You and hubby are so good at getting away that I figured you would have a good tip on a romantic, chill, place where the two of us can go, sans baby, for one or maybe two nights while we are in Los Angeles. Any ideas?
[Pasadena-bred gal, now a resident of Zimbabwe on diplomatic business, so a bit out of practice with the local stuff (But Zimbabwe! How cool is that?!)]
Dear Pasadena Bred,
Oh my gosh, yay. Romance and vacations are two of my favorite things. I totally got this one. Here are three (of so very many wonderful) ideas for weekend trips within driving distance of Los Angeles:
Quickie Weekender No. 1: Palm Springs
This is typically my first choice for a short trip out of town 1) because it’s so close, at just over 100 miles, and 2) because it’s usually hot as hell, and I am partial to such conditions. I love the Parker Palm Springs (man, who wouldn’t), but that’s a splurge. The Viceroy (pictured above) is also a great bet — I’m obsessed with the mid-century meets Hollywood Regency decor — and I have often found deals online for considerably less than $200 nightly. (I recall even one Memorial Day weekend we scored a nightly rate of $175 that included all sorts of extras — and that was during a holiday period.)
But here’s the recommendation that actually makes my pulse quicken a little: the Korakia Pensione (pictured right), which basically seems like another country for how serene and removed it feels — although it’s just off the main drag and walking distance to restaurants and shops on Palm Canyon Drive. It’s a pair of villas, across the street from one another, with each room totally unique.
When we visited, we paid $129 for Atlas, but got an upgrade to Tangier, and it was a complete bargain (though here I guess I should mention that, if I had paid more than $200 for a larger room in the high season, I might have had a different perception of the value). That included two breakfasts the next day, plus Moroccan tea with gingersnaps at 6 p.m., and oranges in a bowl. Also included are bike rentals, games and books in the rooms, a yoga class in the morning, and other fun extras. We were charmed by the candles, string lights, and fire pits that glowed all around at night. People sat quietly in small groups drinking beers or playing dominoes. It was cozy and casual like summer camp, only with a chic, upscale (but not fancy or precious) feel. I’m in love and can’t wait to go back.
N.B.: Although we’re getting into off season for hot weather, Palm Springs has amazing spas (the Parker’s spa — pardon me, its “yacht club,” is beyond, even if you don’t stay there) and of course — my very favorite place to shop in the world — the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon.
Quickie Weekender No. 2: San Diego
Here’s the best part: You can ditch the car and take the train to San Diego. The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is actually worth the whole trip. It rolls right along the beach and the views are world class, absolutely. Try to grab a seat on the side of the train that will be nearest to the west. When you get to San Diego, if money’s not so much of an object, go for the Grand Del Mar. Or for a really cool historical venue, shack up at the Hotel Del Coronado, more commonly known as the Del. It’s a 125-year-old sprawling gorgeous property. And since I think you’ll be in town around holiday time, it would be a very festive bet: It was the site in 1904 of America’s first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree, and does a big holiday to-do every year. This year’s holiday theme is “A Time to Celebrate” (to kick off the resort’s milestone anniversary year) and it will be decorated all over with timepieces, gold and silver accents, and vintage-y Santas — not to mention a beachfront ice skating rink. Totally romantic, right?
Quickie Weekender No. 3: Catalina Island
The way I view this trip, it’s actually best done as one very long day versus a weekend — but it’s a uniquely lovely very long day. I just don’t love the lodging in Avalon, but there are so many wonderful things to do in that magical place, so I say it’s well worth the haul even if you don’t stay overnight.
Wake up super early (OK, that part’s not really romantic) and drive to Long Beach to get on the Catalina Express, which takes you to Avalon in about an hour (take Dramamine ahead of time if you need). Then spend the day hiking to the Wrigley Memorial, and exploring the botanic gardens. This isn’t a challenging hike exactly, but it’s more than a nature walk and enough to work up your appetite for lunch — or beers on the beach.
Laze the day away at Descanso Beach (again, that’s a seasonal thing), or get the blood pumping instead at the new, year-round-appropriate zip line eco-tour experience, which affords really amazing Pacific Ocean and mountain views. (For the record, I also zip lined in Costa Rica, and actually found Catalina more amazing — this may be because Catalina was my first and therefore more thrilling experience.) You might also take the tour of the gorgeous deco Casino Ballroom — which by the way has nothing to do with slot machines.
Speaking of gambling, I was temped to include Las Vegas here, but holiday-season traffic can make that 300-mile trip a 12-hour trek in a car. Ask the girl who did it with her husband on New Year’s Day 2011 with throbbing hangovers. In a snowstorm. When they closed the highway. Anyway, you know I have my opinions on Vegas (I LOVE IT), but we can leave that for another post.
Happy travels, my dear!
xo, Homebody in Motion