In a tangle of maps and equiped with our “City Pass” we hit the town on the tourists trail. First stop off the ferry is Pier 39, a wonderland of expensive shops filled with everything a tourist doesn’t need but must have as a souvenir including an entire shop of large scale dedicated entirely to fridge magnets. Carousels and fortune telling dolls scream out for your attention as you battle the other tourists for space on the board walk. We get our fill and hastily depart to use our first citypass ticket, Aquarium on the Bay. I love staring at sea critters, there’s something calming about the way they move, yet exciting with the many alien forms they take. Daydreams I had as a kid of being a mermaid don’t seems so silly whilst hypnotised by the pretty coral and magical sea horses. I’m snapped back to the giggling of Tahn as he spots another funny looking eel proclaming they all look so disgruntled.
For our next adventure we decided to go to ‘The Rock.’ It was a crisp day. Clear, but icy. I decided to wear a thin jacket so I could complain to my wife about the cold all day. I told her it was so I could truly experience the life of a prisoner on Alcatraz. We caught the ferry in the morning across the calm bay, seagulls (which are gigantic here) circling above. Herded along a ramp with a cluster of our touristy brethren we enter a large concrete area, the same area which new prisoners were herded to begin their incarceration.
After Alcatraz was closed as a prison, during the Nixon years, the island was commandeered by a large group of Native American protesters. The government at the time was trying to shut down the reservations and assimilate the remaining tribes. They held fort for some time before eventually being ousted by the national guard. Nixon himself was forced to apologize for the atrocities of the past and to keep the preservation of Native American culture on its path. A strange history for such a desolate rock. All plantlife was brought in by settlers and the families of the prison. It really is a barren rock in the middle of quite a harsh climate. We shivered our way through the prison with a guided audio tour which was actually quite well presented. I loved the textures and mood of the place. Eery, cold and grey. peeling paint, rusted iron, bars and small rays of sunlight meeting only more concrete and mildew.
Next on the hit list the Exploratorium and palace of fine arts. A sibling of Science Works , the Exploritorium was a giant warehouse over run with kids testing the durability of the exhibits. Our favorite section was the Eyes and Visual response experimentation. We got some great video footage there.
Next up was the Academy of Sciences. A beautiful, huge museum in the middle of Golden Gate Park. It has natural history, environmental science, a planetarium, aquarium and an amazing rooftop garden.
At the end of our touristy adventure we were subject to the most exhilarating part of our journey. One thing which does not change regardless of continent.