Your divaonthego heads to the Springs next week to report on two hot properties, Colony Palms and Riviera Resort & Spa. Both boast great spas and restaurants I’m told and I’m tasting the fare and sampling the rubs and will report back. You can also read about Palm Springs and the entire greater Los Angeles metropolitan area in my latest edition of ACCESS Los Angeles, published by Harper Collins. The nifty guide created by Richard Saul Wurman escorts readers from downtown Los Angeles through the burbs and hoods to Orange County, Catalina and beyond. It’s the 13th edition and your divaonthego is the writer/updater of record as she’s been for several past editions. Get a copy at www.harpercollins.com or www.amazon.com.
Okay your divaonthego is fed up with the May-June Gloom of Los Angeles and is checking out specials in sunny Palm Springs– the latest “It” spot for young Hollywood especially at the Colony Palms and the Riviera Resort & Spa. Both hotels, just a few blocks away from each other, cater big time to the young and restless. The Palms is slightly tamer while the Riviera bursts with wacky, chic decor and high energy. We joined the crowd and partied hardy.
Palm Springs provides the perfect quick get-away for us Angelenos. It only takes about two hours by car to escape to this desert hot spot drenched with Hollywood mystic, hip new clubs and restaurants, shops and hotels of all styles, shapes and sizes.
The Tinsel Town connection goes back to the heyday of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack and old time movie greats who frequented the area to hideaway, drink, party and even gamble (albeit illegally then, it’s legit now) in secreted spots.
The divaonthego’s Palm Springs fling started at the Colony Palms—a recently restored historic structure steeped in a rather seamy past of gangsters, prostitutes, gambling and all that goes with it. The management is hardly shy about it, either. The press kit tells all, too, like how Purple Gang mob leader Al Wertheimer built the place in 1936 where he ran a brothel and gambling house. The place was also a very popular budget spa called the Palms at Palms Springs until the Spanish, hacienda-style facility was restored by LA designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard . I was a regular at the Palms and it was a little deja vu returning to the site where a slight exterior resemblance remains.
The big differences are “budget” no longer applies and the preferred customer-demographics –in the latest Palm Spring buzz words—is young, chic Hollywood. I did notice a few guests who might fit the description. The pulse is rapid, the high-energy staff seems to have been handpicked by good looks and of course youth. The male management team is straight out of Central Casting handsome, but also quite amiable and naturally fast action.
The rooms here always lacked a view and some still do, but the designer did his best to make the interiors so welcoming you don’t notice, although a few people did comment on this. We had a comfortable“casita” with a big comfortable bed that practically engulfed me into a deep sleep, and a very inviting patio with a hot tub. All rooms come with flat screen TVs, WiFi access, AC, and mini bars.
What constitues the “spa” is basically a few attractive treatment rooms (facials, massage, scalp treatments from $60-$175), there’s no sauna or steam, but there are lockers. We had massages from Michael, a very adept therapist whose technique did the trick. The “Fitness Room” wasn’t up and running neither was the “Speakeasy”—a dungenous area reputedly frequented by the Rat Pack back in the day and will soon become a hip, hot night spot.
The Purple Palm Restaurant acts as the centerpiece for the hotel. Situated aside the huge, attractive pool, it offers indoor/outdoor seating, a creative menu, a fun bar and a great service staff. The food was three to four star good, depends on what you order. My carpaccio was good and so was my halibut. They don’t do breakfast during the week and the continental spread left a lot to be desired especially in presentation. It seemed to have just be tossed on a table with no bowls for granola or spoons for that matter. They need to work on this. Apparently they offer a full morning meal on weekends but we were there on a Friday.
In all your divaonthego gives the 57-room Colony Palms 4 stars for comfort, style and potential amenities (some were missing during our stay, but are “in the works”). I like the saline pool, the fire pit, poolside cabanas, oversized chaises where two can recline and the general ambience.
Colony Palms, 572 North Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
800-557-2187, www.colonypalms.com. Rates: from $209 to $2,000 (change seasonally).
We moved from the Colony Palms to the also recently renovated Riviera Resort & Spa, a wilder, edgier, larger homage to Hollywood’s past with extremely stylized interior designs and décor. At first glance you’d think you were in Vegas sans casino. The mood is frivolous with a modern chic vibe (according to Nobel House owners of the property), lots of glam that mirrors just about everything about this storied, 24-acre, 406-room property sizzles. I must add, the service throughout the hotel proved exceptional in every way.
A Mecca for movie stars, moguls and Sinatra’s Rat Pack back in the day (circa 1961), $70 million and more than four decades later, the recreated hotel, draws from its past with Andy Warhol-inspired portraits of yesteryear stars like Frank, Dean, Sammy, Elvis et al. All highlighted by whimsical, oversized crystal chandeliers, mirror-clad walls, light-infused pillars, lots of circular designs, huge, cushy chairs and secluded nooks. The huge, swirl-shaped pool sets the stage with humongous chaises, private cabanas and four-poster bed-like lounges positioned around tropical foliage.
Your Diva loved the SpaTerre—11,000 square feet of lavish pamper space with a coed Buddha Lounge in which to zone out while waiting for your treatment (endless options from facials to exotic Javanese therapies). The area once set the stage for performances by Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. We lounged, sipped tea, dipped in the Watsu pool and sat in the Jacuzzi before our therapists fetched us for our treatments. Mine was a blissful Balinese massage—90 minutes of pressure point pummeling with aromatherapy oils that left me tingling and zonked. My masseuse, Jenny, explained that all treatments are designed by Nobel House, the owner/managers of the hotel, this one was especially rewarding. My husband raved about his “Transformation Facial” – and so did I when I saw how great he looked afterward, he actually glowed. I loved this spa. Only kink was a balky steam bath which doesn’t stay on all the time, but it can be fixed. There’s also an adjacent fitness center with really top quality equipment from treadmills to elliptical machines and it’s free for the using (there is a resort fee tacked onto bills, however, to cover this amenity as well as local calls etc.).
After our pamper sessions we swam in the pool, lazed around and headed down to the Sidebar for a before dinner drink. The barkeep proved masterful making the perfect Negroni and Martini. We dined in Circa 59 , the 3-meal a day restaurant. Our fish course (halibut) was great, a Caesar salad, however needed help, the dessert(three cheese cheesecake) was yummy and the service perfect.
If you’re into non-traditional, off-beat, edgy and hip, you’ll really dig both the Colony Palms and Riviera. What’s more you can probably get a good deal at either one at least until our flagging economy rebounds. When we checked rates at the front desk they quoted much less than the published fare.
Riviera Resort & Spa, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-327-8311, www.psriviera.com. Rates range from $249 per night, but call for “specials”.