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By Colleen Friesen
For Travel Writers' Tales

My name is Colleen Friesen. I am a travel writer and I am selfless.

On behalf of the reader, I head out on whirlwind press trips; non-stop events where I eat, drink, visit and stay in as many places as possible.

A recent Palm Spring's press trip was no exception, with a heady mix of restaurants and events. Despite the rush of all the things-to-do, one day stands out and remains timeless. For me, this day embodies the Sinatra-inspired fabulousness of Palm Springs.

First, it must be understood that Palm Springs was created as the antithesis to the flash of LA. Since the 1920s, this was the place the LA elite retreated to, the place they came to kick back, chill and escape the demands of the Hollywood life.

But in the oil crashing late-70s, the place lost its sheen and when the economy finally charged up again, it was to create new sprawling desert cities; Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Cathedral City...Palm Springs was left, quite literally, in the dust.

[Photo 1: Glamming it up at Riveria Palm Springs]

But precisely because Palm Springs was passed over in pursuit of the new, it's architecture was saved. It is now home to the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture and the current revival and interest is showing it all off to its best advantage.

My first night at the glamorous Riveria Palm Springs was one example; a late 50s design, the hotel has recently undergone a $70-million face lift and is a testament to chic.

[Photo 4. Retro Lobby at The Parker]

This perfect Palm Springs day started with a short drive to have breakfast at Norma's in the oh-so-hip Parker Hotel. There is something about sitting outdoors in a palm-rustling garden whilst diving into cinnamon crepes stuffed with exquisitely thin slices of mango and papaya that sets the tone for a day. Freed of Vancouver socks, I wiggled my toes, pleased to feel warm desert air on skin.

[Photo 2: Breakfast Crepes at Norma's at The Parker]

After breakfast we drove through the Roadrunner Hour-inspired landscape to Indian Canyons on the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indian Reservation. This desert oasis has various trails and gorgeous shade-covered abrupt rock walls.

[Photo 3. Indian Canyons]

We met up with a Ranger-guide to tour us through the palms and sand. We walked with Raven Longbow along a dusty trail while he explained how the Cahuilla (Kaw-we-ah) lived and thrived in the area. Longbow (who is actually an Apache and also raises a couple dozen scorpions for their medicinal venom is one of the most entertaining and knowledgeable walk-about guides I've come across).

[Photo 5. Raven Longbow pointing out the canyon topography]

We learned how various roots and shrubs and leaves are utilized for healing and then listened as Longbow played a haunting flute solo (a tune off his recent CD - of course!) and then picnicked in a cathedral made of a grove of towering palms.

Back in Palm Springs at the Spa Resort Casino, I drifted between steam baths, saunas, and 'taking the waters' , in a private little mosaic-lined hot tub for one. The spa experience finished with being led to a dimly lit room where single beds were lined up in two rows like a little orphanage, where I was covered in soft sheets with cool compresses placed on each eye. It is not often one uses the word bliss in an authentic way, unless you happen to have zoned out in a dimly-lit room in an utter state of, yes...bliss.

Inspiration came that night at the Palm Springs Follies. Showgirls from 55 to 78-years old, kicked, strutted and sang in costumes studded with crystals and feather foliage of epic proportions (one of the dancers was a 78-year old mother of seven who does nine shows a week while wearing a zillion-pound glittering costume).

The night ended, as some of the best nights do, discussing the shiny day with a new travel-writing friend. We drank martinis at the Trio bar across the street from our new digs, the uber-funky Movie Colony Hotel, a divinely-rendered oasis. (In fact, the Movie Colony was designed by Albert Frey in 1935 and has been lovingly vamped into a stylish and friendly enclave).

Before I tucked in, I opened the door to my deck. A fat moon washed the desert hills with a pale sheen. A cool breeze whispered a promise, a promise that tomorrow would be another perfect desert day.

I slept with a smile...a selfless smile.


PHOTOS by Colleen Friesen

1. Glamming it up at Riveria Palm Springs
2. Breakfast Crepes at Norma's at The Parker
3. Indian Canyons
4. Retro Lobby at The Parker
5. Raven Longbow pointing out the canyon topography

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