Jul 28, 2012

San Francisco - Part 1

This past week, Ryan and I took our first trip to San Francisco. We had decided about a month or two back, that a little trip in the middle of the summer might be a nice break. We didn't want to travel far, but we definitely wanted to go somewhere neither of us had ever been. So, we decided on San Francisco. And are we ever thrilled we did! We had the best time!! Something about short, mini-vacations with no schedule make my heart sing. Travel where the wind takes you, eat where the locals recommend, spend time doing the most unusual things. Lovely. So lovely. 

To kick off the trip we scheduled one activity we pre-booked before arriving: a tour of Alcatraz! Ryan and I are both history nerds, so this one thing, we absolutely had to do.

So, shortly after landing and checking into our hotel, we arrived at the port, got in line and boarded the ferry along with other eager Alcatraz goers. We have to admit, this was the most touristy thing we've done in a loooong time. And it was awesome. 

One thing we learned about San Francisco very quickly is that it's cold! If you're in the full sun, and the wind is calm, you might think, for a moment, that it's warm out. But the minute that wind picks up, and you're in and out of shaded areas, its cold. Like cold-for-a-Canadian-who-packed-for-California-weather-but-was-surprised-by-frosty-winds-instead-cold. Now you know I'm not messing around about it being cold when I, a born and raised, hearty Canadian call a place cold. So, keeping in mind the fact that our teeth were almost always chattering for the remainder of the tour, the following pictures illustrate a bit of our time on Alcatraz.

On the ferry. Getting super pumped to see Alcatraz!

Our view of the port as the ferry pulled away. So beautiful. San Francisco is a city built into and on the hills, cliffs and gullies of a stippled, cavernous rock, surrounded by the ocean. Everywhere you looked, the view was breathtaking.

On our way out, we were able to see the Bay Bridge, shrouded in fog. Literally every view of the bay, the ocean, the bridges and city was this picturesque. It is truly a lovely area of the world.

It wasn't long before we could see Alcatraz fully in view. As the ferry pulled closer to the island, every thing I'd ever seen in books and movies about Alcatraz came rushing back to me. I kept having to remind myself that what we weren't visiting a movie set. It was in fact, the real life prison that inspired so many of those cinematic stories we've all seen countless times. It was very surreal.

Once disembarked, we pulled a hard-core tourist move and asked some fellow tour goers to snap our pic in front of the Alcatraz Sign. #noshame.

This is us on the lowest part of the island, right where the ferry docked, about to start our tour. Already we were surrounded by the dilapidated buildings and scenery that made up what Alcatraz once was.

The view from any part of the island was entirely spectacular. If you could forget what this island once was, you might think you were in some enviable beach vacation destination. The view was so gorgeous. Ryan and I thought this was particularly ironic. To be imprisoned somewhere so beautiful was probably salt on the many wounds of those incarcerated there.

The island is littered with buildings, everywhere you look. Some housed the staff that maintained and patrolled the prison. Some were left over from when the island first served as a fortress before it's stint as a prison. They were all equally run-down and haunting.

This guy was particularly happy to be there. As I mentioned, we are both history nerds and are absolutely fascinated by things like this. But Ryan in particular was really looking forward to this part of our San Francisco visit. And I'm happy to report, the island and tour didn't disappoint. 

In keeping with our tourist theme for the day, we each grabbed a headset and set out on the narrated tour through Alcatraz. Not before asking the security guard to snap our nerdy pic first. #likeisaidnoshame

We were able to tour nearly every part of the facility. To see so much of what this place used to be, frozen in time, was seriously amazing.

On our way back in to the prison from visiting the recreation yard.

Some of the famous inmates Alcatraz once imprisoned. On the far left is Al Capone, one of several notable criminals who once called Alcatraz home.

Ryan checking out the isolation chambers. These rooms were pitch dark, entirely metal, impossibly small and altogether awful.

Here is an example of how a cell might have looked like back when the prison was operational.

After touring the prison interior, we were ushered out to a viewing platform of sorts. This was accessed off of the warden's office. The view was spectacular. We tried to get more pictures but it was SO windy, and SO cold, that none of them turned out too well. 

We did, however, get one particularly hilarious picture out of our wind-whipped camera snapping escapade. This pic makes me laugh every time I look at it. I think I might actually frame it. And one day, I am going to write an 'anatomy of a photo shoot' post about our photo attempts that day on the platform. The pictures that came out of it are hilarious and deserve a post of their own. It would only be right.

Anyway, after we were thoroughly frozen and wind blown, we went inside, did one final lap of the prison, and ended up at the gift shop. And yes, we totally bought some prison coffee mugs. Again, not our usual M.O., but Alcatraz Fever hit us hard. 

Ryan in the gift shop smiling warms my heart. He just loves stuff like this. It made me happy to see him so happy. Not to mention, I had a pretty awesome time too :)

On our way out, I snapped a few pics of the view. Just. Gorgeous.

After that, we started our descent back to the ferry.

Alcatraz was an amazing way to start the trip, but fortunately we managed to squeeze a whole lot more in during our four days there. More on San Francisco to come!


  1. wow, gorgeous pics! I'm so jealous!

  2. Oh my goodness... what an amazing experience! Eric and I totally want to vacation to San Fran someday (soon, ha ha) and Alcatraz will be first on our list of things to see! You and Ryan are the cutest :)

    P.S. I'm not really sure why it's not showing... but I'm DEFINITELY a new follower!


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