I was already excited at the Golden Gate Bridge. As I was coming in from Sonoma I asked my friend about the island on the left hand side. Yes, it was Alcatraz, she assured me. I made a mental note.
Later, I met up with another friend. We spent the day walking around North Beach to soak up the background to the Beat movement and visited the City Lights Bookstore. We then headed towards the cafes and bars around Columbus and had a killer cocktail at Calzone. Dinner was at The Stinking Rose. As the name suggests, it’s not a place for people who don’t like garlic. The booths were great – all curtains and chandeliers.
The next day we walked up to Coit Tower to take in the views of the bay and admire the Art Deco homes nearby. We then went down to Fisherman’s Wharf and got another extraordinary view.
We were ambushed by a group of male cyclists shouting, “Naked bike ride – woo hoo!” So that’s how they get an all-over tan…
The walk from From Pier 39 with its pod of Sea Lions all the way down to the Ferry Building is lovely. Inside, there are lots of great food merchants like the Cowgirl Creamery. There’s an outdoor market there on a Saturday.
Another favourite place was the Foreign Cinema in the Mission area. You can have dinner in the courtyard at sunset and watch a movie projected onto the wall. The Redwood Room at the Clift hotel was also a good place for a nightcap, complete with DJ and digital artwork.
The day before I left, it was time to tap into those historic headlines and movie moments and visit Alcatraz. One of the first things you see when you step off the boat is this graffiti:
It’s from 1969 when the Native American activists occupied the island for nineteen months. I like the fact that it’s still there. Inside the prison, everybody’s given a set of headphones for an audio tour. The narrators are a former prison warden and some inmates. They tell you what happened in each block – like the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946 and the actual escape in 1962.
Can you believe they dug those holes in the wall with a metal spoon?
It’s such a beautiful view from such a bleak place. It must have added to the prisoners’ torment. I love this city. I’d like to go back.