Taking a tip from Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, we signed up for a walking tour guide for just the two of us. Well worth the money. Nancy has lived on Coronado Island for 30 years and knows everything and everybody. (Sorry for the poor lighting in the photo, but it is the only one we got of Nancy.)
We started the tour in the Glorietta Hotel lobby. The hotel was once the summer home for one of the men who made Coronado Island happen, Mr. Spreckels. Crafty old guy. He knew the Panama Canal was nearing completion and San Diego was the first stop up the coast. His vision paid off.
Next, Hotel del Coronado (“The Del”). It was built in the late 1800’s by a man who only knew how to build railroad trestles and railway stations. The dining room is designed like a railway station and is fabulous. The lumber was shipped on barges from northern California—all redwood for the framing. Hiring mostly Chinese labor from San Francisco, the hotel was built in only 11 months.
Wallis Simpson (then Wallis Spencer) first laid eyes on Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (although they did not meet) at the Hotel del Coronado when she was married to a military man stationed there. The locals do not think too highly of Wallis. It is believed she purposely set her sights on the Prince when he stayed at Hotel del Coronado and laid out a plan to marry him one day with every intention of becoming the Queen. Obviously, she married the Duke of Windsor, but did not become Queen much to the glee of the people who knew her while she lived in Coronado. Quite a different story from the romantic one we usually hear.
The tour included a walk through the neighborhood of tiny 100-year old Victorian homes priced at $2 million on up. But, there was one little special home. The home of L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. It is said that Coronado Island and Hotel del Coronado gave him the inspiration for the description of the Emerald City. I believe it, it is lush and beautiful.
Did you know the biggest obstacle for Coronado and San Diego then and today is water? There is no nearby water source in all of San Diego; it is pumped from the Colorado River over the mountains. Combine this with a population that has grown from 800,000 to 3 million in only 25 years.
Wonderful day with a relaxing early dinner at Vigilucci’s (excellent, excellent food) and a walk on the beach (see The Del in the background?).