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Learning Prison Slang on Alcatraz Island

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Alcatraz

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You must be prepared if you want to visit Alcatraz Island. The island is isolated and hard to get to, which is what I imagine prisoners thought about San Francisco while Alcatraz was a working federal prison. Okay, maybe not. That’s an intensely exaggerated comparison but you get the idea.

The only way to get to Alcatraz Island is by booking tickets way in advance (I’m talking weeks) and getting on the ferry. Forget about planning breakfast, lunch or dinner before your tour, do it after. You do not want to be late. Your spot will be given away.

The ferry ride itself is worth the price of your ticket. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz Island have you surrounded and anxiety takes over as you attempt to photograph all three landmarks at once. Your time on the island starts with a short greeting from one of the park rangers – many people are not aware that Alcatraz Island is a national park . You are then given a map and left alone. Your tour of Alcatraz is designed and lead by you– it can be as long or short as you want.

I found Alcatraz enchanting.

All my knowledge about prisons comes from Orange is the New Black, but it seems like most prisons are built away from populated areas. Alcatraz, though not easily accessible, is front and centre in San Francisco.

Out of small dirty windows, prisoners could catch glimpses of freedom and everyday life happening right before them. The self-guided Cellhouse Audio Tour told a story about how during New Years Eve, when the wind was strong enough, echoes of women laughing and champagne glasses clinking from parties across the bay would sneak through the cracks of the prison walls to haunt the men.

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little swiss cafe

The Little Swiss Cafe

Little Swiss Cafe

Little Swiss Cafe

Little Swiss Cafe

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I almost forgot to tell you about one of my favorite breakfast stops we found in Carmel-by-the-sea. What a dumbie I am! I don’t deserve that giant bag of sour patch kids I bought myself today. If I wasn’t eating the packet right this moment I would return them.

We somehow got lost in the small, quaint town of Carmel-by-the-dea and asked a very normal looking local where Em Le was located. He had no idea. We hinted that it was the place with the “world famous french toast and pancakes”, but he still looked clueless. As we started to turn away he suddenly perked up, a smile jumped on his face and he said, “I don’t know where that place is but I can help you to find the best pancakes in town.” It was Little Swiss Cafe.

I proceeded to (rudely) take out my phone and add the recommendation under Restaurants in my Things List app.

The cafe deserves to have the word Little in their name, but only when relating to it’s size. It’s heart is big and the plates are even bigger. The eggs come out exactly the way you ask for/want them. The bacon strips are brown and crispy, as are the freshly made hash-browns. The orange juice is tasty, and the drip coffee is aggressively refilled.

As for the belle of the ball, the pancakes; They were as delicious as I was expecting them to be. Thin but thick, yet still fluffy, all at the same time. I don’t know how they do it, but I would sure love to know. The Cheese Blintze seems to be their specialty but our group didn’t have the balls to order it.

Little Swiss Cafe isn’t showy, or flashy, or super duper exciting. But if I had to choose a cafe to eat at consistently for a 30 day breakfast challenge, it would be in my top 5.

Arrive early or expect a bit of a wait.

The Little Swiss Cafe
6th Ave, Carmel, CA 93923, United States

The Bee Experience at Carmel Valley Ranch

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I’m here to write about the ultimate chick, the coolest girl in the world. The Queen B.

No, not Beyonce. Unfortunately. I’m talking the real Queen B, the girl who started it all. Or should I say the girls who started it all, since there have been many Queen Bs and will be more to follow.

Being Queen B is no joke or easy job. You’ve got power to keep under control, a tough business to run, mouths to feed, a community of workers to keep happy, a scent and a dance to perfect as a way to communicate properly, and – for goodness sake – 2,000 eggs to lay per day. All the while she’s got to go through thousands and thousands of deaths every 4-6 weeks as her employees pass away and she out lives them for anywhere up to 5 years.

I signed up for the Bee Experience at Carmel Valley Ranch for the danger of it all. I like to live life on the edge, like most bad ass people out there. You’d know. But after speaking to the resident bee keeper, John Russo, trying some of his honey lavender lemonade, and putting on our astronaut suits we realized there wasn’t much to fear. John had a smoker, which helps calm the bees. Keeps them a bit loopy and lucid. Anyway, bees don’t  actually want to sting us as the die straight after. (lets all give a moment of silence to Thomas J. Sennet – played by Macaulay Kulkin in My Girl – and all the bees that passed that day.)  So, instead we got excited to learn more about the culture and life cycle of these honey bees.

It’s crazy to think that these guys live and die to work hard and make honey. I’m ashamed for taking even a drop of honey for granted. Well, I mostly feel for the female honey bees. We only spotted one male in the hive box we peaked into. John mentioned all the others male honey bees where on some glamorous island, sipping pink lemonade mojitos in speedos. Can’t blame them though, they had booked the trip before they knew we were coming.

I always knew how complex the bee world was, but I never knew details; like the job of “patrol”. No, not the guards who stay outside to make sure only the right people come in, that’s a different thing. These patrol girls are the ones that find the injured, old, or dying bee –  anyone who can no longer contribute – in the hive box and escort them out to die in the cold and alone.

I solute you, my dear honey bee, you have a tough gig.

The Bee Experience at Carmel Valley Ranch
 One old ranch road, Carmel, California 93923

Take me back to Mission.

Farina Pizza

From what I’ve heard San Francisco’s Mission District, it is the east village of New York City and the Fitzroy of Melbourne and the Brick Lane of London.

These types of places are destined to get mixed reviews. They’re different, they’re niche. In my mind though they all deserve an A+, even if I completely understand how others could not agree. But! Sometimes I want to get a bit feisty and say others just don’t GET IT.

Street art definitely isn’t for everyone. There are people that don’t notice the beauty in a place like Mission District. It’s filled with the little things; like skeletons lovers dancing all over the streets gutter. Some people aren’t impressed by a street full of innovative, unique and quality offerings. Some people aren’t stirred by a neighborhood that offers excellent cafe after magnificent restaurant after exquisite bakery. And that’s okay. I’m (kinda) completely and (sort of) totally okay with it. I guess that if everyone preferred the same lifestyle there would not be enough room for everyone.

One thing I know for sure though is that even those people cannot doubt the goodness of the pizza at Farina Pizza. Holy hell!

It was only meant to be a snack.

The Bufalina Pizza – San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, romano cheese, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and a special addition of anchovies – pictured above was ordered by only 2 (me included) out of the 7 of us because “no one else was hungry”. What a joke. As the pizza was placed on our table all hands came up, all plates were cleared, all mouths watered. It was all gone in 3 minutes.

If I had to do one thing differently it would be to spend more eating time in MISSION DISTRICT.

Farina Pizza 
700 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Come in for some more pictures of Mission (as the wanna-be-locals and I call it).

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