California, here we come …

Or rather, “there we went”. Does anyone remember when Singapore Airlines had that song in their commercials? They were advertising a new Singapore to California route and they played it all the time and it was written on the decks of cards the airline handed out. And we were very excited to see a Singapore Airlines plane at the San Francisco airport. So we spent the weekend in San Francisco for an SAS reunion and had a great time.

We arrived Wednesday and wandered around Chinatown while the hotel got our room ready. We went to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company where they make 39,000 fortune cookies every day by hand. “If you take a picture, please pay 50 cents”. Katy was impressed that they had chocolate fortune cookies. Later that evening we ate dinner at Penang Garden Restaurant. They serve “Singapore Hot and Spicy Crab” that is recommended by The Food Network. We didn’t order that but we did enjoy murtabak, gado gago, Hainanese Chicken Rice and seafood and vegetables served in a taro nest. And Katy and I washed it down with watermelon juice. Yummy!

Thursday we were up early, ate breakfast and walked to the ferry landing to catch the ferry to Alcatraz.

 
Heath and Katy on the ferry
Alcatraz Island

We took the audio tour, which was really neat. We learned all about daily life, various escape attempts and life on the island for the families of prison employees.

A general population cell.

It’s hard to see but along the top shelf at the back of the cell is a row of paintings done by a prisoner who stayed in this cell. To the left is a crotchet baby blanket. The prisoner had been taught to crotchet by his grandmother and he taught some of the other inmates. It was another way to keep occupied and the blankets were donated. Imagine having a blanket for your baby that was handmade by an Alcatraz inmate!

Heath and Katy in a solitary confinement cell

They had three levels of cells, general population, isolation and solitary confinement. The isolation cells were about twice the size of the general population cells but prisoners were in them for all but one hour a week. The solitary cells were behind a wall with doors and the prisoners were kept in darkness. It was called “the hole” and not many prisoners ended up there.

Recreation yard

On weekends and holidays the prisoners were allowed recreation time. I didn’t get a real good picture, but to the right where grass is growing was their baseball diamond. I thought that was very interesting. Drive by any prison today and there’s about 20 full-size basketball courts. Times and prisoners have changed. They played a game called Auto Bridge that was a solitaire version of bridge and was very popular. One former inmate on the audio tour said the men had their minds so busy trying to win that game they weren’t thinking about escaping!

Besides the prison, the island also holds many trees, plants and wildlife. It’s a real haven for birds as there are no predators on the island. Many places are off-limits so as not to disturb the animals. There are also many nice gardens.

After leaving Alcatraz (they do give you an escape plan!) we went to Pier 39 for lunch (just hot dogs, nothing exciting). I was truly surprised at just how crowded the area was. I thought it was more like a weekend crowd. If it’s that’s busy on a Thursday, I don’t want to go anywhere near the place on a weekend! We then walked to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream. It was crowded and we had a long wait but the ice cream was good.

Katy had the s’more sundae from the kid’s menu and I figured being on the kids’ menu, it would be small. Wrong! She and Heath both ended up with huge sundaes! I had chocolate ice cream in a chocolate-coated waffle bowl.

After ice cream my plan was to take the cable car back to the hotel, but about 500 other tourists had the same idea. So we walked. We needed to walk off the ice cream anyway !We had rented a car and Friday we headed out over the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods. Seeing the bridge was high on Katy’s list of things to do.

View from the car driving over the bridge

Heath and Katy at an observation spot

Muir Woods was really neat. It’s an old-growth redwood forest and is named after the man who had Yosemite made a national park. Even though he spent most of his time in Yosemite he said there was no better place in the world for trees than what became Muir Woods. There is a small section that is a part of the National Parks Service adjoining a good-sized state park. We started at the National Park entrance and followed their paved trail and listened to a volunteer give an ecology talk. It was all so interesting. The hiking path she suggested was closed to we picked another one and walked out into the state park. We spent a couple of hours walking around, looking at trees and just enjoying the peace and quiet.

Redwoods at Muir Woods

We thought this looked neat

I had planned to spend the morning at Muir Woods and the afternoon at Golden Gate Park. But we spent more time in the woods than I thought we would. Heath has been to San Francisco a lot for business and knows his way around a little. He drove us down where we could look at the Pacific Ocean. I much prefer to have my Pacific Ocean experience in Hawaii where’s it’s warm. That beach was so cold! There’s just something not natural about a cold beach!

Katy getting her feet wet in the Pacific Ocean

Friday evening Heath went to a reunion event and Katy and I went to a little restaurant around the corner from the hotel called Naan ‘n Curry. They had naan that was 12 inches across. We had vegetable curry and tandoori chicken and it was all good.Saturday morning we got a little late start, everyone was tired and Heath had really been up late with his friends. We walked through Chinatown and when we got to California Street decided to ride a cable car. California is a steep hill so I thought we should ride up and walk down. Once again, every other tourist had the same idea. The uphill cars were full but the downhill one we saw was pretty empty so we jumped on it.

Heath and Katy on the cable car

Two of the cars at the turn-around.

We rode to the end of the line at the ferry building and walked around it. It was a really nice warm day and all the locals were out. There was a farmers market and art show going on plus a zipline zooming over our heads. We took the scenic walk back to the hotel as Heath had us go the wrong way. But it was a nice walk and Katy was impressed with the public art on display.Saturday evening was the big reunion event — a dinner cruise on the California Hornblower.

Ready to board

Heath and Katy dancing

A real highlight of the cruise was sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge after dark when it was all lit. We were able to go up on the top deck out in the open (brrr) and get a close-up look. It was really spectacular.After a late night Saturday we all dragged ourselves out of bed Sunday morning for a farewell breakfast. Terry Ng (class of 64, I believe) traveled from Singapore to attend the reunion and brought along some door prizes. There were several drawings on Saturday night for SAS promotional items and on Sunday he had two dinner kits. Rather than having a drawing we played a coin-toss game for them. It was down to me and one other person for the chili crab mix and I lost. Rats! It was all very fun, though. And it was decided that the next reunion in 2013 will be in Atlanta. And the organizer told us she had official permission from the alumni office to announce that a 60th anniversary celebration is planned for 2016 in Singapore.After the reunion festivities were over we went back to Chinatown and then after lunch headed out to Heath’s sister’s in a suburb. We stayed for the afternoon and dinner and Katy loved being with her cousins.

Looking down the street in Chinatown

Alex watching Katy swim.

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