I fall in love with places easily. Every once in a while, we wind up in a locale where the love is almost instantaneous and completely recognizable by that feeling of desperation to immediately extend our stay. (For the record, I only got away with that once.) San Francisco is one of those places. I can’t claim to know the city extraordinarily well after just one weekend (so is this lust?) but it took far less than that to understand why its so beloved. It’s a cultural city, but it has such charm with its pastel buildings, unique architecture, ocean views and steep streets that make for picturesque scenes. It’s a walking city with mild temps and sun (big points), is close to nature and has seemingly endless things to do.
So how did we kick off our trip? By going to a prison.
I may be one of the rare few who had never heard of Alcatraz before we started planning our trip. When Jake told me this was the one thing he wanted on our to-do list…. complete confusion. Why would you want to visit a prison?? I didn’t quite get it but went along with it because, c’mon, how often does the poor guy get a say? Besides, a boat ride was involved and with early bird tickets, we’d be back in time for lunch on the wharf. Thoughts of champagne and seafood kept me going…
Not so bad right? Touring the outside was anything but scary or somber. The grounds have beautiful gardens, which were at one point maintained by the prison staff’s families (yes, wives and children used to live ON the island next to the prison!) and are now cared for by volunteers. They say there is a very unique ecosystem on Alcatraz that attracts all sorts of birds and allows for some very cool vegetation.
The history behind Alcatraz is interesting. Al Capone may have made it famous, but the prison itself is not why this is a national park. (Though it probably is the reason it attracts enough people to account for $5,000 in ticket sales a DAY.) The island served as the West Coast’s first fort, protecting the bay area during the Gold Rush. It later became a military prison, and then a federal prison housing the country’s most dangerous criminals until 1963. A few years later, Native Americans attempted to claim the land as their own, settling the island until their leader left and the remaining demonstrators were removed by the government.
The inside was again, not as bad as I thought it would be. Except for this part – six closed-front isolation cells used for severe disciplinary problems. Treatment in ‘The Hole’ lasted for up to 19 days…
I know, a really poor attempt at a scared face. And with that, it was time for that champagne.