Cal­i­for­nia dream­ing

Palm Springs not just for the rich and fa­mous

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

THOU­SANDS of Man­i­to­bans own or rent homes in U.S. hotspot states such as Ari­zona, Florida, and Cal­i­for­nia. When my wife and I travel, we sel­dom stay put in one lo­ca­tion for long. Our his­tory is one of ex­plo­ration, look­ing for the next unique ex­pe­ri­ence in nearby towns, cities or coun­tries. So de­cid­ing to stay in a condo or home for more than two weeks was go­ing to be an ex­per­i­ment — an ex­er­cise to see if we would be will­ing to stay longer at one place in some fu­ture year. Like so many oth­ers, I be­gan look­ing for ac­com­mo­da­tion on Airbnb and VRBO. Un­like those who have suc­ceeded in find­ing the per­fect place for their stay, I started much too late to find what I thought would be sat­is­fac­tory for us. I can only as­sume many of the best op­tions had al­ready been taken up by other sun wor­shipers who seek to es­cape win­ter. Each per­son who goes on th­ese web­sites may have a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, but I found re­ally ex­cel­lent and re­spon­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions from those own­ers who had only one or two prop­er­ties. How­ever, I be­came very frus­trated with the canned re­sponses from peo­ple for whom ac­com­mo­da­tion rentals were a key part of their busi­ness. On more than one oc­ca­sion, sep­a­rate queries for clar­i­fi­ca­tion were met with the same au­to­mated re­sponse. My own per­cep­tions are backed up by the con­tent of the re­views pre­vi­ous renters pro­vided about the prop­er­ties they had stayed in on pre­vi­ous va­ca­tions. The sin­gle prop­erty own­ers tended to re­ally get to know their renters, and if they lived in the area, of­ten went out of their way to en­sure guest sat­is­fac­tion. For oth­ers like us, who may not know much about the ar­eas of the cities be­ing con­sid­ered, it is of­ten dif­fi­cult to gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion be­tween the best and not so safe or at­trac­tive ar­eas in which the home or condo may be lo­cated. As my frus­tra­tion grew, I reached out to friends I knew who were al­ready rent­ing in the Greater Palm Springs re­gion. By pure hap­pen­stance, we were able to find a house in the same In­dio gated com­mu­nity they were in. In­dio is one of the 10 cities that make up Greater Palm Springs. I have oc­ca­sion­ally writ­ten about peo­ple who have been stung by phoney ads that have been set up with pos­i­tive re­views. Af­ter pay­ing in ad­vance as re­quired, they travel to the city and find they have just be­come a vic­tim of a scam. This was un­der­scored by our friends as they re­lated how, in try­ing to find a house for their first win­ter visit, it was only be­cause of their de­ci­sion to look for the home on Google Earth that they dis­cov­ered no such ad­dress ex­isted. Other than try­ing to make read­ers take ex­tra steps to en­sure they are deal­ing with hon­est peo­ple, I want to un­der­score the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who rent from th­ese sites find what they are look­ing for, and are most of­ten sat­is­fied. Greater Palm Springs is a won­der­ful place to visit. As ref­er­enced last week, it is qui­eter than many of the other pop­u­lar ar­eas, and yet there is a lot to see and do re­gard­less of what your in­ter­ests may be. In our ef­fort to find op­tions that might be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, with rec­om­men­da­tions from our friends, we took in the Polo Matches at the El­do­rado Polo Club in the ad­ja­cent city of Coachella. Not only was it an en­joy­able and fas­ci­nat­ing af­ter­noon, the price was cer­tainly right. Ten dol­lars for park­ing and you can watch from the grand­stand, the club house, or throw your own tail­gate party while watch­ing from the side­lines. El­do­rado and Em­pire Polo Clubs are si­t­u­ated next to each other. They are also the home of the world fa­mous Coachella Mu­sic Fes­ti­val tak­ing place this year over the course of two week­ends, April 15-17 and April 22-24. El Paseo is the Palm Desert ver­sion of Bev­erly Hills’ Rodeo Drive is where the most lux­u­ri­ous shop­ping and din­ing op­tions are lo­cated. Whether you are a buyer or not, it is well worth tak­ing in the El Paseo Art Walk Night if you hap­pen to be in the area on the first Fri­day of the month. Free en­ter­tain­ment, cham­pagne, ap­pe­tiz­ers and some of the best art to be found any­where, are on of­fer at the var­i­ous gal­leries. And when you tire of walk­ing, just hop on one of the trol­leys that go up and down the street on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. If your tastes are more mun­dane, join the crowds that show up ev­ery Satur­day and Sun­day to grab bar­gains at the Col­lege of the Desert Street Fair. Dozens of booths sell­ing goods rang­ing from ap­parel, footwear, crafts and cos­met­ics, as well as art, bring hun­dreds back ev­ery week. Pro­ceeds from the booth rentals go to the Col­lege of the Desert Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion for schol­ar­ships and col­le­giate pro­gram. On an­other day, we set out to Old Town La Quinta to get a sense of the ar­chi­tec­ture that is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of old Cal­i­for­nia. It is a fairly small area, all of it out­doors, but the shops and restau­rants are dif­fer­ent. You will not find chain retail or restau­rants here. The own­ers tend to be lo­cal, and spe­cial­ize in de­vel­op­ing dif­fer­ent pre­sen­ta­tions for your con­sid­er­a­tion. It is the first time we tasted deep-fried cau­li­flower or or­ganic ice cream made, as we watched, us­ing liq­uid ni­tro­gen, which sup­pos­edly elim­i­nates ice crys­tals and air. I can at­test both were de­li­cious. Just for laughs, we de­cided to book tick­ets for the im­prov com­edy night at the Fan­tasy Springs Re­sort Casino. Here the best comedic ris­ing stars play, of­ten com­ing from Los An­ge­les. The evening we were there, the comics re­ally put on an ex­cel­lent show. The casino is as big and im­pres­sive as many you will find in Las Ve­gas. While their event theatre en­ter­tain­ment tends to fea­ture stars of the past, they con­sis­tently play to near full houses. Tonight (Feb. 13) the orig­i­nal Jersey Boy, Frankie Valli, and his new Four Sea­sons are in the event cen­tre, while Julio Igle­sias will en­ter­tain on March 25. Olivia New­ton-John will be there on March 26. I could not think of leav­ing this re­gion with­out shar­ing with my wife some of the ex­pe­ri­ences I had on my first trip with my son, which was pri­mar­ily for golf, but al­lowed us to take ad­van­tage of the other ameni­ties the area had to of­fer. And down­town Palm Springs with its movie in­dus­try his­tory, its fine shop­ping and restau­rants and unique am­biance, made it a spe­cial place to go back to. Movie stars, di­rec­tors, and in­dus­try greats from past and present are hon­oured with street plaques through­out the two or three main streets of Palm Canyon Drive. A statue of Sonny Bono, the singing star who be­came a trea­sured mayor of Palm Springs, is re­mem­bered with a ma­jor statue in the heart of the prime din­ing and shop­ping district. While ours was a day visit, if you go, try to get down­town for a Vil­lage­fest evening. Ev­ery Thurs­day from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., its main street, Palm Canyon Drive, is closed to ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic. With pedes­tri­ans only, the cen­tre of the street is filled with mul­ti­ple ven­dors sell­ing art, crafts and food, while en­ter­tain­ment keeps vis­i­tors trans­fixed and look­ing for more in the bars and restau­rants be­yond the 10 p.m. event end. If you go, I rec­om­mend the Ahi Tuna Poke ap­pe­tizer at the Kaiser Restau­rant near the end of the down­town strip; al­though other Kaiser out­lets are scat­tered through a num­ber of Greater Palm Springs cities. As our Palm Springs va­ca­tion nears an end, we con­clude it is a dif­fer­ent kind of va­ca­tion when one is not pressed to take in as much as pos­si­ble in as short a time as pos­si­ble. While per­haps we are not yet ready for a more ex­tended pe­riod of es­cape, look­ing ahead I can see pos­si­bil­i­ties. I un­der­stand why so many find it sat­is­fy­ing to stay in a pro­longed re­laxed mode, while do­ing what moves you as the mood suits you.

Fol­low Ron’s blog www.that­trav­el­guy.ca

RON PRADINUK / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Old Town La Quinta ar­chi­tec­ture, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of old Cal­i­for­nia.

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