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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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92264, Palm Springs

Robson Chambers house, 1947

Dear ——–,

Bryan signed us up for the Palm Spring Modern Heritage Fund‘s Modern Homes Tour on Saturday, with the caveat that we could take a time-out at any time if the baby was fussing/crying/peeing/pooping. With the baby tucked into a Baby Bjorn, we managed to see all the houses except for the first and the last on the tour, including this house designed by Robson Chambers as his own home. (For those of you who want to own a piece of architecture history, it is for sale — $575,000.) Most of the homes on the tour were vintage, including a house Arthur Elrod designed for himself that seemed frozen in the early 1960s, with a quaint orange-green color scheme in the living room, an enormous King-Arthur-esque round dining table, and a Steinway designed by the architect. The houses we liked best — a Dean Davidson house from 1965 and a Stan Sackley house from 1971 — mixed the indoor-outdoor space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, access to the pool from most rooms and terrazzo floors that allowed for wet feet from the pool. As the setting sun glowed golden-pink on the San Jacinto Mountains, we mused at how fun it was to see private houses in neighborhoods we never would’ve explored as tourists. You could almost hear the clink of cocktail glasses behind us.

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92262, Palm Springs

Vintage Porsche 356

Dear ——–,

The Cook family took its first vacation together this past weekend, packing the baby, the dog, our luggage, plus the baby’s swing and Pack n Play into the Mini Cooper. (We definitely needed the roof box.) We got a great deal on a room at the Riviera in Palm Springs thanks to Jetsetter. As we pulled in on Friday, we saw Porsche flags waving. What was that about? Turns out, there was some kind of rally for Porsche 356s — the first of the mass-produced Porsches — and we found them in all candy colors on the lawns the next morning.  To me, these cars pop right out of sun-drenched scenes in a Fellini film, driven by some Casanova scamp. The Riviera was an old Rat Pack hangout, so why not conjure up the Italian version? We ordered a little take-out from Trio and it was a good start to the weekend.


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92264, Palm Springs

The scene at the Ace Hotel

Dear ——–,

On the last day of our “babymoon,” it finally got warm enough to sit by the pool. The blades of the wind farms stood eerily still and the sun warmed Palm Springs to cozy 80 degrees. Bryan treated me to a “Mama Goodness” massage at the Ace Hotel, which included wristbands to the pool. What a scene it was by the pool: lots of bronzed, pneumatic male bodies in Speedos, chatter peppered with “honey” and “girl,” and a d.j. mixing Lady Gaga into Katy Perry. What was going on? A quick check of the iPhone told us — it was White Party weekend! I think there were literally 10 women there, including me and a group of ladies on a bachelorette weekend. After about 4 hours of mayhem, we decamped for the Short Bus “family” pool, which, despite squealing children, was actually a quieter venue. I saw a woman lying on a deck chair with her husband, watching me walk by. Their hands were protectively on a little abdomen bump. I could see them thinking, “Now, that’s pregnant!”


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92240, Desert Hot Springs

View from inside the room out to the private patio

Dear ——–,

Bryan was taken with the photographs of Hotel Lautner on the web, but there is nothing like actually staying in one of these perfectly designed mid-century Modern rooms. You almost feel as if you’re living outdoors since windows make up two of the walls. When you lie on the bed, you look directly up through another strip of windows, as if lying in an open field, looking up at the clouds. Instead of curtains, there are various cacti planted around the windows and then a high, wraparound cement wall, which also helps with the wind. The wall was just the right height to allow the morning sun to hit you in the face and rouse you out of bed at around 8:30 a.m. The motel originally opened in 1947, but has just been renovated and stocked with very cool vintage furniture. Because it is newly opened, the room was missing a few things — a pot large enough to boil water for pasta, a chef’s knife, a freezer cold enough to keep gelato solid — but all in all, it was quite comfortable. Bryan especially liked the pod coffeemaker which brewed a perfect cup of coffee each morning. By the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave.


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92240, Desert Hot Springs

Wind farm at the edge of Desert Hot Springs

Dear ——–,

As our last baby-free getaway, Bryan and I headed to Palm Springs. We had postponed this trip two weeks in the hopes that it would be warmer but this past weekend was still incredibly brisk. The wind was blowing at 30 miles per hour and even the checkout lady at the Walgreens in Desert Hot Springs was complaining about the cold spell. A frosting of snow was sitting atop some of the San Jacinto Mountains, for crying out loud. (What?!) The only people who were happy were probably the folks who run the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, whose turbines were spinning quite vigorously on Friday. We were just going to have to keep our fingers crossed that the temperature would get above 65 degrees. A big part of our vision of this “babymoon” was lounging by a hotel pool and enjoying the indoor-outdoor space at the place Bryan found for us to stay: Hotel Lautner, a beautifully restored mid-century Modern gem.


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92264, Palm Springs

Sunset at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club

Dear ——–,

Bryan and I spent our fourth wedding anniversary in Palm Springs. He booked us a room with a patio at the Ace Hotel, which is built on the foundations of an old Howard Johnson and features what I’d call utilitarian chic. It was a little outside of downtown, but that turned out to be a blessing since downtown was swarming with bikers and the snarl of Harleys was hard to take. We were plenty happy hanging around the hotel, going to the spa, eating at the King’s Highway restaurant, listening to the record player in our room. (The Apollonia LP was random, but I actually really liked the Mongo Santamaria.) It was around 90 degrees, so we lounged as much as we could by the pool. That was quite a scene, with a drunken guys playing a drinking game with a plastic pink flamingo. But once those guys left, we could watch the light change on the San Jacinto Mountains in peace. On the drive home, rain fell thickly. I picked up dinner at Pita Pita in shorts and a t-shirt. Everyone else was wearing a jacket and sweatpants. It was then I realized that summer was really over.


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92262, Palm Springs

Lunch at Cheeky's

Dear ——–,

Sue did her restaurant research and directed us to Cheeky’s in Palm Springs, after reading about it in the Washington Post. How can you go wrong with a place that offers a flight of bacon that includes applewood-smoked, thick-cut and jalapeno varieties? My heirloom tomato sandwich — which came with egg, arugula and bacon — disappeared quickly. I washed it down with a perfect watermelon mint aqua fresca. We had a good time introducing Bryan’s parents to a couple of new tastes on their trip: they spread pungent aioli on their sandwiches for the first time at Cheeky’s and tried their first crisp, savory carnitas at El Mirasol. We celebrated his parents’ anniversary at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where we each had our own petite fillet drizzled with butter. A waiter came over to wish them happy anniversary. He asked in disbelief: “Forty years? To the same person?!”