Wednesday, March 27, 2019

San Francisco - Day 3: Alcatraz, Pier 39, Japanese Tea Garden

Our major activity on Day 3 in San Francisco would be to take the tour of Alcatraz. It was a beautiful sunny day, our best weather day yet.

We boarded the 9:30 ferry to Alcatraz Island and enjoyed the sights of the city and Golden Gate Bridge along the way.

A few weeks ahead of our trip, we had watched the Clint Eastwood movie Escape from Alcatraz which was based on the actual escape attempt by three prisoners. It was cool to see the real prison and imagine what it would have been like to have been incarcerated there.

The next photo is of a cell in D-Block where the worst prisoners were sent in solitary confinement in "The Hole." The cells were deprived of light and the conditions were extremely harsh.

We also saw the cells where the prisoners from the Eastwood movie were housed.

I had been to San Francisco many times before, but this was my first trip to Alcatraz. It was definitely a worthwhile excursion.

After we got back to the mainland, we had lunch at Pier 39.

You can't go to San Francisco without have a sourdough bread bowl with clam chowder. We each had one, and ordered it with dungeness crab on top. It was really yummy.

After lunch we walked through Pier 39. We stopped at one place that is marketed as offering a 7-D experience. Kai wanted to try it. We watched a 3-D movie and shot at the targets in the movie. There were ten people in the group we were in and Kai had the second highest score.

Following that, we saw the seals who hang out at the back of the Pier.

And had some ice cream as a snack.

We had finished at Pier 39 quicker than expected and with Kai lightly grumbling "Now what are we going to do?", I made the call to take a cab across town to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Coming from Chicago where everything is still winter-like, it was amazing to see the beautiful flowers already in bloom here.

When in the tea garden, you have to have tea, right? We had ours with manju (Japanese sweet treat) and kizumochi (a special type of mochi cake). It was very yummy and especially nice to have in such a nice setting.

Kai enjoyed climbing this very tall bridge. Seems like you have to climb everywhere you go in San Francisco, even up the Japanese bridge, ha!

Everywhere we walked in the garden, Kai stopped to take pictures. Usually he only takes pictures of plushies or of funny things he sees in stores. That he took such an interest in the Japanese garden surprised me. He's very creative... could this be the start of something?

Kai said he really liked it here.

Last spring we saw the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC and this year we were able to see them in bloom here in San Francisco.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant that served Japanese cuisine, which is not to say that it was a Japanese restaurant. We may be biased, but we can usually tell the difference when a sushi restaurant is run by Japanese versus those that are not. The sushi boat here looks nice at a quick glance, but the rice balls kept coming apart, something that shouldn't happen when a real sushi chef makes it. Kai did enjoy his ramen.

After dinner, we walked back to Ghirardelli Square and my wife and I had Ghirardelli's famous hot fudge sundae while Kai had a cookies and cream milk shake. The hot fudge was really yummy and the Kai said his shake was very creamy and tasty.

We're splurging a little bit in terms of the amount of desserts we're eating compared to what we eat back home, but we're on vacation and we're walking up and down a lot of hills so I think we're coming out even.

So far, our trip has been amazingly smooth as far as things with Kai have gone. There's been none of the complaining we heard throughout our trip to Japan last summer despite all of the walking we've been doing. Fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Tomorrow, we'll go on an excursion outside the city.


  1. Another very nice day. I also like the Japanese gardens. I like all the food you have been eating. I think I will get clam chowder in a sourdough bowl with crab here in town soon. It looked so delicious. It has been raining here in Reno, with snow over the pass. I am glad for you that it is clear there. I am looking forward to hearing more about your adventure.

    1. On all of our vacations, trying the local cuisine is always one of the things we look forward to. We all like clam chowder, but I thought it was especially good with the crab meat mixed in.

      We've been lucky with the weather, especially compared to what was forecast.


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