Hotel California; ANDY WELCH Visits Hollywood's Desert Playground Palm Springs on a Road Trip That Takes in San Diego and Los Angeles. He's Living It Up At

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), April 27, 2013 | Go to article overview

Hotel California; ANDY WELCH Visits Hollywood's Desert Playground Palm Springs on a Road Trip That Takes in San Diego and Los Angeles. He's Living It Up At


Byline: ANDY WELCH

IF you've ever taken an interest in the lives of the great and good of 1950s Hollywood stars, you'll know Palm Springs was one of their favourite retreats.

Even from a distance, it's very easy to see why the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed relaxing there.

They'd take long weekends between filming - Los Angeles is just over 100 miles away - or during breaks between shows in Las Vegas, which is less than four hours away by car.

Get a little closer, and the appeal of this lush oasis in the middle of the desert (or Hollywood's playground, as it's often referred to) is everywhere you look.

Archaeologists reckon the 1 Cahuilla people were living in these parts as far back as the 16th century. Mexican explorers familiarised themselves with the area some 300 years later, while the first-known use of the name Palm Springs on a map dates back to 1853.

The city as we now know it, however, was officially founded in 1938, meaning Palm Springs is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. And there's never been a better time to visit.

There are plenty of flights into Palm Springs, although chances are you'll be driving there from either LA to the north or San Diego to the south. It's certainly the best way to experience the landscape, which, putting it mildly, is jaw-dropping.

If you're driving north-east from San Diego, make sure you take Highway 74 rather than sticking to the monotonous, concrete Interstate. It will take a little longer, but the snake-like pass makes for a much more enjoyable drive.

More importantly, you'll pass through the Santa Rosa mountains. Stop off at Vista Point and take in the sprawling cities on the valley floor below, and in the distance, the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains.

From here you can also get a taste of just how green Palm Springs is.

There are 38 golf courses, grass-banked streets, parks, and, as you might expect from the name, palm trees everywhere.

We stayed at the Riviera Palm Springs. The hotel itself doesn't so much nod to its glamorous legacy - Frank Sinatra used to rehearse in the gorgeous ballroom before Vegas residencies - as bask in it.

The room in which I stayed came complete with cow-print bedhead, overly ornate lamps and other fittings that even Liberace might have thought were pushing it a bit. Even the pool table in the lobby has a chandelier over it.

Spread over a huge area due to Palm Springs' strict building-height regulations, there's a campus feel to the Riviera, and the Tiki-themed circular pool out back is the star attraction.

Get yourself a sun lounger, pull out the Jackie O sunglasses and lie back with a stiff drink, imagining you're a damaged Hollywood starlet hiding from the paparazzi while getting over your latest divorce.

The Joshua Tree National Park is on your doorstep, too, and you'd be a fool to be so close and not pay it a visit.

To get the best of the area, go on one of Desert Adventures' Jeep tours. Their guides are as knowledgeable and entertaining as the scenery is breathtaking. And look out for that U2 album cover shot.

Such is its location, if you visit Palm Springs, it'll likely be in the middle of your tour, or at least not the only place you stay. …

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