Monday, May 11, 2015

Palm Springs Jaunt

Hello to Palm Springs---capital of mid-century modern architecture

Last week we took a four day mini-vacation to Palm Springs. After a three hour delay at SFO due to fog and an hour and thirty five minute flight, we landed in the desert, greeted by temperatures in the mid-nineties. After securing a list of must-do activities from the friendly car rental staff, we drove toward town in search of Sparrows Lodge.

Unmarked sign for Sparrows Lodge

Dean having breakfast in the "barn"
Formerly called the Red Barn, a '50s hangout for Hollywood celebrities, this stylish lodge has been remodeled into a 20 room rustic hideaway renamed Sparrows Lodge. We entered through the beautiful pool area, flanked by guest rooms, and registered in the open "barn" which serves as office/bar/breakfast area. Though many guests are from the L.A. area, we befriended couples from Brooklyn and Rhinebeck. They convinced us that the Hudson River Valley would be a super vacation spot.
PS: No one under 21 is allowed at Sparrows, but dogs are welcome!

The rooms are rustic-chic with exposed wood-and-stone interiors and exotic Bali bathrooms with open showers. There are no TVs on the property, so the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing. And fortunately for Dean the pro basketball playoffs didn't start until the following week. With the San Jacinto mountains as a backdrop, we spent lazy afternoons reading on our lounge chairs. When temperatures soared into the hundreds, the staff turned on misters installed around the pool to cool the outside air, and handed out icy fruit popsicles. Swimming in the crystal-clear pool was delightful.

Bali bath with open shower

Between swimming and lounging, we saw a few of the recommended mid-century desert marvels which make Palm Springs so interesting, and differentiate it from the endless sprawl of condos from Palm Desert to Rancho Mirage.

We passed the classic Palm Springs Visitors center, originally Frey's Tramway Gas Station, here  on our way to Palm Springs aerial tramway. When it was built in 1965 it was the first landmark for tourists driving in from Los Angeles on Highway 111.

A view through the vines of the restaurant at the Parker Meridian Hotel

We snuck a peek at the Parker Meridien. The hotel was originally established in 1959 as a Holiday Inn. In fact, it was California’s first. In 1961, the non-descript concrete and cinderblock property was purchased by singing cowboy Gene Autry for the main purpose of lodging his newly acquired baseball team, the California Angels, during Spring Training.  He changed the name of the site to Melody Ranch (it was also often called The Autry Hotel) and added a few luxury touches, like a second pool, tennis courts, a bar, and a couple of restaurants. We loved the mid-century, eye-popping decor.

Then we traveled on streets named Bob Hope or Dinah Shore Drive to the Coachella Valley Preserve for a desert hike under a scorching sun. Here the San Andreas fault can be viewed at close range. This is definitely earthquake country!

100+ degrees and still smiling!

And on our last day we took the aerial tram straight up the mountain to view Palm Springs from about 8,000 feet. At that altitude it was cold and windy.

Late Friday afternoon as plane-loads of tourists were arriving, we flew out of scenic Palm Springs airport with the majestic San Jacinto mountains in the background

Palm Springs Airport with San Jacinto mountains in the background

Oh, and I almost forgot, the culinary highlight of the trip was a DATE SHAKE! We drove to Indio to find a roadside stand selling the date shakes I remembered from a long-ago trip to the Coachella Valley, but Indio was quite desolate and there were no date stands or shakes to be found. Finally I checked online and we struck gold at a chocolate shop called Palm Springs Chocolate and Fudge, on Palm Canyon Drive. The shake was made from date paste, milk and ice cream and it was delicious. We were told that some shakes are made from date crystals in place of real dates—they're inferior. And the best date variety is medjool. Since they sell dates at the Berkeley Farmers' markets, I'm going to experiment with making my own shakes soon.

Date Shake


  1. Ahhhh.....I feel like I've just gone on a mini vacation myself! Great photos and blog!

  2. Jeannette said it best. It WAS a mini-vacation and I wanna go back.
    Your sentient blog captured the essence of the place. Three gold stars!!!