Palm Springs, California. The United States of America.
Palm Springs, an untouched seventies paradise like no other. Oozing retro cool like a freshly squeezed pimple, this glorious old movie set of a town sits just East of the City of Angels. Vintage car dealerships and antique malls litter the streets offering up the best of vine-ripened vehicles, threads, jewels and most importantly old marching band paraphernalia. With row after row of immaculately kept houses, you can’t help but wonder whether every tree, paint colour and gust of wind (wasn’t me) has been handpicked to perfectly orchestrate a glamorous, old school effect.
Nestled in between a mountain range as spectacular as the deep, cavernous pores on my face and miles of wind turbines, this glorious city smacks you between the eyes with it’s instant aesthetic appeal. Palmy is a mecca for art and design, with the retro architecture reaching every corner of the town, Mickey D’s and Kentucky Fried included. This beautiful place managed to wash the gross, millennial rat out of me and unearth the glam, silk scarf wearing, convertible driving ($200 a day Kia Soul rental actually) side of me.
For my list of highlights read on daredevils!
‘Salvation Mountain‘ – Three hours out of the Springs of Palm, Salvation Mountain is the story of a heat-resistant man with the vision and hydration to build a mountain in the middle of the Californian desert. Inspired by his unwavering faith and belief in the man above, this installation is a source of amazement and inspiration for everyone, regardless of religion, belief or creed. Completely surreal and entirely overwhelming, Salvation Mountain lies in stark contrast to its dry, isolated surroundings. Take lots of water, car snacks and your damn passport people. I heard a story of two thick Aussie girls who got pulled over in their Kia Soul at an immigration stop in the middle of the scorching Californian desert without ’em. Idiots. Only consolation was that one less human was exposed to the nauseating nature of those passport photos.
Time: The drive from Palm Springs took close to three hours but to cover the entire installation, give yourself dirty thirty with a ten minute interlude for passing out/melting/ etc. If 50 degree (mm pleasant) heat reminiscent of the pits of hell doesn’t bother you I’d strongly recommend sticking around and delving deeper into the area than my weak, weak soul was able to. Absolutely worth it fellas and gives you a better insight into the more ‘rural’ areas of California.
‘Moorten Botanic Gardens‘- Right smack bang in the middle of the city lies a cactus lovers paradise and the Gardens are just that, paradise. Hundreds of varying species of cacti consume the garden wholeheartedly, offering up countless beautiful photo opportunities as well as some much needed relief from the merciless sun. I suggest stopping by the giant Tortoise enclosure to see some of our reptilian friends sun baking as well as the photogenic cactus greenhouse.
Time: A fabulous spot to hit before the afternoon sun sets in, we spent the best part of an hour leisurely wandering through the rows of abundant plant life. Be sure to check the opening hours and keep in mind they’re closed on Wednesdays. If you’re not an international alien like moi, the Gardens have a huge range of affordable succulents and cacti for sale so grab some while they’re hot. As with any activity in Palm Springs, take h20 and plenty of it.
‘Sunny Dunes Antique Mall‘ – Y’all know I can drop a dime like the best of ’em, so i sieved through the the abundance of Palm Springs retail therapy opportunities and came up with Sunny Dunes. Crammed room upon room of vintage finds, you’d be hard pressed to leave without a bag or two full of goodies you can’t fit in your suitcase, but simply “must” have. I exercised a great deal of personal restraint only leaving with an old, gold jewel box from 1978. Proud or what? Make sure you chat to the various vendors and ask about any specials or discounts and push through the weak air conditioning to explore every nook and cranny.
Time: Allow yourself the best part of an hour or three depending on how seriously you take your shopping. I was out in one with shopping induced sweats, stressed at the thought of cramming my new purchase into my long-suffering suitcase. Have at it boys and do me proud.
Food to Wrap your Laughing Gear Around
‘King’s Highway’- Attached to the Ace hotel, this eclectic little café boasts an old school diner vibe without any cheesy jukeboxes or roller blades. Like the rest of this charmer of a town, King’s Highway got the classic, retro memo and is an over-enthusiastic Instagrammers (me) ecstasy. The menu boasts the American brunch regulars like hotcakes, breakfast burritos and bagels as well as some Mexican fares like Chilaquiles (beans and corn tortillas) and fish tacos. Sold? I’ve scoffed pancakes while hungover, while drunk, while sleepy and while hangry but dang the King’s Highway babies were the fluffiest I’ve ever crammed into my gob. I’d also try your hand at the muesli. Whipped Greek yogurt, no gimmicks.
‘Fuzion Five Vietnamese & Lao Cuisine‘ – For a super tasty Vietnamese bite, Fusion Five is a shoo-in. They’ve adopted American serving sizes, no complaints here, with the very best of traditional Vietnamese tastes. The bun and veggie pho are bloody delicious and are enough to feed your greedy bellies for days to come. Make sure you don’t get carried away on a cola filled cloud with softy refills like we did. Serious repercussions when you fail to polish off your five litre pho. Tears.
The ONLY Place to Say
‘Ace Hotel Resort & Spa‘ – Words fail to adequately express my adoration (playing it cool, my wholehearted L O V E more accurately) for this literal desert oasis. After seven hours navigating the best of Los Angeles’ traffic on the wrong side of the road, it was quite simply heaven rolling up to the Ace. Aesthetically speaking, the joint will have you frothing from orifices you didn’t know could, seventies, retro heaven. The rooms are spacious, thoughtfully designed and comfortable as hell (free fancy shamps & conditioner, holla). Not to mention the pool, spa and restaurant a hop, skip and a roll away from your door. Attention to detail is the name of this game and made my stay at the Ace the highlight of my pit stop in Palm Springs.
Congrats you’ve made it to the end of another of my verbal assaults, 10 points to Gryffindor. My last note to any lucky bugger contemplating a visit to my freshly crowned ‘favourite city in the world’, the Northern hemisphere summer months tend to scare the crowds away. The upside, fewer pests to nudge out of the way by the pool. The downside, a number of the local restaurants and cafes close down for the hottest part of summer. Something to be aware of but certainly not a reason to stay away.
Palm Springs, go on, you know you want to.