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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Alcatraz

Can a place be one of your favorite places if you’ve never been there?  I don’t know but I think so.  One of my favorite places is the island of Alcatraz, formerly the site of a federal penitentiary, located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Taken from Treasure Island, April 2008

I was born and raised in San Jose, California, about fifty miles from San Francisco.  When I was growing up, my family would take trips to San Francisco at least once a month.  There’s so much to do there that we never tired of it.  You cannot go to San Francisco and not spot Alcatraz.  When I was growing up, it was still a federal penitentiary and of course, we couldn’t go there.  It was a forbidden place.  It was a scary, even dangerous place, at least according to our parents.  Yet it held a lot of mystery to me.  I always wanted to go there.

As we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf or drove across the Golden Gate Bridge (which is another of my favorite places), or ventured to the top of the Coit Tower, or drove on some of the hills overlooking San Francisco Bay, I would look at the island and wonder what it was like there.  I always thought I would go there some day. Later, the federal penitentiary was closed and the prisoners transferred to other prisons, including another within view of Alcatraz.  The island remained abandoned and still held that mystery for me.  Some years after the penitentiary was closed, the island was taken over by a group of American Indians and occupied for some time.  Again the island was in the spotlight, added to my fascination with the place.  By then, I was in high school.  Once the protesters were removed from the island, it was once again empty.  Years later, it opened to the public for tours but by then I no longer lived in the bay area.  I’ve returned to the bay area and in fact returned to live there for four years but I never made it to the Alcatraz tour.  I still want to go.  One day, I will.

Alcatraz has been the subject of a number of movies (Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape From Alcatraz, The Rock, and others) which have added to the lore and legend of the island. Recently, Fox has debuted a TV series called Alcatraz (a rather good TV show, I might add) and my interest in the island has once again blossomed.  I think the island is fascinating.  It holds many secrets and much pain.  One day I will make it to the island.  I know I will!

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[This was first posted on this blog on August 27, 2007.]

Last week my youngest daughter was leaving on a trip to New York and Washington, D.C. I was supposed to take her to the airport (about an hour and ten minutes from home) but I wasn’t feeling well. I called my older daughter at work and she left work an hour early to drive us. However, the younger daughter, Susie, wasn’t ready on time. She was so late getting ready that we left home a full hour and a half later than we had planned. Were it not for my older daughter driving, Susie would have missed her flight, but because her sister drives fast, we made it to the airport in under an hour. Although it was twenty minutes til take-off, Susie made it through check-in, security, and to the gate before the flight left.

Tina, my older daughter, was good about it and only complained once, saying that had we known Susie was going to be so late, she could have worked the extra hour. I agreed. Once we got the “okay call” from Susie and we knew she was on the flight, Tina and I needed to eat. Because it was late, after nine, we knew there would not be a lot of choices open to us in the Oakland area, at least not in any neighborhoods we wanted to visit. I suggested that we take the Bay Bridge into San Francisco instead of the Richmond Bridge toward home. I joked that at the very least, I could get us to the 24 hour Mel’s Diner on Lombard or the 24 hour IHOP. While on the bridge, I noticed Fisherman’s Wharf in the distance and suggested we try Pier 39 where I knew there was a Hard Rock Café. My daughter loves to eat at the Hard Rock and has eaten at about 20 of their international locations. I figured it would be a treat to thank her for leaving work early and driving us to the airport. I knew she had never been to this particular location and that she would love to add one more souvenir glass to her Hard Rock wall.

We found the restaurant easily and the parking lot across from Pier 39. We rushed ahead of a group of slow walking tourists because we only had about 45 minutes until the restaurant closed. I had a funny feeling, you know, the kind that tells you something is wrong but you don’t know what. We were seated right away and ordered our food and drinks. Without much waiting, our food arrived and we ate and had a nice chat. Tina told me about some of the people at work and some of the hotel guests she has checked into the resort hotel where she works. We had a very nice time at dinner.

When it was time to leave, I realized I didn’t have the parking ticket to have it validated. She said it wasn’t a big deal, I had probably left it in the car so we walked back to the parking lot. No parking ticket in the car. We would have to pay the maximum, thirty dollars. Not good when I was already regretting having splurged on the dinner! She was stubborn and insisted they would give us a discount or the real rate if we showed them the receipt from the dinner. I didn’t think so. I was right. The attendant, in barely understandable English, said we’d have to walk back to the restaurant and get a validation then come back and he’d talk to the manager and see if they could discount the rate. My stubborn daughter insisted that she wasn’t going to walk “way back to the restaurant in the freezing cold” and that there must be someone she could talk to about it. Yes, she got part of her stubborn genes from me but she also got her father’s stubborness so she has a “double stubborn whammy”! She kept arguing with the attendant who finally told her to park on the side then he left. We assumed he was coming back. He didn’t. We waited twenty minutes. He didn’t come back. Tina was really upset. She tried to pay the maximum with her credit card but we didn’t have a ticket so the machine could not process it. She wanted to drive through the arm across the exit and just leave. Not a good idea, I told her. It was my car. There were police around. I told her “don’t do it” because we wouldn’t get more than twenty feet away without the cops following us and then we’d both be in trouble, not to mention my car would be damaged. She drove around the lot hoping to find someone else’s lost ticket. She even tried pushing the button at the entrance to get a new ticket. No luck. I finally convinced her to let me walk to the office to get some help. She drove me to the office where we ran into a police man and we explained we needed to get out but had no ticket. She was all smiles for him! He got an attendant to come out and we paid the maximum (my cash which we really couldn’t afford at the end of the month) and left. She didn’t speak to me the rest of the way home except to mutter under her breath, “Next time give me the ticket.” Actually, it is common practice for someone else to carry the ticket because they get lost in my huge purse. I didn’t dare tell her that for fear she’d bite my head off or drive the car over the Golden Gate Bridge!

At least we both now have fresh San Francisco Hard Rock Café souvenir glasses. Not all was lost.

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Inspired by Smiler’s Thursday Thirteen posts. Thanks, Smiler! You’ve come through with another blog idea for me! This began as a simple list of thirteen items and ended up to be so long that I have divided it into two parts. I will post part 2 in a day or so. By the way, I hope some of you click on the links. It took me hours, quite literally, to find all the links and insert them here for you.

1. San Francisco~This one should almost not count because I grew up an hour south of SF and currently live an hour north of it but many people haven’t been and would like to hear about it, so here it is. A funny thing is that, as a child, my father used to bring us to San Francisco at least once a month. When we had out of town company, we’d take them there to see it for themselves. However, my father ALWAYS complained about the traffic and how confusing it is to get around the city. I ended up being afraid to drive there myself. When I was in college, my friends and I would often visit San Francisco but I never wanted to drive because of the fear instilled by my father. It just made me nervous. Now though, I am okay with driving to and through the city because of my daughter. Susie loves San Francisco and stayed there for six weeks during July of 2006. That made me go there and take her there and learn the ropes. I still get lost but now with my GPS, I’m fine driving there and it only took half a lifetime to feel comfortable with driving there. Must Sees: The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Palace of Fine Arts, Union Square, the Fairmont Hotel, the Coit Tower, Lombard Street, the Mission District, Golden Gate Park, City Hall, North Beach, and in spite of recent events, the San Francisco Zoo. There’s so many places you must come and stay a good week or plan on coming often! Make sure you take a ride on a Cable Car. Below is a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge that I took just a week ago.

goldengate-cropped.jpg

2. Los Angeles~Again, having lived within 20 minutes of Los Angeles, maybe I shouldn’t count it but someone will find it interesting. Make sure you see the birthplace of the city at Olvera Street, Chinatown, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Wilshire Boulevard including the Miracle Mile, the Mark Taper Forum, Hollywood, the Hollywood Bowl, the Kodak Theater, El Capitan Theater, the sidewalk at Mann’s Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s), the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dodger Stadium, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier (okay so it’s not L.A. but it is!), and Union Station. There are far too many sites to see in L.A., as in S.F. but get a start, at least!

3. Boston~ As a history buff, this is a must see place. I loved the Freedom Trail and the gilded dome of the Massachusetts State House, the Charles River and views of it from both sides, M.I.T. campus, Harvard campus, the subway, the Museum of Science, and the Children’s Museum. Be sure to allow time to take a drive to Cape Cod, including a stop at Plymouth Plantation and the harbor where you can still see Plymouth Rock!

4. Salem, Massachusetts~The home of the Salem witch trials of the late 1600’s. This is a very picturesque town as are the towns along the drive from Boston. You’ll find it full of history and places you’ve read about. The House of Seven Gables inspired a wonderful novel and you can also visit the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne. There are numerous places you can visit that are associated with the witch hunt and trials! You’ll have lots of photo ops, too!

5. New York~The first two times I went there were scary because I had no idea where I was in relation to any place else or any place I wanted to go. I had no clue of how to use the subway system. And it was January which in one of those two visits included a big snow storm and being pretty much confined to the hotel. It was the Waldorf so I didn’t complain, though! The third and last time I visited NYC, it was much better. I went with my son and daughter. We planned the trip in advance, got maps and books, and my son took charge of getting us from one place to the other. I got a real feel for the layout of the city and for getting around the place. I even want to go back and for a scaredy cat like me, that’s saying something. What to do? Eat dessert at Serendipity 2, take the ferry to Liberty Island and don’t miss a stop at Ellis Island. The sites in Manhattan are already known to you so I won’t bore you but don’t miss Central Park or Times Square. Be sure to visit SoHo and Greenwich Village. Rockefeller Plaza is a site any time of year but is particularly beautiful during the Christmas season. Okay, I think each of the above places requires a post of their own. Huh! This could put me in posts for a long time! I’m fairly certain that I will return to New York. My youngest daughter loves it there and I have an idea she may end up there, at least for a while. My oldest daughter has not been to New York and I promised I’d take her so I have to make good on that promise. She works for the Fairmont Hotels and they just re-opened the Plaza in NYC as one of their properties so she gets a significant discount. I’m not sure we’d be able to afford it, even with her discount, but maybe for one night! Here’s a picture my daughter took of me looking out the window on the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

me on ferry to liberty island

6. Dallas~Do not leave the city without visiting the site of the JFK assassination at Dealey Plaza. There is a somber, reverent atmosphere as you walk the areas so many of us have seen over and over again as we watch the file footage of the motorcade approaching Dealey Plaza and passing the grassy knoll. If it is still there and open to the public, do not miss the museum called The Sixth Floor. It is in the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald sat waiting for the motorcade. Being inside that building and inside the very room where history was made, is an awe inspiring feeling. You will read accounts from every day people, telling how they heard about the assassination and where they were when they heard it, and how they felt. There are large books filled with accounts from people like you and I, that have visited the museum and been moved by it. I still remember the day President Kennedy was murdered. I was in second grade. I’ll have to write a post about that day. The Sixth Floor Museum is a must do – must see! There are amazingly beautiful buildings in the downtown area. The city reeks of money (and oil). I also enjoyed a long, almost full day visit to the Dallas Museum of Art where I saw an exhibit of French Impressionist Art. It was ages ago and I was on my own walking the streets of the city while my ex was in an all day meeting. So I walked and walked and walked and then walked some more! It was wonderful!


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