San Francisco California

Friday 10th January 2020

Today we took an organised tour of San Fran – it’s the easiest way to get around this very busy city. We drove through some of the well known districts – Union Square (where we are staying), Civic Centre (City Hall, Concert Halls), Castro (the rainbow district), Cow Hollow (the former diary farming area) and ended up at Twin Peaks and a 360 degree view. The fog shrouded the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline so it wasn’t as perfect as we had hoped for. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and ended our tour at the Alcatraz Landing and jumped on board a ferry across to the infamous island in the bay.

Alcatraz has an interesting history and the most well known is when it was a federal prison (1934 to 1963), playing host to Al “Scarface” Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud to name a few and that is what our tour by the National Parks was based upon. We witnessed a demonstration of the Sounds of the Slammers or the closing of the cell doors from a central geared mechanism. None of the cells have locks. What was special is Liam is a locksmith and the tour guide gave him a personal demonstration and in the process managed to lock a group of people in one of the cells – we knew this instantly as one of the cell mates started screaming hysterically. We eventually managed to release them!! But Alcatraz was not always a prison, it served as a military outpost for nearly 100 years from 1850 with the installation of 100 cannons to protect entry to San Francisco by sea, it was the site of the first lighthouse on the west coast and was subject to occupation by the American Indians for 2 years from 1969 as they demanded better civil rights.

We finished off the day with a surprise organised by Sara – dinner the the Cheesecake Factory – they have a series of restaurants across the country and the food is excellent. I didn’t get to the cheesecake.