Sunday morning, we got up waaaaaaaay too early for my Chinese whiskey hangover, but Colleen and Steve were flying out and we wanted to see them before they left. We walked around the block and met them at Scala Bistro, which had an excellent breakfast.
Afterward, we said goodbye to them and went directly back to our hotel to sleep a while longer. When we got up the second time, I felt way better.
We walked down to Chinatown and caught a bus down to the Embarcadero. It dropped us across the street from the ferry dock for the Alcatraz cruises. We checked in and got in line for our boat, with about a million other people.
I had originally wanted to take the night tour, since I’d done that before and it was awesome. I quickly realized the benefits of the daytime trip, though, because of the views from the boat.
We landed on the island, got our ‘briefing’ from the guide, and all climbed the hill to the prison. We waited in line for headphones, then headed upstairs for the self-guided tour. (It’s really, really funny to watch how a giant group of people behaves when they’re all being led around by audio instructions. There’s a lot of standing and staring blankly.)
I feel like the tour may have been more extensive during the day, too. I don’t remember going outside at all on the night tour. Possibly there’s a “no, it’s way too cold” option. Anyway, the view was fantastic, as was the weather.
We got to visit solitary confinement, too:
The tour of the prison ends in the kitchen. They had a pretty interesting exhibit there about life after Alcatraz.
We turned in our headphones and went out to find the trails on the south side of the island.
The Agave trail was aptly-named. They should be making tequila there. Also, amazing views of the city!
We hurried back to the second-to-last ferry and stood in a really long line to board. We rode back to San Francisco, and crossed the Embarcadero to wait for the streetcar. (The same streetcar I’d almost been pickpocketed on before, thank you very much.) One streetcar passed without stopping, so full that limbs were sticking out all the windows. Another one came along 10 minutes later, in the same state of fullness. We attempted to board, but Matt noticed that they didn’t take cash. (Not that we could’ve gotten anywhere near the guy taking money, but whatever.) We decided to walk instead.
We headed back down toward the Ferry Building for a snack, because I had been thinking of the mushroom empanada stand for far too long. I got my empanada, and Matt got a meat cone from Boccalone:
We also stopped into the grocery store to get beers, and I asked the lady at the counter if we were allowed to drink them outside. She said yes, as long as they were decanted into something and/or kept in a bag. Since it was too early in the day to be drinking out of a bag, she gave us a couple plastic cups and pointed us in the direction of the best seats nearby.
We went out back and found a bench facing the bay. This guy noticed our food right away, and hung around watching us for a very long time:
We hung out enjoying the view for a while, and then once it started getting dark, decided to head over to Mission Chinese while it was still early. We’d heard they always had lines to get in, and we figured that would ensure us a table. We walked over to the BART station nearest the Ferry Building, and rode to the same stop as usual. (What we’d quickly realized is that the Mission is where San Francisco keeps all its best food.)
The place opened at 5, and we arrived shortly before 5:30 to find a line had already formed. There was a clipboard hanging out front with the menus, so we put our name down. There were probably 6 people ahead of us, and one of the hostesses said that the wait probably wouldn’t be very long. We stood around admiring the massive variety of people in the neighborhood, and finally my name was called 20-30 minutes later.
The place was worth the wait. We got beers, the vinegar peanuts, and I ordered the Thrice-Cooked Bacon vegetarian style. The tofu skin and little rice pancakes were amazing. Matt had the Ma Po Tofu, which he loved just as much.
April texted to see what we were up to, so I told her we would be heading her direction after dinner. We made arrangements to meet at Smuggler’s Cove. Matt and I headed back to the BART after dinner, and rode to the stop near city hall. On the map it didn’t look like the bar was that far (less than a mile, at least), but the neighborhood was weird and deserted. (It was mostly the municipal buildings, so that makes sense.) It turned into a mostly residential area, and we found the place in an unassuming location around the corner.
The main-level bar was closed, but the downstairs and loft were open. We went downstairs and found it just full to the point of there being no seats left (the place is extremely tiny). We ordered drinks at the bar, and admired the decor while we waited. Since we had just visited an original 60s-era tacky tiki bar, it was pretty excellent to get to hang out in the modern variety as well. (Note: the decoration is largely the same, it’s just the drinks that are a world apart.) The bartenders were fantastic, and their drink list was huge.
We took up a corner-standing spot and kept an eye out for seats while we waited for April. A group of three Russians, two men and a woman, came in and got drinks at the bar, but seemed very confused about the tiki concept… one of them just wanted a shot of Jack Daniels. They hung out on the couch surrounding the fish pond for a bit, then left disgustedly. I quickly grabbed the couch, and April showed up shortly afterward.
She noted that they had a drinking challenge, wherein you got a card with all their drinks on it and had to work your way through them, so we picked that up at the bar as well. After a while, a couple vacated a table around a barrel nearby, so we upgraded seating. That worked pretty well for a while until April and Matt went up to the bar to get drinks, and a couple showed up and asked if they were returning. I said yes, but offered to scoot over on the couch to give them some room. (People LOOOOVE communal seating in California. They’re friendlier than Midwesterners.) They took that space and more, basically taking over the table we were using. It was strange.
We had a couple more rounds there, and then it was time to head out for the night. It wasn’t very late, but that would make having brunch and running errands before our flight much easier the next day. We said goodbye to April, and walked back to our hotel.