I did step outside LA for a few days while visiting, and I had some of the best experiences of my trip doing so. In no small part because I stayed at The Ace hotel while in Palm Springs. Steph and I were there to relax and to bask in some desert heat, but the hotel was filling up with a pre-Coachella crowd–even more fun around the pool, but I wasn’t prepared for the beauty. Palm Springs is stunning, that’s the only way to describe it. Pictures can’t do the mountains or the ever-changing sky justice, even when it threatens to open up and swallow you–it’s doesn’t storm often in the desert but when it does! The top-most two pictures were taken minutes apart.
But lucky for us, the storm rolled in on our way out. Almost the entirety of our stay at the stunning Ace Hotel Palm Springs, we were bathed in beauty.
Having spent a few perfect days at the Ace, I can’t dream of changing one thing or imagine anyone who cold have renovated this former motel to be a more ideal slice of laid-back chic in the desert. They managed to make a luxe-motel with beach-house sensibilities (everything is walk-out, fling open-able) and a high-end campground feel with its communal, outdoor fire pits and couches and sandy tarp-covered walls. Even if you aren’t staying there (oh, you opted for the Parker) you can hang by the pool during the day and you must, must have a bite at their restaurant, the King’s Highway. If you’re pool-side, the big bowl of roasted corn with cotija cheese, cayenne and lime can’t be big enough. At dinner, the tequila salted caramel chocolate tart was the best dessert of the entire two-week trip and also in either Steph or my recent memories.
We did eat at Nora’s one night, but I can’t say much since it was, um, not their best night. The servers were kind and without our asking, made good on the whole night (the whole night) and the food was good. The Parker is gorgeous and I would go back to Noma’s for what I hear is a normally flawless experience.
On our way out, I felt compelled to dine at Cheeky’s since the reviews are unanimously good. They were spot on. We ordered perfectly-dressed greens with Pecorino Romano–a very, very generous amount, hash browns, and other better-than-usual brunch suspects but my huevos rancheros on top of peruano beans was the stand-out. Those beans! They made the meal and I’m ordering some this week. You will wait for a table and it will be worth every single minute.
The other jaunt from LA, though much closer, was a trip to Pasadena to visit the Museum of California Art. It’s a small but well-curated gallery. While I was there, I viewed the darkest exhibit I’ve every subjected myself to, “LA RAW”: Abject Expressionists in LA from 1945-1980. The only respite was the permanent collection of quiet and very moving, large Richard Bunkall paintings that I could have stared at all day until one eventually absorbed me. Exactly the comfort I needed.
I also found comfort in a few dishes (surprise) like an unexpectedly awesome meal at Intelligentsia. The one in Pasadena might be the only one with table service and the poached eggs on grits was fantastic. Another surprise, a sports bar we found ourselves in, nothing fancy about it’s appearance, to be honest, had fresh air-popped corn for the hoarding and also, well, here’s how the conversation went with the bartender:
me: do you have nachos?
him: well, yeah, but just the cheese kind… think “ballpark nachos”.
me: that’s fine, can i get an order?
him: sure. just give me a minute to fry the chips.
You are downplaying your freshly fried tortilla chips? Because those best-ever chips only come with delicious melted cheese? I will move into your bar if you’re not careful. Nachos, art, grits and the desert, reasons plenty to step out of LA for a day or two.
That wraps up my guide to LA and beyond. I packed a lot in but could have stayed for months. A great place, as you have seen, but I have to mention that with all of the shopping, eating, staying, visiting, touring, even the travelling (and this includes the agents at LAX, the drivers, everyone!), the service throughout this trip was the most consistently professional, authoritative and polite of anywhere I’ve ever been. Truthfully I was surprised because I didn’t know California’s service industry to have that, or any other reputation. But as I tweeted my opinion from the airport bar waiting to take the red-eye home, the replies came back that confirming the same. As if I needed one more reason to love southern California, and miss it too soon.
The Ace Hotel and King’s Highway Restaurant
701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs
Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs
4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs
622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs
Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 East Union St., Pasadena
55 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
12 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena