CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME!
H.H. (hunky husband) and I planned a trip to California in December to recover from the fall tax season and visit family for the holidays. But we had to dig our way out of 18 inches of the fluffy white stuff to get down the mountain where we live in Western North Carolina. Not exactly an auspicious start, I admit.
Since our snow blower gives-up-the-ghost after 5 inches or so, that meant some hard labor was necessary to get us out of our winter wonderland. Youngest son to the rescue, as he had arrived a few days earlier to house and dog sit during our trip. Kids, they can really come in handy!
FABULOUS PALM SPRINGS
Angst aside, we arrived in Palm Springs and were immediately struck by the starkness of the desert. It’s a kind of hard-edged beauty meant to be taken in large panoramic gulps, rather than broken down into seemingly inconsequential rocks, tumbleweed and cliques of cacti dotting the landscape.
Each morning we felt as if we had been “slapped” in the face as we took in the 360-degree view comprised largely of sculptural rock formations stacked one upon the other. Occasionally they were punctuated by scraggly-branched bushes which slung low to the ground and, of course, lots of those aforementioned cacti.
Enough about the desert for now, more later when we get to the Joshua Tree National Park. Turns out I really like cactus, who knew? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Palm Springs enjoys a history rich with Hollywood glamour day memories that spill over into the current residents living “the good life”. Which by the way, is a very important part of this blog’s purpose, to help our readership to find what the good life means to them and to start living it.
Here’s a pic of H.H. and I in our Ingredients For A Fabulous Life caps. We try to take a pic everywhere we travel. Keep your eyes peeled for us in fabulous places around the world!
PALM SPRINGS VILLAGEFEST – KINDA QUIRKY!
Southern California weather being what it is, Palm Springs hosts an event called VillageFest on Thursday evenings throughout the year, something unheard of in Asheville, NC where we currently reside.
We shared the evening with Palm Springs’ eclectic blend of residents, enjoying people-watching as we wandered through the streets. VillageFest attracts everyone, like the frosted blond wearing as much gold as Mr. T, with clear acrylic heeled pumps wheeling her tiny beribboned canine in its designer doggie-stroller.
Next in the long line was a young Mexican mom with her lollipop-licking cutie in his Target umbrella stroller. After a brief chuckle, I jumped in line when I realized the prize at the end was a “fried-to-order” churro, hot from the oil, quickly rolled in cinnamon sugar and presented in a white paper wrapper. One word, YUM! Yes, I let H.H. have a bite, but just one!
STREET BUSKERS BRING THE MEMORIES FLOODING BACK
Several blocks of prime downtown are blocked off mid-afternoon and the vendors spill in to fill the streets with their handcrafted wares, original art, artisanal beauty products and a fabulous array of food. A heady mixture of spices permeated the air, joined by the sounds of the many talented buskers, my favorite of which crooned an inspired rendition of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
Several blocks later we were serenaded by a group of teens belting out Get Down Tonight by the legendary (at least in my day) K.C. & the Sunshine Band. Are they still around? Alive even?
Many of the quirky boutiques were open late and offered an astounding array of items for perusal. Did you know that there is a store in PS that touts items that help you live the “Palm Springs Lifestyle”? I kid you not! Of course, we couldn’t resist seeing exactly what “stuff” would bring this lifestyle to fruition. Spoiler alert – the store was filled with expensive totes, luxury pet items, neat bowl sets, plastic glassware, etc. Yes, all very cool, but how exactly are these items a lifestyle changer? It’s a mystery to be sure!
RED SEQUINS WITH WHITE CHINCHILLA, OKAY…
Just a few doors down, we saw a fabulous red sequined dress trimmed in real white chinchilla in the window. What fun! True to upscale boutique tradition, several of the stores had fashionable young gals holding silver serving trays standing in their doorways. Needless to say, H.H. figured he would score a free sample of something yummy, and made sure to bring me one too. (He’s sweet like that!) Luckily, I got a chance to see what was in the little paper cup and stopped him before he squeezed the creamy dollop into his waiting mouth. It was a sample of their newest hand cream… Nan gets the save!
The food choices were glorious and many, and ranged from spicy chicken shawarma, juicy lamb kebabs, falafel and everything in between. We always share when we are eating street food, that way we get to eat lots of different things along the way. We started with a steaming Salvadorian papusa(s) which was a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese, black beans and pork. It came with what I can only describe as a Salvadorian version of kimchi. Fab!
IT GOT A LITTLE MESSY!
We moved on to a smothered Polish kielbasa sandwich (I’m 50% Polish), then we needed to get some of the freshly fried falafel with a creamy onion and cucumber spiked sauce and diced tomatoes stuffed in a fluffy pita. We wandered some more and then fell to the temptation of a refreshing Dole pineapple whip from one of the shops along the thoroughfare. Just what the doctor ordered!
No pics you say? I know, but in our defense, it gets dark really early in December. AND, I hate to eat food that isn’t at the exact temperature it’s supposed to be eaten. Soooo, we ate most of the items before we even thought of taking a pic. I’m a bit fussy when it comes to my food, okay? Next time, I pinky-promise!
One last thing, okay, two… the dogs were some of the “beautiful” people we saw too. Amazingly groomed, crazy cool haircuts, lots of bling around their necks. I was a little jealous. It was nuts, but I promise, it gets nuttier.
Two of the booths were manned by Rabbis from local Jewish congregations. One’s sign read, “Ask the Rabbi”, so we did. They just love to kibbutz (talk). Full disclosure here, H.H. was born Jewish and I’m a Jew-by-Choice. This was one of the many weird things we saw, and during our entire trip, H.H. and I kept saying to each other, “only in California”.
Darn, I forgot to mention the Slothed Waffles, oh well, you’ll just have to wonder, won’t you?
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Our visit to the Joshua Tree National Park was a fabulous surprise for me. I knew I wanted to see the trees and get some great pics, but what I was not expecting was the slow-building, almost guttural reaction I experienced while wandering the desert floor.
All at once I started to feel a connection to the ebb and flow of the wind and weak winter sun slinking through the clear blue sky. It was a bit unsettling, and I can’t explain why.
And now about those cacti, those crazy cacti. I found myself running from one to another, trying to discover all the different varieties I could find and photograph. While squatting and attempting to find a good close-up shot of a fabulous white cactus, a middle-aged woman ran up to me and began to frantically speak to me in broken-english. “Don’t get close”, she said over and over. “My husband got bit, it bit him”, she mumbled as she retreated.
Okay, I thought, that was strange, but proceeded to take my pics and we moved on. Later that day while at the visitor’s center we found out that the variety I was shooting at the time was indeed a bit of a predator, as it spits out its spines when an object or animal gets too close. Dodged a bullet there, didn’t I, or should I say prickly spine?
PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
One of the really fun things we did in PS was to take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. You start down at the Valley Station at 2,643 feet elevation and ascend to the top at 8,516 feet, which is a 2.5 mile round trip, each leg only taking about 10 minutes.
We live at 4500 ft. elevation, so it was a real hoot to think about being at almost twice the height. We experienced a 30-degree temperature drop during the ride up the mountain, it happened that fast!
The car itself was manufactured in Switzerland and is state of the art with a hauling cable that measures in at 40 mm thick, weighs 4.22 lbs. per foot and is a total of 13,100 feet. H.H. is the accountant, so I’ll let him do the math. Suffice it to say, that baby weighs a ton, give or take!
We took the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up the mountain in the late afternoon and the views of PS and its surrounding environs was nothing short of spectacular. We also got a very close look at the mountain face, a bit too close at a few points during the ride, as the outer perimeter of the tram’s flooring rotated 360 degrees as we rode. What a fun surprise!
There’s lots to see and do on top, even hiking trails for warmer weather visits. There are numerous informational displays and a short film too. Food is available both at a snack counter and a proper restaurant. H.H. and I had a relaxing drink after the sun set and met a group of employees from a local business that were enjoying their company holiday dinner. I have a habit of talking to just everyone!
We came down after dark, and found the nighttime view of the city lights absolutely stunning – a ride worth taking when visiting Palm Springs.
IN SEARCH OF LUSH GREEN AMONGST THE CACTI… CLASSIC CLUB GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
When staying in PS, you’ll find that almost nothing you do or see is actually IN Palm Springs. We must have driven through more than a dozen little bedroom communities surrounding PS, each with an indistinguishable name that includes either desert, palm, rancho, springs or santa. After several days in the area, they all seemed to blend together into one big GPS quagmire. A few times we got a little confused… okay, in one particular instance, very lost, but don’t tell H.H. I told you! He likes to think of himself as a bit of a directional savant. Right. It’ll be our secret, okay?
Anyway, one day, in search of some green lushness to feed our desert weary eyes, we headed out to Palm Desert (see, two of the words, put together no less) to have lunch at the Bellatrix Restaurant at the Classic Club Golf & Country Club.
We indeed were able to feast our eyes and appease our appetites while enjoying the views of the manicured course and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The sound of the water features (read “hazards” in golf lingo) added to the ambiance of the club’s outdoor veranda.
YOU TELL ME, WAS SHE FLIRTING WITH H.H.?
Okay, this part of my story might get a bit disjointed, as I’m trying to decipher my scribbles on the back of my beverage napkin from lunch. So, H.H. and I are taken to our table on the veranda facing the golf course by the hostess and we start perusing the menu. Shortly our waitress, an attractive gal about 50 or so (TCT-true confession time- H.H. and I are in our late 50’s) came and proceeded to tell us about the lunch specials.
She spoke directly to H.H. and almost forgot to ask me what I’d like to drink. When she returned with our beverages, she made a point of touching H.H.’s arm with a warm smile and bent down to take his order. She was very attentive during our meal, coming several times to check on us and each time taking a moment to engage H.H.
Almost as an aside, H.H. ordered the blackened mahi sandwich with a chipotle remoulade and I got the kobe beef sliders with a spicy A-1 sauce and caramelized onions that just melted in my mouth. Both choices were served on lusciously fluffy potato rolls that elevated our meal to the next level of yum!
Back to my story, when I happened to mention she was flirting with him, H.H. was shocked and like most guys, missed all the signals. Now in his defense, we’ve been married for 37 years, so he’s a bit out of practice, but talk about a clueless wonder… what a sweetheart. I think I’ll keep him!
PALM SPRINGS CULTURAL CIRCUIT
An afternoon touring the city’s cultural spots was relaxing and a nice respite from the windshield time we’d clocked since we had arrived in PS. We started at the Art Museum & Architectural Design Center to see an exhibit on a new process that a young Asian gal has developed to embed the discarded selvages (unfinished edges) from silk saris into pliable rubber.
She created an incredible array of purses, totes, decorative banners, and even a dress. It was really fascinating, or rather, I thought it was really fascinating, H.H., not so much. Onward we went.
H.H. found the historical society’s little “museum” vignettes to be much more fun. One in particular struck both our fancies. Ruddy’s General Store is filled entirely with a single individual’s private collection of merchandise from days long gone.
We both delighted in slowly making our way around the tiny structure pointing out familiar brands and packaging from our youth. Many items were much older than us, so they were especially neat to see displayed as if they were for sale today.
There was even a crock from the 20’s filled with enormous whole dill pickles… I didn’t ask the docent how old they were, I didn’t really want to know. As a former caterer, nightmares would surely ensue.
My one regret about our visit to Palm Springs is that I never got a chance to try the date shakes that we’d seen advertised at a number of ice cream shops and restaurants. The timing never worked out, as we had just eaten or the establishment was closed the next time we passed.
I figured I’d get one in our next stop, Long Beach, here’s the post, Did Lucy & Ricky Take the Long, Long Trailer to Long Beach? but guess what, apparently date palms aren’t nearly as prevalent there and the date shake succeeded in eluding me the entire trip. Next visit for sure!
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