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Day 5 : Wednesday 7th September 2005

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Alcatraz

Another early start with breakfast in the Club Intercontinental and I was raring to go. Unfortunately upon looking out of my window the weather was not at all pleasant. Not raining, but very overcast with low cloud. I had intended to visit the Presidio and Golden Gate bridge today, but with this weather, I decided to leave that until later in the week and instead resolved to head over to Alcatraz, a visit that was near the top of my list.

Despite arriving at the ticket booth at about 10:00am (should have been earlier, but I missed the cable car by a few feet/seconds - not the first time that would happen today ) the earliest boat I could get on was the 11:45am sailing. This left me an hour and a half and I decided to have a gentle walk along and see Fort Mason and the Hyde St Pier area.

Fort Mason was a reasonable walk and unfortunately not at all worth it. Apart from the actual buildings, there appeared to be very little of any interest going on there, despite my guide book crowing about it. Oh well, it was a nice walk with bay views.

So I soon headed back and took in Hyde St Pier, which is home to a number of historic ships. Although I didn't pay to go aboard, there was some interesting information available on the dockside.

Soon it was time for my trip over to Alcatraz and despite the windy and cold conditions, the trip only takes 10 mins or so. Once on Alcatraz, I had paid for the audio tour of the cellhouse and it was fascinating to see how the prisoners once lived. The cells were tiny, you could touch each wall simultaneously by stretching out your arms .

The audio tour was very informative and I highly recommend it. There is not much else on the island outside the cellhouse, so when it was over I soon headed back to the mainland. As there is no food for sale on the island and the ferry shop has only limited options, I grabbed a late lunch of Chilli beef in a bread bowl when I got back. It was delicious and really hit the spot.

After lunch I decided to head back up to the hotel, but first I went to see the famous "crookedest street in the world", the 1000 block of Lombard St, which was so steep that they had to build the road in a wavy line to allow the old cars to negotiate the climb. Now, however, it is a one way street in the down direction.

After that I walked back down to the Powell-Mason turnaround and saw a cable car actually being turned around, by hand, on a giant turntable! Again I rode the boards on the cable car back up to Nob Hill. Another pleasant ride, as my guidebook says, "People love cable cars for the same reasons people love San Francisco. Cable cars take the everyday - in this case city transport - and make the everyday fun".

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the hotel. I had drinks and canapés in the Club and for the second night in a row, didn't feel like anything proper to eat.


Fort Mason

Hyde St Pier

Alcatraz

Lombard St

Powell-Mason Turnaround