Back at home, everyone had advised us to get tickets to Alcatraz in advance. Nicholas had never been there and wanted to join us, meaning the we had to go on the weekend. The only tickets available were for both Alcatraz and Angel Island, the latter being a destination about which we knew absolutely nothing, but we took the only tickets at the only time available, 9:40 A.M.
Our innkeeper told us we could walk to Pier 33, but he pointed out that would encounter many unavoidable, extreme hills. We asked him to get us a cab. While we were waiting, he packed up a bag of muffins and almond croissants for us! He marveled that this was to be one of the best days of the year weather-wise, with lots of warmth and sunshine.
When we arrived at the pier, there was already a long line for ticket holders, but not for 9:40 A.M. departures. I found an employee who could answer my questions. She explained that we would be going to Angel Island first. Our line was shorter and in a less obvious location. When Nicholas arrived, the sun was strong. He and Nick discovered that they had not brought along sunglasses, but there was, of course, a souvenir shop that solved their problem.
We boarded our ferry for a glorious ride in San Francisco Bay. Once on Angel Island, trams take visitors on a guided tour. We learned that Angel Island was “The Ellis Island of the East” in many ways, having been the arrival point for about one million Asian immigrants. Those arriving at Ellis Island were completely processed in about five hours, but many of those who arrived at Angel Island were not so fortunate. When a ship arrived at Angel Island, all of its passengers were checked for a variety illnesses that included diphtheria, leprosy, and plague. If anyone on the ship was visibly ill, all of the passengers and crew were detained for at least several weeks. Also, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, people of Chinese ancestry who had no employed citizens of the USA to vouch for them were held on Angel Island for up to two years. The shell of one of the buildings in use at the time remains.
After lunch, we boarded a ferry to Alcatraz, the original word having been from archaic Spanish meaning “pelican.” On the ferry, you can face the beautiful San Francisco skyline, or you can turn around to face an uninviting structure atop a high, cold rock. Alcatraz was a federal prison from 1933 to 1963, housing fewer than 300 prisoners, most of whom had been convicted of bank robbery or murder, and had caused trouble at other prisons. The tour gave us a view of the gruesome daily lives of the prisoners. Two of its residents were infamous. One was Al Capone, a gangster who was convicted of income tax evasion. The other was Robert Stroud, called “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” a misnomer because he had birds when he was imprisoned at Leavenworth, but not at Alcatraz. Noteworthy to me were photos of the children of the guards and staff who lived on the island playing in the shadow of “The Rock.”
Outside the building, we were part of a huge crowd. As former boaters ourselves, it seemed that every boat owner within 100 miles was in the his or her boat in the Bay. We soon found out why. The Blue Angels Air Show was taking place above our heads, capping off Fleet Week! We marveled at the skill of the fliers. Nick was even able to get a photo in which we could see the pilot of one of the planes!
After the ferry ride back to shore, we were all ready for dinner. Nicholas’ phone directed us to climb a flight of steps. Once atop that flight, there was a landing followed by another flight of steps, and then another. These were the famous Filbert Steps the lead to Coit Tower! My Fitbit told me we had ascended nine staircases. After marveling at the homes adjacent to the steps, we exited in North Beach, where all of the restaurants were very crowded. We settled on a diner that had one available table, where I had a salad and the guys had burgers.
What a long and exciting day it had been! Nick and I would typically walk back to our hotel or look for public transportation, but Nicholas suggested Uber, a new experience for us. Within two minutes, two drovers arrived, and we parted after a very long day filled with so many adventures and with quality time spent with Nicholas.