As someone who has always loved the simplicity and efficiency of Modernist architecture and furniture design I have longed to visit Palm Springs. Sometimes when your expectations are high the reality can be quite different…but in this instance my expectations were far exceeded. Perhaps it was because I had just flown in from New York City, but Palm Springs seemed to me calm, clean and felt extremely safe. That just sets the background for the many joys this city has to offer.
What finally brought me to Palm Springs was its Photo Festival where I attended an Architectural & Interiors photography workshop with Scott Frances. It was such an amazing experience to be out photography stunning properties during the day, including Albert Frey’s House ll and The Lautner Compound, then viewing presentations by world renowned photographers each night. I highly recommend the Festival to any photographer reading.
Although Palm Springs is relatively small in size I did find hiring a car useful for cruising around the various neighbourhoods and for venturing beyond the city limits. It is also a great place to hire bicycles as it is generally flat and there is an extensive network of bike trails. The Old Las Palmas neighbourhood is a good place to start exploring the mid-century architecture and gardens. If you are not joining a guided architectural tour during your visit then look for the “Open House” signs if you want to also see some interiors.
I visited Palm Springs for 8 days and stayed at three different hotels. The first hotel I had to check-out of promptly due to its resemblance to a Frat house (only ever seen these on TV but it was pretty wild). Perhaps I was naively unaware that Palm Springs is a popular Bachelor & Bachelorette party destination so pick your hotel wisely if coming on a weekend. Fortunately, I found a fantastic, small boutique hotel called The Weekend which restored my faith in how a hotel should be run. It was like walking into a little oasis with ten rooms situated around a central pool. It was perfect. I didn’t want to leave except I had splurged on one final night away at the Parker Palm Springs. It is cool and funky but it could do with a little refresher. I can also recommend The Monkey Tree Hotel and The Lautner Compound for those architectural inclined.
Even if you don’t stay at the Parker make sure you dine at Counter Reformation. This is the Parker’s take on a speakeasy and is secretly concealed so make sure you search it out. Customers sit at a counter and are served tapis, wine and great conversation, which was perfect for this lone traveller. I also recommend Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey. Their Baby Langustine Roll had me coming back for more. I must have been craving Asian food because Rooster & The Pig was also a favourite which their tasty Vietnamese offerings. Zin Americana Bistro is highly recommended and located in the centre of the main shopping strip. I found the best coffee was from Juniper Table at the base of The Rowan Hotel. Mind you, the Starbucks opposite is the best designed Starbucks I have ever seen, and I may have indulged in one of their affogatos on a hot afternoon.
I often say I want to go back to a place and the reality is I never will…but I know Palm Springs will definitely be somewhere I return…and next time I will make it to Joshua Tree National Park.