Our first winter escape to Palm Springs happened to coincide with the town’s International Film Festival. What a pleasant surprise! We love a little winter sunshine, which, when unknowingly combined with the film festival, turned out to be a lot of fun. We also enjoy movies, especially foreign ones in their original language, and most of the films we watched at the festival, where shown for the first time here in the US. While standing in line for hours to get good seats, we met interesting people from all over the world. This film festival is still very affordable (about $10.00 a piece per movie) and all festival related venues were accessible by special shuttle buses. Most of the theaters though were within easy walking distance of each other. And in case you are wondering, “The Fruit Hunters” remains my favorite movie of all the ones I have seen there. I really do love fruit, and on this trip, I plucked some grapefruits off of the trees in the hotel’s courtyard (with permission!) and carried them home in my suitcase. Everything thing we needed, was nearby: nature trails, good food and of course the theaters. We enjoyed it so much, that we went back the following year.
Just behind the hotel is a hiking trail, which leads up into the foothills. Along the path, we saw lots of birds, including a new for me sighting for my list:Costa’s hummingbird! Perched in some shrubs, it promptly showed of its gorgets and brilliantly violet colored throat, when I unknowingly approached its territory.
Other birds we saw, were white-crowned sparrows, mockingbirds, cactus wrens, a couple of verdins, house finches and thrashers. Some of these birds don’t visit the Pacific Northwest, so seeing them without even trying was a treat!
Hiking up towards the top of the ridge, we had a beautiful view of the Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley and the surrounding mountains. Tall palms, citrus trees, bright red bougainvillea plants dotted the landscape down below. The bright blue sky with wispy white clouds seemed never-ending.
One afternoon, we took the arial tram to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains. The ride took about ten minutes, and was amazing. This is the largest rotating arial tramcar in the world, and it went right past steep cliffs and breathtaking scenery while slowly rotating the entire time. The handrails however, did not rotate and everyone had to constantly readjust holding on.
Once we got out at the top, we were surrounded by snow, and the air was definitely much colder than in Palm Springs. The hiking trails wove through snow-covered meadows and stands of trees leading to a ledge with spectacular views.
Palm Springs has long been a resort for those of Hollywood fame. We’ve not stumbled across any celebrities in town, other than a statue of Lucille Ball, of the “I love Lucy” fame. And directly across the street from Lucy we spotted a gigantic statue of Marilyn Monroe, named aptly “Forever Marilyn”.
There is so much more to see in the Palm Springs area: Joshua Tree National Park, the Living Desert, the Palm Springs Art Museum ….. Hopefully we get a chance to go back, take in another film festival and explore some of the other beautiful sights of this sunny and warm winter escape .