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  • Writer's pictureErica

Caftans in the Desert: a long Palm Springs weekend May 22-27, 2021

In May of 2021, three mid-century women went to Palm Springs for a "girls weekend" of mid-century architecture, pool time, and cocktails. Our VRBO came with caftans!

This Covid-era trip was planned before vaccines were available, so we got a house that was bigger than three women needed, with a bathroom for each in case we had to keep our distance. Fortunately by May we were all vaccinated, but masks were still part of the landscape. As were Joshua Trees!

We chose our rental house, listed as "Fun mid-century modern home," due to its proximity to downtown so we could walk to dinner. We had no idea how dang hot it would be every day and how much we would NOT want to walk to dinner. The decor of the rental house was very fun and it had everything we needed. Pool! Bar! Twiggy!

The reason I chose Palm Springs as a destination, as many do, was the modern architecture. And it delivered. Morning walks, before it got too hot, resulted in pic after pic of perfectly detailed houses and arid landscaping that is curious to this Midwesterner.

So where did we eat?

1501 Uptown Gastropub for brunch! They have an extensive patio and a delicious menu. Plus they brought me a dangerous birthday candle.

A prix fixe meal at the lovely Farm. I wish I had taken more pics of the wandering indoor and outdoor "rooms," connected by walls of bougainvillea and twinkly lights.

Colony Club at the Colony Palms hotel - very luxe surroundings and a view of the pool while dining on a fancy throw-back dinner (very excited about the Chicken Cordon Bleu).

And our favorite retro interior by far, a brunch at The Tropicale. Holy garnishes! Wish we could have stayed all day.

More places worth a mention, some of which we tried out:

Other things to do besides eat and drink and float in the pool. If you want.

We Ladies of the '80s geeked out to U2's Joshua Tree album on the drive to Joshua Tree National Park, about an hour away from Palm Springs. While there, we tried to recreate the album cover wth an unsuspecting volunteer photographer. Note that on the actual album cover there are no Joshua Trees.

I am probably the only person who thought there was ONE Joshua Tree to see at this park, definitely influenced by the name of the album. Of course there are many, many Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) and they are so interesting, looking like both cactii and trees. More about them here, from the NPS site.

We were disappointed to learn that there is not an actual Oyster Bar within the park.

This is what you do on your 55th birthday.

Here's more info to help you plan your own visit to (the) Joshua Tree(s).

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is an exhilerating and unusual experience - a two and a half mile ascent in a rotating gondola to a California state park high up on the mountain. After the heat of the desert it's a surprising treat. People with a fear of heights will not dig this.

There's our little gondola!

The story of Francis Crocker's vision to create the tramway over 30+ years is interesting. You should really visit it rather than read about it here. OK, go ahead.

At the top there are loop trails, vistas, and the soothing smell of pine trees. The view is of the Coachalla Valley. Make sure you take into account that it's cooler after climbing 6000 feet!

We chilled out at the top with a beer, and contemplated the lyrics to Peter Gabriel's "San Jacinto."

More architecture! The Palm Springs Modernism week is a great way to enjoy this treasure trove of MCM architecture, but you can also take your own self-guided driving tour, which we did. Here it is. From the guide: Palm Springs has the largest concentration of preserved mid-century modern architecture in the world. Visionary architects came to Palm Springs and brought their own spin on Bauhaus and the International Style, reworking it for the desert environment.

There are designs by famed architects Richard Neutra and John Lautner, plus great gifts at the Albert Frey-designed Tramway Gas Station, now the Palm Springs Visitor Center - a good place to start.

There are plenty more things to do while visiting Palm Springs, when not in deep Covid Times. For instance the Palm Springs Art Museum, and Sunnylands Center & Gardens. More info on the Visit Palm Springs website.

Until next time... cheers!


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