Day two in San Fran started out with us catching the cable car down to Pier 33 for the Alcatraz ferry. There was quite a queue to the ferry so it wasn’t until 11.30 we left for Alcatraz. On the island we got a short introduction of dos and don’ts and then we got to walk up to the top of the island where the holding cells were. The first room we entered was the showers as well as the counter were the prisoners had to turn in their possessions and receive their shiny new coveralls. The shower was an entirely open area so that the guards could keep track of everyone and ensure that the inmates didn’t attack each other. Upon exiting the room we got our audio tour equipment and continued on into the holding cells.
The tour in total took almost two hours and we got to know a lot about the prisoners and their life on ‘the rock’. Really interesting were the cells from which three prisoners escaped (you’ve probably seen the movie, the one with Clint). The fake heads, the grate covers, it all looked exactly as in the movie! There was also the story about a hostage situation where a guy fashioned a bar spreader from nuts and bolts and then starved himself so that he could go through the bars into the room where they kept the weapons. They didn’t manage to get the right key for the yard door and the whole thing went south from there. It developed into a hostage situation and several guards were killed before all the prisoners were apprehended (but not before the army was called in to help).
There was also a former guard and a former inmate there telling stories, but we missed both of them. We walked around a bit on the island and looked at a discovery special about Alcatraz (Jonna comments: I had to poke Magnus several times during the movie to keep him awake 🙂 I doubt he thought the movie was boring, we were just tired from walking around). There we got another story about a bunch of Indians (the native American kind, not the curry kind) who had occupied the island for nineteen months(!) in 1969. Personally I wouldn’t last a week on Alcatraz; the place is bonechillingly windy and has an armada of unusually annoying flies that almost takes the fun out of the entire visit. At any given time you had at least ten of them on you, not kidding! (Jonna comments: the flies were practically only at the harbor, you could walk most of the tour without being bothered by flies. But they were horrible and could easily be used as torture equipment).
After taking the ferry back, we walked over to the cable car and took it to Chinatown. There we walked around (feeling like giants, Chinese people really are tiny) looking for a restaurant. It wasn’t as easy as we’d thought as most of the ones we came across didn’t have english menus. Finally we found one that looked nice, I can’t remember the name of the place, but they had photos of Nicholas Cage and Jackie Chan eating there which was kind of neat. They had aquariums full with fish and crabs so that you would get your seafood fresh, also on the menu were chicken feet and frogs (yum!). The food came faster than at McDonalds and was really good, so I can recommend the place (if you happen to find it). (Jonna comments: it is a rather large restaurant, in comparison to the other restaurants in Chinatown. It is located at a corner. I can’t remember the name either…).
After lunch we walked back towards the shopping quarters of San Fran, which meant passing through more of Chinatown. We bought a couple of things; a string of little paper lamps (like christmas lights), a piece of cloth to hang on the wall and a couple of origami kits. We also visited an art exhibit where they had needle stitched artwork, I’d never seen anything like it before and it was really nice. The guy in the gallery asked us where we were from and when he heard ‘Sweden’ he immediately replied ‘Aaah, with the famous chocolate!’.
At the end of Chinatown there was supposed to be a gate and I was a bit disappointed when I realized that it wasn’t the same one as in Midtown Madness 3, I guess that one’s in another city. Back to back with Chinatown are the real shopping quarters of SF and we strolled around a bit, we quickly realized though that they weren’t really our kind of stores, they were more of the ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ kind. Well, not all of them, to be fair. But the rest of them were mostly boring shoe and handbag stores.
So we ditched the shopping and went to the Metreon center and saw the latest Harry Potter on the IMAX they had. The IMAX-theater was positively huge and seating was on a first come, first served basis. Seems like a step back to me, why don’t they have numbered seats and a booking system? Anyway, the movie was actually the best of the Potter movies so far if you ask me. And it also had 3D-sequence towards the end where we got to put on goggles. Afterwards we walked back to the motel.