There is something about turning off the busy 10 highway from Los Angeles onto the 111 toward Palm Springs. It’s as if time slows down and the 21st century falls by the wayside, replaced with hot air, desert vistas and an unmistakable whiff of absolute quiet. Distinguished in a way that only a palm fringed , Rat Pack seen it all , senior citizen mecca can be , Palm Springs doesn’t need to shout from the rooftops that it’s cool. It just is – and you either get it or you don’t.
I first visited Palm Springs years ago with my best friends simply because we wanted to make a quick getaway out of LA for the weekend and catch some warm rays. Well the town certainly obliged with the rays – if ever there was a place that confirms the Albert Hammond lyrics : “It never rains in southern California” – this is it. It’s hot here – real hot, but I like that – the sweat and the feeling of being on a holiday adds to the euphoria I get when I travel to this town. This time there was a reason to visit that was about more than just getting a tan – Coachella was on , I’d never been and I’d always, always wanted to go.
First stop was checking into The Parker Palm Springs. Once Gene Autry’s Melody ranch, this hotel saw every star worth their salt revolve through it’s doors in it’s 70 year history. Beautifully decorated in a kind of style that combines mid century with hippy 60s and accents of the 70s ,this hotel is stylish without being stuffy. Staff wear bubblegum pink ( I wanted to steal a men’s suit jacket in small sooo bad! ) ,there is a lemonade stand that serves mean gin&tonics – perfect for a round of croquet on the lawn, Norma’s restaurant has lobster frittata with caviar on the breakfast menu for a hundred dollar kind of start to the day and the grounds ! The grounds are absolute magic – overgrown in an expertly landscaped way, with wild roses, citrus trees, bougainvilleas ,fire pit lawns, and maize like paths intercepted by dozens of amazing jewel coloured hummingbirds- I thought they were little fairies in the afternoon haze. It was the perfect place to shoot, chill and daydream.
The next day, just before hitting the festival, we popped into a house party that Soho House was holding for the very first time. During Coachella , day house parties are a welcome respite for artists and friends from the busy festival. Soho house held theirs at a gorgeous mansion, complete with manicured lawns,cold pressed juices by the pool,cocktails by the pond and delicious bbq nibbles. It was kind of hard to leave this heavenly desert oasis and all the hard work of lying on the lawn!
Hitting Coachella made me feel giddy with excitement. The afternoon glow of the desert sun descended on the festival and made everything look warm and gorgeous. I quickly made friends with the natural agave sweetened Margarita stand in the VIP section (yum) and clocked in some serious dance time. Over the weekend I loved seeing YYYs, The XXs, The Phoenix ,Nick Cave, Tame Impala, RHCP and Wu Tang Clan among others. The air was thick with marijuana smoke and dust and the atmosphere was totally chilled and happy. A lot of people don’t like going to Coachella as it is a 45 minute drive to Palm Springs and that can be tricky if you want to have a drink or two but I was lucky as my boyfriend doesn’t drink so I always had a designated driver. Most Palm Springs hotels however do offer shuttle busses to and from the festival so do ask. The festival closes at midnight and most afterparties are back in Palm Springs -usually The Ace hotel or The Viceroy. I really loved this festival- the hippy vibe, the nice people, the ease of getting around, the Raw food stand and the awesome Margaritas!
On our last day I sneaked off and indulged in one of my guilty (or should that be righteous? ) pleasures – vintage shopping. Palm Springs vintage stores are not to be missed – this is the place to still get real vintage. I picked up a gorgeous 70s paisley silk dress (shot at The Parker grounds) , snake skin belt, a beautiful watermelon 60s silk chiffon dress I wore to my friends’ wedding in the south of France and a great mint silk 70s wiggle dress that I can’t wait to wear. I love the thrill of uncovering the perfect vintage find and marvelling at the history behind the outfit. Considering Palm Springs was a playground of the rich & famous in it’s heyday, who knows what these dresses saw and who wore them to which exciting parties? I wish I had the whole day to shop hop. Check out The Frippery, De Ja Vu Vintage Finery, Resale Therapy, Secret Service and Route 66 West for some great finds at amazing prices.
On the way back I took a ride through the hills and sneaked a peek at some awesome mid century houses. The architecture tour here is amazing with Frank Sinatra’s house being the highlight – I absolutely adore this era for design.
Finally , the one thing I love doing before leaving the desert is boarding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This 13 minute rotating ride takes you from the Valley Station and passes up North America’s sheerest mountain face through five life zones (biomes) on it’s way to the Mountain Station at 2,596m above sea level. You start off in this hot desert and climb up into an alpine forest that can be as much as 22C cooler . Once up, you can take a hike on the spectacular wilderness trails of the Long Valley and Mount San Jocinto State Park, cross streams that slash through meadows of lemon lilly and azalea, cavort with wild animals such as the woodpecker and mule deer and marvel at the way the Jeffrey Pine smells just like butterscotch – it is so incredibly peaceful, quiet and stunning up here you’ll be wondering if civilisation even exists and kinda hoping it doesn’t. No wonder this is a sacred site for American Indians.
On your way back to Los Angeles drop into the Desert Hills Outlet Village. Barney’s, Gucci, YSL, Jimmy Choo and dozens more have their outlet stores here. I found a pair of boots that were sold out in my size online when I tried to get them and a couple of other bargain buys. It’s just a quick stopover! (or so I told my boyf!)