A month and a day after we returned from Maui, we set off to Palm Springs. Life sounds so sweet, huh? Well, I’m starting a contract position in March that I respectfully did not want to mess up by taking vacation in the midst (I never do anyhow, never going away for my birthday in March, boo) and no other travel plans later this year. But the interface between the two roles presented a nice opportunity to go away and we (I) considered a few cities within the limits that NPY set, that is, nowhere far.
I considered Phoenix (never been to but NPY has), San Diego (never been to but NPY has), Palm Springs (both never been to) and good ole stand-by Las Vegas. We are practically nuts to consider going to the States with the current dollar but there is nowhere in Canada that you would want to go in the end of February – and that includes Vancouver. (It has been a horrible winter for eastern Canada.) A quick search of things to do in Phoenix kind of made me yawn – the cuisine doesn’t sound great and all that is recommended is to visit some parks and look at arid nature. San Diego is interesting and correspondingly expensive. Palm Springs yielded similar search results as Phoenix but it has the advantage of being a reasonable drive away from LA for some variety and action. Vegas was the cheapest and I was there last year for SIL’s stagette (wherein daytime Vegas was not exactly much explored) and NPY hasn’t been to since 2012 but he still wasn’t thrilled.
As it turns out, BIL and his girlfriend got “stuck” with flights to Palm Springs and it swayed our decision. NPY bemoans that we don’t travel with others and sometimes I can be darned inflexible with my dates and that precludes other people’s schedules. So I really wanted to be flexible once because goodness knows when I can be again. I’m always down for going somewhere different and making the best of it.
Like it would be so hard with Palm Springs… Palm Springs has over 300 days of sunshine [source] because it’s in a desert while Vancouver has on average 168 days of precipitation [source]. That’s a very good start….
So, we arrived in Palm Springs shortly after 11 a.m. on the direct Westjet flight. The airport is adorable and circular in shape and the draping white roof reminds me of Premium Outlets and walking into a resort hotel. I’ve seen far worse for small airports. We picked up the rental car and head towards our aunt’s vacation home in a gated community in Palm Desert.
We drove by Sherman’s Deli on the way to the house and with the multiple recommendations I’ve heard, I was confident suggesting it. Full from lunch, we drove half an hour out to Desert Hills Premium Outlets and Cabazon Outlets. We walked around the East Village wing of Desert Hills and I scored at Kate Spade and stuck to a theme. You gotta love 50% off outlet price then an additional 20% off! Overall, there was a high representation of high-end designer stores we didn’t have a taste for and we checked out the smaller Cabazon Outlets whose redeeming feature was the Under Armor store.
We shopped at Trader Joe’s and Walmart where we picked up a flat of water (much needed) and items to prepare dinner, snacks and breakfast.
The next day, we set out for Joshua Tree National Park which was on Jo’s wishlist. (Outlet shopping was Chris’.) We entered the park but then exited to top up our gas, apprehensive of the possibility of running out in the middle of the desert/park. There was a Subway in the gas station and it inspired us to have that as a snack in the park.
Our stops in the park included Hidden Valley Trail, Keys View, Cholla Cactus Garden and Cottonwood Spring and we were there for several hours.
At some points on the nearly 60-mile drive, I wanted to stop and take a picture of the landscape where Joshua trees were dotted as far as you could see, not too densely, and each is so unique from single “trunks” to young ones with tidy branches to aged ones that look like a clan with so many branches and even bent over.
It seemed to me that a Joshua tree might be a metaphor for life and individual beauty. The desert conditions are harsh but the “trees” (they are in fact plants) survived if rooted deeply. Each one will branch differently and the are prickly when you see them up close, but they are all beautiful no matter the shape or stage. In The Glass Castle, which I have not read, Jeannette Wells employs the Joshua tree as symbolism representing the Walls children who struggle but attain a strange beauty.
Then we started seeing these cactus which I can only describe its colour as ombre and as they grew in number, we knew we had arrived at the Cholla Cactus Garden. Immediately there were signs warning of the cacti being hazardous. “If the plant any helpful or even innocent part in the scheme of things on this planet, I should be glad to hear of it.” It’s a shame such a cute plant has such a poor reputation, I found myself saddened for it.
The Joshua tree and Cholla cactus are so unique I want to grow one each of my own. You can buy Joshua tree seeds around Palm Springs and thank goodness I didn’t because my luggage got searched. :P
On our way back into town from the national park, we stopped at Coachella, NPY’s first brewery on the trip. I wasn’t overly pleased with the number of fruit flies and flies. They were really bold and settled on me even though I was walking around and away from the group. Making my Chinese New Year phone calls, you know. If it were just me and NPY, I might have pushed to eat at Villagefest but The Cheesecake Factory was far better and NPY doesn’t like street food.
Villagefest is a year-round street festival in Palm Springs on Thursday evenings so we definitely wanted to check it out, our stay being over a Thursday. It was larger than I expected and busy enough. It was our first glimpse of the city we were visiting and the streets were pleasantly palm-lined.
One of the coolest crafts I saw were the lanterns that looked “laser cut”. It turns out they were all made from tin cans and the artist was creating new ones on the spot. So I did take down her website, Tin Can Metal Art.
We were off to LA! The day before was the first time NPY suggested staying overnight and part of me balked internally because of the cost but it was a good decision. I was chagrined to learned that my Starwood Points balance is pitiful and I couldn’t even get one night at a Four Points. I didn’t have enough Marriott points either. And Aeroplan where I was sure (?) I had enough points was down for maintenance all evening. NPY found a good rate for the Westin near LAX so we went with that.
We didn’t roll out altogether that early but we weren’t in a rush with two days now in LA. On our way into LA, we stopped at The Donut Man in Glendora quickly followed by Baccali Cafe in Alhambra.
We walked off lunch after a drive to Santa Monica. We wandered around the beach and pier then on Third Street Promenade. At the pier, we saw a sea lion again playfully swimming around the fishing lines at the end of the pier and a whale was nearby, too. As we left the pier, we started seeing people walking around their pet pythons, first at an intersection between the pier and promenade, then two more on the promenade! We’ll say my walk was spoiled and I was hiding in NPY’s shirt. Some colourful art in the Apple Store and Girl Guides selling their full selection of cookies were the highlights.
After Santa Monica, we were ready to head to KTown for dinner and were just shocked it would take over an hour to get 10 miles there. Checking into the hotel also seemed prohibitive so we just drove to the next neighbourhood, that is, UCLA in Westwood.
Our dinner was simple, at the campus In-N-Out which was as grubby and busy as any other with the added spectacle of university kids coming or going to a costume party. I was chuffed to learn that Chilly Ribbons (which I’ve had on my list to try for a while) is also on campus so we had a choice between truly shaved ice or ice cream sandwiches at Diddy Riese. Only I went to Chilly Ribbons. Chris discovered Bibigo and Jo and NPY got ice cream. Everyone was satisfied.
We checked in to the hotel and freshened up quickly to go to El Segundo Brewing with enough time before it closed at 10 p.m. It turned out to close at 11 so all the better. It is located at a happening corner and across the street from Rock & Brews which looks like a permanent beer garden, i.e., lots of fun. The brewery was far more fun and a better environment all around.
It was too early to turn in so we drove around the city since traffic was then light and observed the nightlife from the car on Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Boulevard and KTown. In Hollywood, we saw the block being set up for the Oscars ceremony that would take place two days later but of course we couldn’t see that much.
We were a little directionless on Saturday in LA. Jo had seen and advertisement for the LA Farmers Market and I hoped she would like it more than I did. But in the very area was the Grove which provides photo opps if anything. We strolled through the market and then had a casual lunch at Veggie Grill. I thought we might just redo the meals from last year, that is, stick around and then eat a Umami but we left the area instead.
Chris expressed a great deal of interest in shopping at Uniqlo so I directed us to Beverly Center. NPY likes malls so everyone was accommodated. At the mall, we split up because NPY has had a hankering for a Superdry jacket for a while and we checked out the shop on Third Street Promenade to no avail. At the Beverly Center location, we scored from the clearance rack in the back, their signature styles of Windhiker (for him) and Windcheater (for me) were just $49, down from $110+. Not bad. If he was going to get one, I couldn’t be left out when the women’s styles were right next door. :P
Our two-day journey to LA was winding down and we had a two-hour drive ahead of us so we fueled up at Jeon Ju in K-Town on an early dinner. They are well-known for their bibimbap but our stone bowl wasn’t hot enough. I thought the new (to me) varieties of banchan redeemed the place.
We returned to Palm Springs and downloaded with our aunt and uncle who had come in not too much earlier than we did from Las Vegas via LA.
Sunday was our designated chill and relax day and I did that to the hilt just eating and sleeping.
We had brunch at Norma’s which we discovered in New York. The Meridien that houses Norma’s in Palm Springs was a different turn from New York – funky and laid back compared to elegant and sparkly but the fun creations on the menu were still present.
Of all the surprises, it started to rain right after brunch so our plan to stroll We got rained out of Sunnylands were nixed. We learned about Sunnylands, “Camp David of the West” just the night before from our relatives and after checking out the website, I was eager to visit. We could only stroll the grounds because the tours were booked up for the next two weeks. Camp David is a name that has inspired my imagination until I finally read the Camp David Wiki page and it’s a prosaic military base. :P
Instead, we went to dropped NPY off at Morongo Casino Resort and deemed it too smoky to endure. Thus we missed out on the only celebrity sighting of the trip. He was watching and waiting for a low-limit poker table when he started to notice a fellow with sunglasses and a cap was flanked by one bodyguard. NPY thought it as Justin Bieber and later confirmed it by Google Image searching and matching the neck tattoo he saw. ;)
Chris, Jo and I returned to Desert Hills Premium Outlets and learned that the first day, we missed the West Village wing and checked out those stores which were more accessible in general than the ones in the East Village.
We raced back to meet up with our relatives for sushi at Okura Sushi, a splendid all-you-can-eat Japanese meal of exceptional quality. NPY did babble that it was the best food he had outside of Vancouver!
Monday was our last day and we had nearly a full day. In the morning, NPY and I did an airport drop off for Chris and Jo then we walked around downtown Palm Springs. They have a Walk of Stars and by daylight and with a longer stroll, I could finally see some names I recognized. I also discovered Heavenly Couture, a California chain of shops that resells fashion so obviously imported from a Chinese wholesaler. Nothing was over $16. (Nothing was under $16 by my observation, either.) Another shop that is really pretty is Destination PSP.
We met up with our aunt and uncle for lunch at Elmer’s, a low-key diner chain after which, funny enough, we were ready to leave town as there wasn’t really time to do much. I discovered and would like next time to go on a windmill farm tour because those windmills in their number by both day and night can mesmerize me. It’s good that there are activities and sights for the next time we return.
On our relatives’ recommendation, we killed the early afternoon with a visit to Nordstrom Rack in Town Center Way but had a better time in Palm Desert Mall where I discovered Charming Charlie and liked it so much I blogged about it.
Our rental return time was two hours before our flight so we made it in time and just hung out at the cute airport until our departure.
After all of these years of hearing about Palm Springs, it was nice to visit but it was too soon after our last trip, even for my likes! It as great to travel with family on a real away trip. We just go our credit card statement (okay, could have checked online) and, oh, does that exchange rate hurt such that I’m for once happy to travel in Canada! That, I hope, will be in May!