Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Same Old Lang Syne - San Francisco, Day 2

We began our Sunday at Grace Cathedral, a “miracle in concrete,” according to our tour guide. Brother of Ken was highly amused throughout the service because, being the Sunday after Christmas, half of the hymns contained the words “ox and ass.”

That afternoon, we boarded a ferry and sailed to Alcatraz:

For any of you gentle readers who are planning to visit Alcatraz, we recommend comfortable shoes as you have to hike the equivalent of thirteen stories to get to the top of “the rock.”

Here, friendly park rangers issued each of us a (hopefully sanitized) headset and audio player and then we were off on our guided tour of Alcatraz, narrated by former guards and prisoners. The audio tour lasts about an hour and took us through the cell blocks, mess hall, solitary confinement, and the administration area and it was one of the best any of us had ever heard.
Some of the cells:

There are three levels of cells in the main cell block:

Here is the inside of an empty cell:

Since the island is less than two miles from San Francisco, the inmates were able to hear people talking and music playing on the bay and they were able to smell the chocolate from the chocolate factory. A view of the city from Alcatraz:

Since we boarded the ferry at 4:20 in the afternoon, the sun was setting over the bay while we visited the island:

After we finished the main tour, two mini tours were provided by dynamic park employees, which Brother of Ken insisted upon attending. The first park ranger told the story of Jim Quillen and his escape (“exscape”) attempt through the steam pipe system. The second park ranger talked about the many escape attempts that took place during the years that Alcatraz was in operation, including a different version of the Jim Quillen story than we had heard fifteen minutes before.

We sailed back to San Francisco in the dark and retrieved our car from the sketchy parking garage before meeting some friends for dinner.

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