San Francisco 2018 Day 9 – Alcatraz cruise, Academy of Science and Powell Street

Woke up at 730 to make milk for K and catch up on my travelogues. Wasn’t able to jot down anything for last few days as I was both physically and mentally tired from the trip. Wondered if age played a part in this. 830 and I woke mommy up and dressed K in his sleep. Got out of the apartment by 9am for our 10am crossing to Alcatraz with sleeping K in my arms.

It was a 20mins drive and we parked at the Impark at the waterfront plaza. It was a flat rate of $20 whole day parking for weekend which was even cheaper than what we paid the night before.

Parking near Pier 33

Arrived at 920ish at Pier 33 and carried K who continued to sleep until we walked into the Alcatraz landing cafe where he woke up. Mommy ordered a donut and croissant and a coffee and we quickly ate before moving to queue up, the boarding happened soon after with lots of people getting onto the cruise ship.

Pier 33
Alcatraz Landing Cafe
Inside the cafe
Breakfast before boarding

It was a quick 15min ride on the stable boat and we disembarked soon without much drama and also much view of San Francisco and Alcatraz as the skies continued to be shrouded in haziness. A ranger was going on about the rules and the different routes as part of an welcome introduction to Alcatraz island, which was also then we found out that the haze was caused by a wildfire and that the PMI was in the unhealthy region!

Our cruise ship
Inside the cruise
Ranger giving information

Our first stop was the theatre that showed a discovery channel show featuring Alcatraz, which talked about the prison, and others information like the Indian political takeover. Afterwards, we walked upslope (3 slopes), with K on my shoulders of course, and into the prison where at the entrance, we were given an audio guide for the whole tour. The area wasn’t really big and the walking area was only limited to the ground floor but the sequencing of the tour allow people to walk everywhere at different point in time. There was a schedule of cell gate closing presentation (yes, just so you could experience with sight and sound the opening and closing of the prison cell cold metal gates) at 1130am which we tried to see but couldn’t get much since it was really crowded. I couldn’t get much from the audio either with incessant K disturbances including a midway toilet visit (which required us to exit the prison, had to asked the staff at the entrance of the prison for directions) but adequate to hear some of the interesting stories that happened in the prison, such as the escapes.

Water drum en route to prison
Prison entrance
Place where person belongings were exchanged for prison wear
Place for shower
One typical cell
Times Square
3 levels of cell
Baseball field for inmates
The notorious
Library space for inmates
Cell D for misbehaving lot
Visiting windows
Run down buildings
External of the prison
Looked like a watchtower
Dining hall



Tunnel back to the cruise


Exhibit of Indian occupation of the island

We made the 1230pm (timing up to own preferences) ferry crossing (and again had to ask the staff how to escape) and 15mins later, we were back at the Pier. Walked towards Pier 39 passing some event exhibits that were set up for Diwali and visited the barking sea lions out at the pier. Then walked to the Hana Zen for lunch, where we sat near the windows had a smoky view of Alcatraz.

Cannon display at Pier 33
Barking sealions in the distance

Ordered a Oyakudon and chicken teriyaki meals for $43 which took a while to come but it tasted ok. After lunch we returned to the carpark to take the car to our next destination, the California Academy of Science.

Hana Zen
Inside the restaurant
Teriyaki Chicken
View from the table
View from Pier 39
Pier 39 in the day

It was a 30mins drive there and we arrived at about 3plus. K had fallen asleep and after parking parallel (for free during that period) on Nancy Pelosi Dr, I went down to check out the place first. We were actually behind the building and after looking at the entrance fees I quickly returned to the car.

A victorian designed house while driving thru SF
California Academy of Sciences
A nice park just across the building

Woke K up so that we could still spend some time at the museum and went back to get the tickets. Got 2 adults tix for $39 each and K entered for free since he was not 4 yet. There was dinosaur bones at the entrance but the planetarium was closed for the day. We proceeded to line up for the rainforest which had very interesting animals such as a live giant toad and giant millipede and many close encounters with big butterflies. After 3 small levels of this environment, we went to the basement aquarium and were again wowed by giant size fresh water fishes. There were lots of exhibits that made this felt more like a zoo + aquarium than a museum. Spent quite a bit of time there including touching a starfish and then going up to take a photo of a white crocodile.

Dino skeleton
Huge toad
Giant Millipede
Monarch butterfly
Blue butterly
Ant house
Some fish
At the aquarium
More jellies
White crocodile

It was nearing closing time of 5pm and we briskly walked through the exhibits of the wild of Africa and snatched a quick view of the “Giants of the land” exhibit before the staff told us to head towards the exit, after a visit to the restroom.

Wild of Africa display
Huge hanging skeleton

Remembering I had a toll to pay, I drove to a place called Geary Convenience Store within a few minutes drive away to pay there, according to the list of places to pay. Parking wasn’t easy to find and after driving around a corner, I managed to find one slot to park. While my family stayed in the car to wait for me, I walked to the store only to find it closed. Was about to leave when a lady asked what did I want and I said to pay the tolls. Luckily, she was the owner of the store and had only just left but for some reason came back. She then opened the doors and helped me with the toll paying machine. Paid and left the store, a burden lifted from my brain from not forgetting to pay the toll.

Geary Convenience Store to pay toll
Using this machine

The sun had set while we drove to Impark opposite Bloomingdales on Mission street. Spent some time shopping at the mall, while mommy visited Sephora and Tory Burch, I was out waiting with K while he played with my hand phone or just people watching in this massive building. Afterwards, we got onto Powell street and visited the Walgreens (mommy shopping) and took a few photos of the San Francisco cable car (the traditional one). At one point I had to bring K to Hotel Nikko to use the restroom as there weren’t any nearby. As we walked back towards Nordstrom after shopping, we saw the famous turning around of the cable car manually happening in front of us. 2 of the staffs had to rotate the cable car on a movable road so that the cable car directions could switch to face the opposite direction.

Fifth and Mission parking
Multi storey mall
Inside Tory Burch
San Francisco street at night
Traditional cable cars
Cable car turnaround location

We ate at the food court (similar concept as Singapore) at the basement and ordered Korean vegetable rice (like Chinese vegetable rice concept, soup based food was closed) and mommy ordered pasta (costing about 10ish per person). After our meals it was already 930pm and everything else was closed. We couldn’t even exit the building from other exits other than through the main one.

Inside the food court

Upon returning to the car, we realized that there was a break in on the car just parked next to us, the license plate of the plate indicated that the car was from Maine! (out of state) So  stories of cars break ins were real and heeding the advice of not putting anything in the car should be followed, even in parking places like these. The fees were $12 for parking.

We drove to the Safeway near our apartment at Mission Street and while K and I stayed in the car to care for the barang barang that mommy bought, mommy went to get the groceries necessary to prepare for K meals the next day. By the time we returned it was almost 1030pm. Brought everything back into the apartment first as I went to look for another parking due to the overcrowded space just outside the apartment. Thankfully there was one space that was used to be a parking space for building that was no longer in existence. Put up 2 TV shows for K on Amazon fire stick and after that, bathed him before we all ended the long day, in bed.

Safeway supermarket

San Francisco 2018 Day 8 – Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

We woke up at 8, got dressed and by 10, we were checked out. The reception was pretty closed to the lake and so we decided to go check it out. It was a great decision to take that walk as we were presented a scenic serene view of the area. While K was not able to appreciate the view, he found some pine cones to kick them about. There was a pier that went out into the water. Walking along the wooden walkway, with clear waters reveal the ground meters deep beneath the water (but no fishes). Ducks were seen at the sides of the walkway basking in the morning sun and ignoring us until K got too close and some got in the water. Then a school of geese glided down and landed on water, a majestic sight that I wasn’t able to catch with a camera as I watched in awe. I could just sit there all day to enjoy the peacefulness around but we had to go to San Francisco and it was a tad too chilly. After K had some fun playing with the sand, we walked back to the car, and was surprised to see a wild rabbit and fluffy tail squirrel along the way! (K tried chasing the rabbit as it dashed out of sight)

Our accommodation
Strolling towards the lake
Ducks on very clear water
Basking in the sun
The school of geese after landing on the water
Swimming pool not in use

The road trip to San Francisco was a 4hrs drive, beginning with a nice scenic downhill drive at the start coming out from Lake Tahoe. The tall trees with autumn colors lined the road as the car took the often curvy road but not too uncomfortable to drive. My family were soon off to dreamland while I kept my eyes on the road. I had initially planned a midpoint rest stop at Sacramento Southside Park that had a Farmer’s market nearby but since K was still asleep, I decided to continue the drive straight to San Francisco.

Picturesque drive downhill

The Google maps initial road to our destination were showing intimidating red colours leading into the peninsula, so I decided to take a detour and go through Lafayette instead of Vallejo as there’s were less reds. We crossed the Bay Bridge and paid at the toll counters the bridge toll of USD4. There was a slight jam while in San Francisco but we slowly made our way to the Airbnb.

Overhead signs indicating cash or Fastrak only
Driving on the Bay Bridge

After going through a few streets of the residential area, we turned into a street with a dead end, our Airbnb. We had to carry out the check in ourselves using instructions through the app and it didn’t take long before we unlocked the few doors before finding ourselves at the door to our accommodation inside the garage. It was a small place that came with kitchen place with a portable stove, a small living room and a bedroom and toilet. K settled down to have his lunch while I ventured out onto the streets and found a Burger King a 6mins walk away. Purchased 2 small meals to takeaway for $17. This location had a very Puerto Rican vibe, people were speaking Portuguese, and I heard orders for the meals being conversed in Portuguese.

Colourful buildings reminding me of San Juan
Our ride parked on the street

Finished our lunch at about 315pm and we were out again. I had planned to visit the viewpoint of the Golden Gate bridge, the Battery Spencer fort at the opposite end of the bridge itself. Drove there which was not too difficult with directions along the way. Upon climbing up the hill, we couldn’t see place to park the car and thus proceeded further up where there was another viewpoint (see Google map). I managed to park at that viewpoint and we got out for quick photos before getting back into the car and returned to Battery Spencer. Luckily upon arriving, a car just left and I quickly grab the opportunity slot my car in.

Driving on the Golden Gate bridge

Battery Spencer fort was a fort that was no longer in use, and there weren’t anything much left of the fort. To view the bridge, we walked on the rocky road just next to the fort route all the way till the edge of the knoll. When we arrived, we were greeted by the magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge from an elevated view, a location for the best selfies!

Rocky path to the edge
View from the edge
Battery Spencer
Toll for the Golden Gate Bridge, but no counters to pay

Our next location to visit was to go Fisherman’s Wharf. This meant driving back on the Golden Gate Bridge. While there was a need to pay toll, unlike the Bay Bridge, there weren’t any toll stations available. Nevertheless, I had 48 hours to make payment and it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Googled Northpoint center carpark as the place to go to for a visit to the Fisherman’s Wharf but I was on the opposite side of the road that did not allow for me to turn into the car park. Eventually, we ended up parking at Pier 39 carpark.

Parking at Pier 39

We went to Fisherman’s Wharf to walk around, there were shops and restaurants abound, like a typical tourist area. We walked into a random shop that had souvenirs and bought a musical box in the shape of a cable car and small model of the Golden Gate bridge. We went into CVS to shop too, buying a lip balm and mommy bought her stuff.

Restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf
There must be boats in a Wharf
A modern cable car
One of the chocolate store at Fisherman’s Wharf

For dinner, we left Fisherman’s Wharf and walked to Pier 39 where there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. We thought of getting some seafood and Fog Harbour fish house seemed to tell us that but there were too many people queuing to get in so we went further down and entered the Crab House. Ordered Cioppino seafood tomato soup and fish and chips for K. It was pretty tasty but the quantity was surprisingly small. Decided to add another half a crab in their special sauce. In total, we paid slightly less than USD100 for dinner. Since we ate at a restaurant in Pier 39, we had our carpark ticket validated too, to save some costs. Spent the night walking around Pier 39, enjoying the sights of lights and a carousel that was closed for the night. However, many shops remained opened while we were there.

Sealion statues at Pier 39
Restaurants galore
Fog Harbor is full
Crab House
Fish and Chips
Half a crab
Inside Crab House
Carousel closed for the day
Many stores still in operation
Hard Rock Cafe just next to Pier 39

Carpark fees were still a hefty USD30 by the time we were leaving. It was a 30mins back to the apartment where we passed by the Bay Bridge that was lighted up with running lights. I thought that parking at the Airbnb would be easy since I could just parked on the road as the schedule for road cleaning wasn’t during our stay. When I arrived, I saw a street full of cars, it was like everyone had thought that it was a good idea to park there. I managed to just park in front of the building, with the risk of blocking the car that was in the garage, but figured that the owner could just call me to move if it was a problem.

Bay Bridge lighted up

I started TV that came with Amazon Firestick for K to catch some familiar cartoons before bath time. Tried to fix K’s sports car luggage with superglue bought from CVS too before finally going to bed.