A Travellerspoint blog

Alcatraz and Home

Where would we rather be?

sunny 62 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Bag End, Camino de la Fuente Meca, Mazarrón Spain

Well, a lot of it is now just a hazy memory although some of the video we have watched brings it back to us. Without a record on video of these travels, I think there is much we would forget.

Probably not our boat trip to Alcatraz on our last night in San Francisco.

This federal prison (it never acted as a penitentiary; just a place to lock safely away America's most desperate criminals, though I never worked out what Burt Lancaster and his canaries had done to offend anyone, with the possible exception of his acting?).

The number or tourists are limited on the evening visits and get booked up well in advance. Just one boat load, well it was far from full, is allowed on and special talks and programmes are laid on by the National Park Service which now looks after and manages the island. So it is all very worthy and notably lacking in tack, to the obvious disappointment of some of the visitors!


After the excellent self-guided audio tour (which really caught the atmosphere of the place, with original voices of prisoners and spooky sound effects, especially when telling the story of the one successful break-out plan), there were a number of talks and other special programmes but these were not well advertised and many missed them.


The place was only open as a federal prison for 29 years but, before that, it has been military fortress then prison. For a fascinating history, see these pages. Yes, I know it was called a penitentiary, but encouraging penitence never came into it.

We'd completely forgotten that the island was occupied by protesting Native Americans ("Injuns": Arthur) from 1969 until 1971 when they were overpowered by Federal Marshals. The original leader was Richard Oakes, a Mohawk Indian. (anyone remember that name?). Unfortunately, a number of buildings were destroyed by fire during the occupation and they only remain as shells to this day.

If you ever plan a trip to Alcatraz, book well in advance for the evening trip and do not, do NOT forget to take some warm clothes! We have never seen so many shivering blue people as on the boat back to Embarcadero.


One story that caught our imagination was that of the children of the prison officers who lived on the island. They went to school on the mainland by boat each day and were allowed to bring friends home occasionaly. Some sleep over! Apparently they were very popular kids at school....

Our trip home was enjoyable, thanks to British Airways Club World and Club Europe. It has taken us a few days to settle back into home routines but already are talking about our next venture to North America. Watch this space!


There will be one more page here in a few days with a few bits and pieces I forgot to put in earlier.

Thanks for all your kind comments and support. Much appreciated!

Posted by Johnash 12:27 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Bet Sofi & Poli were pleased to see you. Glad you enjoyed your trip so much. I think the highlight for me was the Indian cave dwellings, which I didn't know existed. Welcome Home.

by Kingpaul

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