Before you consider a visit to Palm Springs, know two things. One: Palm Springs is an artificial paradise surrounded by a real one. Two: Not a lot happens in Palm Springs, that’s the reason people come here. Just two hours’ drive east from Los Angeles and once you cut through the Santa Rosa Mountains into the Coachella Valley you could be a thousand miles away.The landscape is suddenly pink and barren, settled in narrow strips along the freeway. Rounding one bend in the road not far from Palm Springs, you come across the surreal sight of acres of wind turbines, tall white spokes semaphoring away into the distance.
We were heading straight through to La Quinta Resort and Club – 22 miles east of Palm Springs proper – an oasis tucked under a low mountain ridge at the end of a classic California palm-lined avenue.
La Quinta opened in 1927 and became something of a favorite with Hollywood’s most shy and retiring in the 1930s – Greta Garbo was a regular, as were divas Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, all escaping their fishbowl lives. Presidents have slummed it here, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino and Jane Fonda.
A maze of whitewashed, red-roofed casitas lead to your own bougainvillea fringed private front door. The bedroom door opened onto a patio, which itself opened onto the most inviting swimming pool we had ever seen. Right next to the pool was a vast bubbling jacuzzi.
Once we’d checked in I felt no shame in doing absolutely nothing while the boys ping-ponged their way from pool to pool around the resort. Jack was intoxicated by his big brother’s free and easy attitude towards charging snacks and drinks to the room and hitching rides on the golf carts that ferry guests to and fro.
Any Palm Springs resort worth its salt has a spa and La Quinta is no exception. It is, like the resort, luxurious but laid-back. I booked the full body works: a “California Essential’ which entailed eucalyptus oils plus body brushing plus an avocado oil massage = heavenly. Afterwards there’s no pressure to leave; I could have lounged all day in the central courtyard, reading magazines and sipping lemon water.
Actually there is no real reason to leave the relaxed elegance of La Quinta itself: the place is big enough to take a walk or cycle ride (they have a rack of bikes you can hire) Even in the hottest months there are gardens, lawns and orchards full of flowers and fruit. The main pool boasts a poolside lunch and bar service as well as poolside cabanas for rent, and a heartening open fireplace that takes the edge off that sundown desert chill.
There are 40 additional semi-private pools dotted through the site, grass and clay tennis courts and a superb coaching service. Jack took a private lesson with the irrefutably funny and eternally patient Ian Mendel. I had to drag my son away literally begging to stay another day. Meanwhile George was having a thorough golf workout with Jason Jenkins, working to improve his aim with the help of a “Superstation” that provides indoor video analysis using state-of-the-art JC Video technology, ensuring complete and detailed swing analysis. Neighboring PGA WEST is a resort development consisting of more than 2,200 acres featuring world-class golf, tennis and fitness. George said he’d never seen anything like it. And came back swinging like a pro.
That night we ate at one of four restaurants on-site, Twenty-6. The romantic courtyard and vibrant sports bar lead you though to cozy family-style leather booths. Reminiscent of a no-nonsense, old-school American grill, the menu boasts all the iconic home classics like ribs, grilled-cheese, wings, burgers, flatbreads, soups and sandwiches, presented in a slick fashion. The food is tasty. TV dinners are one retro item on the menu. Specially made ceramic plates, divided into the familiar sections hold versions of meatloaf, beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes and green peas. The boys dived into their dessert with relish: reverse soda floats – orange “crush” and root beer creamsicles. I tried the fresh strawberry shortbread. I have to say I’ve never tasted better.
When Jack went to bed that night, someone had crafted his guest towels into a toy elephant (complete with eyes) Little extras like that make all the difference. All in all La Quinta is the kind of discerning retreat where you come to be treated like a slightly fragile movie star, fussed over but never intruded upon.
Kids or no kids, celebs or no celebs, it’s a very fine place to want to be alone.
49-499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, California 92253| T: 1-760-564-4111| Email: [email protected]