Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome to the Rock

This past weekend, Husband and I flew to Berkeley to spend a few days with No. 1. She's winding up her first year there but had a couple of days free for the old parents. Walking up and down those hills, I did indeed feel old.

We spent time hanging around her apartment and tormenting her cat, Nickolas, and we went to Napa for most of Saturday where we toured the Hess Winery and had dinner at a lovely French restaurant in town.

On Sunday, we took the train into San Francisco and toured Alcatraz. It's something I've always wanted to do, and we managed to get tickets for an afternoon tour on a clear day. A clear day in San Francisco! We took the audio tour, which is the only way to see this place, because it gives you detailed descriptions from former guards and inmates, and the eerie sound effects give you a slight sense of what it would be like to be held in the prison—whistles, slamming metal doors, metal cups clammering on steel bars. The lesson here—don't break the law, and don't get caught if you do.

This is the island as seen from the boat.

This is the sign that greets you as you step foot on the dock. The graffiti is left over from the Native American occupation during 1970, a fascinating piece of history that I vaguely remember. You can read more about it here.

The typical cell was about 5 x 9 with a built-in desk and seat, a toilet, a sink, and a cot.

And the typical cell block was rows of these cells three stories high. Here are descriptions of the cell life from some of the former prisoners.

This is cell block D, the notorious block where the worst of the worst were kept, like Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz—listen to this about this part of the prison.

This is a cell in solitary confinement, a small, dank room with not a piece of furniture and no light. Once the door was shut, you were left in the complete dark. This is a chilling description of how men dealt with this punishment.

Outside of all the gray misery of the federal prison, this is the view as seen from the main office.


dive said...

Wow, Robyn! Thanks for an awesome tour. Those sound clips sure are scary.
So nice that you managed to visit on that rarest of things: a clear day in the Bay.
I love the view from the office. That's a pretty stark contrast with the cells.

savannah said...

i love napa! we have a couple of really great bio-dynamic vineyards that have produced some of the most delish wines ever! being a california native, i've never been to the rock, a gazillion pics, but never on it! xoxoxox

MmeBenaut said...

My oh my that year went by quickly! Looks like you had a fabulous time Robyn; an echo of my trip to SF last year - Napa Valley, beautiful French restaurant - I didn't do the Alcatraz tour this time though as I did it back in 1982 with my first husband! You certainly did have fantastic weather.
Welcome home anyway and thanks for the photo of the cute cat. He's gorgeous.

RoverHaus said...

I hope you got some good tourist kitch at Alcatraz.

That is a spooky tour. Did you know they say the place is haunted?

Thanks for the mini-tour!

Scout said...

Dive, It was amazingly clear for miles...outside.

Savannah, all the wineries claim to be bio-dynamic these days, but I wonder how much of that is marketing. Next time out, I'd like to tour one of the seriously bio wineries.

Mme, if it helps, I don't think the place has changed since 1982.

Jason, I have heard it's haunted. They give night tours, but that would only be fun if you actually caught sight of a ghostie.