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How We Spent the Holidays, Part the First - catlinye_maker [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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How We Spent the Holidays, Part the First [Jan. 19th, 2014|04:16 pm]
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J and I are back in Las Cruces, NM, retracing our route to California eastward in the new year.  I’ll be spending the next few posts catching the blog up to close to current events, if all goes well, starting where we left off right before Christmas.

We spent Christmas proper in Desert Hot Springs, just north of Palm Springs.  We took a few days to tour Palm Springs: verdant and ever so slightly self-consciously luxurious.  The air was so dry and clear I could smell the water from the golf course lawns a block away.

Palm Springs helped me finally understand all those Hollywood movies where all the meals are in elegant outdoor restaurants; the weather is so perfectly dry and temperate that you don’t want to eat inside.  We had an excellent brunch in the garden room at Spencer’s, on the grounds of the Palm Springs Tennis Club.  The windows were open to the pleasant breeze and we watched the tennis players and indulged in the guilty pleasure of eavesdropping on the party seated next to us, who were merrily chatting about the trials and tribulations of life in the film industry, and stars they all knew well.

There’s usually valet parking available at these sorts of restaurants, and as ever we took advantage of it.  In part that’s for our benefit; restaurant parking lots tend to be just fine for small cars but getting our truck into a standard restaurant parking spot is a pain, and the valets usually have a few spots where they can easily park something oversized.  In part it’s amusement value; I’ll never fail to be entertained by pulling up to an elegant venue in our big old white work truck with the rusted black flatbed and the rattling diesel engine, getting out in our fancy togs and handing the keys to the valet with a tip.

In this case that was the cause of some confusion; J started to give the driver the tip and he waved off the bills, saying that we should pay when we left.  We figured it out when we saw a sign listing the parking fee; J went back and told the guy, “this isn’t payment – it’s meant to be a tip; shall we start over?”  The valet chuckled and agreed.  And when we left the restaurant we were charmed to find our Ford F350 keeping fine company between a Rolls Royce and a Maserati.

Christmas Eve dinner was at Copley’s, at one time Cary Grant’s estate in Palm Springs.  The pool was filled in long ago and now serves as the restaurant courtyard, complete with a blazing fire in the central firepit.  The meal was prix-fix for the holiday but it still featured some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and the wine list was great.  We had a lovely meal and a nice chat afterwards around the firepit with two couples who were also in town for the holidays.

Our ‘campground’ in Desert Hot Springs (Desert Oasis Mobile Homes and RV Park) was mostly a mobile home park, with a few sites available for RVers.  That seems to be the style in that area.  Usually I don’t like to stay in places like that, as the RV facilities tend to be afterthoughts.  In this case the online reviews of the park mentioned friendly people and spring-fed hot tubs (3!), and I am happy to say that all was as advertised.  We did a pot-luck Christmas day dinner at the park; the activities club provides the turkey and ham and everyone else brings sides and dessert.  It was fun and festive, and we brought some of J’s fruitcake to share.  Only about half of it got eaten and I thought I’d cut too much, but the next day at the pool when we went for our soak people raved about it.  So I ran back to the rig and repackaged the extra slices and handed them round to general acclaim.

We were somewhat sorry to leave there but our big holiday thing beckoned, so on the 27th we packed up again and headed for Santa Clarita, CA, for our Escapees HOP Rose Parade event.  I think the most accurate way to describe the Escapees HOPs (it stands for “Head Out Programs”, apparently) is to compare them to cruises.  There was a happy hour every evening when the next day’s program was reviewed, and they catered one meal a day (usually dinner.)  There was an event every day, and they provided bus transportation so we didn’t have to worry about driving ourselves.  Now, we did have to get up absurdly early in the morning to get on said bus, but hey, that’s part of the ‘experience’.