Welcome back, travel friends! Click Here for the awesome first half of our adventure – Disa and Lauren Take San Francisco – Part 1!
Day 4 and 5 of Disa and I’s adventures in the misty City by the Bay included the epic Monterey & Carmel Tour by Bus from San Francisco on Thursday, then on Friday the Chinatown Walking Tour in San Francisco, then cruising to explore the infamous ex-federal prison of Alcatraz Island, then going on an enchanting San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise around the beautiful bay at sunset. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the virtual tours.
- The Chronicles of Monterey: The Sea Lion, the Sandwich, and the Nautical Globe. The Monterey & Carmel Tour by Bus from San Francisco is a fully narrated 11-hour tour that departs from and returns to San Francisco. This tour showcases California’s natural, rugged Central Coast. As we made our way south-bound from San Francisco, we passed by M5 Industries, which is the headquarters for Myth Busters, a science entertainment TV show on the Discovery Channel. The Fire Station is close by for a reason.
- As we continued our journey past Daly City, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and beyond to the right of our luxury coach we could see the gorgeous rocky coastline with a few nice sand beaches and tide pools. Something interesting that we learned is that the reason Monterey has such a wealth of marine life is because of Monterey Canyon underwater, which descends over two miles – twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon – and is home to giant kelp forests and a myriad of sea creatures. I would love to go scuba diving there someday! We could also distantly see (and mainly hear) several sea lions off on the rocks further from the shore.
- When we reached the famous Cannery Row in Monterey, we were welcomed with vistas of scenic piers, tons of cool little shops, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and seaside restaurants. You might see sailboats in the marina or kayakers. After reading the sumptuous menu posted outside, we decided to dine for lunch at Louie Linguini’s. I was pretty super excited about this seafood pizza, and for good reason. Salmon, crab and shrimp! I’m a seafood hound. Disa ordered the Spinach Salad, Goat Cheese, & Bacon Sandwich. Absolutely delicious. I seriously wish I could eat there every day now!
- After our seaside escapades in Monterey, we were on our way southbound again along the famous scenic 17-mile road. We traveled through Pebble Beach, learning about the highly exclusive and outrageously pricey golf courses on each resort, and enjoying the views of really, really ridiculously good looking houses and estates along the coastline. There is a great variety of architecture to see, and interesting stories you’ll hear aboard the tour. We also stopped to see this natural anomaly, the “Lone Cypress Tree” growing where it is said that no Cypress tree *should* ever grow. Another of the mysteries of the Universe…
- Finally, we arrived at the beautiful seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Yes, they do prefer the whole city name said correctly, so get it right. The city is known for its amazing art galleries, bakeries and restaurants, and of course there are the miles and miles of white sand beaches. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll down Ocean Avenue to explore the fabulous shopping turf of the wealthy. It is here that you will find the first gallery of Thomas Kinkade, the Thomas Kinkade Gallery in the Garden. You pass by the cottage door, follow the stone walkway, and into a beautiful garden exhibit with a very fine collection of the world famous painter’s masterpieces. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Secret Garden.
- We concluded our adventures south of San Francisco driving back through Silicon Valley, but first stopped at the lovely, historic Mission San Carlos of Carmel. It is the second mission in upper California, and is still home to a Catholic parish. We arrived just before the church bells gonged the evening time.
- We started the day off with a fascinating and very informative walking tour through Chinatown, on the Chinatown Walking Tour in San Francisco. Our tour guide, Linda, gave us an excellent historical, cultural, medicinal, and culinary overview of Chinatown. This tour is definitely another “must-do” in San Francisco! Chinatown is like a city within the city filled with mysterious sights, where an ancient culture from the other side of the world survives and flourishes with remarkable authenticity. I loved the pagoda-style architecture of the buildings and shops ranging from martial arts weapons displays to Hello Kitty merchandise. What a cool place to shop and explore!
- Linda told us that a majority of the people in Chinatown today are actually Christians, but you will still find many Authentic Buddhist Temples. From the street, we wound our way up a narrow, steep staircase to a beautifully adorned temple. Inside we saw entire walls decorated with red ribbons with the names of deceased loved ones written in gold. For many residents, deceased loved ones may not have been buried nearby or inaccessible in the East, so a ribbon serves as a token of veneration. Chinese Ancestor Worship is the belief that deceased loved ones possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. Gifts of oranges or flowers are customary, or simply time spent remembering and honoring those dearly departed. Tangerines and oranges sound like “luck” and “wealth” in Chinese, respectively. That is why you will see many oranges as gifts for good fortune.
- Inside the temple, we found dazzling altars adorned with red lanterns, priceless gold antiques, incense filled bronze urns, and more. I was even given the unique opportunity to be a test guinea pig for the traditional Chinese Fortune Sticks and the Chinese Yin-Yang. For the Chinese Fortune Stick (or Divination Sticks), I was handed a circular wooden container filled with many long, flat wooden sticks with a different Chinese symbol at the end of each. Linda asked me to think of any kind of life question that I wanted an answer for, and concentrate on it, then to tilt the container and shake it until only one fortune stick fell out. Sure enough, only one stick fell out. Linda looked up the meaning of the fortune stick and gave me a small slip of paper written entirely in Chinese, and told me I could have the note translated more in depth with a Chinese expert, but basically it meant that research is important to me. I can’t argue with that – I love me some science! Next, Linda handed me two pairs of wooden moon blocks (jiaobei) which she said symbolize the Chinese Yin-Yang. She said the objective is again to ask it a question (aloud or not), and then drop the blocks. You hold the pieces together, flat sides facing each other, and drop them to the ground. How the blocks fall determines the answer. If it lands with both flat or rounded sides facing up, the answer is no. If one side lands flat and the other rounded, the answer is yes. I asked “Will it rain today?” Yin-Yang: one side landed flat and the other rounded, so the answer was yes. It did not rain in San Francisco that day, but I also failed to specify *where* it would rain, so it definitely rained somewhere in the world!
- Next stop: the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Factory!! The sweet aroma of the freshly made fortune cookies is sure to lure you in whether you can read the Chinese store signs or not. Inside, you will find fortune cookies of all shapes and sizes, and watch as cookies are made right in front of you.
- Linda gave us each delicious circular samples of the freshly-made fortune cookies. Yum! You can even order custom fortune cookie messages there at the factory. I wish I’d had time to return to order some fortune cookies with custom messages… with the lyrics to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, so I could pass them out to my friends, just to drive them crazy. *evil laugh*
- We also stopped at Stockton Street Food Markets, where you will find an amazing variety of local and exotic foods. This is the place to be to buy the freshest and cheapest produce, meats, live seafood, and dried herbs.
- After our journey through Chinatown, we walked to In-And-Out Burger at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, because it’s just so delicious. After another glorious round of double-double cheeseburgers, we proceeded to walk off the calories to Pier 33 for our second tour of the day, and the most famous sightseeing attraction of San Francisco — Alcatraz Island!!!
- Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary that operated from 1934 to 1963, riddled with mysteries and dark mystique. Once home to the likes of Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelley, and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, the Federal Bureau of Prisons used the facility as a maximum security prison. It housed prisoners too notorious or dangerous to be held elsewhere. Alcatraz was closed in 1963 due to its expense. The trip includes the ferry ride to the island and an amazing self-guided audio cell block tour, complete with actual interviews of former guards and inmates. Alcatraz is still known today as one of the world’s most legendary prisons.
- Here’s a fun fact: Juan Manuel de Ayala was the first Spaniard to document Alcatraz Island in 1775. He also charted San Francisco Bay, and named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which translates to “The Island of the Pelicans.” You will still find Alcatraz covered with a countless number of seabirds, although the California Brown Pelican is not known to nest on the island today. Instead, you are likely to see hundreds of Western Gulls, and, if you are lucky, you may get a glimpse of pelagic cormorants, California gulls, pigeon guillemots, or black oystercatchers.
- If you’re more of a nature lover than a mystery or history buff, walk along the Agave Trail. The trail begins near the ferryboat landing on the east side of Alcatraz Island and continues to the southern tip of the island. The Agave Trail passes through a protected bird sanctuary and features beautiful plants and flowers. This trail also offers fabulous views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Alcatraz was well known for having an excellent menu compared to other prisons. Warden James Johnston believed that good food in the cafeteria would help to quell dissension among the prisoners. So why was the Mess Hall regarded as the most dangerous place of Alcatraz? Imagine angry, hungry men with knives (even with steak knives, when the menu called for such) gathering together three times a day… A few food and fist fights broke out occasionally, but the armed guards on the outside catwalk rarely ever had to break the windows with their rifles, and never had to fire warning shots or release the tear gas canisters.
- One bad-tempered incident occurred when Warden Johnston was attacked while standing routinely near the Mess Hall door and beaten up by inmate Burton “Whitey” Phillips. Phillips was later sent to the Treatment Unit in Cellblock D for the assault – a dark, barren cell of Solitary Confinement, also known as “The Hole.” He didn’t leave the Treatment Unit until years later when Warden Johnston retired.
- I highly recommend reading the story of the Alcatraz Spaghetti Riot of 1950. Inmates had to find cunning, creative ways to communicate for an organized anarchy under the constant supervision of the prison guards. The inmates were rebelling because they were tired of bland spaghetti. Personally, I think the inmates may have been a bit spoiled. Red velvet cake on the menu?! Dang, prisoners ate great back then. Perhaps the riddles inspired by the hit mystery-thriller FOX TV show “ALCATRAZ” can shed light on the mystery… I would also recommend reading the story of the Battle of Alcatraz.
- Disa and I escaped from the sinister clutches of Alcatraz in time to return to our secret hideout and freshen up for our charming sunset dinner cruise along the bay aboard the San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise. We were so lucky that it was a clear night without the dense fog rolling in yet. Very pretty sunset. Cheers to an amazing week in San Francisco!
- What you get on this amazing dinner cruise? A sightseeing yacht cruise (Fri. – Sat. is 3-hours, Sun. – Thurs. is 2.5-hours), a 4-course seated dinner, coffee and tea, live entertainment and dancing, scenic San Francisco Bay views, and available for purchase are soft drinks, wine, beer and cocktails from the full-service bar. Truly a magical evening out for any occasion along the scenic Bay as you watch the sun set, the stars come out, and the city lights of San Francisco glistening next to the water edge, all while enjoying an amazing 4-course dinner and dancing to live entertainment.
That concludes our overview of amazing adventures in The Taking of San Francisco with Disa & Lauren. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and seeing some of our journey as much as we enjoyed being there. Stay tuned for more pictures and new videos as we continue to share our experiences throughout Reserve123′s social media networks. You’re going to love seeing even more of our trip photos and the video magic we captured on each tour!
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