Friday, August 25, 2006

Video: From the Rock

From the Rock, showing the City in the background.

Captive on the Rock

After heading to bed quite early, we both awoke around 7am, so decided to get up early and head out for breakfast prior our scheduled trip to Alcatraz at 12:15. We’d booked in advance for the trip online, a must to avoid queues and common sell outs.

Vin had noted a few good diners from, one such is Dotties. The review mentioned to ignore the queue outside as the food is classic. Not taking in the advice on queuing, we headed of to Jones St.(between Geary and O'Farrell),. What, there was a queue half way up the block to get into this small city dinner in the Tenderloins District. After 30 minutes waiting in line we where escorted to our table. Inside, the diner accommodates around 30 people max. Bottomless coffee was promptly served. We both ordered from their “blue” plate, including eggs (any style), bacon, potatoes, toast and juice. The portions where massive and the food certainly lived up to the reviews. Whilst we wouldn’t rush back due to the time it took to get seated and served, it is a must experience if you’ve got the time.

Time was a little tight and queue for the bay trolley car was massive, so we took a cab to pier 41 to collect our prepaid ticket, boarded the 12:15 “Blue and Gold” fairy to Alcatraz Island. The ride was smooth enough. After disembarking, a national park ranger introduced us to the island outlining where everything is including the talk schedule for the day. The prison is located at the top of the island, some 10mins walk, up hill from the dock. The views of the bay and San Francisco are outstanding.

We have paid for the audio tour, a must. It’s self led using a digital audio device. The narrator provides complete background to the history of the island/prison whilst haunting sound effects and voices of prison guards recollecting their experiences all recreate a chilling atmosphere.

A talk entitled “escapes” was held in the main dinning hall, which we attended. We spent some three hours on the rock. Well worth it.

Back on dry land we ventured onto the famous Pier 39, much to the delight of Vin when he found the resident sea lions! So cute! Heading back into town we took the trolley car as far as China Town gate, where we meandered back to Union Square at our leisure. Another word of warning, the queues for trolleys are on average 20 minutes if boarding at the terminal!

China Town was an experience, like the Castro, it’s full on. Everything is Chinese, including bakeries (don’t try the custard tart, it ended up being scrambled egg in pastry!) to schools. The area is massive and deserves an afternoon in itself to explore in-depth.

We headed back to the hotel for some shut eye before heading out for the night to the Castro. We ended up in a great bar/night club which played videos for ALL songs where being played. The music was very pop/dance based, with a fantastic mix of modern and 90s/80s. Prices where very reasonable, with a vodka/coke costing $4 only!

We left around 1:30 and couldn’t work out the timetable for the night owl bus service. We walk home, a good 40 minute walk, but we stopped in massive Sainsbury’s around 2am for some well needed grocery shopping! Hilarious!