Magenta bougainvillea blossoms shot willy-nilly across the warm cement tennis court like sanderlings skittering along tide foam on a sandy beach. As the temperature edged toward 90F in Palm Springs, California, where my husband and I were playing a few sets last month, my thoughts catapulted over the San Jacinto mountains to the sea. How I needed a splash of cool just then.
With the Pacific Ocean over two hours away, a swimming pool would fit the bill. In my hometown, Palm Springs, pools are not tough to find. At the complex where we’d rented a small condo for March, there were two huge pools, plus two Jacuzzis. Pool stats vary, but the town boasts more per capita than anywhere else in the country—probably to the tune of 50K in greater Palm Springs.
Back when I was in high school, we didn’t have a pool. Heck, we didn’t even have AC! On our recent visit, I discussed this topic, among others from the “dark ages” with my high school French teacher. Mais oui, not only is my beloved French teacher still enjoying the desert, she’s as vibrant, spirited, and inspirational as ever!
When she found out neither Ralph nor I had visited the nearby famed Walter Annenberg estate—frequented by a million heads of state from Nixon to Obama, she invited us to meet her for coffee there. The sleek, high-tech architecture is amazing and the grounds superb, as was the French press coffee we sipped on the large terrace overlooking the magnificent gardens.
Another wonderful surprise was that downtown Palm Springs is positively thriving. The Rowan hotel with its impressive soaring lobby, rooftop pool and terrific mountain views is smack downtown. A park will soon follow between the hotel and the main art museum, which featured an Andy Warhol expo, starring none other than Marilyn Monroe, which is quite fitting since she was practically discovered in PS. The story goes that the photographs snapped while she was lounging at Charlie Farrell’s Racquet Club really set her career on fire.
The bank where I had a savings account as a kid, designed by renown mid-century architect E. Stewart Williams, is now the town’s architecture museum. In the vault, converted into a gift store, you’re likely to find a book by the French photographer, Robert Doisneau, who visited Palm Springs in the1960. While on assignment to capture golf courses in-the-making in the middle of the vast desert, he couldn’t resist including many Mid-Century Modern homes. Over time, Mid-Century Modern architecture has gained traction. Now it even has its own festival, which takes place in February. The two-week event is so popular, its allure has spread to distant shores. In fact, the Côté Sud magazine featured the Palm Springs Mid-Century Architecture Week in its February 2018 edition.
Everywhere we turned, a bit of France appeared. The owner of the popular Peninsula Pastries hails from Paris. (The secret to her fab baguettes may be that she imports her flour from France.) The young Frenchman who runs a gift store on North Palm Canyon Drive is from Aix-en-Provence. (I actually knew him when we lived in Aix. His attractive boutique on Rue Gaston de Saporta was my go-to shop for gifts.) A young couple from Paris run the typically-packed L’Atelier Café on The Plaza. Rumor has it that a trumpeter who tours with the renown French singer Véronique Sanson lives in Palm Desert. You can even find a pétanque game in Ruth Hardy Park on Sunday mornings. Bring along your own boules and arrive early—before it heats up.
While in Palm Springs, it was terrific to experience so many French touches. It reminded us (as if we needed reminding!) how much we adore La Belle Vie in Provence. It’s good to be back home—back in Saint-Rémy.