A Cable Car Ride & the Eerie Beauty of Alcatraz

Finally we were treated to another gorgeous day with bright blue skies — our last day in San Francisco. From the historic Queen Anne Hotel we took the bus downtown to famous Union Square, location of all sorts of fancy retail stores. Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Nordstrom and many other upscale stores and boutiques make this a magnet for the true shopoholics. So far we had had extensive exposure to San Francisco’s public transport system, but we had left the real highlight for the last day: a ride on one of the famous San Francisco cable cars!

One of San Francisco’s famous cable cars


We hopped on at the corner of Powell and Geary Streets and started to enjoy the outdoor experience on this moving historic landmark. The cable car was so full I was literally hanging outside the vehicle and did not have enough space to turn my body around. I kept thinking to myself how ironic it was that in virtually every other kind of vehicle you have to stay seated and strapped into your safety belts. But here in San Francisco you can literally let it all hang out! What a great experience on this gorgeous day – it really brought out the kid in all of us.

Union Square on a gorgeous day


Our charming driver Rufus kept the whole car entertained and compared his job to being a supervisor at an adult day care centre. How true! Riding the San Francisco cable cars definitely brings out the playful and adventurous spirit in everyone, regardless of age. He even let us off at the top of Lombard Street to give us a quick peak at “the world’s crookedest street” before he rang his bell, and we had to run to jump back onto the moving vehicle. The cable car ride was one of the absolute highlights of our San Francisco experience!

Vintage streetcars


Once arrived in the Fisherman’s Wharf area we strolled south, past Pier 39 with its lazy sea lions and the various colourful flower beds of Tulipmania. Our destination was Pier 33 where we caught a boat across to another one of San Francisco’s great destinations: Alcatraz Island!

Arrival on Alcatraz Island


Right at 11 am we started chugging across the bay to Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Cruises is the only cruise company that takes you across to Alcatraz Island and lets you off on the island which is now part of the National Park Service.It takes just about 10 to 15 minutes to get across to this infamous island. During our boat trip we enjoyed a beautiful view of downtown San Francisco, the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and the mountainous communities on the north and east side of San Francisco Bay.

The watchtower


We arrived at the ferry dock where a National Park Ranger provided us with a brief overview of things to see and do on the island. We then took in a 15 minute video that gave us a great summary of the island and its fascinating history. From 1850 onwards, Alcatraz Island was the location of a citadel, and it also housed the first lighthouse on the West Coast, built in 1854. In 1909 it became a military prison and in 1933 it finally was converted into the notorious maximum security penitentiary that it is known for all over the world.

Signs of the Indian occupation

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