We just returned from a couple of days in Palm Springs, and while I like the heat, I have to say - 110 was a bit much even for me. (That discounted rate makes a lot more sense now!) We stayed at the Korakia, which is an interesting place - though I'm not sure it's worth what it would normally cost. We had a pretty sweet room with a private jacuzzi/plunge pool and french doors that rolled back to make an indoor/outdoor sleeping porch - but they normally charge about $700. per night for it. We paid just a little more than half that, which was plenty, given the downright spartan level of service provided, and the fact that there were condo buildings flanking the place on either side. I think we'll try someplace else when we go again - maybe the Movie Colony,the Viceroy, or the Horizon - which I spotted driving down Palm Canyon, and has nothing but compliments on Tripadvisor.
On the second day, we had breakfast at Norma's at the Parker (which I've heard referred to as "The Poseur." The hot chocolate and churros we started with were amazingly decadent. I really enjoyed the "Wa-zaa" waffle on my last visit - an over-the-top combo of a belgian waffle, blueberries, banana slices and custard, bruleed with a torch. This time we went with some Mexican inspired dishes - "Normalita's Huevos Rancheros" for James, and the Arepa for me. The Arepa was a corn cake topped with two eggs and salsa, served with some pan-fried chorizo, and the Huevos Rancheros was a quesadilla topped with eggs, salsa and guacamole. Between the two dishes, the french press coffee and the churros, we left happy and full. After breakfast we walked the grounds of the Parker and snapped some photos of the gardens - I've already been to City Farmer's Nursery to buy some plants for the yard based on what I saw growing there - I figure anything that can thrive in Palm Springs can survive in the East County.
For our dinners, we went with one fine dining - Le Vallauris - and one casual, Matchbox Pizza. Both were decent, but nothing I'd look forward to on a return trip. Strangely our entrees at Le Vallauris were vastly better than the starters - though the bad luck returned with the dessert. Here's a hint, don't order the Tarte Tatin. It was the worst I've ever tasted. The two starters we tried were the foie gras and something called a "Lobster Cocktail" - trust me, just avoid it. The sweetbreads and especially the duck were really phenomenal though - the sweetbreads were sauteed in a lemon butter sauce with capers - piccata style, and the duck (a whole half) was crisp like confit and served over an orange glaze laced with strips of zest. They also have a way with the deep frier - both my dish and James' had exceptional fried potato garnishes - mine was a potato nest cake, his a row of pommes souffle. Given the sky high prices we might have thought of complaining about the bad parts of the meal - but we were so happy with the entrees and the $40.00 bottle of Tavel Rose the Sommelier recommended that we chalked it up as a wash. The beautiful outdoor dining area under a canopy of trees lit with fairy lights didn't hurt either. They were doing Restaurant Week out there, and the menu they were serving looked quite good.
Matchbox offers pizzas, salads and a few entrees. I ordered a burger - craving one, and the meat was cooked perfectly - but strangely flavorless. Even the gorgonzola and the pickled red onions couldn't liven it up. The accompanying fries were perfect though - skin on, greaseless and crisp. The pepperoni pizza was large and thin and pretty tasty, but incredibly greasy. If you're nearby and need a bite to eat it's ok, but probably not worth crossing town for.
After our breakfast at Norma's, we tripped back down Palm Canyon to the Aerial Tramway, which I'd never done before - it is pretty spectacular, and must be even more so when there's snow up there in the winter. It goes from 2000 feet elevation to over 8000 feet in a matter of about ten minutes. At $12. per person for a ticket up it's a great way to kill some time and escape the heat. I was a little surprised by the number of foreign tourists we saw there - French, German, Chinese. The lodge up top has a great mid century feel, with enormous floor to ceiling windows, and a dual sided fireplace. They serve both lunch and dinner, and the last tramride down is at 10:30 pm. That rotating floor must be really fun after a few cocktails. Even sober it's a little queasy-making - fair warning if you get motion sickness.
Another popular past-time out there is browsing the second hand and vintage stores, which I would have loved to have done - but after two steps on the sidewalk, I think I would have dropped dead of heat exhaustion. I will have to save that for a return trip.
On this trip, it was all we could do to lay out on the cast iron lounge chairs (I was almost branded by an armrest) and sip cold beers out of an ice bucket. The private little villa we stayed in was perfect for that - and though the service was spotty (on the last day they took all of our towels and robes at turndown and left us exactly one of each) it did have some cool things going on - including fires lit at night by the pools, and movies projected on a wall right near our room.
On Monday night, they showed Singin' in the Rain, my all time favorite movie. As I watched Cyd Charisse do the Broadway dance number, with her long silk scarf and the gangster flipping his coin, I marveled at how gorgeously she moved and how fantastic she looked - and how sexy the whole thing is considering it was 1952. The following day, when I heard that she had passed away, I realized how serendipitous it was that we had seen the movie on that particular night. Despite the drawbacks of Korakia, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have happened anywhere else.