Sunday, January 25, 2009

Getting our just desserts in the desert

The views from our balcony.

Palm Desert, CA -- We had a very relaxed time here in Palm Desert, thanks to the raffle ticket which made this vacation trip possible.
For those unaware, Pat and I won one week in Palm Desert, CA, in a raffle at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. It's the first prize I've won since the third grade when I stopped under the proper colored ceiling light when the music stopped at a roller skating party. I won a hanky, and was proud to get it.
I am afraid to figure out the dollar value of a week at this high-end Marriott resort, but will be ever grateful to the folks who donated it.
Suffice it to say this week at the Marriott Resort Villas has been priceless. It included a one-bedroom apartment overlooking one of the golf courses, a jacuzzi tub, an equipped modern kitchen, multiple telephones and televisions, washer and dryer, high-speed Internet, a waterfall outside the window, ducks and geese on the green, more swimming pools and hot tubs than we can count and a workout room. That's just the free stuff we found.

We hiked into an oasis in a nature preserve, toured Joshua Tree National Park, attended an art show at the polo club aimed at folks with rich taste, went to Palm Springs for the weekly street fair, took a cable-car gondola to the top of a mountain and did a lot of walking and looking.

(These pictures from Joshua Tree National Park give you just a hint how beautiful it is- a stunning place.)

We did not try to play golf, which I gave up because I am lousy at it, and decided there was too much else to do to hang out at the Bob Hope Pro-Am Classic with famous people. The celebrities can come watch us anytime they want to, but we gave them a bit of privacy.
I resisted the urge to wear a bandana and braid my hair to see if any Wllie Nelson fans would freak out when we strolled through Palm Springs. I got a few strange looks anyway.

Free posh digs made me a little less cheap when it came to eating out, so we have eaten well and often.

We started with Italian, then moved through Chinese to California cuisine at poolside, ate with our friends the Tulipanis from Calaveras, and wound up our week today eating on top of San Jacinto Mountain (Toasted Head chardonay as a compliment) after a ride up on the tram from the desert floor. Here's a glimpse of the tram ride and the view down into the desert. Yes I was scared, but Pat loved it.

Last night Pat had a taste for Greek food, so we searched out a Mediterranean place, rode all over the place looking for it, and finally found it in the back of a shopping center.

Only one table was occupied, but a young and attractive woman was performing a rather frenetic belly dance when we walked in the door. The performance continued at our table edge for most of the meal.
(Sorry, friends, but I did not have a camera.)
In fact, I was sufficiently embarrassed (to Pat's amusement) that I looked down at the dancer's bare feet most of the time. She had nice young feet. I also can report she was the only slim belly dancer we have ever seen, and I noticed she had money tucked into the waistband of her pantaloons. We contributed but I made Pat do the tucking. I noticed the waistband was very low, and she had little or no belly.

Did you know belly dancers can talk while performing? Pat engaged her in a conversation that included where she got her outfit (rented, it turns out) and how she learned to belly dance (self taught, from You-tube and instructional videos).

It was a unique experience, eating lamb kabob while a young women was gyrating and (no other descriptive word for it) humping around the edge of the table. The young woman is probably a college student from L.A., and looks about as Mediterranean as I do, but she was working hard and did earn applause from all the employees (all three of them) and the five customers. She looked a bit like granddaughter Delaney, only a bit older, which put me into a patriarchal mood. But I did not lecture.

That's a hard way to make a living.

The food was not very good, but it was an evening to remember.

We have done most of the exercise we promised ourselves. Pat has lost four ounces and I have gained two pounds.

Tomorrow we head for San Simeon in search of the ghost of a newspaper magnate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Southern California Birthday

We chose not to stay at the motel shown above, even though the rates were quite good.
Instead, we opted for the place below, where Pat relaxed by playing the dulcimer as the sun set on the golf course behind her.

Palm Desert, CA -- My bride and I are celebrating her birthday today with a road trip, and the first full day has turned out quite well.
We started the day at the Buck Owens Crystal Palace Hotel (and Spa) coffee shop in Bakersfield, the home of West Coast Country Music. Merle Haggard Drive is not far away.

We mostly avoided freeways and drove through the desert till we arrived here, in rich folk territory.

For a quick break we had chile verde burritos for lunch at a roadside Mexican place named the Kool Kactus, just outside San Bernadino. The cafe was part of a 1940s era motel that looks like a movie set, only real. Think the Bates Motel in adobe. That's the motel pictured at the top, and the cafe below.

We then arrived at the Mariott Resort Villas in Palm Desert, and are safely ensconced in our luxury condo for the week. One look around and we feel like candidates for the Rich and Famous TV series, except our Toyota Van is the only dirty vehicle in the (securely gated) area, probably for miles around.

The view outside the windows and off the patio is of a pond, waterfall and the lushest fairways I have seen since I was a caddy in West Virginia one summer and was allowed on the country club greens - as a worker bee. I can't really afford to play golf here, but it is a great place to watch the inaugural ceremonies tomorrow.

We have the mountains, currently aglow with sunset, and the desert surrounds this area. The temperature is in the high 70s, a heat wave for us, and the sun is shining.

We are only pretending to belong, of course, but it is fun while it last.
And Pat deserves the attention and happy day.