Printemps Perspectives: Provence to Palm Springs

Palm Springs, California, enjoys a dramatic setting, nestled into the San Jacinto Mountains.

Move it on out! From urban centers to rural zones, springtime brings a welcome surge of vibrant energy. After a sleepy winter hibernation, it seems everyone is ready to kick up their heels.

For Ralph and me, this translates to a California visit. But before we hopped on the plane in Marseille, I was energized to pry myself out of Saint-Rémy and over to the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence for the David Hockney exhibition—compiled with works on loan from Tate Modern Museum in London. Purported to be an absolute must-see, the expo was, indeed, a showstopper. The extensive collection of knock-your-socks-off works featuring brash and bold colors was captivating. I especially appreciated the four-panel folding screen called Caribbean Tea Time (1987).”

The towering Marilyn Monroe statue is a tourist magnet.

Once on the other side of the pond in the desert community of Palm Springs—where I went to high school and we owned a place for a while—we’re busy catching up with friends and family and reacquainting ourselves with our former stomping grounds, with walks and bike rides around town. Must-do city experiences include checking on the oversized statue of Marilyn Monroe, who was “discovered” in Palm Springs, relishing Mexican meals at Ruben and Ozzy’s (super fish and shrimp tacos), La Perlita (delish chiles rellenos) and meandering through the Palm Springs Art Museum. Built into the side of the mountain, the unique structure–designed by Stewart Williams—is quite fitting for the marvelous artwork it houses. No matter how many times I’ve visited, I always linger by the Calder mobile, Picasso’s bronze rooster, Paul Jenkins’ “Phenomena Wind Off Big Sur,” and the remarkable monumental “basket” made of squashed aluminum cans by Gerald Clarke, a Native American (Cahuilla).

Another highlight of our visit includes a startling new development. A former golf course has been converted into a nature park called Prescott Preserve, replete with walking trails and habitat drawing incredible birdlife. On our first visit, we saw exuberant hummingbirds, the scarlet Vermillion Flycatcher, and the polka dot-breasted Northern Flicker, a type of woodpecker. And before we depart, we’ll venture out to the new Oswit Canyon Preserve (south Palm Springs), which was recently saved from development.

Luscious sunset in Palm Springs, California

From its Native American roots to its glitzy, celebrity playground reputation, there’s no question that Palm Springs is multi-dimensional. During our brief visit, it’s gratifying to not only enjoy our fave activities but also to peel back some layers and see my enticing and dynamic “hometown” in new light.

Happy Spring to all!

The ubiquitous bougainvillea packs a colorful visual wallop.

Bises, Gayle


The Birdwatcher’s Wife has a vibrant new cover, which offers a clearer idea of the story and its French setting. (We’ll always treasure the beautiful painting–by Deborah K. Ahern–of the strolling avocets on the first cover!)


At the end of January, Tuula Rampont, a journalist with International Living, interviewed Ralph and me about life in France and my books. You can watch it here on YouTube:

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