Sunday, October 31, 2010
When we arrived by rental car from Las Vegas late Saturday night our vacation home was lit up and waiting for us. The carport led us through a lovely little path to the front door. I immediately saw a plaque: "Peace to all who enter here" and it couldn't have been more prophetic. The first thing we saw when we opened the door was the wall of sliding glass doors revealing the patio area and a beautiful blue lit-up pool shimmering in the moonlight. I resolved to use the pool that very night before bedtime. On the side of the house was another sliding glass door that led from the bedroom out to another seating area and the hot tub. We could tell already this was going to be a great week! Best of all, the entire yard was surrounded by 12 foot hedges and totally private.
As so many homes in the area this home was built in the late 50's by the Alexander architectural firm and utilizing many design elements from William Krisel. Those included beamed tongue and groove ceiling, a carport, a courtyard between the open carport and house, a butterfly roofline and interesting indoor/outdoor relationships. The interior is decorated with vintage retro pieces throughout, in keeping with the 50's aethetic.
To rent this beautiful vacation home, click HERE.
I took pictures of everything in the house so I could remember every detail. Click on the picture to be directed to a full screen slideshow:
In order to get a sense of the history of the area I went on a tour of the homes in Palm Springs with PS Modern Tours, which I found online. The gentleman leading the tour was Robert Imber, who is actively involved in the historical preservation of Palm Springs and who, I am sure, could keep us entertained with stories for weeks on end. There were a small group of us on his van tour, with Robert talking as he was driving and cramming in as much information as he possibly could in the three hours.
He explained that Palm Springs was settled by the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla indians, (whose name literally means "hot water".) People used to come here for cures, long before the area became the celebrity mecca of the middle of the century. The city went through many incarnations, from agriculture in the early years, to a military town in the early thirties during the war, to the mid-40's to 1970 boom. In the 70's it lost it's cache and was forgotten until GQ, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker started publishing articles and photos of the city with its fascinating architecture and suddenly it was rediscovered and became fashionable again. Robert told us of many of the most prolific and famous architects, including the Alexander family (who tragically died in a plane crash, which ended their empire). They included the aforementioned William Krisel, John Porter Clark, Buff and Hensman, A. Quincy Jones, Swiss architect Albert Frey, Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright), among others.
Another day we visited the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, the world's largest rotating Tramcar (built in Switzerland) which ascends 2-1/2 miles to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto. We could see that the peak was enshrouded in clouds, but we decided to take the ride anyway. We could see the surrounding area clearly from the tram almost all the way up to the top. The difference between the arid desert from which we began our drive to the pine covered, dewy peak was dramatic. The temperature can drop 40 degrees in the course of the 10 minute ride. There is a restaurant at the top where we would have had lunch if the weather had permitted. Another time I would like to return to do some hiking at the peak as well.
One of the most beautiful hiking sites in the area is Indian Canyons, so named for the Agua Caliente tribe of Cahuilla Indians which settled the area centuries ago. There are numerous hiking trails, with signs warning of rattlesnakes (which I found about later, after I had been on a rather extensive solo hike!) The huge boulders precariously and delicately perched upon one another reminded me a little of Virgin Gorda. We drove our car through two of them that looked like they would fall over any minute. Down a steep trail I found myself in a cool grotto of palm trees (aptly named Palm Canyon). It was what I imagined finding a real oasis in the hot desert would be like. Other hikes would bring you to a 60 foot waterfall (which was not running at the time we were there.) At the trading post I had a wonderful time photographing my favorite bird: the hummingbird. Their feeders were teeming with them and they were not afraid of me.
Palm Springs is reputed to only get three days of rain a year. Wouldn't you know it, we were here for all three of them! There was a record rainfall on one of the days which occurred while we were driving. It actually made national news.
During our week in Palm Springs, thanks to the suggestions of our local friend, we visited several restaurants: El Mirasol for authentic Mexican; Spencers, a beautiful place for Sunday brunch with a fantastic outdoor eating space; Cheeky's, another good breakfast spot; and we had drinks poolside at the Colony Palms Hotel, which has been restored to it's former Hollywood heyday glory. Other activities included a visit to the Art Museum where we enjoyed a special exhibition by Richard Avedon and the Thursday night Villagefest in downtown, a street fair with artist's booth and food tents. I wish we had not eaten first, because one of the food tents was serving freshly made paella for a pittance! There were also food tents from local date farms. If you have not tasted a fresh date, you are in for a treat.
Our first order of business was getting something to eat. The city center tram was just outside the door and up the stairs from Vdara and the first stop was Crystals, a shopping and dining mall. We opted for Todd English P.U.B. and we were so happy with our choice. I had my first ever lobster roll, with big chunks of lobster lightly dressed in mayo on a split buttered and toasted bun. I am dreaming about it still.
In the evening we had tickets to see "Jersey Boys", a show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I had heard so much about it but had never seen it. It was as good as had been reported to me. Our eyes were glued to the stage the whole performance. One of Eric's high school friends, Deven May, played one of the leads and he and the rest of the cast were just superb. The music rang in our ears the rest of the night. We topped off the evening with a late supper at Julian Serrano, a Spanish tapas restaurant. The decor and the food were absolutely over the top. Another meal I am still dreaming about! Georg had the lobster gazpacho, I had the ahi tuna tempura, the brava potatoes and the mushroom risotto (blush). Of course, I shared with him!!! Each was wonderful. I would return to Vegas just to revisit this restaurant.