Tuesday, May 7, 2002

San Francisco to Sydney - Day 22

Day 22 : San Diego and Surrounds

Yesterday, I had no photos for the blog; today, I've got too many.

Hotel del Coronado We took the San Diego Scenic Tour this morning, and our first tour stop provided the opportunity for the photo you see at left. It's of a hotel in a city called Coronado, which is about 15 minutes from downtown San Diego. The hotel's called the Hotel del Coronado - or just The Del to locals.

The Del is of completely wooden construction. Indeed, it is the largest wooden structure on the West Coast of the US. But, more curious than the material of its construction, is the method.

No plan was ever drawn up to guide the construction of The Del. The design simply evolved as it went : if the builders thought a window was a good idea about here, then that's where one went. This laissez-faire construction approach produced a building with only a superficial unity of design. It costs more than US$250 a night to stay at The Del though, so somebody must like it.

La Jolla Shores

A little later on the tour we stopped at La Jolla Shores (pronounced La Hoya Shores). Here, on what's meant to be the kids' beach, a group of stinky harbour seals has moved in. These hefty creatures just keep popping up unexpectedly in the places that we visit. It's getting so that I'm worried about opening our large bag in case one should wriggle out, grunt and make for the bathroom.

In any case, La Jolla Shores is a pretty spot. Obviously, Dr. Seuss thought this too as he lived in La Jolla Shores for several years prior to his death. It's said that some of the illustrations in his work were inspired by the local scenery.

The second half of our tour was a cruise on San Diego Bay. This took us past a cavalcade of US destroyers and aircraft carriers, including the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz. It's scary just how much military power was arrayed in just a mile or two of water. It's scarier still to realise that what was there today represented less than one-half of the fleet that's based here in San Diego.

Coronado Bay Bridge The cruise also took us out to and under the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge (pictured here), which is 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometres) long, over 200 feet (61 metres) tall, curved and has concrete slabs in its construction that are of honeycomb design. The local tour guides claim that it's 2.2 miles long for two main reasons : firstly, it needed to be at least 2 miles long so that the engineers building it could receive government funding assistance; secondly, given its height, it needed to be this long to ensure that its maximum gradient did not exceed trafficable standards.

Amazingly, the honeycombed concrete slabs serve a military purpose. It's believed that, should the bridge be destroyed and pieces of it fall into the bay, the concrete slabs will float and will therefore be easily towed out of the way. This, so the logic goes, will prevent any enemy from using this tactic as a means to blocking up the bay and so preventing the deployment of the naval vessels docked. Too bad, I guess, if the vessels that are meant to do the slab towing are also destroyed.

Towards the end of the cruise, we had sweeping views of downtown San Diego. The photo at right shows one such view and includes, in the lower right and middle, part of the massive Convention Center. The twin brown towers in the middle of the photo are condominiums, the penthouse suites of which go for upwards of US$4 million. The tall and thin, white concrete building on the left is the Hyatt Hotel. We took photos from the top of this hotel a little later in the day.

One of the striking features of San Diego is how open the bay is compared, say, to Sydney Harbour. As you can see in the photo, there are relatively few high rise buildings near the shore, so there's almost no feeling that the bay is being encroached upon and built-in. This might be the result of good fortune or, more likely, of good planning. Whichever it is, the result is undoubtedly positive.

View from the Hyatt On the cruise we'd been told that the top floor of the Hyatt Hotel was open to the public so, mid-afternoon, we breezed into the hotel lobby and asked for directions to the top. After a brief, 40-floor elevator-trip, we found ourselves looking down on downtown San Diego and San Diego Bay.

In the photo on the left you might be able to make out two large cruise ships, roughly in the middle of the left-hand side of the photo. These are the Star Princess (closest to you) and the Vision of the Seas, and they were docked at the bay alongside the ship on which we took our cruise. They are huge cruise ships. Rooms on the upper decks of the Star Princess are so large that they have their own balcony. It's like a block of units that floats.

Star of India Almost in the shadows of the Vision of the Seas lay the twin-masted Star of India. In the days when it was seagoing, the Star of India was a transportation ship which, for example, transported people to Australia. Now, it houses a museum and hugs the dock. Debbie and I couldn't muster the interest to go onboard. Maybe it was the Aussie music - Debbie thinks The Bushwackers - blaring from its loudspeakers that repelled us.

Originally posted by TC

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