Sunday, May 17, 2015

Palm Springs in March

For my Spring Break/Birthday Trip this year, I decided to go to Southern California. I have been to San Francisco and the Napa area three times, but never SoCal. I was craving arid, sunny weather and the beach.

I was there for ten days - I desperately want to go back! It's as beautiful as everyone says, and so much to do. I started my trip landing at the Ontario airport, outside of L.A. which was a great choice because it was so low-key and easy to navigate, and my rental car was much cheaper ($20 a day, including all taxes and fees!) than if I had gotten on at LAX. Here is what I saw when driving from the airport. Oh, the mountains! Brings tears of joy to my eyes!
Leaving the Ontario, California airport and heading out to Palm Springs.

I did a lot of research and spent a lot of time on discount travel websites, and I got a great deal from Jetsetter for The Saguaro in Palm Springs. Quick lowdown: free parking, great pool, fun decor. Some of the staff was snooty. The "spa" was in the basement and felt kind of no-frills. The bar is cool. The food is good, but not great. But all in all, since I lot "atmosphere" and the decor is very important to me, I really enjoyed this hotel, which was mid-range in price.
Funky Barbie Doll Art Shadow Boxes Replicating Hotel Scenes

The Lobby of the Saguaro in Palm Springs

One of my favorite moment at this hotel was the first night when I went for a swim in the hotel pool after dinner. It was a clear night. There were only a few other guests around the pool, besides myself, so I mostly had it to myself. The large, full moon hung in the sky, suspended in between two palms that towered over the pool. The weather was perfect. The pool temperature was perfect. Everything was perfect. It was like a dream. Ahhhh California - your beauty is heart-breaking!

I spent the next two days in Palm Springs. I went to the town of Joshua Tree and bought snacks and water for the National Park, plus a cool green turquoise and sterling silver Native American-made ring.
Native American Green Turquoise and Sterling Silver Ring from Joshua Tree

Then I went to Joshua Tree park and hiked the closest and one of the easiest trails. I loved every minute of it. The views, the terrain - all gorgeous. There were plenty of other tourists, but it was not overcrowded. If you are ever in the area, this park is a "can't-miss" destination!
Joshua Tree in late March 2015
Joshua Tree spring cactus blossom in a crevice
Happiest in the desert!
Holding on to my hat. A windy scenic overlook, looking down into Coachella Valley.

This is a Joshua Tree!!! They are everywhere in the park.
Aside from the lazy walks in the park, my other favorite thing about that day was just soaking in the sun while driving around all the picturesquely named towns like Twenty Nine Palms and Desert Hot Springs. Even the names promise exotic beauty around every bend, and you are not disappointed. What a contrast from dull, grey Northern Illinois! A beautiful, arid, sunny landscape in every direction, as far as the eye can see. Long, dusty, curving roads seem to go on forever, and the peacefulness is Zen-like and soothing to the soul.

In my next post, I will talk about my second day in Palm Springs, California, where I visited some kitsch, did some shopping, some fancy dining, and a bit more desert hiking.

Driving California Highway 1 and the Beauty of Laguna Beach

(Photo not taken by me)

What a treasure I felt I "discovered" after driving up from San Diego on my way to L.A. Round and round some twisty curves, I let out an audible "Aaaah" as I approached Laguna Beach. Although I had the negative association from the TV show of dumb and vapid beautiful young girls and their equally beautiful caddish boyfriends, I had to give it up for the gorgeousness of this town. I wasn't going to stop but just had to. Stunning palm tree lined streets wound further and further up the hills overlooking the postcard worthy coves and beaches of the Pacific. Tons of cute shops and eateries lined the highway road - which was the main street of the town.

I decided I wanted a mid-morning bakery treat and came across C'Est La Vie, situated between the Coast Highway and Main Beach. The area serves as the town center. The bakery/restaurant was pretty, beachy white and bustling. I picked a couple of delicious pastries from the friendly counter lady, and taking advantage of the free parking (Amazeballs!) in the back of the restaurant, ate one of the pastries on the beach right out back. The beach was packed with families and young people alike and had a super fun atmosphere to it. Nice white sand gently rolled toward the water, and tall trees were everywhere for shade.

I was meeting my niece in L.A. so I couldn't afford to linger in Laguna Beach any longer, but I can't wait to go back! Just that little glimpse of the pretty cliff side homes, all the intriguingly unique and artsy shops and that gorgeous, easily-accessible beach has me craving more. Next time I visit Cali, I will stay a few days in Laguna Beach. I want to pick some little bohemian spot within walking distance of the beach (parking is, of course, difficult) and just laze there a few days. Heaven!