Palm Springs
A Delight in the Desert
story and photos
Anna Collins

The best thing about Palm Springs, playground of the rich and famous, is that you don't have to be rich or famous to enjoy it. It's a beautiful, relaxing and affordable vacation spot that will leave you feeling like a star without paying astronomical prices. My traveling companion and I sampled delicious food, stayed at a resort in an exclusive neighborhood and even purchased something at an art gallery. And neither one of us have the last name Rockefeller or Gates. But we sure felt like it!

What's so great about Palm Springs, anyway?

Everything and a palm tree more! Palm Springs is the perfect combination of weather, food and great shopping mixed with gorgeous scenery hugged by breathtaking mountains. For five days, I walked around looking up at the mountains so much, it's a wonder I didn't walk face first into a pole! The beauty is always there; warm dry sunny days, followed by the starlit desert nights. The cool mornings are wonderful for jogging and again, you can stare at the mountains whilst you take your morning constitution.

One bright morning, when Babs, my traveling companion and I were jogging, with the mountains everywhere around us, I told her, "Look around you. Drink this in. When you feel sad or stressed, come back to this spot."

Try that when you're on vacation. Absorb a really great moment of it, and then when life starts giving you jabs, return to your special spot in your mind and remember how nice it was. Of course if that fails, an airline ticket back works just as well.

What we "resorted" to

We stayed at the charming Tuscany Manor, located at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains in the area known as Little Tuscany, an exclusive neighborhood named after the Italian town. Conveniently located just minutes from downtown, Tuscany Manor bills itself as a "self-catering resort" and offers 23 one and two bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens, designer furniture, ceiling fans, and Spanish tiles.

Tuscany Manor is a great choice for couples or families traveling together; there's plenty of space in the apartment suites and rooms have TV's with VCR's and they even rent movies on the premises. All the suites face the pool in the center of a beautifully landscaped courtyard area that offers barbecue facilities, a Jacuzzi and a small putting green. We loved it here! It was relaxing, well maintained and had a breathtaking view of the mountains. And where else can you stay that's only blocks from Liberace's house? During "season", one bedroom suites are $89-$99 and 2 bedroom suites are $109-$119. Off season, a one bedroom goes for $59 and a two bedroom goes for $79. Maid service is provided weekly. Prices may vary slightly, so make sure you call ahead to confirm. Tuscany Manor, 350 Chino Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262. Tel:760/416-8916.

How about a little background music?

Star light, star bright

Ah, for a quiet little desert town, Palm Springs has quite the juicy past. For over 60 years this has been a vacation spot for the migrating L.A. celluloid set. Back in the 30's, 40's and 50's lots of stars vacationed here to get away from the stress of Hollywood. Making tons of money in motion pictures can certainly take its toll, and Palm Springs was a haven for the likes of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr, George Montgomery, Lena Horne, and of course Dinah Shore whom the Dinah Shore golf tournament is named after, a huge draw in Le Palm. Charles Farrell, actor turned Palm Springs host de extraordinaire, worked hard to get his Palm Springs Racquet club the "place to be seen" back in the 1930's. Mr. Farrell has a street named after him here as do many other luminaries like Gene Autry, Jack Benny and Frank Sinatra. This is the place where many affairs, parties and debauchery took place, lots of it done poolside of course, martini in hand.

In keeping with the Hollywood theme, you'll see a star-studded sidewalk downtown. Beside the well-knowns, quite a few unfamiliar names have warranted a star, so there's a little description underneath of who they are. The epitome of Hollywood irony: you're famous, but with an explanation.

On one of our morning runs, Babs said to me, "Look how cute! A piano shaped mailbox!" We both looked at each other: Liberace! Yep, it was the maestro's house all right, complete with two nude male Greek statues flanking either side of the door way and an ornate fountain displaying frolicking cupids. I walked up to the front entrance and noticed a vestibule behind the wrought iron outer door. Inside was a shrine to "Lee" as he was called by friends. Displayed was a photo of Mr. L, a ceramic poodle and various collectibles in honor of his memory.

Actually, nearly every house in Palm Springs has some sort of famous past. Besides the movie colony that migrated from L.A., this was also the residence of famous inventors, artists, politicians, industrialists and gangsters.

The Area in a Nutshell (or Martini glass)

The main strip in Palm Springs is Palm Canyon Drive. The street is lined with shops, restaurants, art galleries and the famous Plaza Theatre where Jack Benny and Bob Hope once graced the stage. A feeling of easy living permeates the town and even type "A" personalities will find it hard not to relax.

The Nine Little Neighborhoods in Le Palm

Palm Springs is such an interesting place to visit, it's worth the time to explore each of it's charming neighborhoods. I learned there were nine areas each with their own unique background.

Racquet Club Area: Located in north Palm Springs, it runs west toward the mountains, east off Palm Canyon Drive and south toward downtown from San Rafael Road to Vista Chino. This area is named after The Racquet Club that premiered in 1934 and for 25 years showed more stars than a planetarium. Stars who live(d) here: Greta Garbo, Steve McQueen, Jane Wyman and Lana Turner's infamous daughter who who stabbed her mother's lover to death with a kitchen knife.

Little Tuscany: West of the Racquet Club, in and around Chino Canyon, is Little Tuscany.This area houses custom-built homes, many fashioned after the beautiful Italian town. This is the area we stayed in and it's just gorgeous! Here you'll see small bungalows alongside opulent multilevel dwellings with who knows who that may step out of them! Stars who live(d) here: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elvis Presley, George Randolph Hearst and hamburger and French fry baron, Ray Kroc, founder of MacDonald's.

Las Palmas: West of Palm Canyon Drive and south from Vista Chino to Alejo Road. It was developed during the 1920's and has to date, the largest number of celebrity homes. This is the Kingdom of Hollywood Royalty in Palm Springs. Architecture here is eclectic ranging from simplistic early desert to low horizontal homes with lots of glass. Stars who live(d) here: Jack Benny, Barry Manilow, Howard Hawks and Nat King Cole.

South Ridge: This is a very exclusive tiny gated community of about 12 homes and it's high on the side of Smoke Tree Mountain where armed security guards keep watch 24 hours a day. Probably the most notable home here is Bob Hope's massive 25,000 square foot glass and concrete creation, nicknamed "The Flying Saucer" or "The LAX Terminal" because of it's appearance. It is said the home was built for Bob by the Chrysler Corporation, who advertised on his TV show for years and now sponsors his PGA golf tournament. The house cost Chrysler over $3.5 million to build in 1979, today it's estimated worth is $20 million. Stars who live(d) here: Bob Hope, Steve McQueen, Ali Mac Graw, William Holden, John Johnson.

Tennis Club: This downtown area extends several blocks west of Palm Canyon Drive at the intersection of Taquitz Canyon Way and then south to Ramon Road. The Tennis Club itself was established in 1938. There's mostly small hotels here and a smattering of modest homes. Stars who live(d) here: Robert Stack, Chris O'Donnell and Elisabeth Shue.

Deep Well: Beginning at Mesquite Avenue and continues south along Sunrise Way. This area is named after the private Deep Well Ranch on East Palm Canyon Drive. The homes are a mixture of Spanish, California modern and ranch-style. Stars who live(d) here: Della Reese, Carmen Miranda, Jack Webb and Hugh Hefner.

Palm Canyon Mesa: This area lies along Palm Canyon Drive South, Ridge Road and El Camino Way. Most of the homes here were built in the 1930's and 40's. Sonny Bono's former home was on El Camino Way. Stars who live(d) here: Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Ray Bradbury and Jack Warner.

South Palm Springs: This is the southern most portion of Palm Springs to the Indian Canyons. Included here is the exclusive Smoke Tree Ranch and Canyon Country Club. Stars who live(d) here: Ray Bradbury, Debbie Reynolds, Walt Disney and Richard Thorpe.

Movie Colony: Located east of Indian Canyon Drive and spreads from Tamarisk Road south to Alejo Road and east to Sunrise Way. Most homes here were built in the 1930's; white-stuccoed or terra-cotta-tiled Spanish designs. The area is going through a renovation as residents attempt to restore the neighborhood to its former luster. Stars who live(d) here: Louis Prima, Eddie Cantor, Howard Hughes, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. more>>

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