Travel // Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park {California Part Four}

February 12, 2019

Our time in feels like Palm Springs already feels like a distant dream. Now that we're back to cold, grey, wintry England, I can't quite believe that we were actually here just a couple of weeks back? Which is a big part of why I love writing these blog posts, to relive all the photos and jog my memory about just how incredible that week was. We'd visited Palm Springs on a whim a couple of years back {remember this post?} and just fell in love with the place so knew it had to take priority when planning this trip around California. We actually dedicated 9 nights of our time here this time, knowing that we loved it so much before and how it's the perfect place to soak up some sunshine. Completely different from the coast, you're in the desert surrounded by mountains, it gave us some good variety too. And although going back for a second time didn't wow us quite as much as the first with the shock of the cool architecture etc, we still marvelled at this city in the desert and really enjoyed our time there, it felt like proper holiday living as we lucked out with the weather that week too. Photos from our time there and tips on our favourite spots below if you'd like to see;

I've written in detail about our previous trip on these two blog posts - here and here which might help if you're planning a trip- so I'll mainly use this as a photo diary from our recent trip, and I'm especially lacking brain power to write too eloquently today!

But in short, don't miss;

Stay // We rented an Airbnb on this trip - you can use this code for £25 off your first stay if you sign up - and wanted one with a pool. I shortlisted a few, and had set my heart on this one design wise {but realised that it wasn't very private and as we were there over 2 weekends, realised we might have had some noise if a party had booked which is fairly common in Palm Springs}, so in the end booked this one which was pretty great. It had a gorgeous outdoor area, with a large pool {we didn't pay for the pool heating though, it was an extra 30 dollars a day and there was a free heated hot tub}, a BBQ, 2 fab bikes, Hulu/Netflix/Prime subscriptions and a great kitchen for lots of cooking. It was right next to the airport but the noise wasn't an issue at all. The location meant that restaurants etc were always a short drive rather than walk away, but on the whole it was great and the hosts were really lovely. We were here for 9 nights, so asked the host for a discount on a stay over a week which he did oblige.  
Other places that look great to stay if you want a hotel instead, The Ace Hotel, Arrive Hotel, Holiday Home and the Parker Palm Springs.

Be aware though that this is the desert, and whilst in winter it's beautiful with mid 20s, typically sunny weather, in the summer temperatures are at melting point and we wouldn't want to visit between May-September as we'd find it too hot. 

Eat //
- Ruby's Diner. Right in the centre of town with a lovely outdoor area on the street for people watching. The best burgers & shakes in town, plus refillable sweet potato fries. When in America...
- Ice cream and Shoppe, part of the Arrive hotel group, we love this ice cream parlour. Try the Coachella Valley Date flavour, and Birthday cake is my new favourite.
- Kreem ice cream, we didn't get to try this place in the end but intended to at least a couple of times. At the other end of town to Ice cream & Shoppe but a similar idea with creative flavours and lots of vegan options. 
- In n Out, outside of Palm Springs but always worth the drive when in Cali. 
- Birba Palm Springs, the coolest pizza/date restaurant in town. We adore this place and couldn't wait to return on this trip. Book in advance online as it gets busy. Buzzy atmosphere, all outdoor dining with fire/patio heaters around. The roasted cauliflower is a must order followed by pizza.
- Purple Palm Restaurant - this was recommended to us, in the Colony Hotel, but we didn't get a chance to try it. 
- Arrive Hotel, there are two restaurants here. And you can then use the pool afterwards.
- Lulu's is always packed no matter what time of day it is. In the centre of town, with an art deco Miami vibe, a must visit for brunch, lunch or dinner.
- Les Casuelas Mexican - lovely little spot with good food. 

Do //
- Moorten's Botanical Cactus Garden. We visited this on our first visit to Palm Springs and didn't feel the need to go back this time but it's the coolest cactus garden, and perfect for insta photos.
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, this tramway takes you from the desert into the snowy mountains above and it's such a juxtaposition. You drop 30 degrees in temperature as you go up and it's like going from Mexico to Alaska climate wise in a 10 minute journey. At the top you can hike or eat at the restaurant. Such a must do, cool experience.
- a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park, is a MUST. Around 40 minutes outside of Palm Springs, plan some hikes at this national park like no other, take water, maps and food with you though and plan your route in advance. The joshua trees and boulders are incredible.
- Rent bikes and cycle around the neighbourhoods. Our rental had bikes this time but we rented them from a couple of different shops in town before. There's a cycle route running around the city and the neighbourhood roads are always quiet enough to see the cool architecture and doors from your bike. 
- Go for a hike around the Agua Caliente/Indian Canyons, around the palm oasis coming out of the desert cracks in the ground. 
- Find those famous doors and the cool architecture around the Indian Canyons neighbourhood and Old Las Palmas/Vista las Palmas neighbourhoods.
- Have an afternoon at Arrive hotel pool or the Ace swim club
- Shop at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets 
- Drive out to Palm Desert for alll the shops and restaurants you could possibly imagine. We spent a lot of time at the two Target's around here in particular.

From San Clemente, we drove an hour and a half inland to reach Palm Springs. But if you were coming from LA or San Diego, expect around a 2 hour drive {part of the reason that Palm Springs became a mecca for old hollywood stars was the fact that it was on the limit mileage/time wise for actors working in Hollywood!}. 

Our first stop this time were the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, before you get into the city. Basically a Californian Bicester village, where you can see snow topped mountains and palm trees. We didn't buy much on this visit but it killed some time until we could get into our rental at 3pm.

Because we had 9 nights here, we first drove to the supermarket {Von's and Trader Joes} to pick up grocery supplies for the trip, and immediately put some watermelon in the freezer for pool snacks for the week! A holiday ritual. Having this house, with the pool, really made it feel like holiday living and we soon got into the swing of going out somewhere in the morning, coming back to be by the pool and then BBQing and eating al fresco most evenings. 

On our first morning, we went out on the bikes keen to reacquaint ourselves with this city, remembering where everything was, the layouts of the neighborhoods. And we'd remembered it as so much smaller than it felt this time, it's one of those places that can feel so compact yet so big at the same time. Geographically, it's a very flat square block in the middle of the mountains, which make for the best views everywhere you look.

First up, a {self guided} door tour! Although Palm Springs has a known 'gay and 90' population, it's also incredibly cool and hip with lots of younger groups coming for Stag/Hen {or I should say Bachlorette parties} or group trips, it has it's own airport with flights from all around America and Canada coming in especially at weekends. So it has this real, modernist vibe too with an arts culture, hence the crazy houses and cool hotels that have popped up here.

*That* famous pink door. There are some cult houses/doors in Palm Springs but this one has a bit of a funny story behind it. The owners used to encourage people to take photos by it and tag them on their Instagram account called 'that pink door' but then it got so popular that they've now had to put no photo signs up, and change their instagram message, to try and stop the crowds of people going up to their front door {understandably of course}. But it's a victim of it's own success. And will probably still always be a house that people like me take photos of it. I just love how symbolic this is of Palm Springs. 

We love spotting old cars around the neighbourhoods that fit right into the modernism vibe.

This old Ford was a beauty. 

When your bike matches hashtag that yellow door!

These streets! That blue sky!

It's just so colourful in winter compared to back home, and the best tonic.

Couldn't resist popping into the colourful Saguro hotel whilst we were in the neighbourhood, SO Palm Springs.

In between our adventures around Palm Springs, this was the perfect base to come back to. I read a couple of books and soaked up the vitamin D on those loungers most afternoons. H e a v e n .

This week was extra special as I took the first proper bump photo during the time, watching it grow almost daily, and we felt the first proper kicks. 

Pink sunset skies, BBQs and post dinner walks to get ice cream in shorts without it feeling cold. {although this was also the night we realised that it gets dark really fast after sunset and there are no street lights in Palm Springs! So we didn't walk after dark again!}

Have you ever tried a Dairy Queen {DQ} Blizzard? We first discovered it at Jamaica airport of all places and went crazy for it. The original soft serve ice cream with mix-ins, we shared this hugee one with oreo mixed in, 😋.  It was about a mile's walk away from where we were staying, but luckily for our waistlines only made the pilgrimage there once!

On our second day, we visited Joshua Tree National Park, which actually turned out to be the last day of the historically long government shutdown. This meant that it was free admission as there was nobody being paid to collect the money. We were a little worried about the toilet situation/if any visitors centres would have been open but amazingly, there were volunteers running them and trying to protect the park.

I didn't know if it could beat our first visit which blew us away with the beauty, scale and novelty of it all. But actually I think we were even more amazed on this second visit? Maybe it just never gets old. We entered through the West Entrance Station from Joshua Tree town itself.

It just doesn't really seem real. Almost like we should have been on a film set or in a theme park. 'Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California'

These spikey, yukka type cactus trees are the rare Joshua Trees that litter the landscape for the first half of the park. They can only grow at certain elevations so as you drive further on down into the  they peter out and the rocks and cholla cactus take over. 

We picked a couple of places to stop at to do the guided short hikes, Hidden Valley was the first with around a mile loop complete with arrows so you don't get lost.

I feel like it's compulsory to play that 'Been through the desert on a horse with no name' song whilst driving through. And take a million photos like these out of the car, with it all just looking like some fake scene.

And then to Key's view, high up {and so windy!} with killer views across the Coachella Valley. You can even see the San Andreas fault line running through the floor.

On our last visit we'd stopped at the White Tank campsite to do the walk to see Arch Rock, looking out for this legendary heart shaped rock that we'd seen online. But we walked, and looked for ages, before giving up. This time, we set off with coordinates and were determined to find it. We'd read varying descriptions online and on trip advisor {google heart rock joshua tree} and from the trail leading to Arch rock managed to spot it in the distance and then trekked across the rocks/river bed to reach it! It felt like the biggest achievement when we found it for ourselves, kind of silly but it just made us so happy. Feeling extra romantic and symbolic with this growing babe inside as part of the adventure.

Stupidly it was the only time we didn't take the self-timer tripod with us! 

You can just see it in the distance, in the middle above ^. If you're trying to find it, look to the mountains with the phone masts on top.

After a couple of hikes and stop for a picnic lunch in the car, we drove on down out the other end of Joshua Tree towards Coachella, stopping at the Cholla cactus garden on our way out. I'd love to come here at sunrise or sunset, the photos and colours I've seen from others look incredible.

A dinner date at Birba. <3 

With typical Palm Springs street scenes en route walking through a neighbourhood. If only our front gardens/streets looked like this at home!

We didn't eat out much during our Palm Springs time so this was an evening that we adored.

DYING to try and re-create this roasted cauliflower at home.

We didn't always do that much every day, sometimes just a nice walk along different streets to pick up breakfast supplies from the supermarket to get some exercise, or go out for an ice cream. But I was just so grateful to be in that sunshine, pretending to live like a Californian for a bit basically.

Especially when driving around the city looks like this ^.

Tile goals at the Arrive Hotel.

And prints I wanted to bring home from Ice cream & Shoppe.

If you buy an ice cream/lunch/drink, you can hang out by the Arrive Hotel's pool which makes for a nice afternoon with a Soho House kind of feel.

Always taking photos of the sky.

One Sunday morning, we cycled over to the Old Las Palmas neighbourhood and I think it was one of my very favourite parts of the trip.

Classic Palm Springs. 

and some of the famed A frame, Swiss Miss style houses.

I developed a crazy addiction for fresh salsa and homemade nachos out there, I like to blame the baby but in reality who knows. All I know is that the Mexican food out in Cali is incredible and I miss it.

Sorry, not sorry. We'd make healthy turkey salads or wraps for lunch, but then add this on the side. It's no wonder that lunches have seemed extra boring ever since we've been home.

Starting a cactus collection...

I fell in love with this bougainvillaea lined doorway on a walk one afternoon. It felt like something out of a Greek island.

A morning hike around Indian Canyons. 

Looking back towards Palm Springs {you can just see it in the distance}.

Hi, bump!

Such an incredible place. But you're meant to be aware of rattle snakes eek!

Happy times <3.

Some photos from our Aerial tramway adventure.

I didn't know what to expect at the top, I knew it would be snowy but would it really feel that cold?! When we'd been so used to the warmth below. I wrapped up in all the layers I could find in my case, and wore trainers. The ride up was a little scary, and wobbly, but then we were up and it was insane. The views, the snow, the difference in just ten minutes from top to bottom. 

The trails were all really icy with compacted snow and ice, so we decided to stick to a short loop, taking a stick from the pile at the bottom of the ramp for support. I was feeling extra cautious with the bump/didn't want to risk falling or getting a bad back so we took it really slow and tried to walk like a penguin haha. But there were lots of children running around with sledges, loving being up in the snow.

The views going back down were even more spectacular. The cable cars rotate as you go up and down so you get views the whole way down.

Ruby's <3. A classic American diner.

A few last photos from the last couple of days which suddenly seemed to fly.

Just living our favourite days on repeat.

I'll miss this outdoor workout spot.

A comical, almost fake looking cactus.

I'll also miss just having all that free time where we could binge watch series {using Hulu and Prime streaming at the villa}, or just cycling out to the supermarket for cookies {another pregnancy addiction} just because. 

It was almost time for the Superbowl so it was fun to see all the build up and preparations around the supermarkets etc. 

And then, it was time to pack up already and move to the very final part of the trip. It started raining on our last morning in Palm Springs so felt kind of apt for us departing. Such a gorgeous time there though, I'll always look back on this time with happy memories and our excitement for the start of this growing bump too. 

What. A. Trip. 

We love you so, Palm Springs!

R <3 xx 

{Thank you to Visit Palm Springs for gifting us the tickets for the Aerial Tramway but all opinions are 100% my own}

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