Thursday, August 6, 2009
Hosting Jarka; Days Four & Five: Alcatraz, Le Cheval, St. Francis Yacht Club
By the fourth day of Jarka's five-day visit, we were ready to slow down a tiny bit.
The one sight remaining on her to-do list was Alcatraz. This is where we went on the last full day. I ordered our tickets online a few weeks in advance, knowing that they can sell out, especially in summer when there are more tourists in the Bay Area.
I chose the noon ferry, thinking that if there is fog in the morning, it is likely to burn off on the Bay side of San Francisco by noon. We drove in and parked at a parking lot next to the Teatro Zinzano tent along the Embarcadero. The flat fee was $15, much less than we would have paid in some of the lots and garages nearer to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 that charge by the hour.
The Alcatraz ferries depart from Pier 33 about every half hour. While there is no fee to visit Alcatraz, which has become a National Park, there is a cost to take the 10-minute ferry ride over there.
I've not been to Alcatraz in many years, when the ferries departed from one of the Piers right near Fisherman's Wharf. Pier 33 is much less busy and the ferry operators have made the dock area very welcoming to visitors coming and going from Alcatraz. There is a dockside café and gift shop and informative displays that provide insights into the history of Alcatraz.
Once on the ferry, one has incredible views of the eastern part of San Francisco and, of course, of Alcatraz island.
One tours Alcatraz at one's own pace, with the aid of a recorded audio guide. Before we set out, we got a short orientation from a Park Service Ranger...and then we set out.
It takes a few hours to walk through this historic prison where some of America's most notorious prisoners spent their days.
Visitors can even walk into one of the cells in solitary confinement!
It is hard to imagine what it would be like to be imprisoned on this island in the middle of San Francisco Bay and, yet, be able to see the beautiful San Francisco shoreline.
Another interesting aspect of Alcatraz is its gardens. Apparently, it has an ideal climate for the colorful flowers that grow here. There are even special guided tours of the gardens each week.
That evening, Jim joined us for Vietnamese food at Le Cheval, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant.
On Jarka's final day, she joined us at a wedding luncheon at St. Francis Yacht Club.
I was amused that the clock in front of the yacht club is a Rolex!
The Club is close to the Golden Gate Bridge and thoughout the afternoon, the Bridge was in and out of the drifting fog. Sail boat races were going on right by the club and they provided an exciting backdrop to the party...the room we were in looked right out onto the Bay.
Now Jarka is back in Toronto where she reports that a six week city employee strike goes on. The biggest impact on her at this moment is that there is no garbage pickup in the city and that city parks have been designated as places to bring garbage.
I sure am glad that she came to visit me this year rather than my going there!