Staying Fabulous in Palm Springs
The sun, the palms, the snow-capped mountain peaks—no matter where you look, Palm Springs is fabulous!
A desert oasis, a playground for Hollywood stars, and a mid-century modern architecture enclave, the city is vibrant, alive, steeped in brilliant colors of orange and green, and studded with turquoise swimming pools under the glossy blue sky.
While staying at Del Marcos Hotel it’s easy to feel like a movie star on a break between studio calls. The 1947 Desert Modernism structure designed by William F. Cody, one of the most notable architects of the movement, is lovingly preserved and decorated to evoke the glamour days of Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Rat Pack, and “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Lounging by the shiny saltwater pool under a green umbrella, I gradually realize I am reveling in ultimate luxury, what with all the leisure time that is mine—even if only for a couple of hours in my busy travel journalist’s life.
It’s hot but pleasantly so in the shade of the umbrella. It’s very quiet, no screaming kiddies in the serene pool shimmering with myriad sparkles. Soft 1940s music is playing in the background, just audibly enough to lose myself in aimless daydreaming.
The air is dry and clear like a crystal bell. Gently swaying palm fronds calmingly rustle overhead. Privacy. Sunlight. A long, sleepy afternoon. Is there a better place in the world in this very moment? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I’ve found mine.
In the evening, the streets become busier with the dining crowd.
With the hotel location a block away from downtown, my husband and I walked from the hotel to the one of the very best restaurants in the area, Johannes. Austrian-born chef/owner Johannes Bacher goes above and beyond the menu staple Wiener Schnitzel, creating hot-weather specials such as delicate, bright green, peas-and-mint cold soup topped with crab meat and yogurt.
Another special on the night we dined was an entrée of veal sweetbreads with shiitake mushrooms, wilted spinach, and baby carrots—utterly decadent and light enough to leave some room for dessert.
Chestnut flan with strawberries in rum syrup and whipped cream was also indicative of the restaurant’s excellence and originality.
A special watermelon martini and a “Perfect 10” with tart, refreshing Campari seemed like a good fit for the perfect meal.
The next morning, we took a trip to an enormous wildlife and botanical park, Living Desert, that occupies 1,200 acres of preserved and abundantly vital land of undisturbed Sonoran Desert. Mountain lions, Mexican wolves, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, and giraffes live in the area, which is divided into gardens and canyons, one more enticing and engaging than the other.
From the Columnar Cactus Garden to the Butterfly Garden and from the Eagle Canyon to the Village WaTuTu, the open-air museum can hardly be covered in one visit, but we did the best we could, wandering through the land of unbelievable richness and beauty—a stark contrast with the prevailing notion of the emptiness associated with desert.
Animal presentations at the Tennity Wildlife Hospital & Conservation Center inevitably draw crowds and provide plenty of education for children of all ages in a playful, accessible form.
I’ve finally learned a difference between turtles (who live in water) and tortoises (who inhabit dry land) when I met Hercules, a 65-year-old true tortoise who didn’t mind being photographed while having his salad-green dinner on an orange plate.
With all the botanical and zoological exhibits and a variety of nature trails for beginner and advanced hikers, the Living Desert is a Palm Springs attraction not to be missed.
I also never miss a chance to visit the Palm Springs Art Museum, which is in an expansive building designed by E. Stewart Williams at the foot of Mount San Jacinto and filled with natural light.
The museum’s permanent collection boasts more than 55,000 artworks, many of them modern and contemporary art. An array of rotating traveling exhibitions range from photography and painting to sculpture and 3D installations and never seize to amaze.
Tired and happy to be back to our hotel by the end of the day, we looked forward to the next afternoon and the main reason for our visit to Palm Springs: The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies.
The over-the-top, lavishly produced music review and variety show with a cast ranging in age from 54 to 84 years old has been seen by three million viewers in the course of its 22-year existence.
When the show first opened at the historic Plaza Theatre back in 1992, no one, not even the founders and producers Riff Markowitz and Mary Jardin could have predicted its smashing success. Markowitz, who is also the iconic Follies master of ceremonies, hasn’t missed a single show since its premier.
The company’s print publication, Follies Confidential, quips in a caption, “Ruined by Wall Street meltdown, ancient dancer forced back to work at 77!” The related cover photo contradicts the statement, since this long-legged, smiling beauty showing plenty of perfectly smooth skin and adorned with feathers and jewels cannot possibly be 77. And yet, she is.
The highly professional cast of the Follies, with successful careers on Broadway and in Las Vegas, is a wonder of onstage longevity and an inspiring example of age-defying artistic dedication.
We were lucky enough to attend the closing performance of the 22nd edition of the Follies, “Dance to the Music!”
The show was dedicated to the dance hits of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s and had two guest stars: legendary vocalist Lesley Gore, who sang her gold record hits “You Don’t Own Me,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and “It’s My Party,” and the great hula-hoop acrobat Mat Plendl.
The longest running Follies of all time, the show will unfortunately close with the end of its 23rd edition, “The Last Hurrah,” which opens on November 1.
The last performance of the Follies will be on May 18, 2014, so it is now or never! Follies tickets begin at $29.