This June, my family and I traveled to San Francisco, California for our yearly vacation. Our travels began at three in the morning as we raced out of the house to catch our flight. Six and a half hours later, we finally arrived in blustery, overcast San Francisco. After an exhausting and frustrating two hour wait in the rental car line, we were handed the keys to a hideous yellow rental car. We learned two things very quickly: swim suits would not be needed in San Francisco as the daily high’s barely made it to sixty; secondly, renting a car was completely unnecessary. The cost to park and the very hilly roads made the driving experience less than desirable. I begged my parents to drive down Lombard Street, the world’s most crooked street but they refused. I only have my driving permit so I couldn’t attempt it on my own!
The next day, we embarked on an all-day tour to Muir Woods, Sausalito, and Alcatraz Island. Run by Tower Tours, a shuttle was sent to our hotel to pick us up and bring us directly to our tour bus. After crossing a fog covered Golden Gate Bridge and descending down the very narrow roads of a canyon, the tour bus successfully made it to Muir Woods. The Redwood trees were numerous and magnificent as they were massive and expansive. The trees were so tall you couldn’t see the top of them and so wide that you could drive a car through them. This is a must see stop if you are visiting San Francisco.
Up on the top of the canyon resided the sea side town of Sausalito that reminded me of Newport, Rhode Island, with its quaint, shore-lined boutiques. After a bite to eat and some shopping, we boarded a ferry to Alcatraz. Alcatraz was the prison that once incarcerated America’s most violent criminals. Upon entering Alcatraz, the walls and cells spoke and all of my senses were elevated to a state of heightened awareness. The dimly lit surroundings displayed what must have been a very cold, bleak, depressing and unforgiving environment the prisoners had to endure. We purchased audio sets which allowed us to listen to actual prisoners recount their time spent living and doing time in Alcatraz. I had the opportunity to go into a cell and have the door closed behind me. While in complete darkness, my thoughts of being frightened were replaced with the overbearing stench of years and years of urine that must have been excreted within this very cell. The door could not have been opened quickly enough for me. Although my experienced only lasted 45 seconds, prisoners endured these conditions 23 hours a day for many, many years.
I left Alcatraz a changed person. I am much more cognizant and appreciative for the freedoms I have and learned how a series of poor choices could put my freedoms in jeopardy. My clothes closet is bigger than their cell! I can eat what I want and when I want. I can go anywhere and do anything I want. It is utterly incomprehensible for me to conceive how these prisoners survived this mental anguish day after day after day. It was rather uncanny to have stood in a prison cell and then return to our hotel which seemed to have become more luxurious than when we left it that morning. When visiting San Francisco, Alcatraz is definitely a destination you must visit. San Francisco is a place where you can do it all. Relax, explore, experience Mother Nature and revisit history.
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