Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hotel Del Over-crowded

This is the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. For most of its life it has been an amazing place and a fantastic example of Victorian beach architecture. The original structure and the majority of the many expansions were all built out of wood. To step into the lobby or grand ballrooms is to step back in time and yet it has been preserved so you can enjoy it today.

We have been spending a weekend here every year for the last five years. It has always been a beautiful and relaxing experience. Although it has always also been an expensive weekend, we always put up with the $4 bottles of water and the $35 breakfasts because the overall experience was worth it. But after five years, we are now ready to throw in the towel. To expensive, you can now add over crowded and, I think, over-extended.

Everthing you see in the shot above is part of the Hotel. In the last 2 years, they added a series of private vacation villas... the low buildings to the left of the main hotel. The major crime here is that while the pools, hot tubs and seating areas of the villas are all closed to Hotel guests, the restaurants and bars of the Hotel are open to guests of the vacation villas. So the Hotel has added what I guess must be 30 to 50 rooms/accomodations without expanding their dining and bar facilities. The result is a line 30 - 40 people long to get into breakfast, crowded bars, and long waits for almost every expensive amenity they offer. The amazing beauty of the surroundings is constantly interupted by the choking crowds. Some of the staff remains attentive and civil while others seem to be as frustrated with the crowds as the guests.

The owners seem to know what they're doing. The new vacation villas are tastefully designed in the spirit of the original hotel. They also seem to be keenly aware of how to charge large sums of money for everything to pay off their large investment. There is something very democratic about the original hotel. Its always been an exclusive hotel. But a stroll through the hotel, a drink at the bar, high tea was open to all. Sadly, their financial greed seems to have tarnished the Del's former sparkle.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Conflict in the Middle Beach

This a shot of Coronado Beach in San Diego. What happened here today was an amazing illustration of what I imagine must be much larger and frequent problems in the Middle East. Around 12:00 a group of around 30 Arabic-speaking people moved decisively into the middle of a bunch of other people already sitting and laying on the beach. They followed a leader who was dressed in a head-to-toe black robe and was, I assume, a religious official from their mosque. They arrived with four large pop-up tents... the kind that you see at street festivals defining a sales booth. To say there was room for maybe one would not be exagerating the case. But they proceeded to setup all four right on top of the others around them. One-by-one, we all looked up in amazement... thinking they couldn't possibly keep expanding. But expand they did. The third tent went up within a foot of my chair and the remaining space was later taken up by one of their coolers. As they continued to set the tents up, the people that had been sitting nearby... all comfortable spaced apart began to get up and move away... incredulous at what was unfolding before their eyes. I took this shot an hour later after even more people had moved away in disgust and disbelief. The fourth and final tent went up literally right on top of another couple's two chairs and umbrella. The couple was somewhere else at the time so they were up for a rude awakening when they returned to find their stuff folded up and moved away.

The majority of this obnoxious group seemed oblivious to the rudeness of their actions. Three quarters of the beach was empty... they could have had all the room they wanted if they had setup just 50 feet further back from the water. Did they want to piss off everyone around them? I have no idea. There was one teenage boy who was helping to setup and finally noticed that the rest of us on the beach were not happy. He told his buddy who seemed to tell him to ignore us. Which is exactly what they all seemed to be doing. I don't think you could do something this rude and callous if you were aware of the reactions of those around you.

It was just space on the beach. No one got hurt. But I can't help but think that their actions have something in common with the problems going on inthe Middle East. Over the last 10 years, my support for the Palestinian cause has grown while my acceptance of Israel's heavy-handed aggression has decreased. But I have to wonder whether behavior like I experienced on the beach in San Diego had a lot in common with what is going on everyday in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and anywhere else there are land disputes between Israelies and Palestinians. Disputes among neighbors are normal and happen everywhere. But most are resolved by being aware of how your neighbors react to your actions. If they can engage in overtly rude behavior in a foreign country while ignoring the reactions of people only inches away, what hope is there for the towns in conflict across the Middle East.