You know how everyone posts cactus and pool photos and is all #PalmSprings? Yeah I'm that person. Or was. Now I'm a person sitting back on her couch in flannel leopard print pajamas, but for six glorious days I was all sunsets and cacti. And it was pretty great.
This trip (his spring break) wasn't as much about sightseeing -- Nate and I have both spent time in the city -- it was more about meaningful connection. (OK for him it was more about getting to the In and Out Burger, but we'll get there.) Connection with each other, time with my brother/his uncle, and visiting with old friends who could give him a glimpse into the world of content creation, because he wants to be a writer and photographer. (And it's not as cool to hear writing advice from mom. Ahem.)
So, armed with an iPhone and his Fujimax, we set out together.
We arrived on a Saturday evening, and the moment we got to Santa Monica, met my brother, dropped our bags and headed for the pier as the sun started to fall. It wasn't the first time on the pier for any of us (Ryan lives a few blocks away), but it was our first time to ride the ferris wheel at Pacific Park. There's no better place to catch a sunset here than high above the Pacific. And, as Nate said, the wheel conveniently stops for selfies. Aka to let people on and off.
We made it a conscious effort to not try to pack in a million things each day. Since there aren't directs to LA from Birmingham, and we chose to fly from Atlanta (cheaper flights), the trip out there and back takes up nearly two full days. I'm now at a point in my life where I need a day to recuperate from a cross-country trip, which is what we did our first full day -- Sunday. So we sat by Ryan's rooftop pool, Nate swimming and Ryan and I working on details around his wedding ceremony. Why would you want to leave this view?
Sunday evening we had an amazing meal with our friend Eddie at Shutters on The Beach's casual restaurant, Coast. Highly recommend sitting in the window boxes to watch people skate, ride, run, and twirl by on the bike path. (The lobster roll served with hush puppies the size of a feast was the perfect meal.)
Come Monday, we were refreshed to walk to Venice Beach. We are lucky to have a brother/uncle who lives in one of the most prime locations in the world. Honestly, we could just walk this stretch for days and be happy. Plus, the steps we got in that day were off the charts.
Beaches! Sunsets! King of the World Poses!
A pause for a moment.
Here's the thing about LA: you have to plan your activities around the traffic. This goes against my nature of trying to fit a number of activities into a travel day, but it is real and involves strategy.
So that day we Ubered over to offices of Entertainment Weekly, where my friend Anthony Breznican graciously agreed to meet with us. Anthony is a senior writer there, covering, among other things, the Star Wars franchise, and has pretty much interviewed every celebrity you'd want to meet. He also happens to be just about the nicest guy. We caught up over burgers and Nate interviewed him about his career back at the Time Inc. offices. (They have better snacks than the ones we had when I worked at a sister title in Birmingham, by the way. Plus a hell of a view of downtown LA.)
Anthony gave Nate some really good career and life advice, but you're going to have to wait for that story from the young writer. I will say it involves getting really, really good at what you do and building strong relationships, both of which Mr. Breznican is a pro at.
That night we dined at The Grove with our cousins Brendan and Sullivan, eating at The (Original) Farmer's Market. There we had a brief and momentary *celebrity* sighting, followed by angst, as Nate momentarily spotted The Martinez Twins, who are apparently YouTube stars. But being a 40-year old mother I did not know of said twins, and he spent the rest of the night searching amongst food stalls to try to find them. Content creation in 2017, people.
Though the hunt for The Martinez Twins was unsuccessful, we did find donuts and coffee. Score!
Tuesday we set off for Palm Springs. I'd gone back and forth about adding in this overnight trip, knowing we'd miss a few things in LA (like LACMA and Huntington Gardens). In the end, we decided to go for it, because I HAD NEVER BEEN TO PALM SPRINGS. What? I know. Plus the chance for Nate to see the desert -- a first -- was one we couldn't pass up. So we got a rental and drove the 2+ hours East. Not going to lie: I was saying "Jesus be a shield!" the entire way out of LA, and had a slight anxiety attack driving through traffic.
Because I believe in writing the whole truth I have to say that my anxiety flares while driving, But whereas I used to clench my entire body and have to take Xanax to calm down, and end up scrunched up in a hotel trying to unwind the physical knots from my body, now I'm not such a mess about it. Serenity now!
(Editor's note: six days after we got back from this trip, I was rear ended in Birmingham. But I survived LA driving. Ha.)
Once out of LA, the drive is lovely, with the mountains surrounding you like the most peaceful reminder of grace, and wildflowers blooming, and a child asking "Why isn't there WiFI?" Wait, back to the serenity.
I lived in the desert for a short time after college, and being in that landscape does something magical to my heart. As do roadside dinosaurs! "Mom you're such a tourist!" Nate said as we pulled over to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs. "We are travelers, love." Because is there anything better than posing under a T-Rex saying "Tell 'Em Large Marge Sent Ya?" Answer: no, there is not. And yes, we paid admission to take the tour to see each and every one of the majestic prehistoric pals and to also ride on one. Plus climb up to the top of the T-Rex and sit in his mouth. What a glorious Tuesday.
Upon arrival to Palm Springs, we checked into The Ace Hotel & Pool Club. I love an Ace property and apparently so did all the other parents taking their children to Palm Springs for spring break. More friends to play with in the pool. And what a pool it is. (But oh how the vibe will change in a few weeks come Coachella ... )
I loved the '50s vibe of the Palm Springs Ace. A former Howard Johnson, it has all the charm of a mid-century motel reimagined for the 21st century, like the former Denny's turned "King's Diner," where I could't stop thinking of the Mad Men episode when Don and Megan eat at the Howard Johnson's. "It's not a destination -- it's on the way to some place." The Ace, however, is a destination. (Pro tip: wake up early to snag the best pool seats, like that big old bed by the pool, or a spot on the sun deck, seen in the third photo below.)
After our pool time, we headed to shop downtown. Palm Canyon Drive, the town's main road, is a shopper's delight. Since our time was limited, we went straight to Trina Turk's flagship store. Can't you tell Nate was thrilled to be inside Mr. Turk? I stocked up on gifts, including this gold foil covered tote that reads "Golden State" by Sisters of LA. OK the gift was for me.
Dinner was across the street at Workshop Kitchen + Bar, where we ate at the beautiful communal table. Workshop won a James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design in 2015, and is it ever gorgeous, in its minimal California simplicity and sophistication. Plus the scallops were divine.
Everyone says to to the Palm Springs Arial Tramway, and it really is a must. We got there just in time to ride up the 8,516 feet for sunset (because apparently we love a sunset ride), and it was glorious. It's the world's largest rotating tram car, and the ride up affords gorgeous views of the Coachella Valley.
The crazy thing is that once you get up to the top, it's 20-30 degrees colder than where you started. We ran out, took some photos (snow and desert in one hour) and huddled inside, drinking hot chocolate and eating fudge.
Knowing we had to get back to LA for an early evening appointment (in-home Botox, if you must know, because, LA), we were at another strategic crossroads. My gut said to head to the Parker Palm Springs for breakfast at Norma's. And one's gut never lies, especially when it comes to the jewel of mid-century modern revised decor. This Jonathan Adler-designed property is spectacular in its aesthetic. Only a small part is open to the public -- the ground floor, including lobby areas and Norma's. It is a must-visit for a Palm Springs trip.
Nothing is cheap here -- including breakfast, where blueberry pancakes will set you back $25. I ordered the potato pancakes with homemade cranberry apple sauce and sweet carrot payasam. Frankly, I didn't know what payasam is but it was all delicious.
After breakfast we checked out the lobby, which is basically my dream home.
Oh, and that front door? To die for.
Before heading back to LA, we spent some time at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, a short drive from Palm Springs. We didn't make it to actually see any animals, for it was at this point in the trip one of us hit a bit of a wall. I plan on returning during our next visit to Palm Springs, because the botanical gardens, populated with plants of the desert, are stunning.
On the way back, we stopped for the customary In and Out Burger and I had a date shake from Hadley's Fruit Orchard . Because, fruit. (Conveniently, they're right across from one another. Score!) Sadly, we didn't have time for Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Because 10 year old boys and outlets and pressing Botox appointments don't mix. File under next time.
Not going to lie, despite trying to pace ourselves, I was pretty beat by the time we reached our last day in LA. The highlight was a long lunch with my lifelong friend Dave. We met in elementary school and have deep ties, but hadn't talked in a while. But, as old friends do, we talked like no time had passed by. The funny thing is that we both do similar things professionally, and had the best talk. I'm so crazy proud of him and what he's doing.
And that's really travel really is about now for me.
Not checking off every box, running from place to place every day. But real connection. Time with people I care about. Being present for all of it. Till next time, Cali. May it be soon. xo