My love for California isn’t news to anyone. I LOVE it! People sometimes ask me why I keep going back year after year, and there is surely some type of magnet that attracts me to this place. I love San Francisco, Santa Monica and San Diego, but the Desert Cities, located a little over an hour from Los Angeles, have a special place in my heart.
We first went to the area, to Rancho Mirage, to be more specific, by mistake, in 2008. I say by mistake because I was planning that year’s trip to go to San Diego for the first time and whilst exploring Google Maps, I couldn’t resist zooming in, and in and in!I think I must have been to “the desert” a good 10 times ever since and just got back last week.. and already looking at the best dates to go back in 2013. The interesting thing about this place is the variety of places one can go to – restaurants, shops, golf courses, you name it!
First things first – let me explain a little bit about the place. Everyone has heard of Palm Springs – and undoubtedly associate it with Hollywood, “in the good old days”. Streets have indeed been named after Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers and the like, who I am sure were regular visitors to the area. But Palm Springs is just one of the “desert” cities. Others include Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Cathedral City and are not far from 2 slightly larger towns – Indio and Coachella.
As you drive around the place, you keep getting in and out of each city – interesting, but strange. I am making this up, but one could almost say that, for example, Rancho Mirage (which borders with Cathedral City and Palm Desert, for example) is 8 blocks by 8 blocks. Surely there is a reason for this, but I am afraid I do not know the answer.
Why do I like this place? The weather is stunning. Dry heat (easier for me), warm when it’s still cold in Europe, and super warm when it is not. I like it.
If you don’t like playing golf or lounging by the pool, I would say this isn’t the place for you. Also, if you are looking for late night partying, I would suggest other places. Having cleared this up, here is my California Desert Address Book:
It kills me when people say that food in the US isn’t good. I love eating out (pretty much anywhere) and have had some of my best meals in this country. In this area, one is spoiled for choice!
– Morgans in the desert – La Quinta – my most recent discovery and a new favourite. Quite smart, yet relaxed. Loved the steak, short ribs and had possibly the best dessert of the spring – salted caramel and popcorn sundae. Seriously good.
– 3rd Street Corner Bistro – Palm Desert – love the living wine list… basically you get up, and from a selection of 800 bottles or so on display, you choose the one(s) you want! Great value (you are charged at retail prices, not restaurant prices, plus $5 corkage). Special 3-course $30 menu with wine pairings included on Sundays only.
– Pacifica Seafood – Palm Desert – as the name indicates, not a place for meat. Always have oysters and crab cakes (not together!). And great cocktails (Georgia Peach is usually my choice).
– Roy’s – Rancho MIrage – this was a good surprise. I have never been to Hawaii, so not quite sure what Hawaiian Fusion means. But I love the lobster sushi, the macadamia nut crusted mahi-mahi and let’s not talk about desserts (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate).
For a bit of post dinner fun (and think that most people have dinner early – and I mean early!! – we end up trying our luck at the Agua Caliente Casino, which is actually really nice and has a good selection of bars. I am terrible at gambling, and possibly why they want me to go back every time.
Now this is where it gets serious.. you are spoiled for choice and obviously it is one of my favourite “post-pool” and “pre-dinner” activities. We always try to squeeze in a little hour every day, so we don’t get tired.
Downtown Palm Springs is the place to go for vintage boutiques, and most shops have been around for a long time. If you fancy some glamour, well then you can’t miss the desert’s own Rodeo Drive, in Palm Desert. El Paseo, as it is called, is a very nice street which combines art galleries, boutiques, designer shops and some of my favourite American chains such as J Crew (with its own concept, not regular store), Williams Sonoma (makes me want to have 110v power sockets so I can use all their cooking gadgets) and of course, an Apple store.
Lastly, but not the least, one of my favourite places in the world – Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Not going to make any comments, but has a great selection and it is worth joining their VIP Club online before going and printing out the discount coupons. It may become ridiculous. Seriously.
In terms of accommodation, I can only recommend the only place we have ever stayed at – the Westin Mission Hills. This was the hotel we found by “mistake”, and one of our favourites in the world. It is not the most luxurious place I have ever stayed at, but I love it. It’s spacious, super comfortable and quite understated. Oh and with its 2 PGA golf courses, it keeps Mr. O wanting to go back. We call it out home away from home.
There are plenty of choices in the area for every budget, but as always, I can only recommend places I have been to.
Palm Springs International Airport is around the corner, but the area is served by all Greater Los Angeles airports, which are around 1-2 hours drive away.
On this trip we drove from Scottsdale in Arizona to the desert, and from there on to San Diego in our rental car. We flew into Phoenix, AZ and out of San Diego, CA with British Airways.
Our 2012 trip came to an end, but as I said before it is time to start planning our restful week for 2013. Anyone wants to join?