Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay: Anniversary On The Rock

A little above ten degrees centigrade, and we were cowering inside the souvenir shop at Pier 33's Hornblower Alcatraz Landing. The longer we stayed, the more unnecessary knick-knacks I purchased. We drove all the way from Santa Clara, California where we were shacking for one month, under the spell of our nifty GPS gadget sitting on the dashboard of our rented car.

It was November of last year, day 153 of our round-the-world trip.

Alcatraz Island, also known as "The Rock".

We arrived about an hour prior our scheduled tour, and luckily found a parking slot nearby. Tickets can easily be purchased onsite (price $28 per adult), but because we wanted to skip the human queue and more importantly visit the island specifically noon-ish (Which was the warmest part of that autumn day.), we booked via Alcatraz Cruises' site.

Alcatraz Island's official ferry provider, Alcatraz Cruises.

Our light jumpers couldn't protect our arses from freezing so we sought refuge in the souvenir shop, and jumped in line just a couple of minutes before boarding. A dude scanned the barcode of our tickets we printed ourselves back at the hotel, after which we were good to go.  

Approaching the island. Bluer sky, colder San Fran Bay breeze.

Aboard the ferry, we positioned ourselves on the front row of the first level, within the enclosure. We initially thought we had a good view of the bay, until a bunch of folks poured to the outdoor deck. Our visibility turned nil. And between the hubby and I, it's me who'd risk getting a frostbite for a crappy panoramic shot. So out I went and indoors he stayed with our traveling tot, Luna.

Welcome remarks and short introductory by the National Park Service conducted across this huge signage.

Ferry ride lasts fifteen minutes, tops. Enough to buy a pricey cup of coffee from the snack bar and sprint to the bow's deck for that sweeping vista of San Francisco Bay. If you're somewhat hungry, you prolly wanna grab a bite too (Their pretzel's pretty yum.) for there's no food for sale on the island. Keep that camera handy, and waterproofed if you're standing atop the ferry's bow, cause you'll have a chance to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge from afar. Keep your fingers crossed too, that its towers are not engulfed in clouds.

Building 64. Military Guard Barracks from 1906-1933 and Penitentiary Apartment House from 1934-1963.

Upon docking, we were ushered to the ranger station for a short briefing. One of the guys from National Park Service, clad in stereotypical park ranger clothes (Khaki collared top, army green shorts, tube socks, hiking boots and that Indiana Jones-esque hat.), introduced himself Mark over the megaphone. We were told to watch a quickie orientation film at the theater before anything else. Not compulsory, but highly recommended. Ugh, we would have done so if only the souvenir shop ain't strategically situated right beside it.

The old electrical repair shop.

At 1:10, more than half of our group gathered in front of the guard tower where a guided tour about Alcatraz prisoners' escapes and attempted escapes was about to commence. We joined for some time, but had difficulty hearing the park ranger's talk. Fifteen minutes into it, we left our tour brethren and wandered at our own pace. Visitors may stay on the island as long as they please, at least until the last ferry leaves the island (The Alcatraz Night Tour is a separate tour.).

Prison's old library. And yes, some areas are wheelchair/stroller accessible.

Instead of roaming aimlessly, we purposely hiked uphill towards the main cell house. We trailed a handful of youngsters who left the group too until we got to the entrance of the building. Hubby and I were hooked up with the audio gadget as we stepped in. Soon as we pressed play, voices of the actual Alcatraz correctional officers and inmates flooded in our ears. Hubby and I set off in our own zones.

Solitary confinement cells. Visitors get to feel what it's like inside.

Alcatraz Island served as a fortress, a military prison, and a federal penitentiary (It was also occupied by native Americans from 1969-1971 as part of their protest against certain federal policies). The audio tour focuses on the period 1934-1963, when it was used as a federal penitentiary (At such time was when the infamous Al "Scarface" Capone was imprisoned here.). The audio tour narrator made us walk here and there, forward, backward. Round the corner, up the steps. Inside the cells, outside to the recreation yard. He described rooms and cells in detail, with dramatic interjections from correctional officers and inmates. It made me feel like I'm in a different era.

Frank Morris used soap and toilet paper, among other materials, to make a dummy head for their "great escape" from Alcatraz.

My fave parts are the narration of the Battle of Alcatraz and the Great Escape led by Frank Morris (The film Escape From Alcatraz which starred Clint Eastwood, and which I'm totally going to watch again, was based on this.). The Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour provides tons of information, delivered in a way that will tug one's emotional strings. Apparently, it's an award-winning audio tour.

Menu posted above the dining hall on its last day as a federal penitentiary. Closed down due to expensive operation expenditure.

I pressed pause, stop and rewind. I drowned in a sea of dialogues. The hubby stared at me with curious brows as I paced in a dreamy state. And bumped into annoyed tourists. I snapped back in reality when I stepped out to Eagle Plaza and caught sight of San Francisco Bay once again. I heard a flock of birds swoop past and remembered where the island got its name from. Isla de los Alcatraces, or Island of the Pelicans named by Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala who sailed into this bay in 1775.

Former correctional officer Frank Heaney back on the island to sign autograph for visitors who purchase his book.

The sky was turning orange. I started walking back to the main cell house to turn in my audio guide. Been an extraordinary anniversary celebration (Three years since hubby and I became steadies!) and didn't want to mess it up by missing the last ferry back to mainland.

Cause yah know, otherwise, we swim. Like them escapees who were never found and presumed dead. Cringe.

Nothing but a number.
More random trivia about the island here. Escape Attempts is an entertaining read!


EDMARATION #TownExplorer said...
October 8, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Waaaah! You went there! It reminds me of the movie Alcatraz. After watching it parang gusto ko noon maging prisoner tapos gawa ng paraan para tumakas (bata pa kasi noon, kaya isip bata) haha. Ayyy! bongga talaga si ate gay!

blissfulguro said...
October 8, 2012 at 8:26 PM

will definitely watch clint eastwood's movie - if i can find one :) what if they made that as a hotel with the old structure? would you dare to stay there? hihi

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 8, 2012 at 8:28 PM

Edmar, when we went to San Francisco, I actually assumed it was still operational. LOL. Anyways, didn't know the movie was based on a true story before. So now I wanna watch it again.

blissfulguro said...
October 8, 2012 at 8:36 PM

i love #7 and #9 escape attempts - really funny! #13 was just brilliant!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 8, 2012 at 8:49 PM

Amazeballs! Carla, you actually read them! I heart you! And yes, brilliant plan that #13. Would be cool to know if they came out alive.

blissfulguro said...
October 8, 2012 at 9:26 PM

yeah i did and im hooked. parang "eskapo: the serge osmena and geny lopez story" nila richard gomez and christopher de leon lang ang peg. i think someone escaped from alcatraz eh. they just whitewashed everything para wala na mag-try pa ulit :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 8, 2012 at 9:37 PM

I think so too. OMG, I also wanna watch Eskapo again! By the way, Luna received the goodies :) Thanks sooo much!

Butchie Filart Dublin said...
October 9, 2012 at 8:21 AM

Wow. So unique your anniversary celebration! Ang sosyal ng meals ng inmates. Kung dito yan sa Pinas, people wouldn't mind getting imprisoned.

Sky Summer said...
October 9, 2012 at 8:34 AM

I think kailangan ko ulit panoorin yung movie. Ang galing ng escape plan nila. Gusto ko i reenact kung pano sila lumusot sa hole na yun pwera na lng yung tumalon sa dagat. hahaha

Hindi ba nakakahilo ang byahe papuntang Alcatraz? Kasi malakas daw ang current sa bay na yan. May sea sickness pa naman kami. lol

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Butchie, indeed! Prisoners in the U.S. are well fed.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 9, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Sky/Summer, the water's pretty tranquil when we went. A bit of splish-splash here and there but not dizzying.

killerfillers said...
October 9, 2012 at 11:49 AM

alcatraz somewhat reminds me of ellis island although magkaiba sila ng purpose.hehe

Anonymous said...
October 9, 2012 at 11:54 AM

love the post gay. thanks for sharing. must have been really awesome there! wish we can go there too someday.i invite you also to visit our new travel blog. thank you!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 9, 2012 at 1:06 PM

James, just Googled Ellis Island. LOL.

anney said...
October 9, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Cool ng place!Di ko pa napanood ang Escape from Alcatraz! I'll definitely watch it!

Photo Cache said...
October 10, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Very nice tour. The problem with living here is you really don't find the urgency to visit the "must sees" of one's town.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 10, 2012 at 10:45 AM

True! I feel the same way when I live somewhere else other than Philippines.

Joel Catimbang said...
October 10, 2012 at 3:12 PM

The Rock!......very nice place despite the fact that this place is like hell for others before..nice ms gay...:)

soloflightEd said...
October 11, 2012 at 1:20 AM

natakot ako bigla sa dummy head! kala ko totoo!

creepy ba when you went there? audio-tour pa.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM

It was pretty creepy, Ed. Bet it's creepier during the night tour.

Elal Jane Lasola said...
October 11, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Na intriga ako sa movie. Mapanood nga rin :D Hehe

Christian | LAKAD Pilipinas said...
October 12, 2012 at 12:49 PM

great prison narrative gaye, sana you stayed for the night tour, i bet that would've been more fun! :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 12, 2012 at 4:21 PM

I bet it is! The tickets are sold on mainland, so couldn't stay for the night tour even if we wanted to :( Plus, it was getting verrry cold at sundown.

Riz said...
October 12, 2012 at 7:34 PM

nde ba scary yung mga kulangan Gay? natawa naman aco na maiwan kau ng ferry at mag escape din gaya nila. :D nkakatakot maiwan sa kulangan tas walang makakakita. total trap haha! nde q pa napanood yang movie pero ung alcatraz tv series lng na nde ko na rin nasubaybayan. prang interesting 2loy yang movie. makapag download na nga hehe.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
October 13, 2012 at 6:29 PM

Hi Riz, haven't watched the series but would love to! Mainly cause I wanna see the set and... Jorge Garciaaa!

Tiago Chicano said...
November 14, 2012 at 3:35 AM

I wanna go there too!!! Interesting Read! So this is the place that inspired all those action movies, eh? really cool!

Evan said...
January 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Great summary! It's pricy, but I think it's still worth the visit!

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