If you listen closely you can almost hear Frank Sinatra crooning. Look over there! Is that Marilyn Monroe? Hey, isn’t that Nat King Cole? In late spring I joined a group of fellow journalists for a midweek visit to Palm Springs. I’d been there before and certainly enjoyed myself, but this stay opened my eyes to a side of Palm Springs I didn’t know existed. In the fifties and sixties, Palm Springs was a refuge for Hollywood stars from its bright lights and adoring fans. If you know where to look, you’ll find much of that legacy lives on.
Each of us stayed at a member hotel of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels. Before my arrival, I was asked if I’d be comfortable staying at a clothing-optional, male resort. I didn’t have an issue with that, so I looked forward to checking out the Santiago Resort. General Manager Kent Taylor immediately made me feel right at home as he showed me around his lovely property. He pointed out the bikes available to guests for the short ride into town. The cantina is stocked with fruit, snacks, and drinks, and is available after hours with your room key. The Santiago boasts a large pool, a spa, and an outdoor shower. My room was spacious, comfortable, and well-appointed. It was an ideal home away from home for three days and I’d return there anytime. As Kent told me “we are all-welcoming and all-inclusive.”
We headed downtown for dinner at Eight4Nine, located, you guessed it, at 849 N Palm Canyon Drive. You enter the restaurant through the welcoming bar and lounge area. From there we took a left into a private room and met with several Palm Springs hoteliers and dignitaries. The food was superb and expertly paired with wine. My salad was fresh and crisp, the steelhead moist and flavorful, and the key lime pie was divine. I could strongly sense the pride our hosts take in their hometown. I took the short drive back to the Santiago for a night of rest before venturing out the next day.
Our day began at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, where Michael Green, Chair of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels group introduced us to a local historian and a representative of the Agua Caliente Tribe of Cahuilla Indians. We could tell the man who showed us Palm Springs’ past on the big screen wished he had more time. The history is fascinating and the photos painted a vivid story. The Cahuilla Indians are generously giving back to the community and are building a larger casino and resort that will be a centerpiece of Palm Springs.
We left the theater and hopped right onto a Celebrity Tours bus. It’s easy to understand why Jeff Swanson has been named Tour Guide of the Year multiple times. He started our tour in The Movie Colony, built by the studios so their stars could have a home away from home. Jeff pointed out Frank Sinatra’s first Palm Springs home and shared several stories that made it seem as if he had been there. He continued our tour through various neighborhoods, sharing inside tales all the way. We stopped in front of the home where Elvis and Priscilla honeymooned, telling us about the gossip columnist who spilled their secret. Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny and Cher, and scores of other stars called Palm Springs home at one time. He often gave us the choice of making a right or a left turn and left us wondering what we would have encountered had we turned the other way. We enjoyed a delicious box lunch from Aspen Mills along the way.
Later that afternoon, we paid a visit to Mr. Lyons, a re-imagining of an English Grille, where Executive Chef Eddie Moran and wine expert Jessie Casanova had assembled a Delectably Palm Springs food and wine pairing for us. Chef Eddie’s food is as good as it gets and Jessie’s wine pairings were spot on. Starting with radishes and blue cheese paired with Marco Felluga Mongris Pinot Grigio, each bite and sip was sublime. We progressed to a black cod escabeche with dill crème Fraiche paired with La Follette Los Primeros Pinot Noir and finished with a divine Berkshire pork belly with rhubarb and fennel paired with Margerum M5 Red Blend. This exceptional pairing left me wanting to return to Mr. Lyons for dinner!
We concluded our first full day with dinner and a show at the Purple Room Supper Club. Owner Michael Holmes is also an entertainer extraordinaire, and he and his trio entertained us as we enjoyed a delicious dinner. While belting out standards from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and many others, he shared stories of the times all of them had performed on the very same stage. We all sipped creative signature cocktails from Frank’s Bourbon Bar, while thoroughly enjoying the show.
There’s another full day to share with you, including a climb to the top aboard the incredible Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, soon to come.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. WINEormous is the recipient of the Luxury Travel Guide’s Wine Tour Operator of the Year award for Temecula 2017 and 2018 and the Lux Life Mag Best Customised Wine Tour Operator Temecula for 2019 as well as Most Unique Wine Tour Operator – Southern California. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.