Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jennifer's West Coast Trip: San Francisco

Sorry for the long pause. I know the suspense was killing you! I was battling a weird cold that kept sort of going away and coming back every couple of days. So, back to my trip....

The last place on our itinerary was San Francisco, California. We went there to attend a Tears for Fears (TFF) concert, which has sort of become an annual event for us since 2010. We flew from Seattle in the morning on the day before the concert so we could do a little sightseeing.

But first, let's talk about the weather. It was pretty cloudy, cool (cold, compared to Seattle and Vancouver), and foggy most of the time we were there, but I guess that's why they call it "Fog City" (among many other nicknames). Good thing we brought jackets! They must make a killing selling unsuspecting tourists San Francisco jackets and sweatshirts, so if you plan to go, even in the summer, take a jacket. Oh, and thanks a lot, fog, for ruining every chance we had to get decent photos of the Golden Gate Bridge (and by decent I mean you can tell that it's the Golden Gate Bridge without squinting or being told that's what you're looking at).

The best photo I got of the Golden Gate Bridge (taken from the Alcatraz ferry). Seriously.
Anyway. Maybe next time I can get closer to the bridge for some better shots. We wanted to go over that way, but we didn't have time.

We already had tickets for Alcatraz, because they can sell out weeks in advance, so that was first on our to-do list. Once we checked into our hotel, which was on the south side of town, we headed to Fisherman's Wharf and got on the ferry to travel about 1.25 miles across San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island. The island is now a national park site featuring what remains of the abandoned prison, early military fortifications, and the oldest operating lighthouse on the U.S. west coast.

Approaching Alcatraz Island
We spent a few hours on the island, touring the former penitentiary grounds. In the first photo below, you can see (from the top left to the bottom right) the lighthouse, the warden's house, the cellhouse (peeking out from behind the warden's house), the barracks/apartment building, the guard house (behind and to the right of the barracks/apartment building), the guard tower, and the dock.

Alcatraz Island
View approaching the dock

Alcatraz Island

Military chapel and guardhouse
Alcatraz Island
Gardens, power house, and view facing northwest
The 84-foot-tall lighthouse which replaced the original in 1909
Cell block
Inside a cell
Solitary confinement cells

There are many ornamental plant species on the island--remnants of gardens planted by inmates and correctional staff and families--which are now tended by volunteers.

Alcatraz Island plant
Alcatraz Island plant

Alcatraz Island plant

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island
After our tour of Alcatraz, we sailed back to Fisherman's Wharf and walked around and shopped since we were already there.

Fisherman's Wharf sign

Marina at Fisherman's Wharf, SF
Seals sunning themselves at Fisherman's Wharf
We ate dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., since we seem to have also made a tradition out of that since we went to Chicago last year. And I had to have some of their bread pudding again.

We took a cable car ride from Ghirardelli Square to the transit station on our way back to our hotel. We actually took a few cable car rides, but they were all at night, so they weren't the best times for good photos. And they were super-crowded.

The next day (our final day together), we ate lunch at the Fog City Diner, which was more upscale than we expected it to be. Both the food and service were good.

Fog City Diner San Francisco

Then we took a streetcar (we did manage to get a shot of one of those) to Chinatown.

Streetcar in San Francisco
Somehow, we managed to completely miss the front entrance gate and area, which is probably where all of the photo opps are (we came through the opposite end of Chinatown...the part where Asian people are shopping). Oh well.

Somewhere in Chinatown, San Francisco
Chinatown San Francisco
Chinatown, SF
From there we scaled a few small mountains to get to the concert venue, Nob Hill Masonic Center. The TFF show was great, as usual. We love that they sound just as good live as they do on a recording. We also really enjoyed their opening act, Carina Round, who also sang backup vocals for them and signed a copy of her CD for Alexis after the show. I took some photos, but they all came out really blurry. I guess I was a little excited.

The next morning, we parted ways at the airport and both flew to our respective cities. There are tons of things we didn't have time to do in San Francisco (and Seattle and Vancouver), but we did what we could and had a great time. Well, that concludes this whirlwind West Coast trip series!

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