My favorite day on my vacation, BY FAR, was the day we visited Alcatraz. I just finished reading Public Enemies (a fantastic historic non-fiction about the bank robbers of the 1930's: John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelley, Alvin Karpis, Dock Barker, Bonnie & Clyde, etc.) and was THRILLED at the prospect of seeing the prison that housed three of these men after they were captured. I'm not a big history buff but I do love this type of history--the seedy underbelly of America, if you will.
My mom and I were able to get some tickets to the island before our trip which is something I would highly recommend if you want to go. Apparently tickets sell out pretty far in advance. Taking the ferry over the the island is surreal. It's unnerving to imagine being a prisoner taken away from the wonderful city of San Francisco to this desolate island that's close enough to the bay for you to watch all the action but far enough to make you realize you'll never get away even if you can escape the building.
I took about a million pictures during the audio tour and kept exclaiming how excited I was to be there. I'm certain that some of the other visitors thought I was crazy--but I was learning so much! For example, Alcatraz used to be a fortress for the Armed Forces back in the 1800's and was converted to a federal penitentiary after the threat of attack from the west was ruled out. After the prison closed, Indians took over the island for a few months in the 60's to make a political statement. Now the island is a national park and receives over 5,000 visitors EVERY DAY. It's great to see the remnants of each version of Alcatraz all around; from canons to Native American markings it's evident that the island has a lot of history. Absolutely fascinating!
Ever since I left the rock I want to learn more about it so I'm on the search for a really great Alcatraz book... Any suggestions?!
I'm already excited for my next trip to Alcatraz. By far my favorite part of San Francisco.