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Big Surprise at The Rock

I'd been to San Francisco several times before I traveled there with my sister earlier this summer.  Every time I've been there, I've seen Alcatraz Island, off in the distance, just sitting there in the middle of the bay.


And, really, that's been enough for me.

I'm totally creeped out by prisons.  I'm not a fan of prison stories.  I don't watch prison movies.  No Birdman of Alcatraz for me.  I've never watched Clint Eastwood making his Escape from Alcatraz.  And I was fine with that.

But, this trip, my sister and I decided we wanted to see the ALL of San Francisco.  (And Tom was all like it would be so cool to see Alcatraz. . . )  So we booked ourselves an Alcatraz tour.*  And then . . . we regretted our decision.  Like. . . we REALLY regretted our decision.

And especially when we arrived at the departure pier.

(Imagine whining voices here.)  It's coooooold.  I'm tiiiiiiiired.  There's nothing good to eeeeeeaaat.  The lines are so loooooooong.  We can't board for an hooooouuuuur.  There are so many bratty kiiiiiiids.  There is no place to sit for a glass of wiiiiiiiiiiine.  I HAAAAATE prisons!!!!

(I gave my sister so much grief . . . for wearing her "prison stripes" on tour day!)

We almost bailed.

But we didn't.

When our appointed boarding time (finally) came, we hauled our sorry, whining asses into line and Made the Best of It.


Once we "landed" . . .


the creepy prison feeling made us decide to just take the very next ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf!


I could see something bright.  Something that looked . . . like something blooming!

Could those be . . . flowers?  On Alcatraz Island?

So, while all the other Alcatraz visitors headed off to seek out "The Big House" . . . to see Cell Block D ("Solitary"). . . and all the other creepy parts of the prison . . . we headed off in search of . . .






Succulents as big as your head!


Alcatraz Island . . . The Rock. . . had a charm I could never have imagined.


Really, I should've done my homework!


There is a major garden-restoration project going on to reclaim the Gardens of Alcatraz.  And the results are lovely!


We spent a surprising amount of time exploring the gardens and grounds of The Rock.  While the entire island was crowded with visitors (although in a very controlled-numbers way because . . . you can only get there by ferry and you must have a ticket), I'm pretty sure the only garden-seekers that day . . . were my sister and I!

Seriously.  No one else really seemed to be interested in the gardens!  In fact, I don't think most of the other visitors even noticed that there were gardens on the island.


What a surprise!  Such a pleasant surprise!


There was no pouting or whining by the time we headed for the return ferry.  (Well.  Maybe a little.  When we missed a boat by 10 seconds and had to wait for the next one.  But it was minimal whining.)

And, just because we felt we had to at least look, here's Cell Block B for you.


Creepy as hell!  (No surprise there.)


(Tom couldn't believe that of the 300 photos I took on Alcatraz Island, only 5 were of the actual prison.)

*If you make a trip to San Francisco and decide you want to see Alcatraz, be sure to book your trip WAY in advance!  Tours sell out -- sometimes you have to book 3 or 4 weeks in advance.  And . . . be prepared.  It is COLD.  The lines are long.  (And there is no wine!)


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Amazing! I just read an article about the importance of 'time' in garden design and the Alcatraz gardens are an incredible example. I covet those hens & chicks and am entranced by their rainwater catchment system. Thank you for sharing your Big Surprise!


I found Alcatraz creepy but fascinating. If you ever come to Philadelphia, I can take you to Eastern State Penitentiary - I used to work there, and it's tres creepy, but extremely fascinating!


We visited the Rock in 1988 or 89 I think. I did find it fascinating but I'm with you on prisons - totally afraid of them and no prison shows! (Though I do love Shawshank Redemption!)


Of all the times I've visited SF I've never had the desire to head to the Rock. I feel the same way you do. BUT, now I have a reason! The garden feels like a place of peace, a restorative, in a place of former horror and pain.

Cheryl S.

Clearly you're wrong. There was plenty of whine.


You could have brought a flask - you know that's what I would have done since I'm always boozing it up and all. Anyway. The gardens are gorgeous and I'm glad you found some beauty in an otherwise creepy place.


I would have toured the island in the exact same way! Although I don't find prisons (or abandoned mental hospitals) creepy; guess I'm just not sensitive enough.


Now that you've been(and I never have) you might enjoy a kids' book called Al Capone Does My Shirts.

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