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The Hotel Del Coronado

While visiting my parents in San Diego this summer we spent a few days in the Hotel del Coronado for a beach vacation. Since I only visit once a year from Turkey I tend to stay a while, and we like to break up the time with a get-away. Last summer we went to Santa Barbara for a week of eating and exploring.

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The Del is most famous to Americans as the location of the film “Some Like it Hot”, in which Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dress in drag in order to get work as jazz musicians in an all-girl band (and then meet Marilyn Monroe).Europeans might have heard of it as the place where the Duke of Windsor met Mrs Simpson, an association indicating the level of grandeur once associated with the hotel.

The lobby of the Del Coronado

The lobby of the Del Coronado

The Lobby still suggests this past era, with its dark wood decor and giant chandelier, but only if you happen to wake up at 7:30 and grab a shot like this one before the place is overflowing with visitors. When we checked in the lobby looked more like the long lines at Disneyland than an elegant retreat. This was partly because it was Sunday, the only day the Crown Room is open for an elaborate brunch. But it’s not just the brunch that draws crowds from outside the hotel; the general public is welcome to traipse through the lobby and grounds at any time. You need a room card to access the swimming pools, but hotel guests must compete with the public for  tables at all restaurants and bars. On a summer weekend the crowds are noticeable, although we were still able to find a table when we wanted one.

Even without the general public, the hotel ambiance was more family resort than quiet retreat. With room prices starting at $400 for a single and $500 for a double, we’d expected a clientele more like the upscale cruise lines, i.e. older couples.  So we were surprised at the number of families with young children. I’ve nothing against children per se, but by the third time I was hit with a plastic ball while trying to swim it occurred to me I might be in the wrong place.

The main pool,  Hotel del Coronado

The main pool at the Del, in an uncharacteristically quiet moment.

 Sure enough, there is an Adult Only pool for  old fogies likes me. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a hike for even older fogies like my dad, especially when you consider that just to get from his room to the outside he had to walk around the building, take the elevator, and then walk through the shopping hallway. But the Boardwalk Pool was lovely once we got there, even when we had to share it with seagulls.

adult pool, Del Coronado

The adult pool at the Del.

Besides swimming in the pool and walking on the beach (swimming in the Pacific Ocean is only for polar bears) the Del offers excercise classes, including yoga and zumba, which my mother and I sampled.  The yoga was very gentle, which was good for my mom and other beginners. The zumba class was great for everyone; the steps were simple and the music was fun. It could be a very challenging workout for those who wanted to push themselves, or a mid-level dance hour for those who modified the steps to low-impact moves. There were young folks jumping around and old folks who hardly moved; Mom and I were in between.

Another fun exercise option is to rent a bike for an hour. I enjoyed riding around and getting a look at the town of Coronado, which was quite lovely. There’s every kind of architectural style you can imagine, from Cape Cods to A-frames to Tudor, Spanish and various modern experiments, but every home looks freshly painted, every yard freshly mowed. It’s like a movie set for one of those perfect suburbs.

Coronado mansion

A Coronado home

Without the Palm trees, I’d have placed the above house in Westchester rather than Southern California. But the house below reminds me of New Orleans or Mississippi.

Coronado home with porch and picket fence

I tried to get a bit of excercise every day to counter the amount of food I took in.  We generally ate at the Sheerwater, where the food was excellent. The decor was nothing to speak of, being a typical hotel  buffet breakfast room, so we ate outside with the beach view. I found it a bit odd, though, that weddings were held on the grassy knoll between the beach and the restaurant during dinner hours, making us feel like wedding crashers. Somehow I doubt that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had a similar dining experience, being serenaded by the auctioneer at a Chabad benefit in the Friedman wedding.

The one thing that hasn’t changed since the old days at the Del Coronado is the use of elevator operators. The antique elevators require manual opening and closing of two sets of doors, just like the antique elevator in my New York brownstone did.  In my apartment, of course, we had no elevator operator. This resulted in the elevator being stuck on the fourth floor whenever I returned home with a suitcase, because the last person who’d brought up their groceries had forgotten to close the elevator doors. With operators, the Del’s elevators are always running. Of course modernized elevators would run faster, but the building is only 5 stories so the ride isn’t very long.

elevator operator at Del Coronado

Andrew, on of the Del’s elevator operator

Plus, we got to meet Andrew, who never failed to entertain us. Although he looks old enough to have started at the Del when it opened in 1888, he’s sharp enough to remember everyone’s name and floor. Not only that, he’s also quite observant. When I was in the elevator alone he asked after my parents, Bobby and Buddy. My mom’s reading, I told him, while my dad takes a nap. “Buddy needs a nap”, he opined,”he was a bit grumpy when he arrived.”

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2 thoughts on “The Hotel Del Coronado

  1. We have never stayed at the Del but we have walked the gardens and the property. On one visit we treated ourselves to the fabulous Sunday brunch and we were fortunate enough to be seated right in the huge bay windows. I think we stretched our brunch out for a good 2+ hours – it was so lovely (and pricey) so we wanted to enjoy the experience!

    • My Mom tells me the Crown Room is the most beautiful room on the hotel. When she was there in 1950 all meals were served there!

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