Helen & Nigel's Around The World trip 2013/14 travel blog

San Francisco skyline

Golden Gate Bridge

The crookedest street

The crookedest street

Coit tower and Christopher Columbus

Helen's 50th birthday - heading for prison

Alcatraz - the boat ride

Alcatraz - National park

Alcatraz island

Alcatraz - The dock

Alcatraz - Native American Graffiti

Alcatraz - cell block

Alcatraz - A typical cell

Alcatraz - The author

Alcatraz - The book

Alcatraz - Al Capone

Alcatraz - Golden Gate Bridge

Cable car

Cable car

China town

Golden Gate Bridge cycle ride

When we left you it was Saturday 9th August and we were flying to California and San Francisco.

We flew from Orlando and had a connecting flight in Dallas, Fort Worth. When we got to our connecting flight we saw a distraught woman who seemed to have lost her checked in luggage. She didn't seem to be getting the right answers from the ground staff and was getting more and more upset. By the time it came to boarding the aircraft she seemed to have calmed down and boarded our plane (still without her luggage).

We were very happy to see our luggage on the carousel when we arrived.

We have been extremely lucky (so far) during our last 10 months of traveling, neither of us have lost any luggage during our 22 flights.

On arriving at San Francisco we had a 30 minute drive into "The city" in a shared shuttle minibus. This was after the driver did several laps of the airport and a tour of the city before dropping us off.

We grabbed a quick pizza in a very nice Italian restaurant and then felt the effects of the 3 hours of time difference and went to sleep.

The following day we decided to get our bearings and went for a walk around the city. We went to Fisherman's wharf and saw Alcatraz island from the shoreline, found the ticket booth where we had to queue on Monday morning, found the tourist bus we were going to use on Tuesday, visited "The crookedest street" which is a series's of very short switch backs in a residential area. We went for lunch in China town, climbed up to Coit tower which gave a great panoramic view over the bay and found our local bike hire shop ready for Thursday. By the time we had done all that it was late afternoon so we retired back to the hotel for an early night.

On Monday it was Helen's 50th birthday (hurrah!)

So what else would you do but get up at 4am and walk down to the Alcatraz island ticket booth? It was about 4.30am by the time we arrived and the queue for tickets had already formed. We were numbers 15 and 16 in line. Others joined the queue and about an hour later it was snaking towards the road. We were lucky enough to get tickets and joined the first boat of the day departing at 8.45am.

While we were waiting at the pier we were looking at a model of the island and got talking to a mature couple.

It turned out that we were talking to a retired guard and that they had lived on Alcatraz island for the last 4 years it was a prison. Little did we know, until we saw them again, that he was in fact an author (Jim Albright) and was signing his book (Last guard out) with his wife on the island.

We climbed aboard the first ferry and in no time we were on the national park, had earphones on and were wandering around the cell blocks with the voices of ex guards and ex con's in our ears.

In the 29 years that Alcatraz served as a federal penitentiary, 36 prisoners tried to escape. All but 5 were accounted for. It's the official position that all 5 died trying to escape. In particular the 3 immortalised in the Clint Eastwood movie "Escape from Alcatraz" who tried (or perhaps succeeded?) in swimming across to the mainland.

On our return to "The city" we celebrated our achievement with BLT sandwich's and ice cream. We then retired to the hotel and caught up on some sleep.

Helen's birthday was celebrated later that evening in a local Goan inspired curry house.

We had a later start and decided to board a tour bus on our third day.

We had a 3 hour audio tour of the city, during which we got a history of the city, its earthquakes, fires, the gold rush, the financial district, the 825,000 population which is multicultural. We also drove alongside the old military base of the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge.

On Wednesday we took a ride on a cable car.

These are basically trams that travel by grabbing a cable that runs continually under the road to travel along the flats and to get up the steep hills of the city, they then release the cable and use a break to control the descent. There are three cable car lines and we took the most popular from Hyde and Powell streets.

Today we woke to a foggy morning but by the time we had hired bikes and started cycling along the bay the fog had lifted. We rode over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to a park that had a number of large redwood trees. We finished our route with a ferry trip from a coastal town called Tiburon across the bay.

A great and varied day of cycling.

One thing that is confusing us is why the prices in the USA don't include sales tax.

When you get to a hotel, shop or anywhere else you find the price is about 11% higher than that advertised, plus whatever other fees or taxes are added.

Why don't they add the sales tax to the displayed price?

Tomorrow will be Friday 15th August and we're picking up a hire car. This will now be our transport as we travel from the west to the east coast. But first we're heading out of San Francisco, spending the weekend at the home of some friends we made during our travels in New Zealand. Jim and Carmen's home is about 100 miles south of the city.

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