365 Days of Sunshine Memories in Palm Springs

It is a normal Thursday evening in our house.  We have just finished eating dinner.  Our two children are running around gathering their video games, skateboards, books and toys.  My husband is on the phone confirming our reservations, while I am packing the weekend bags for our trip to Palm Springs.

Fri morning comes along and the children take off to school with big bright smiles plastered on their faces and my husband and I go to work with a skip in our step.  We are all looking forward to 4:30pm, at which time we will jump into our Excursion which is already packed with our bags, and take off on our road trip to Palm Springs.  Even a weekend in Palm Springs feels like I’ve had a weeklong vacation.  This desert somehow refreshes and energizes me with its natural beauty, nightlife, and beautiful art.

I leave work early at 4pm and rush home.  Once home, I change out of my business suit into a casual outfit, grab a few bottles of water, some good music cds and jump into the car.  My husband has already fired up the SUV with the music blaring, and as soon as I am in, we take off on our road trip to a place that has sunshine all year round.  I love the warm Palm Springs weather.  The summers can get really hot, an average of 108 degrees, but I don’t’ mind it at all.  As long as I’ve got my swimsuit, sunscreen, and a hat to protect me from the sun and heat, I am all game for the heat wave.  The winters are mild with temperatures from the mid seventies to the late eighties.

The drive from West of Los Angeles to Palm Springs is around three hours.  It is our family tradition for us to tell jokes to each other in the car.  I am jut not that good at telling jokes, but my son has a great memory for recalling jokes and keeps us laughing in stitches most of the way.  Music fills the air for the remainder of the journey.  As we near the outskirts of Palm Springs, we pass the Morongo Casino and the Desert Hills Premium Outlets Mall.  I look longingly at the shops while my husband and mother-in-law steal glances at the casino.  We’ll come back tomorrow to visit these places, since right now we must check in to our resort.

As we near Highway 111 off the 10 freeway, we are surrounded by 3,500 or so windmills.  These windmills generate one and a half percent of California’s electricity.  What a sight it is!  They cover the whole vista around us and look like giant fans revolving possibly in the land of giants.  I remember on one of many such trips to Palm Springs, we were accompanied by my husband’s 75 year old aunt who was visiting from Tanzania, Africa.  She was fascinated by the windmills and asked my husband what they were.  She believed him when he said that the purpose of those giant fans was to provide a constant breeze to the city.  With an innocent look on his face, he told her that because Palm Springs is so hot and we wanted her to be cool, we had asked the City Council to turn on all the city fans in her honor.  Later that night we shared with her what the true purpose of these windmills was, and she laughed at her own naivety until tears ran down her cheeks.

We check into our resort, the historical and famous Palm Springs Tennis Club in downtown where the rich and famous often come to play.  The entrance is flagged by a cascading waterfall, bright but elegant lights, and a glass entryway.  The resort is nestled against a backdrop of looming mountains, has 3 swimming pools and spas, several tennis courts, and Spencer’s restaurant right on site.  At the front desk is a warning notice to guests:  “Wild cats have been seen in the area.”  My children are so excited about this news!

Once in our two-bedroom suite, we unload our bags and with our stomachs growling by now, take off for dinner.  We walk towards Palm Canyon Drive which is the main strip and only a few minutes of leisurely walking distance away.  The strip is adorned by various art galleries (our family’s favorite), theaters, restaurants, and shops.

Anytime we travel, we like to stay away from the chain restaurants and look for local favorites.  In Palm Springs, our favorite restaurants are La casita for Mexican food, Blue Coyote Grill for Southwestern, Pepper’s Thai Cuisine and Thai Smile for Thai food, and Delhi Palace for Indian food.

After an authentic meal at La Casitas of vegetarian burritos and shrimp Vera Cruz with extra tomatoes and salsa, followed by flan for dessert, we walk back to our resort.  The children get settled in with their grandmother to watch a movie they’ve borrowed from the front desk while my husband and I dress up for an evening of music and dancing at Las Casuelas Terraza.  They have a vibrant live band on the outdoor terrace area with seating around the dance floor.  We squeeze ourselves on to the floor and rock until midnight, with occasional breaks to sip on our Mexican drinks and nibble on Nachos Picante with melted blended cheeses, beans, and sliced jalapeno peppers.

Early next morning, the family drives 5 minutes down to “The Corridor” for our morning coffee and breakfast.  The Corridor is a stretch of “artsy shops” selling unique home furnishings, decorations, and furniture.  They are lined around a garden full of flowers and figurines, with a flagship coffee shop at its helm.  Each of us gets our coffee and coffee drinks for the children with fresh croissants and bagels, and then we settle down in the colorful garden.  It is here that we plan the rest of our day and the next, surrounded by mountains one side and the desert on the other.

The family comes to a consensus that today (Saturday) we will spend the morning playing table tennis, followed by a dip in the pool, and the evening scouring the myriad of art galleries, sculptures, water fountains, and shops on the main strip when it is considerably cooler.  Tomorrow morning, we will make a trip to the “Aerial Tramway”, the largest of its kind in the world with a 360 degree view, followed by a shopping spree at the Desert Hills Premium Outlet that houses stores such as Gucci, Armani, and Eli Tahari.

As we play table tennis, the children look at the mountains which are only a few feet away from us, and shout, “Mommy, I see it!  I see it!  It’s a big black jaguar running around on that hill!  The front desk was right.”  I squint my eyes, pull out my camera, but don’t see anything.  The children ask me to look carefully again, vouching each other that there’s definitely a jaguar up on the hills.  As much as I try, I fail to see a jaguar but do see some kind of wildlife move.  Perhaps it was a cat, a rabbit, or a deer.  “It couldn’t have been a jaguar, could it?”  I ask myself.  “Probably not”, I say to myself but look over to the excited children and announce, “Yes, I think we were the lucky ones who got to see the jaguar.”   Do we even have jaguars in America?

On Sunday, we head for the Aerial Tramway.  Although it is 85 degrees, we carry our sweaters with us since it will be very cold at the top of the mountains.  We can feel the change in weather and see the plant life change as the Tramway continues its upward journey.  When we came on board at the bottom of the mountain, it was scorching hot, and when we embarked at the top, we were surrounded in beautiful white snow.

We walked around amidst the green trees, took a horse ride, and the children made a snowman.  After an exhaustive 2 hours of hiking and walking, we sat down for a picnic of sandwiches, fresh fruit, and mango juice.  Our day ended at the outlet mall, where we shopped and snacked, and then headed back to the Tennis Club.  After a fabulous early dinner at Thai Smile, we packed our bags and headed towards Los Angeles.

It is a family tradition for us to stop on our way home at a dried-fruit store one hour out from Palm Springs and order date shakes.  Did you know that Palm Springs is known as the date capital of the world?

As we drive home, we recount the numerous occasions when we’ve visited Palm Springs and enjoyed it each and every time.  First of all, it is only a couple of hours away from home.  It’s vibrant nightlife, spas offering magical massages, old fashioned street fairs every Thursday evening, the horse carriage rides on Palm Canyon drive, frequent art fairs, and free concerts at Sunshine Park keep pulling us back to this oasis in the desert called Palm Springs.

– Neeti

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