If I’m in California, I have to go to the beach. Treated to days of sunshine and warm breezes, the call got stronger the longer I stayed in San Diego.
Coronado was calling. Loudly. Sweetly but loudly. How could I resist a Pacific beach?
It was a Saturday afternoon when all of San Diego came out to play. We took the scenic route. A five minute ferry ride across San Diego Bay made for a good start. The shops and restaurants just past the ferry were packed. This is clearly wedding season. Just past the ferry families were gathered for pictures and ceremonies. Before the day was out we saw no less than 10 bridal parties.
We could have brought a bike on the ferry but instead we rented them, complete with basket, lock and a map of the bike route to the beach. There’s a dedicated bike route for about half of the trip. It follows the water’s edge and goes under the Coronado Bridge. Then, after it skirts one of those impossibly green golf courses California is known for, the bike path ends and cyclists continue on the mostly quiet, rolling streets. I’m the nervous type that wouldn’t take my kids on this route, but the roads are wide, mostly flat with only a few curves and baby slopes. It was an easy 25-minute trip to our destination: the beach in front of the Hotel Del Coronado.
This is the kind of beach you think only exists in movies (and, in fact, its — and the Hotel del Coronado’s — movie credits include “Some Like It Hot”). The beach is wide and curves at both the north and south ends with the silhouette of mountains reminding me that this is not my favorite Atlantic beach. Peaceful waves lap at the shimmering sands. Sand here packs smooth and hard when it’s wet but dry sand is soft as flour. A string of gray rocks gives that gentle landscape a rugged edge. And the naval ship and aircraft carrier on the horizon reminded me how close I still was to San Diego.
Families, young couples and girlfriends had found their place for an afternoon of sun. Photographers were positioning families for portraits by the rocks. musicians played old familiar love songs as guests gathered for the beachside weddings. Every bride glowed bright as the lowering sun. The weather had turned a little cooler overnight so few were playing in the water. Never mind, I had to put my feet into the Pacific — even in spite of signs warning waders to shuffle their feet so they aren’t disturbed by the sting rays.
I’m sure there were many other ways we could have spent our last moments in Coronado but I wanted to see The Del. A rambling old place with the distinctive red conical roof, the Hotel del Coronado whispered tales of glamour, celebrity and romance. It is too much of a lady to tell what it knows but as I walked through those dark wood paneled halls into the soaring lobby, I felt a part of the story.
We stopped for a drink to toast the end of our afternoon before heading back to San Diego.
I had heeded Coronado’s call. In another day, it would be time to head east.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman
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