Palm Springs not just for the rich and famous
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.
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Old Town La Quinta architecture, representative of old California.