Friday, August 20, 2010

Palm Springs

We decided not to take a big vacation this summer. My beach assignment doesn't give me much free time, plus we're trying to keep the bank account healthy. But that doesn't mean we can't make a little getaway.

Palm Springs is about a hundred miles east of L.A. in the high desert in the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains. The climate is hot and dry, with an average of 354 days of sunshine each year, and just over 5 inches of rain annually. Winters are warm and clear.

This weather made it a perfect winter resort, attracting tourists and retirees ranging from pennypinchers in trailer parks to the wealthy and glamorous folks who commissioned fantastic, homes from architects like Richard Neutra and others. Palm Springs is a treasure trove of Mid-Century Modern architecture, and of antiques and artifacts sold in stores and galleries along Palm Canyon Drive.

As a summer resort - well, you have to wonder about us. It's in the 70s' at the beach, and finally the weather was clear. What did we do? We drove out to a place where the temperature is 108!

The drive out to Palm Springs take you through fields of turning white windmills, generating electricity.

We checked into the Ace Hotel around 6:00 pm. This hipster haven is built on the site of an old Howard Johnson's Motor Inn. A series of stucco-faced buildings with rooms opening onto balconied walkways circle a courtyard planted with drought-tolerant native trees and shrubs, and a swimming pool. Its restaurant, the King's Highway, is a refurbished Denny's, white globe light fixtures hanging like moons above circular booths ranged beneath rustic stone walls.

While we sat at breakfast, I counted the number of diners gazing fixedly at their hand-held devices. Seven (including, for a little while, me).

Our suite had a living room with a sectional sofa, a walk-in shower, and a bedroom with a queen-size futon. On the wall, photos of '70s celebrities were affixed to a wall of slats with binder clips and hooks. Our coffee table was made of salvage steel, with giant casters and protruding hooks, and it was set upon a calf-skin rug.

There were two flat-screen TVs and a real turntable for lps, with a stack of pop albums like Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors." The mini-bar was geared towards guests who like to party - mid-sized bottles of tequila and Jack Daniels were on offer, along with tubs of candy corn, organic energy bars, flavored iced herbal tea, and "Intimacy Kits" - little tin boxes with condoms, lubricant, and flavored gel.

There's a dark cave-like bar, with tattooed bartenders sporting lip-studs. The drinks menu offers artisan cocktails with all-natural organic and herbal ingredients for "muddling" - but, honestly, the reviews on Yelp say the quality is a little spotty and the service is a bit lackadasical.

My cocktail was so weak, I asked the bartender if perhaps I'd been given the wrong menu item. He nonchalantly tipped the gin bottle and glug-glugged another shot into my glass. It was appalling customer service, but he did it with such good nature that I shrugged and cheerfully accepted it.

There were two swimming pools on the property - you could order cocktails and food to be delivered poolside, including adult Sno-Cones (made with alcohol), or even a whole barbecue dinner prepared for you at one of the outdoor fire-pits. The larger swimming pool was the place everyone went to see and be seen. I wandered out there briefly and it reminded me of one of those scenes in a travelogue where the crocodiles lay still in the shallow water, sipping margaritas and awaiting the gazelles who come down to the shore to drink.

The smaller pool was just outside our room, and although a stand-up comedian was working on a monologue in the pavilion next door, the scene was was quieter. We took an evening dip. The water was as warm as a bath.

We toweled off, refreshed, and our skin dried quickly in the hot dry night air. Then we headed to the bar to catch a set played by the band.

My endurance isn't what it was - I had to pack it in around midnight. But when I woke up the next morning at dawn, I got to catch the light show:

6:00 am

6:30 am

7:30 am

The hipsters - and [The Man I Love] - were all still snug in their beds, while I took a walk around and watched the rising sun paint the mountains with color.

If you have a longer stay, you can rent scooters or ride free bikes around town. There's a spa, a bingo night, and DJs on the weekend. Palm Springs is embarking on another century of resort culture - with a new, younger feel.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Those are great pics!

I love my trips to the desert and mountains...I haven't had one in far too long.

Thanks and welcome back, Aunt Snow.

Anonymous said...

I was dreaming of a margarita sno-cone (never mind that it's only 7:30am) until this line: "where the crocodiles lay still in the shallow water, sipping margaritas and awaiting the gazelles who come down to the shore to drink." Then I laughed. :)

I love the desert mountains. The colors constantly change with the sunlight, and I never tire of them.

Ellen Bloom said...

Great photos and travelogue, Auntie!
I guess the Ace really is the hipster hangout of choice. Just saw this today in Cathy of California's blog and she's extremely hip: