My boyfriend Paul and I just couldn’t get it together. We’d been dating for close to four years. And with opposing schedules, separate houses and part-time kids, being able to spend quality time alone is rare. So when the miraculous happened and we had a week to ourselves, we decided to get out of town for a romantic getaway.
We wanted to go somewhere special, somewhere sexy…hot even. “What about the desert? We could go to Palm Springs,” I suggested one night.
“Let’s do it,” he said, excited about the prospect of the laidback, uncrowded atmosphere we’d heard about, complete with jogging in the sun and lounging at the pool. The only problem was deciding where to stay. With so many boutique hotels, each of them offering a unique experience, we couldn’t choose just one. After a lot of comparing and contrasting online and on Instagram, we decided to split our time between the retro Palm Springs Rendezvous and the Mediterranean-style La Maison Hotel.
We promised each other we would stop in at as many other historic inns as possible, making up our own retro tour. Because here’s the thing: Even though Los Angeles residents have made the trip to and from the Coachella Valley for more than 100 years, Paul had never been to Palm Springs. For someone who has lived in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, whose interests include art and architecture, that’s kind of blasphemous. And as a fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood, I was over the moon about spending time with him in the “Playground of the Stars.”
I don’t know how innkeeper Robert Aikens knew to match my platinum bob with the Pretty in Pink suite at Rendezvous (we’d asked to be surprised with the room choice), but when we arrived we were delighted to be staying in Marilyn Monroe’s favorite room. From the Warhol print on the wall to the chrome fixtures and molded plastic chair in the corner by the tub, this place was pure blonde bombshell.
Knowing this was our romantic getaway, Robert left us a “Seduce Me” gift basket full of sparkling wine, candles, massage oil and other delectable items in our room. After a dip in the pool, we headed out to dinner at Eight4Nine where we discovered that visiting in the off-season means special summer menus and no lines at even the chicest places.
We’d planned ahead to take a tour of The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn the next day. Built by William Mead as a private home in the 1920s, it’s been lovingly restored by Dr. Tracy Conrad and her husband, Dr. Paul Marut. We meandered through Albert Einstein's favorite room and marveled at Marion Davies’ bathroom before heading to the Palm Springs Art Museum a few blocks away.
“Look at all of the Chihuly pieces,” Paul exclaimed, looking down into the sculpture garden from the parking lot. A sculpture major in college, he had met Dale Chihuly before a lecture. Once we discovered the photo exhibit in the museum café full of iconic images of celebrities like Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, we knew it was time to head to Melvyn’s at The Ingleside Inn for a nosh with some old Hollywood lore. Our host, Matt, didn’t disappoint, even showing us to Frank Sinatra’s table.
“We call it the corner,” he said. “People still come in asking for it, and for the steak Diane.”
We enjoyed a light lunch and some dirty martinis while listening to a little jazz.
The next day, it was a challenge to bid the Rendezvous adieu, but we wrestled ourselves away for a morning on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tramcar. With an elevation of 8,516 feet, it was 30 degrees cooler in Mount San Jacinto State Park. At the top, we ran a 4-mile loop trail before stopping at Peaks Restaurant for something to eat.
At one point Paul looked at me and said, “I can’t believe all of this is here. How have we never done this before?”
Next thing we knew, it was time to check into our next adventure. Named the No. 2 Hotel for Romance in the U.S. by the 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards, La Maison Hotel lived up to the hype. Owner and innkeeper, Cornelia Schuster, and her husband, Richard, made sure to point out all of the amenities: drinks in the cooler, wine for happy hour and even a popcorn machine, before showing us to our room. We found Cornelia had baked us the most beautiful cake, topped in rose petals, to accompany a chilled bottle of champagne.
Waking up at La Maison Thursday morning felt like rising in a dream. Snuggled up together in the middle of the giant four-poster bed, I nudged Paul out of the soft sheets because I needed my morning caffeine fix.
“Coffee.” I requested, knowing there was an espresso machine on the other side of the pool. We lounged in wrought iron chairs outside the double doors to our suite, feasting on lavender scones with the smell of jasmine filling our noses, the tinkle of a tiered fountain in our ears, our bare feet brushing the cool terra cotta tiles, and the vines climbing the walls behind our heads.
Neither of us was in any kind of hurry to start the day. We’d already scheduled a couples’ massage with Studio M Salon and Spa for the afternoon.
“What should we do for exercise this morning?” I asked Cornelia as she handed me a fresh cup of coffee.
Paul had a spin class in mind, but Cornelia recommended Pilates Plus, five minutes away, where we ended up taking “Group Proformer Class” with owner Ron Duran instead. Another first for Paul.
“I want to take Pilates now,” he said wiping sweat from his face after class. Looks like we’ve found something new to do together.
However, nothing could top the couples’ massage in our hotel room. Studio M has mastered the art of pampering. In no time, the therapists transformed the elegant room into a healing sanctuary.
“I could get used to this,” I heard Paul murmur as my masseuse worked out the tension in my legs from our morning on the mountain. The only thing we had to worry about next was applying the proper amount of sunscreen for an afternoon at the pool. Ever the attentive hosts, Cornelia and Richard left it for us beside a carafe of ice water and fluffy oversized towels.
For dinner we treated ourselves to wood-grilled hanger steak and roasted Brussels sprouts at Workshop Kitchen + Bar, where our waiter recommended we see the renovations at L’Horizon Palm Springs, and chef/owner Michael Beckman told us Sparrows Lodge is a great place for a hang. After dinner we wandered down Palm Canyon Drive for Palm Springs Village Fest. Holding hands, we sampled local dates and I tried on handmade jewelry.
Paul turned to me and said, “Let’s go dancing!” Why not? We managed to catch the tail end of the drag show at Toucans Tiki Lounge before ending the night with some music both of us could sing to—Whitney Houston.
Knowing that there were so many places we hadn’t seen yet, leaving Palm Springs was hard. One of our top choices of accommodations from our initial research was La Serena Villas. We opted to stop by their restaurant, Azúcar, for lunch on our way out of town.
Just looking at the menu from the outdoor seating beside the clear, blue pool, I was salivating. I ordered the watermelon salad and ahi bruschetta, and couldn’t have been happier. Yellowfin tuna, tomato, basil and avocado practically danced together under the balsamic reduction.
After the meal, Paul suggested we take a final moment to bask in the sun beside the pool. I dipped my fingers in the water. Paul leaned back, and with his eyes closed, he turned his face to the sun and sighed.
“What is it?”
“I love you, and I love the desert,” he said, still facing skyward.
To show my agreement, I surprised him with a kiss—holding his face, letting the cool water from my fingers roll down his neck.Turn up the romance with a stay in Palm Springs.