On the tuesday we awoke early. This was our day to go to San Francisco! I had booked our tickets to for the boat to go to Alcatraz as soon as they became available. They recommend you book in advance, and take bookings 3 months in advance (when we were there, there were no available tickets till 3 days later!). We were booked on the 9.10am boat. We left the house with plenty of time to spare. 90 minutes to do a 40 minute journey.
Alas, traffic was completely against us. rush hour traffic, a big west coast city. Not a good combination. We made it to the dock for 9.15, but still had to park the car. By the time we had done that, and faffed around, it was 9.45 when we got to the ticket desk. Paul went and asked what we could do. Luckily they had a system, where our tickets were changed to standby tickets. We had a rest room stop, and went to the standby waiting area. Luckily we were first in the queue and managed to get on the 10am boat. Phew!
It was a pleasant enough boat ride. Kids were good, not too busy. Approaching the dock was pretty special. You get off the boat, and go and listen to a brief talk my a member of the National Park Service. Most people at least know a brief history of Alcatraz. This is in part thanks to a film, 'The Rock'.
We headed to the top of the island, to the Cell Block. This area has an award winning audio tour. We all took head sets. Within minutes, Sebastian had given up. Oliver and Isaac followed the tour really well. Isaac got a little bored when we went outside, but he soon caught up.
An audio tour is not something we would usually do, but the kids are getting older and these kind go things are more possible. There was only one little bit near the end where Isaac nearly freaked out, and Oliver looked a little worried, but overall it was suitable for them. Given my boys curiosities, I am surprised we have not had more questions regarding some of the topics raised. May be they will come soon.....
We toured a little bit more of the island. By about midday, everyone had had enough. We headed back to the boat, back to the main land. I would highly recommend Alcatraz as a visitors attraction. But make sure you book, and try to go when it is not too busy.
Once back on the mainland we walked from Pier 33 round to Pier 39. This is one of the really touristy bits of San Francisco. It is where the sea lions are!!!! You have to walk all the way to the end of the pier to see them
But its ok, you will SMELL them first!!!! My kids loved this, as to be expected. This pier was busy. It was heading to the end of lunch. We had not eaten, so we found somewhere. It wasn't great, but we were hungry by then! We did a little bit of souvenir shopping before heading to see the sea lions again. Sebastian in particular loved them. Then back to the car.
We all wanted to go to Lombard Street. In particular, the section between Hyde and Leavenworth Street, where there are 8 switch backs down a steep incline. The street was originally built in 1922. It rocked!
From there, it had to be the Golden Gate Bridge. We were initially going to drive it, but rush hour, traffic and tolls made us rethink our decision. Instead we chose to come off the highway aand head to the visitors centre. We ended up parking in a new car park, the other side of the highway from the visitor centre, and walking along a bike trail under the bridge. Cool!
There are a few little bits and pieces to do here, a cafe, a gift shop etc. We read a lot of the history and info boards there. very interesting. I think if we had had more time, looked into it in more detail and not had (3 very tired by now) boys with us, we may have explored the other side of the bridge. But time was short, this was still a holiday after all! too much rushing around makes Goslings go crazy!!!!
We jumped in the car and headed back to Aptos. I loved San Francisco. I really would like to go back, sans kids, and explore more of the culture there. It is a stunning city.