first to Ghiradelli Square (home of the famous chocolate) and back toward Union Square via Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Lombard Street (San Francisco's crookedest street), and Nob Hill.  It was a great way to get out of the touristy parts of the city, and see more of the real place. San Francisco is architecturally beautiful, original, and fascinating at every turn.  That we were blessed with spectacular weather didn't hurt.

Early the next day, we bid farewell to our friends.  They headed north to Napa, we headed south to Carmel and the Pacific Coast Highway.  Stay tuned for Part 3.


Elizabeth said...

Wonderful photos and what a terrific time you've had in San Fran! That Alcatraz tour is one of the best ones I've been on -- unexpectedly so! I hope you're headed our way--

Jen said...

LOVED San Fran when we went years ago and your post makes me realize how much I'd like to go back!

DL NELSON said...

Loved the photos of you all.

Jen said...

Great to see pics of the Millers! How the kids have all grown!