As my 30’s wind down, I find conversations with other women my age tend to go something like this:
Mm-hmm, yup, me too. Mm-hmm, yup, me too.
Uh Uh, that is not normal, get that checked out.
Mm-hmm, yup me too.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached a significant milestone in a woman’s life – the 40th birthday. I’m choosing to embrace 40 as an adventure, not the end of an era and it is with this attitude that I found myself celebrating 40 in Palm Springs, the desert home of all that is hot, mid-century and fabulous! A vibrant desert city without the supercharged party atmosphere of Las Vegas was exactly what I needed!
Palm Springs, 172 km east of Los Angeles in the Coachella Valley, has long been a haven for vacationers because of the hot climate (thought to be good for health), outdoor recreation such as golfing, swimming, or tennis, and also for its shopping, mid-century modern architecture and as a place where many stars of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s came to escape Hollywood in style. Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and his rat pack, Lucy & Desi, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby all had houses in Palm Springs. In fact, Bob Hope’s estate can be yours for a cool $25 million!
Politicians vacation here, there are more golf courses than you can shake a putter at and yes it is also hot as heck (but it’s a dry heat!) yet Palm Springs is not where you go to fade softly into the sand. Oh no, the hipsters of the day didn’t come to Palm Springs because it was sleepy, they came because it was (and is) groovy! And groovy is a fitting way to celebrate any age!
Stay at a Fabulous Hotel
Pulling up to the Riviera Palm Springs Hotel, along a road dotted with palm trees, I felt like I’d stepped into a glam, stylised version of 1950. The Riviera Palm Springs is where Frank Sinatra played frequently and where they are celebrating what would be his 100th birthday in December 2015. It’s got edgy, over the top décor, a chic lobby bar, a rocking pool and the suites are spacious and super luxurious. Overstuffed furniture, giant mirrors and glitz galore all give the Riviera its vibe, and I gave in to the overwhelming urge to click on my Martini Swing playlist as I perched on lounge chairs by the pool. With cabanas for chilling out and uber attentive staff, you will never lack for people watching nor find your drink in need of refreshing.
Find Fabulous Stars
A walking tour of Palm Springs Historical Society is necessary! During themed tours with such names as “Golden Era of Hollywood” and “The Rat Pack Playground”, you’ll stroll through areas like the Movie colony where many stars owned homes.
The guides are full of fun facts, historical information and even a few tidbits of gossip: Frank Sinatra famously flew a Jack Daniels flag on his flagpole when he was in residence to signify cocktail hour, and rumour has it Lisa Marie Presley was conceived in the Palm Springs home where Elvis & Priscilla honeymooned! We went by the former house of Dinah Shore, now owned by a fella whose name rhymes with “Neo Li Baprio” but sadly he wasn’t outside mowing the lawn at the time.
Shop (for something Fabulous) until you drop!
The Premium Outlet Mall is in nearby Cabazon, and indeed you can find some great deals, but Palm Canyon Drive is where you want to be for something a little more funky and original. Each Thursday night Palm Canyon Drive between Baristo and Amado is closed for Village Fest, a weekly market where over 200 local vendors, artisans, food carts and entertainers show their wares. With dozens of shops and boutiques, the Uptown Design District is a feast of mid-century art, furniture and accessories. Plan to check your luggage on the way home because you won’t have room in your carry-on for all the treasures you’ll find!
Eat & Drink, Fabulously!
An abundance of restaurants means you’ll never lack for choice in PS! Hit Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs Hotel for lunch so you can see the Jonathan Adler décor of the hotel and grounds in full daylight because you won’t believe your eyes. Transported into the interior set of a 1960’s TV sit-com I half expected Mrs Brady to come around the corner and offer Kool-Aid! It was epic, yet surreal. Norma’s serves upscale comfort food with unique presentation and tongue in cheek humour. Craving something light, I ordered a Rock Lobster and Mango Salad under the cheeky heading Rabbit Food.
Following an afternoon of shopping or pool lounging, you’ll need Appies and Drinks. Head for Workshop Kitchen & Bar – whatever you eat or drink, you’ll be awed by the interior design. Modern, industrial and concrete galore, they have transformed the interior of the historic 1926 El Paseo building into foodie heaven. Duck fat fries, folks! Duck. Fat. Fries. Delectable. Along with mouthwatering lentils (yes, lentils!) and a refreshing glass of Pisco Punch, I got a lesson in taste at Workshop!
Save more than a little room for dinner at Dish Creative Cuisine! In the Uptown design district, Dish’s executive chef Joane Garcia Colson is a former lawyer who takes good food very seriously – like as seriously as the law she used to study! This was the most dynamic meal I had in Palm Springs; each dish was carefully crafted to tease, taunt and entirely transform your senses. Amuse Bouche was the theme of the night and with offerings like compressed watermelon salad, poached, smoked salmon, savoury sage doughnuts, and luscious pork tenderloin among other incredible plates, my bouche was very amused! One bite of an unforgettable macaron with a chicken liver and sour cherry centre sprinkled with truffle salt, and I sat back in the chair, waiting for my brain to catch up and make sense of the riot of flavours in my mouth.
Wined, dined, shopped and pooled out, I packed my bags and headed back to reality. I had just celebrated a milestone in a desert oasis without fighting my way through crowds of inebriated 21-year-olds or 30-something guys reliving the Bachelor Party. 40 IS fabulous, and so is Palm Springs!