Travel

Sightseeing in San Francisco

There is no doubt that San Francisco is rich in history, sights, and culture. As we were only there for 3 days, my mother and I had to cram in all of what we wanted to see. For years I’ve been interested in the history of ‘The Big Rock’, aka Alcatraz, so I knew that Alcatraz was a must-see for me! And of course we had to take a trip to the infamous Golden Gate Bridge, so prepare yourself for some very ‘touristy’ photos.

Alcatraz

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As you can imagine, Alcatraz is a high demand tourist attraction, so the only option is to book months in advance, but it is completely worth it. If you’re unaware, Alcatraz was America’s primary maximum security prison from 1934 to 1963, and was home to some of the worlds most notorious crime lords. It was built on an island just over a mile offshore of San Francisco Bay. It’s most famous for housing Al Capone, Robert “Birdman” Stroud, and for Alcatraz’s Great Escape!

As I stepped on the ferry, I saw Alcatraz in the distance, and as it eased closer, I could make out the water tower, and the prison blocks… it felt real. I thought to myself, “How could someone survive swimming through these choppy waters?” It hit me how people actually risked their lives to escape Alcatraz.

When the ferry docked on Alcatraz Island the atmosphere hit me, there was undoubtedly an underlying tone of sadness. Although I was surrounded by tourists, I felt isolated and alone with my thoughts. I looked up and saw the overbearing rusty water tower, and a wall that had “Indians Welcome” pained on it in big red letters.

The tour of Alcatraz itself was fascinating. You get to see pretty much all of the rooms inside of the penitentiary, and you’re also free to wander round the island for as long as you like (in moderation, unless you want to be alone at night there… I think not).

Even the shower rooms caused me to feel uneasy. No effort was made at all to make it comfortable for them – imagine showering next to 30 other people *shudders*. At an attempt to prevent the prisoners from acclimatizing to the cold waters of San Francisco Bay, an attempt to prevent prisoners from escaping, they were only allowed to shower with warm water.

We also walked round the prison blocks, and saw the actual model heads in the cell of B Block that the prisoners used as part of their escape plan. We also had the opportunity to lock ourselves in a prison cell, and take a photograph… and of course we jumped at the opportunity.

Ghost at Alcatraz?

On a more serious note, whilst at Alcatraz a trusted friend of ours chose to hang back from the tour and take some photographs on his own. He started taking pictures of the reception room, where there was a glass window in front of him. There was nobody around, and he can swear by it. When he got on the ferry he began to look through the photographs he had taken, and noticed there was clearly a woman’s face in one of the windows, but, like I had said, there was nobody around. What stands out to me is the fact that you can clearly see an elderly woman, with a bonnet on her head – which isn’t today’s fashion. Take a look for yourself…

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If you have any thoughts on the photograph, or have visited Alcatraz and have experiences of your own, please let me know. As soon as I stepped foot on the island I felt uneasy, and with all of the deaths I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some spiritual activity on the island. I’ve always kept an open mind.

The Golden Gate Bridge 

Of course when visiting SF we had to visit The Golden Gate Bridge! It was very busy (which is to be expected) but was beautiful seeing up close. It made me realize how small we people are in comparison to such colossal landmarks.

Fishermans Wharf / Pier 39

One thing I love about San Francisco is the constant happy and busy vibe it has. It’s such a diverse city, with buskers playing classic jazz to hip hop. Fishermans Wharf is a neighborhood that is popular amongst tourists, because of there being many quirky shops and stalls, and the post card views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

In terms of shops you can expect to see everything under the (hidden) San Francisco sun, ranging from Forever 21 to a left handed shop. There’s also a Bubba Gump for you shrimp lovers. Whilst in San Francisco you must try a churro from the stall opposite the aquarium, I promise you you won’t look back! Amazing.

Fishermans Wharf is also home to the famous Pier 39, which is an area always full of sealions. When we arrived, we expected to see this, but we saw this…

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Oh well, at least we can say that we’ve done it!

Twin Peaks

A famous neighbourhood in the SF area is Twin Peaks. It’s on top of a hill, meaning that the views of the city are breathtaking. We decided to make our way to the top of Twin Peaks one morning to take some beautiful photographs of the city. Much to our dismay, it was foggy. So instead of having a lovely view of the cities skyline, we saw this…

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My mother and I still laugh about it to this day.

Overall Impressions

As a city, I think San Francisco is great. It has everything you need, plenty of shops, history, and it’s full of great people. The only downside for me is the weather, I found it very disappointing because it affected some of our experiences – but mother nature’s to blame for that. Also, I didn’t like how there are too many hills, because it meant I was constantly struggling to walk from A to B, that may just be because I’m lazy but it did affect my overall opinion of the city.

Would I recommend visiting?

Yes. Definitely. If you ever visit San Francisco, make sure you visit Alcatraz. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

NEXT STOP… YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK!

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