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Monterey and Alcatraz

Posted on December 10, 2011 by Holly Hayes
Part of: California and Vegas Road Trip

Alcatraz Island

Whew, it has been a busy couple of days and the next few look to be the same way. But we are having lots of fun in the California sunshine. Yesterday we left San Francisco and drove down Highway 101 (and various other winding roads) to Monterey. We didn't arrive until well after dark, because we made long stops at the Presidio under the Golden Gate Bridge (with super-cool fort) and Stanford University (we were really impressed) along the way.

And today we explored Monterey. I thought it would be a pretty relaxed day, with only Cannery Row and the aquarium to explore, so lots of time to catch up on the blog. No dice! It turns out that Monterey has a nifty mission church from 1797. AND a State Historic Park filled with around 20 historic houses and buildings, many of them from the Spanish era. AND there is a walking trail along the beautiful beach, where you can watch seals and sea otters and birds. AND tonight was a special event called "Christmas in the Adobes," during which the aforementioned historic houses, most of which are normally closed, were open to the public from 5 to 9pm.

So after a long day of walking and exploring, I had a full evening of walking and exploring! (David opted out.) It was all so cool and I had a great time, but again I'm having trouble feeling my feet.

Tomorrow morning we plan to see the Monterey Aquarium when it opens at 10am, then stop in Carmel to see a mission, then drive down Highway 1 for a couple hours to the Hearst Castle before the last tour leaves at 3pm. We'll stay overnight in Cambria, which is about 15 min further south. The following day, we'll try to see a couple more missions while making the 4.5 hour drive to Los Angeles.

Tonight I did manage to upload the best of our 700+ photos of Alcatraz, but unfortunately I don't have time (or space) to paste them all here - I'll provide a link below. As I mentioned earlier, we really enjoyed Alcatraz and found it very interesting. The ferry from San Francisco was easy and fun, and we were thrilled to discover that you can wander around the whole island at your own pace and for as long as you want, rather than being stuck on a structured guided tour. Here and there, rangers gave little historic talks to whoever wanted to stop and listen, and they provide an audio guide in the cell blocks. The latter was quite excellent - it was narrated by former wardens and inmates.

IMG_9473 Arrival at Alcatraz

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There was also a real-live Alcatraz celebrity in the bookshop: a former inmate named Robert Luke who has recently written a book about his experience. One thing I didn't know about Alcatraz is that it was primarily for prisoners who were considered an escape risk, and most of them were returned to their original prisons after a 5-year stint at Alcatraz. So not all the inmates were super-scary murderers; some were bank robbers (including the book author) and such, who had earned a spot on the island after trying to escape their original prisons. The former prisoner looked pretty comfortable, but it must have been hard the first time he came back!

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Please click here for more photos of Alcatraz!