“Where should I stay in Palm Springs?” People ask me that a lot. I like to think this is because I always look so well rested, wear color so well, and have such a glowing all-over-even tan. But it’s probably just because I’ve been out to the desert a zillion times, love it, and have stayed just about everywhere. Here’s my quickie guide for where to stay in Palm Springs and why — now updated (with photos) for the 2016 spring festival season!
When a very best friend of 20 years announced she was getting married in Tulum, it was a huge deal. First, because this friend is our George Clooney (but even ol’ George figured out this year that marriage rocks). And second, because she’d be getting married at Mezzanine, which is the very same hotel where I stayed during my only other trip to Tulum, on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, back in 2008.
It was a very different trip back then. For one thing, I was with an ex-boyfriend and not my husband. So there’s that. But also because, so I’d heard, Tulum had rapidly become a very different place than it was only five or eight or 10 years ago.
After you have babies, it’s all about firsts: first foods, first consonant sounds, first time crawling, first time pulling up to stand.
When it comes to travel, I’ve written here about our firsts as new parents since the twins were born: my first business trip at 12 weeks postpartum, our first couples’ driving trip away without babies, our first trip by air since they were born.
At last, just as the twins turned 10 months old, I’m excited to share about our first holiday together as a family of four… which also included the twins’ first hotel stay, and their first time in the pool. (Spoiler alert: too, too fun and such a special and cherished family memory!)
I’ve written extensively about Palm Springs-area properties and where to stay in Palm Springs, but I want to come back to the topic to quickly give a shout out to the Riviera Palm Springs Resort & Spa.
We’ve stayed at the resort before, but visited again for a last-minute overnighter during Independence Day weekend. Yes, sweltering summer is the desert’s slower season, but we were still seriously impressed with the below-market $99 rate — such that it actually inspired the spontaneous trip.
I’m hardly breaking new ground here, but after dozens of visits to the desert over the years, I finally stayed at La Quinta Resort & Club. Love!
I found myself at La Quinta near Palm Springs on assignment, covering the terrific TEDActive conference. It’s actually been kind of a cold winter by L.A. standards (tiny violin, I know), so when I pulled in to the resort — with its vibrant flowers and palm trees against the striking mountain backdrop — I truly felt like I’d been transported to some kind of paradise after only a couple of hours in the car. You’d have to be deeply jaded not to be at least a little bit awed by the density and drama of the colorful blooms that line grounds of the massive property.
Those of you who know me personally know how infrequently I find myself without words. It’s not really my thing. But the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan will do that to a girl.
On our recent trip to Bali, we had limited time (as usual — sigh), and decided to spend it in the jungle area around Ubud, versus hustling to also see the beach at Nusa Dua, for instance. We loved Ubud (read: I’m obsessed with it) and spending our days there was the right choice. One thing we did do for variety, however, was to split our time between the Viceroy Bali and the Four Seasons. We’d drooled over the Viceroy and had to be pried away from it — and then when we saw the Four Seasons, we felt we’d died and gone to heaven a second time.
When I married my husband in 2010, we agreed that travel would be one of our very top priorities over the first couple of years. With only two blank pages left in my passport since then, I’m proud — and totally thrilled — at how many incredible places we’ve seen. And in the process of travel, we’ve been privileged to stay in some of the most jaw-dropping hotels in the world. That said, it takes kind of a lot to blow our minds these days.
Tuesday night (after a fatiguing day of travel that began in Nha Trang, then Saigon, Kuala Lampur, and finally Denpasar in Bali followed by a 90-minute airport transfer), we were introduced to the Viceroy Bali — and I was promptly rendered speechless.
Ho Chi Minh City might be described as an assault on the senses, a characteristic I do not mean as a negative judgement, because the city’s pervasive wafting smell of street pho and banh mi and its palpable energy is an incredible thrill. The constant honking of horns feels more januty lifestyle than indication of danger. And it’s relentless. And so alive.
To cross the street in Ho Chi Minh involves a leap of faith that flies in the face of that oft-repeated childhood teaching squarely built into the American lexicon, and also to the American understanding of personal welfare: “Look both ways before you cross.” Instead, you mustn’t look at all, but simply muster your confidence, from a deeply counterintuitive place, and step out into the undulating sea of motorbikes and cars as if in a high-stakes, real-world game of Frogger, without hesitation or show of fear. On our first night in town, each successful crossing felt like a triumph worthy of quiet celebration.
All of this is to say that the new An Lam Saigon River, a private residence turned lodging property comprised of 15 private villas, feels like the best kind of study in contrast just outside the madness.
Located just a 20-minute speedboat ride away from the well-traveled tourist sights of HCMC’s District 1, the property feels all retreat and serenity.
In the absence of a reception desk, each guest is assigned a personal on-call butler. Ours, Annie, was utterly gracious and perfectly attentive and present without a hint of overbearing. Sounds fancy, and totally was, but we did score a deal on the flash-sale site Vacationist.com that made it doable.
Our well-appointed and spacious villa had a private pool, but we preferred the common pool for its exposure to more sun. And indeed, “common” felt like a misnomer, given that we didn’t see more than four other guests anywhere on property during our two-day stay.
Vegetation hangs and vines daintily with impossible lushness throughout. We enjoyed a superlatively serene sunset from the alfresco lounge overlooking the flowing Saigon River, with its occasional lazy barge or boat floating past, and its steady stream of lush, unanchored greenery that meanders along with the current.
And so, it was when our speedboat whisked us so pleasantly along the water into the center of things that we truly appreciated the extent of the contrast. And of the value, and the privilege, of perspective for a life richly lived.