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Terrace at The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn

Spending a good part of Day 8 making my way out of Los Angeles made arriving in the leisurely environs of Palm Springs even more of a treat on what I’m calling “the desert” leg of this adventure. Even though Palm Springs is not a place that is unfamiliar to me, I remain just the tiniest bit awed by the winding, deserted drive along Highway 111 that precedes arriving in the heart of Palm Springs. It may sound trite, but there is something almost bewitching and indeed spiritual that happens along that stretch of road for me. It’s as if at that point in the journey, a release of sorts occurs and I began to relax into the experience that awaits me – which in all honesty isn’t that hard to do when the experience involves exploring a slice of paradise like the Colony Palms Hotel.

Without question, The Colony Palms Hotel, a 56-room boutique property that in a former incarnation welcomed Hollywood’s biggest names including Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan and Kirk Douglas, has found renewed popularity following a major renovation in 2007 by Million Dollar Decorators designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard.  Located on Indian Canyon Road on the edge of downtown Palm Springs, the Moroccan-themed hotel offers a welcome contrast to the mid-century modern design aesthetic that so dominates the landscape of hotel properties in Palm Spring. The end result is a new kind of escape in a place that has, for generations, practically defined the term for a global community of sun worshippers.

From the striking pool that welcomes guests of the hotel upon arrival to the lush canopies of foliage that adorn the pathways leading to the property’s various rooms, suites and  casitas, the experience of a stay at Colony Palms takes those fortunate enough to experience it on a journey far beyond what one might imagine possible on Indian Canyon Drive.

Of particular note at  Colony Palms is the hotel’s sumptuous Palm D’Or residence which boasts 1,800 square feet of space, a pacious bedroom, 2.5 baths, a pool, a private second story balcony and two separate private garden terraces, all of which are enveloped by scenic views of both the hotel’s gardens and the surrounding mountains. There’s also the intimate spa and elegantly subdued poolside Purple Palms Restaurant, where the vibe is retro, the cocktails are impressively handmade and the Mediterranean-inspired menu is a welcome addition to the Palm Spring culinary scene. That itl also has the distinction of being the satellite Palm Springs location of the exclusive  members-only Soho House only further affirms the Colony Palms’ status at the heart of all that is exciting in the desert.

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The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn

The second day of my visit to Palm Springs took me to yet another desert gem, The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, a hotel so discreet that in all my visits to the desert I had never taken note of it, despite having dined at the distinctively French and always dazzling Le Vallauris which is located just across the street from the sedately luxurious hideaway and coincidentally provides the room service menu for the hotel. Hidden away at the very end of Tahquitz Canyon Way, with just eight individually decorated rooms, The Willows invites guests to take a step back in time to what might truly be called the heyday of Palm Springs.

Like the Colony Palms, The Willows has a rich history. Formerly owned by Marion Davies, actress, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mistress to publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst,  the boutique property along with its picturesque waterfall and terraced gardens ( which happen to be blessed with one of the best vantage points from which to take in Palm Springs) have played host not only to Hollywood icons like Clark Gable and Carole Lombard but also to notable historical figures including Joseph P. Kennedy and Dr. Albert Einstein, for whom a suite is named. Unlike many properties in Palm Springs, however, The Willows thrives not because of its status as a scene, but instead because of its lack one.

Simply put, the Willows is a retreat that conjures up a stay at an elegant private home. A member of staff personally opens the private gate to the Inn upon arrival and escorts patrons directly to their accommodations with the cool efficiency of a butler right out of a Julian Fellowes television drama. Wine and hors d’oeuvres are elegantly laid out and served in the upstairs drawing room of the hotel in the early evening when the views of both the mountains and the town from the upstairs terrace are at their most majestic and each morning a three-course breakfast, so memorable that it would alone justify a stay at The Willows, is served in the formal dining room.

All that aside, the great appeal of The Willows is the loving attention detail in every room, the decidedly personal level of service and the fact that, though the buzz of main drag that is Palm Canyon Drive is a scant two blocks away, you’ll not hear its call unless you absolutely want to.

And with that it’s off to San Diego but not before a quick look back at Palm Springs.