Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Sun!

We are lucky to have found the perfect vacation home in Palm Springs and for the second year in a row took a week out of winter to enjoy endless sun and warmth out west. Palm Springs and surroundings has it all: great food, shopping, sophistication without stuffiness, luxury without exhorbitant prices, creature comforts and nature's beauty.

What a refreshing change it was to fly directly into and out of Palm Springs airport. Even the airport security seemed to realize their good fortune, joking with each and every passenger. The lovely little restaurant on the premises served what I will remember as being the best, reasonably priced breakfast burrito I have ever had.

Renting the same home as last year gave us the opportunity to enjoy a swimming pool and hot tub in the complete privacy of a backyard lined with twelve foot hedges. No need to get dressed for breakfast if we didn't want to. With a supermarket and liquor store within a five minute drive and Costco ten minutes away we were stocked and ready to enjoy the week.

Cooking in saves tons of money but for those mornings when we did crave great food without the elbow grease, there were several fabulous breakfast spots nearby: Koffi and Cheeky's. Koffi is a dog friendly enclave off the main drag, a place to sit and sip and enjoy being outside with humanity. Cheeky's has an amazing breakfast and lunch menu and has recently added an outdoor dinner only dining area named Birba which has a bar, firepits and couches on which to relax and socialize. Our French vodka-spiked lemonade and wood oven charred pizza margherita were perfection. The day's dry heat was dissipated by the misters over the bar area. We enjoyed lunch at Tylers on Indian Canyon in town, as well as great burgers at the new restaurant Grind Brgr Bar on Palm Canyon Road. Our last meal was at Johannes, also on Indian Canyon Road. Johannes, as you might suspect, has European fare, specifically Austrian, as the owner is from Austria. Amazing spatzle (small dumplings tossed with bacon and cheese, topped with carmelized onions), weinerschnitzel and apple strudel reminded me of home. I am also of Austrian descent and the owner came to our table several times for delightful conversation and even kissed me on both cheeks as we departed.

Beautiful nature and photo ops are within a one to two hour drive. We opted this time for Joshua Tree National Park. I was fascinated by the oddly-shaped trees with their branches seemly outstretched to the heavens, in supplication to God. The Jumbo Rocks area was a good place for some easy hiking and endless photography. There is a campground on the premises, which would be great to explore the area more fully.
On the way home we stopped at Frontiertown, which was built in 1946 as a movie set. It was fairly deserted, but a few shopkeepers were friendly and eager to talk. It was like walking into an old Western ghost town. The liveliest place there is Pappy and Harriet's, a bar and restaurant with old fashioned barbeque and foot stomping music on the weekends.

Another favorite place of ours is Indian Canyons, just outside of Palm Springs. The trading post has hummingbird feeders that attract a steady stream of hummingbirds who are not afraid of people. I must have taken 100 photos of the birds. You can hike down to the Palm Oasis or hike on the other side of the trading post to the waterfall (in season). I love their website and especially the beautiful haunting music on it:

No one should miss the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. Rising 8500 feet from the ground station to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, the tram rotates to afford each passenger a chance at the breathtaking view. At the top are several restaurants and a variety of hiking trails to choose from. The best part was escaping the 95 degree heat below to a refreshingly brisk 55 at the top.

For a one day side trip we chose to drive to San Diego, a little over two hours one way, to visit the San Diego Zoo and have dinner with friends who live there. The zoo was incredible, a highlight being the Giant Panda exhibit. What a privilege it was to be able to see them up close. The transit system in the park was convenient and amazing and included in the price of admission. We had dinner later at Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad, a restaurant we enjoyed years ago when it was located in Old Town. It lost nothing in the translation in its reincarnation at the Carlsbad location. The ambiance, music and food were just as good as we remembered. The weather in the San Diego area was much cooler than we had experienced all week in hot Palm Springs. We were glad to drive home that night and get back to the sun and warmth.

There was so much more to see and do, we are sincerely hoping our Second Annual Trip to Palm Springs will become a Third, Fourth and so on.

Here is a link to our extremely reasonable vacation rental that we were fortunate to find. It is located in the Racquet Club estates area which is dotted with mid-century modern architecture. The house is decorated with whimsical vintage furnishings straight out of the 50's with memorabilia from the elegant Hollywood Palm Springs era.