Our third day in San Francisco began with us hoping to take a trip over to the island of Alcatraz. We woke up nice and early and drove straight to Lombard Street, which is famous for being the windiest in the world. It features five hairpin bends on a hillside, and all drivers must start at the top and work their way down. It was fun to drive and we were amazed that people actually live on the road.
We then drove to pier 33 where the company Alcatraz Cruises sails from. We eventually found some parking near Fisherman’s Wharf for a shocking £4 an hour (which was the cheapest around), and walked to pier 33 only to find out all tours were fully booked for the day. This was the first time we hadn’t been able to go to a major site so we were disappointed, but decided to take a boat tour around the harbour to make up for it.
The boat tour lasted for an hour and first went around one side of the bay to the Golden Gate bridge, and then around the other side and right past Alcatraz. As always, the clouds decided to follow us and the whole bridge was surrounded by fog. The boat sailed on nonetheless, and we got some interesting photos where it looks like the bridge is disappearing into it. Throughout the ride, we were provided with audio commentary which provided some interesting insights into San Francisco and the Bay area. We also got to hear about Alcatraz which slightly made up for not getting to go there. Most interesting was probably how three inmates once escaped and swam to shore - never to be seen again.
When we got back we had a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf and the surrounding piers. There was a great atmosphere and the whole area is full of seafood restaurants. For this weekend only there were two events going on: Fleet Week which celebrates the armed forces, and Italian heritage celebrations. Fleet Week meant the whole port was far busier than usual and many roads were closed off for parades. There were also aircraft carriers in the bay, which sailed while tourists got to walk around freely. We would have loved to have gone on one but the queue was over a mile long! The air show from yesterday was also continuing, and while we were out on our boat trip we saw a fighter jet flying really low overhead and performing many acrobatic tricks – a great bonus to the day.
After lunch at Panera we drove to Union Square to check out the shops properly. There is a car park that goes down to four stories below the square which was interesting to park in. We had a good wander round for a few hours. The main shopping centre which contains a department store called Nordstrom was a highlight, since it has seven stories all connected by unique curved escalators.
This evening we drove South to our hotel in San Jose, so we are perfectly located for US Route 1 down the coast tomorrow. The journey took us across the Bay bridge which was strange because the carriageways are on top of each other rather than side by side.
Photo of the day: fighter plane over Alcatraz with the fog in the background.