Alriiiight, last day in San Francisco! I keep wanting to call it San Fran but I’ve heard locals don’t like it and never call it that. One of the guys at Hotel Diva said people who live there just call it “The City” but I don’t think I’m allowed. I don’t get it though, San Fran just rolls off the tongue so easily!
Anyway, we had a lot packed into our final day. Get ready for a ton of pictures. First up we were headed to Alcatraz. Dawn and I checked out of our hotel (they held our suitcases for us all day which was great) and headed down to the harbour to catch our 11am ferry to the island.
Goooooood morning San Francisco!
It was FOR ONCE a gorgeous day. We originally had our tour scheduled for Monday but there were downpours all day so I’m glad we were able to change it. This day was a bit chilly (seriously it was warmer in Toronto that day) but it was sunny and most importantly, no rain! The best day to go.
Before we started our indoor audio tour we had an outdoor tour learning the history of the island with Dr. Ranger Steve.
He kind of reminded me of Rick Moranis, so naturally I loved him immediately.
As we learned from Ranger Steve, Native American activists took over Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and held it as Indian Land, led by the Indians of All Tribe (little tidbit I did not know!). Hence the “Indians Welcome” above and the writing below:
Ranger Steve also said that whenever that water tower is repainted they invite the Indians back to paint those words again.
I also did not know that Alcatraz Island is essentially a bird sanctuary, which makes sense since there are no natural predators on the island. There are thousands of nesting seabirds hanging around singing their bird songs.
The island is now a National Park and it is honestly beautiful, with lush gardens…
And interesting architecture.
And that’s just the outside, onto the actual prison!
It was creepy.
Dawn and I did the self-guided audio tour and it was fantastic! It was easy to follow and well-paced so you didn’t feel like you were rushing through, but you could pause it if you wanted to stop and linger at a certain area. There were so many interesting facts and a lot of interviews with past inmates and wardens with realistic sound effects, which really brought the tour to life. I think I might have preferred it to a guided tour.
Thinking of all the men kept there gives me a heavy feeling.
The isolation rooms were the creepiest, in my opinion.
We were able to walk around in there, known as “the hole”, and it immediately made my skin crawl.
Some of the cells were set up to look like not such a horrible prison time.
They were able to have musical instruments and hobby activity items in their cells. On the audio tape one of the wardens was saying that one of the prisoners (I can’t remember who or if the person’s name was mentioned) enjoyed playing the trombone in his cell. I would murder the person in the cell next to me if they played their trombone all day. Oh I probably shouldn’t joke about that…
You knew that picture was coming.
One row of cells faced large windows that overlooked the water and the city of San Francisco and the audio mentioned those cells had a spectacular view of the sunset. I don’t know but it to me it seemed…not that bad. For a prison. Obviously it would not be a wonderful time, but I’ve visited other prisons and think there are worse ones to be in, especially considering this place was supposed to be for the worst of the worst (though Ranger Steve mentioned that a lot of prisoners were there because of crimes they committed in other prisons). One inmate in an audio interview said the worst thing was sometimes you could hear sounds from the city — especially on New Years’ Eve, laughter and celebrating would drift over the water — so you knew exactly what you were missing. Lives were happening outside, and you could hear it, but you were stuck.
That would suck for sure, but I’ll tell you the food didn’t look so bad.
According to the above display the dining hall was considered the most dangerous part of the prison, but at least they had good food.
I would eat all of those things. If I was in prison I’d want to be running the cafeteria like Red in the first season of Orange Is The New Black. That would be my jam.
It was a great tour — definitely do it if you have a chance! Once you’re on the island you can stay as long as you like and catch whatever ferry back. We were able to do everything in a few hours.
Maybe you noticed this but Dawn was donning her sailor’s hat for the occasion, so she used that as an intro to get into the captain’s area of the ferry boat (“Hello sir, as you can see I am also a captain”).
We told the captain that we have driven boats before (I mean I don’t like to brag but I was pretty pro at driving that cumbersome houseboat at Melon’s bachelorette) so he could let us dock the boat. It’d be fine. Probably no one would get killed. Unfortunately he didn’t let us touch anything until the boat was safely docked, but I think we look like we knew what we were doing.
I sadly did not think to bring my captain’s hat (of course I have one), but the captain generously let me wear his.
Just tell people you’re from Canada and they’ll let you do anything.
I actually bought our souvenir photo because I liked it so much.
After Alcatraz we headed to the Mission District because nearly every single person who recommended eating somewhere said a burrito in the Mission was a must. We asked Kiley if there was anywhere in particular we should go and she said she really enjoyed La Taqueria.
Definitely a no frills dive type place, which are usually my favourite.
When I look it up now I see that there are in fact many restaurants in the Mission with “tacqueria” in their name so, whoops. I don’t even know if we went to the right one. But it doesn’t even matter because I had the best burrito of my life there.
That photo doesn’t do anything justice but that was the freshest most delicious bundle of beef burrito goodness. I could have eaten several.
After checking that off the ol’ to-eat list we Ubered to Chinatown to wait for the Big Bus there (there’s no stop in the Mission). We chose that stop because I hadn’t really seen Chinatown yet, aside from driving past it. It’s quite spectacular and we had time to do some perusing before our bus came.
And then we got back on the bus and rode it to Pier 39. It looked like a really fun area and I wish we had a full day to explore it. Another thing for next time.
I would have loved to go into all the shops but we did see the Pier 39 sea lions!
They’re so cute and funny.
Lots of anger happening on those docks when a sea lion would suddenly move and disrupt the rest of them. We saw a few entertaining fights.
You can read about the history of those sea lions here, but basically after the big San Francisco earthquake of 1989 the sea lions arrived and took over those docks. There was plenty of food in bay and no predators so it seemed like a good place to hang out. So now they just live there.
While we were hanging with the sea lions we met up with one of Dawn’s friends from Ontario, Melissa, who recently moved to the Bay area for work and was meeting us for dinner.
It was her first time in San Francisco as well, so we walked around with her for a while, making our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Another cute area. I never got to eat clam chowder though!
And then, the last supper. Thanks to your recommendations we went to The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant!
They season their garlic with food! I love garlic so I was excited for a garlicky time. It definitely looked garlicky in there.
We started with warm garlic rolls with garlic butter.
And then ordered a bunch of dishes to share. Garlic focaccia with garlic spinach fondue.
Garlic meatballs with cheese.
And a garlic shrimp skillet with a garlic sauce.
Everything was so good, and even though it was very garlicky the garlic was not overpowering. They even had garlic wine! But our sever (who was fantastic and hilarious) told me not to get it because it was awful, so I felt I shouldn’t go against his recommendation.
I did get the garlic ice cream though.
Which was a lot more delicious than it sounds.
It was a great dinner. Not cheap, but so good, and it was the last meal so you gotta do it right.
After eating all the garlic, I headed to the airport to get on my red eye flight to go back to Toronto. I’m sure my seat mates enjoyed my garlickiness. Sorry!
Oh San Francisco, you beautiful, crazy, fun city, you will forever be in my heart!
I had such a good time adventuring around with the Dawnald!