Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alcatraz (SF Trip Day 8)

On our last full day, we took the boat out to Alcatraz. Between the boat ride (only about 12 minutes) and our time on the island, we spent about 4 hours.

This is the man who greeted us on the island. He was demonstrating how one potential escapee had hoarded some medical gloves. He blew them up and put them in his prison suit for insulation against the cold water. He floated away towards freedom. The current took him to the Golden Gate Bridge... where police were waiting for him.
The island also has plenty of nature. There are flower gardens and we saw a lot of volunteers working in them. The island is also an "important nesting site for many native bird species, including the Western Gull (in photos), Black-crowned Night Heron, and Brandt's Cormorant." It was the beginning of nesting season for the gulls, so this area was closed. (I took photo from the other side of the fence.)

Here is a typical cell at Alccatraz. Can you imagine living in this tiny space? Yikes!

And, this is a cell in the infamous Cell Block D. I don't remember reading why it was bigger. Maybe because they get out less? Anyway, I think this is a little more livable. Just a little.

Here is Alex in the recreational yard. The inmates played sports like handball here. As you go down the big steps to enter the yard, you see a beautiful view of SF. I wonder how the inmates felt about this.

Inside one cell was this poster about Officer Miller who was killed during the famous 1946 escape attempt.

And, here is the son of another officer who was injured during that escape attempt. He has written a book, along with his father, titled Guarding the Rock. (I bought a copy and he is signing it in the photo.) This man, Mr. Arnie Lageson, actually spent part of his childhood on Alcatraz. Did you know that many of the families of the men who worked at Alcatraz actually lived on the island? The children took the boat into SF for school and other activities. And, they had quite a little community on the Rock. I'm not done with the book, but I'm finding it very interesting.  

I also found it interesting that some of the inmates were so well-read. There was a library where the inmates could borrow books. Also, they could use money they earned (for example, they operated a laundry) on art supplies, musical instruments, etc. So, some inmates were artists, like this one. They also had a band, though the above author said it wasn't very good. He also pointed out that, had these inmates discovered these talents/passions earlier in their life, perhaps they would have never spent time on the Rock.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pier 39 and Musee Mecanique (SF Trip Day 7)

We spent about half of a day on Pier 39 and really enjoyed ourselves. I really didn't take very many photos as much of what we were doing was shopping. My mom and I both ended up buying jackets and we bought several t-shirts. My mom also bought Alex a charm for her charm bracelet.

We had to try these mini donuts... and they were great! So fresh, too!

From the end of the pier, you could see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. In this photo, you can see the contruction that is taking place on the Bay Bridge.

You can also see Alcatraz from the end of the pier.

Here is Alex in front of the famous Pier 39 sea lions. I understand that recently they disappeared and we heard conflicting reports about whether or not we would see any. So, we were happy to see them, though there were only about 40 or so.

From the sign titled "Why Are They Here?" These California sea lions "hauled out" on Pier 39's K-dock shortly after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. The boisterous barking pinnepeds started arriving in droves, taking over the docks in January, 1990. At first they numbered from 10-50, but due to a plentiful  herring supply, the available dock space and a protected environment, the population grew to more than 300 within a couple of months. Each winter season, the sea lion population grows as high as 600. Annually, the sea lions tend to migrate to the Channel Islands 350 miles to the south during the summer months, but now a small group chooses to stay at Pier 39 throughout the year.

This was a homeless man we met and talked to for awhile. His bird is named Talks Alot. I forgot his name, but it starts with a T. He had another friend with him that had a "T", too, and he called them the "3T's." From what he told us, he actually gets enough money each month to spend the 1st 3 weeks of each month in a hotel. Then, he spends the rest of the month on the streets. He is going through dialysis and is also on blood thinners, something I can relate to. I really enjoyed talking to "T" and he asked for prayers. It sounds like he has had a rough life, though I guess you can't always tell from someone's story. He sounded sincere, though. And, it just slowed me down for awhile to think of someone else and where I am and how I have been blessed. So, I'll remember to say another prayer for the 3T's tonight. Since it is near the end of the month, I guess they are probably back on the street tonight.

That night, we had fresh seafood on one of the piers. Then, we stumbled up Musee Mecanique, "one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines." We had the BEST time here! All of the old games cost either 25 or 50 cents. There were some very old games, too. Some of them were kind of like puppets that just "jumped" up and down. Can you imagine paying money for that? (Well, we did, and I guess people used to do it!) The machine Alex is looking in has 3D photos from the 1906 earthquake. I viewed it, too.

 And, her Alex is playing an old baseball game. It was just amazing to see these old games and I was surprised I hadn't read about it in any of the books or websites I'd read. There was also an amazing collection of antique player pianos with musical instruments built INSIDE of the pianos! Amazing!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Buildings of San Francisco (SF Trip Day 6)

On Day 6, we started the day with a Hop On/Hop Off tour. It wasn't nearly as good as Mr. Toad's Tour, but it was quite a bit cheaper. We did see some parts of SF that we hadn't seen on our other tour. And, I enjoyed photographing some of the buildings of SF, though it is hard from a moving bus!

Detail from Chinatown's Gateway.

The Bay Bridge

We saw quite a few of these. Our guide said they show where the buildings have been retrofitted to withstand earthquakes.

I don't remember the name of this building and haven't been able to find it. Can anyone help? Thanks!

I love the lions, etc. And, I'd love to take learn more about architecture to be able to discuss this more intellectually. Anyone know of a great online site or course?

City Hall's beautiful lead and copper dome. It was modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Another detail of Chinatown's Gateway.

These 3 statues are up quite a few stories. Our guide told us that the sculpture was so upset when they heard their sculptures would be displayed up so high, that they left them faceless.

 The Transamerican Pyramid which is one of the more prominent features of the SF cityscape.

Oh, and the only time we "hopped off" the tour was in Little Italy. We had a great lunch at Tony's Pizza. Alex & I had pizza and my mom had a wonderful salad. We also had the BEST ever cream soda... and it turns out it was made in Texas! (I'll see if Alex or my mom remembers the name.) Anyway, I didn't feel very comfortable where we were dropped off and we only walked one block to Tony's and back. We were next to a park and there were about 10 people "hanging out" in a group and I wasn't very comfortable with them. Also, there just weren't many people on the streets. So, we ate lunch and waited to hop back on our bus.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lombard Street (SF Trip Day 5)

We finally finished our hike up the long, steep hill and found the cable car stop. (It wasn't easy as a sign was missing!) We planned on riding it back all the way to its last stop which was across the street from our hotel. But, the cable car stopped to let people on and off at Lombard Street - and I had to get off.

I love Lombard Street! Isn't it neat? The cable car stopped at the top of the hill and we walked down the steps to the bottom. There wasn't much traffic at the bottom of the hill, so we joined a few others in the middle of the intersection to take photos.

This is supposed to be the crookedest street in the world. But, one of our guides (I forget which tour) said it wasn't... Wall Street is actually the crookedest street in the world. Anyway... :-) Do you see the little yellow car on the right? You could rent these and Alex kept asking to. It's one of those things we didn't get to, though. It sure looks like fun! Especially for a ride down Lombard Street!

My mom mentioned she always takes photos of signs on famous streets. So, here it is: Lombard!

This is a photo from the top of Lombard Street. I took this before deciding we needed to hop off the cable car and walk down the street. You can get a pretty good idea of  how steep the hills are in SF!
And, here's just another photo I took this day. It's of Coit Tower, which I really meant to visit, but didn't.

After taking photos of Lombard Street, we decided it'd be easier to walk back to our hotel instead of walking up Lombard Street to catch the cable car. It didn't look like that far on the map, but I think it ended up being about a mile. Remember, we had already walked around Golden Gate Park, the Conservatory of Flowers, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Japanese Tea Gardens. We'd also walked through Chinatown and up the 2.5 steep blocks to meet our cable car. Now, we walked about another mile back to the hotel. Whew!!! We were tired.

I'm glad some of your are still enjoying reading about our trip. This is my 15th post about our trip, and I'm not done! Maybe I'll be done before we travel again! Really, there are only 3 days left, so I hope to finish up soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chinatown (SF Trip Day 5)

After visiting Golden Gate Park, we took a taxi to Chinatown.

They still had the lanterns hanging up from Chinese New Year.

This is what one of the main streets look like. Chinatown in San Francisco has the largest population of Chinese outside of Asia!

Here's another photo of the streets. We enjoyed shopping here. There are lots of great little shops and things are pretty inexpensive. We ended up buying a rice bowl that had pandas on it and a couple of SF key chains.

I'm not sure what are in these barrels, but I loved how the shops were set up.

This is actually the first photo I took after getting out of the taxi. I love how this man is evidentally taking pride in his neighborhood and cleaning up the graffiti. Also, this is the only graffiti we saw here.

We had a DELICIOUS, not cheap dinner in Chinatown. I asked a couple of people where to eat in Chinatown. Both times they asked me what kind of food I wanted to eat. I thought that was pretty obvious (Chinese) until the asked did I want Cantonese? Chinese? Seafood? Also, I've heard there are good and not so good restaurants in Chinatown, so I'm thankful ours was so yummy!

Anyway, after Chinatown, we had to find our way back to one of the cable cars. Well, the trip was UPHILL... a BIG hill... about 2.5 LONG blocks. I'm not sure this photo does it justice, but here is Alex hiking up the long way to the cable car stop.

We are about 1.5 blocks up at this point, and you can see how far down we started. I had to keep stopping and letting my legs rest. It was hard work!

We made one more stop on this day... so I'll have one more post with "Day 5" on it. :-) (Only Day 6 & Day 7 to go after that!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Japanese Tea Garden (Day 5 SF trip)

The last place we went in Golden Gate Park was the Japanese Tea Garden. It was a beautiful garden and we enjoyed walking around the peaceful setting. For this post, I'll mainly share photos...

(the azaleas were in full bloom)

(my first cherry blossoms! also in full bloom)

(a zen garden)
Western Scrub-Jay (thanks to a couple of comments for the identification!)

(Alex loved climbing this bridge)
(it was harder to climb up than it looks!)

(I LOVED this iris!)

 (I believe this is a tulip tree)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

California Academy of Sciences (SF Day 5)

After visiting the Conservatory of Flowers, we walked to the California Academy of Sciences which is also in Golden Gate Park. We have been to a lot of museums and we almost didn't go to this one because it was pretty expensive. But, we were glad that we went.

The museum was divided into several main areas. Besides the planetearium (which we didn't visit) and the aquarium (which we really enjoyed), there was a large exhibit about the Galapagos Islands. Although it was heavily evolutionary, I discussed the exhibit with Alex from a Creationist viewpoint. I loved that it didn't just have displays about the turtles and finches, it also had a lot about the different insects on the islands.

We were getting tired, so we sat down to have a snack. (A great tip if you are traveling!) I was suprised to see these bins in their cafe. They say "recycle", "compost", and "landfill" and they have drawings of what can go in each bin. Alex enjoyed searching for where each item went and we were surprised by some of them.

Next we went to the four store rain forest exhibit. It has a winding ramp that you walk up on the outside of the glass room.

They had lots of tropical plants, like this canivorous pitcher plant.

And, these epiphytes. From a sign at the exhibit: A canopy is crowded with plants needing access to the sunlight. With space at a premium, many plants grown on other plants. They collect water and nutrients from the air or the tangled plant mat on tree branches. Plants that anchor to other plants are epiphytes, and inlcude airplants and orchids.

There were a lot of birds flying around the rainforest exhibit.

And butterflies!

Our last stop at the Academy was The Living Roof. The entire Academy building was built to be incredibly eco-friendly. In fact, the insulation is recycled denim! And, their rooftop is "alive." It has 7 hills that are covered with wildflowers... and solar panels. A neat exhibit we viewed explains how scientists are studying the wildlife (plants and insects) on the roof compared to in the park. They are finding it more diverse!