Palm Springs 2009

monday, october 26, 2009

Neil and Sandra's Roadtrip to Palm Springs Day 4

Day 4

We both had a great night’s sleep – very quiet, we had a hard time getting out of bed at 9:30AM! As discussed the night before we toddle off to Sherman’s across the street from the Hilton. Sherman’s is a New York style deli and came recommended by our dentist back in Santa Rosa. Wow what a treat – the menu, décor and feel of the place is definitely New York – though the employees are a lot more friendly – oh well you can’t have everything. The Corn Beef Hash was sublime, hands down the best I’ve ever had – Sandra’s fork keep reaching across the table and was able to regularly breach my weak defenses. We decide to come back to Sherman’s tomorrow and stock up before hitting the road.

Back at the hotel we change in to swimwear, lather in sunscreen (well I do) and head for the pool. The whole pool area is practically deserted which is great, given my aversion to people. We find two loungers and rearrange them so one is in full shade for me and one is in full sun for Sandra – gee we sound like a couple of perennials. Intermittent dips in the cool pool followed by lying around reading on the lounger – absolute heaven! Drat other people are arriving – but still only about 6 couples, I happen to notice the sign by the pool that says its maximum capacity is 117 – so I should be OK.

Interestingly one of the couples has brought a wee dog; Sandra engages the gentleman in conversation and learns they had to pay $75 / night for their dog to stay in the hotel. One of the other guests chimes in that she had in fact only paid $75 / night. I’m not sure if she should be offended or delighted?

By mid afternoon Sandra is sufficiently fried and I have put a big enough dent in my excellent book that we head back to the room for a light snack. After changing we decide to head into town on the hunt for that perfect latte. We walk up and down the main street but are disappointed to find that Starbucks looks like the only viable option – not again. By the way it’s still really quite hot – in the low 90s, and we learned last night that tomorrow (the day we leave) there is to be a major cooling trend and the temperature will be in the mid 80s for the rest of the week – oh well.

We plan to head back to downtown later tonight for dinner.

Palm Springs on a Monday night is even deader than Palm Springs on a Sunday night as many restaurants take Monday off. Actually, this town seems to have suffered more than its fair share of business closures due to the recession. We walked past one restaurant tonight and last night and couldn’t help but notice all the tables set and no customers; the staff were busying them selves folding napkins and playing cards.

We decide on the Kobe beef sliders at Ruby’s, a 50’s style burger joint – it’s actually a chain, we ate in one earlier this year at Huntington Beach and liked it. For some strange reason I’m in the mood for Clam Chowder; I should have know better than to order this item late in the evening at a burger joint. When the cup of soup arrives it resembles a slightly shrunken version of the Matterhorn at Disneyland – I proceed to show Sandra that I can stand french fries up in my soup. The sliders were great, we sat out on the sidewalk, the night was cool, the beer was cold – it was a good evening.

All in all we’ve had a great time on this trip; both hotels have been very good and we decide we’d stay at either of then again – though if we can get the “doggy rate” at the Hilton it would be hard to beat.


sunday, october 25, 2009

Neil and Sandra's Roadtrip to Palm Springs Day 3

Day 3

Well we did not sleep very well last night – who knows what causes this? Breakfast in the room, on the perch - so relaxing. Packed up and checked out by 11AM. Headed for the Hilton in Palm Springs via the Joshua Tree Nation Park – about a 5 hour detour!

On the way to the freeway we stop at Walmart so Sandra can buy a sunshade for the side window of the car. It turns out to be a Walmart “Superstore” – I think you could fit the whole of Cotati in here – Sandra has to take a picture. We find the sun shades but the only one they have is for kids and it has 2 monkeys printed in it – oh well it’s going to be on Sandra’s side of the car, so it’s fine with me.

Off we go, heading east on highway10 – as we progress it get more and more like a desert, which is good because that is exactly what it is. After about half an hour we hit the turn off for the park and head for the mountains. About 10 minutes in we get to the ranger station where we have to stop and pay the $15 entry fee and pick up a map. Back on the road we head for the heart of the park – which is a bit of a misnomer because we are starting to form the opinion that calling this place a park is a bit of a stretch! So far after about 45 minutes it’s just dry desert and big piles of rock.

Thing are looking up, we stop by a trail that leads through a magnificent display of weird cactus like plants called Chollas. I grab my camera and head off, Sandra ops to stay in the car. I manage to get some good shots – including a small squirrel-like animal that was running around my feet. Back on the road – more desert, and still no sign of the park namesake – maybe someone cut it down.

We come across a very strange outcrop of huge rocks and pull off the road to explore. I grab my camera and take off, Sandra stays in the car – I’m starting to get the hint!

We set off and now see some Joshua trees – they are a bit like a normal tree with branches but no leaves and a cactus like plant on the end of each branch.

On a bit further we find a great spot to stop and break out the picnic food from our fancy cooler.

As we head back down to civilization we see hundreds of Joshua trees – not quite a forest, but close. The rock formations are also incredible – some are really large boulders with a tiny “boulder” precariously balanced on top, this must be some kind of college prank – they couldn’t possibly be natural. The trees persist all the way back to the town of Joshua Tree – which is just as well, given its name.

We finally make it to the Hilton and check in with no problem. The room is on the ground floor, which worries us a bit – as it has a patio area that opens into the parking lot, though it is securely fenced.

Actually the room exceeds out expectations; a king-size bed set diagonally and a sofa and sitting area leading to the patio. Very nice.

We dump the bags and head straight out to the down town area, about a 3 minute hike. We are really thirsty after a long dry day, and set about hunting for a place to have cold drink. The downtown street that had been so lively when we drove around last Friday is decided quiet – we put this down to it being Sunday and also a bit early. We find a large Mexican place, La Terresa and decide to go in for drinks. We opt to sit in the bar area and I order a beer, Sandra has a Margarita. The obligatory chips and salsa arrive and we are pulled into the mood of the place – which is nice. We had originally planned to only have drinks in this place while we decided what to do for dinner – but a few beers later, we decide to just order a few tacos and stay where we are.

So now we are back in the room and feeling very tired – I think an early night might be in order, since we have a hard day planned for tomorrow lazing by the pool.

PS of course Neil declined to mention I stayed in the car after he had stopped at the 20th rock formation (Sandra)


saturday, october 24, 2009

Neil and Sandra's Roadtrip to Palm Springs Day 2

Day 2

Well we both slept like logs last night; we were in bed by 9PM and didn’t wake until 7AM! I lay in bed a checked the football scores – and to my dismay the “toon” (Newcastle United) were getting beat by Doncaster Rovers 1 – 0 after 54 minutes. I tried to calm myself and decided to read for a bit – anything could happen in the next 36 minutes right? I managed to loose myself in my current read – a great book that Sandra gave me: “Mistress of the Elgin Marbles” by Susan Nagel. It’s all about the wife of Lord Elgin and how the Elgin Marbles were taken from Greece to England in the late 18th century.

My how time flies – I’ve been so engrossed in my book I forgot to check the football score – oh joy, the toon have won 2 - 1 with a winning goal scored 2 minutes into injury time. Ah my day is made!

Now for breakfast – I’ve been sent on a scouting mission to hunt for coffee. This type of request usually comes in the in the form of a “yucan” – as in “Neil, yucan go and find some coffee”. The hotel has a little Starbucks café just off the lobby where I procure Sandra’s latte and I get a monster size cup of drip. On ordering a bagel, I’m asked if I would like “an original” – my quizzical look must have concerned the boy who was serving me, because he then went into a long explanation – it turns out that “an original” is just a plain bagel. I don’t know what the world is coming to. The boy disappeared into the back, an original being a rare item requiring some amount of hunting. He is replaced by a girl and I’m required to repeat my order all over again….ahh! All I want is a bagel and a couple of coffees – how hard can it be?

I eventually make it back to the room and we break out the precooked bacon – what a treat! So we are now sitting on our perch (balcony) overlooking the golf course and relaxing. Every 5 minutes we get to see a magnificent display of very senior golf prowess presented right before our eyes, as foursome after foursome parade down the fairway. There is much whacking about, cussing, abusing of trees and golf cart antics – it’s great fun. The folks playing this course are really pampered – there is a golf cart that has been converted into a mini-concession stand – a kind of golfing “roach coach” – they never had this when I played golf.

It’s so pleasant sitting hear we may just stay here all day!

Well that did not last long – we decided to take a quick tour of the area. Highway 111 runs from Indian Wells up through Ranch Mirage, Cathedral City and a bunch of other towns until you get to Palm Springs. It’s quite an interesting drive with the imposing mountains on the left and the towns on the right. Judging by the Maserati, Bentley and BMW dealerships there is obviously a bit of money down here.

We decide to find the Hilton in Palm Springs which will be our abode for the second 2 nights of our 4 night stay. I must admit it does look a bit dowdy after the very fancy Hyatt we are now at – but maybe the outside looks are deceiving. The hotel is very close to the downtown area, we drive down the main street – it’s very quaint; lots of shops and restaurant – many with lots of outdoor misters! We decide this is a good spot and are looking forward to the second half of our trip.

Just spotted a fast food place called Toro Loco – my Spanish is almost non-existent, but doesn’t that mean Mad Cow – ummm.

We stop at Borders to grab a cold drink and get some free internet time – we are such cheapos!

Well, right next door to Borders is a really large restaurant / bar called Yard House – this place claims to have the largest selection of beers on tap in the world, after a brief inspection – they may well have. I order a pint of Tetley’s and it immediately takes me back to my college days in the pubs of Sheffield. They have a massive beer selection that takes up two full pages of a large menu – the beers are categorized by style – is this heaven or what? We order beef sliders and chicken nachos, when the food arrives we are dumbstruck at the size of the portions. We dive in and are quickly stuffed – the food was very good, we left behind a good bit but did not feel too bad as the prices were very reasonable.

My penance is now plain to see, as I’m sat outside Macy’s while Sandra shops for dresses. Actually I don’t mind as it’s cool in here and they have very comfy armchairs. Maybe I’ll have a quick nap, this is tough!

As a special treat we stopped at Ralph’s and picked up a small container of Ben and Jerry’s Pistachio ice cream. As we get some rest back in the hotel room the ice cream is wonderful.

I decide I can’t leave this hotel tomorrow without trying the pool; so I don the hotel-supplied robe and off I go. The pool area is almost empty – well it is almost 6PM, so I pick a lounger, remember to take off my specs and take the plunge. The water is cool and refreshing and, as I have this particular pool all to myself, I decide to do my best Johnny Weissmuller impression. After 3 laps I’m knackered, and then Sandra arrives – obviously not intending to take the plunge as she is fully dressed – and offers me encouragement and harassment simultaneously (it’s a skill), so I do two more laps.

I exit the pool to hear Sandra beckoning me over to the far end of the pool area, she has discovered yet another pool – the mysterious and long-lost “adult” pool! How could I have missed an entire pool on my first tour through this area yesterday? The adult pool is extra-nice; its serpentine shaped and is surrounded by loungers that are a grade above those in the other pool area. Behind, and above, the lounger area are very nice cabanas – again much higher class than the others. This hotel definitely has the nicest set of pools that we have ever seen.

Back in the room I shower and decide to have a Guinness, I’m hunting around the room in a mild panic as I can’t find a bottle opener – then Sandra reminds me that my flip-flops have an emergency bottle opener built into the bottom of them. The day is saved by my super-duper flip-flops!

Well it’s getting late, we just had a light snack in the hotel room and we are both running out of energy – it’s almost 9:30PM so we’ve managed to stay up later than last night J. Tomorrow we have to check out of this hotel and we plan to drive through the Joshua Tree Nation Park on our way to the next hotel.


friday, october 23, 2009

Neil and Sandra's Roadtrip to Palm Springs Day 1

Day 1

Up with a start at 5AM to the beeping of the alarm. As discussed the night before, we jumped straight out of bed (well at least I did (Neil)) for fear we fall back to sleep. Not much to pack, since we did most of it last night and it’s already in the car. Fed the cats and said our goodbyes.

First stop, Centro Espresso (aka Susan’s), for a latte and toast – excellent, as always – what did we do before Susan opened this café in our neighborhood? The best latte ever – hands down. 5:45Am and we are leaving Susan’s.

The GPS says arrival will be at 1:54PM – ha, I’ll believe that when I see it! We could not find the “book on tape” (actually disc) we thought we had – so it could be mind-numbingly boring. Never mind, I’ve got my trusty iPhone with all of my vast collection of music on it – about 6 hours

Traffic is not too bad, and we get to go in the car pool lane for most of the crowded bits. We got through the Bay area and out to I5 with no problems; now the really boring, really straight, never ending road – we should have flown!

First stop – Pea Soup Anderson’s – though we are in need of a different kind of pee. Sandra made up a couple of bagel sandwiches, using the bagel we brought from Susan’s and bacon that I cooked last night – it’s the dogs bollocks! We are actually bringing quite a few picnic items – since we recently invested in a refrigerated cool box – it’s working great – plugged into the outlet in the back of the CRV.

Driving

Driving

Stopping for gas and coffee – unfortunately its Starbucks, and we have a hard time drinking this stuff after Centro Espresso – but we need the caffeine so there you go.

The Grapevine looms, I always find this bit of the drive interesting – well, anything would be interesting after that long, long I5 drudgery! We remember stopping at Pyramid Lake on a previous trip, and agree this would be a good spot to stop and drain out that Starbucks rubbish – and have lunch – from our schmancy cooler.

Lunch was great, I made egg salad using finely chopped green onions last night, and we are having it on some thin Foccacia bread from Traverso’s . We also have some excellent deli meats from Traverso’s but decide to keep them for another day. The egg sarnie is accompanied by pasta salad and potato salad – also from Traverso’s. Boy are we glad they moved to our neighborhood!

And we are off again – only about 5 hours to go!

Driving

Driving

Rest stop – another call of nature. Boy, getting old is tough – why is my bladder shrinking? And the weather is getting warmer – approaching 90F.

Off again, there goes Magic Mountain…

Coming down the LA side of the Grapevine – traffic getting a bit heavier, still at least 3 hours to go. OK, now we get to turn off I5 and into unknown territory – at last scenery we have not previously viewed – oh but it’s much the same – is it like this everywhere in America?

One final stop, another rest area near San Bernardino – only about 45 minutes to go! Now it’s quite hot – mid 90s!

Approaching Palm Springs – wow a lot of windmills and casinos – who knew casinos were so environmentally conscious! Maybe this is some sort of sin cancelling scheme?

Lots and lots of billboard adverts for super-cheesy “stars” performing at the many local casinos. Wow – there’s one for Engelbert Humpadink – I thought he was dead!

Where’s our bloody turn off – I can’t take much more. Really should have flown.

We are staying the first two nights of our 4 night trip at the Hyatt Resort and Spa in Indian Wells – here it is at last. Arriving at about 4PM. Well, you know that this area is hot when you pull up to reception and the whole area is doused with mister sprays to cool things down!

We decide to self park at $10/ night compared to valet at $25/night. Check-in was very smooth. Now for the room…

Wow – very nice, king size bed on an elevated level with 2 steps down to a sitting room then out to the balcony on the second floor (first floor for you Brits) overlooking the golf course – very nice indeed. OK, first order of business – get ice and chill down that bottle of Chardonnay we’ve brought – along with a bottle of Guinness, just in case.

We are both knackered and zonk down on the bed to get some rest. This did not last long since the in-room air conditioner is a bit like a large earth mover – like the ones they use to make new freeways. I hope we don’t need the aircon on during the night.

So up we get and off we go to explore the hotel. There a very nice pool area – there must be 5 pools! Cabanas can be rented for $100/day – and they have TVs inside them! I think we’ll be spending time at the pool tomorrow – though not in a cabana.

Nice bar; Sandra had a cosmo at $15 and I had a fat tire.

Back to the room for supper of Costco roast chicken (purchased yesterday), bread, camembert, pate and washed down with a glass of chardonnay – the dogs bullocks – again!

OK, time to log off and try to get some sleep – though we’ve just heard the doctor’s convention dinner get under way at the conference center along from our room. Hope it does not go on all night!