Pretty Palm Springs

At the tail end of our month long trip in California, I thought it’d be fun to relax at a resort and enjoy the nice weather for a few days. Our Palm Springs resort was as colourful and funky as it looked online and the check in was not bad. They’d put us in a room with a better view than I’d booked, I think, and we got settled in for the first night there. The next day was back to work for me bright and early, and while I’d hoped the boys would be able to play and swim, it was pretty drizzly so they mostly watched TV and ordered room service, which isn’t so bad. I was determined to get in the pool at the end of my work day though, and the water felt pretty warm against the cool, late afternoon air.

room service

room service

diorama

We played a little bocce ball, letting J toss the balls towards each other, and then crossed the street in front of our hotel in search of food. We settled on a place with a good happy hour deal and split a bunch of appetizers. I loved watched J eat a slider – sized exactly right for his hands, and carefully dip a celery stick into the ketchup pot, lick it off, and go back in for more.
The night sky kept raining and we were chilly and damp when we got back, but it’s hard to complain when the weather has been more or less perfect for the last few weeks.

Saguaro

swim

bocce ball

Our second day in Palm Springs was more of the same, but less cloudy. We could actually see snow on the mountaintops now that they weren’t covered with a dusting of fog, and it made me feel extra grateful for being able to wear shoes without socks and feel the warm sun on my face.

I worked and the boys played, and with the balcony door open I could catch sounds from time to time of their great time – they rolled the beach ball around in the grass, said Hi to a long line of ants, smelled flowers, climbed steps – the usual. I just love how willing J is to explore and entertain himself outside without tons of toys. For my part, I swung the computer around during a conference call so my colleague back in Toronto could enjoy the view while stuck in the snow (pretty nice of me, huh?)

Palm springs

beach ball

Getting off at 2pm was perfect post-nap timing, so we headed back to the pool and enjoyed getting in there, or the hot tub. J spent a good long while with a pool noodle pretending to vacuum everything.

noodle

washroom

We weren’t sure how to spend our last day in Palm Springs. We didn’t really have a plan beyond get to LA somehow, at some point. I had a notion in my head after seeing a few billboards the we could do some outlet shopping, possibly during a stroller nap, but with the dollar being so bad right now I decided any deals we found wouldn’t be much different than prices at home.

I wasn’t even sure of the best way, and when I asked for suggestions at the desk I came away confused about how easy it’d be to take the bus or train. I did have a promo code for a free car upgrade, so I priced it out and found it to be $11 more than the bus, plus gas, but I knew it’d be easier (and safer, with a car seat). The first shuttle to the airport car rental area was 1pm and so the front desk was nice enough to extend our check out til then. So once our plan was made, we went out for a leisurely walk to Coco’s bakery for breakfast. I had the crazy Nutella crepes and we enjoyed the awesome view.

street Palm Springs

nice resort

rainbow rooms

street

Then, a last swim and some pool playtime. We relished the sun’s rays and luckily it was the best weather we’d had so far.

Once we rented a car, I’m glad we ended up driving too – the scenery was pretty stunning as it went from desert to green sloping hills, with small but well kept houses in view behind stone walls lined with fuchsia flowers and trailing vines. We split a cream soda that was vanllia-ish and delish, taking in the looming mountains, speckled with rocks and a few capped with snow, soaring palm trees lining the streets and then the bustle of the city highways. Once we arrived we dropped out luggage off, dropped the car, and took a long walk back to the hotel, watching the sun set on our final day in California. Luckily for us, the hotel had a sushi bar and we realized we hadn’t sampled California rolls yet! So sushi it was (a fresh pasta for J) to cap the night off.

drive home

Our flight home went went and I thanked my lucky stars that J was still a happy-go-lucky traveller, secure enough in his routine to nap when it was time, even if it was on my lap, and things like snacks and books, wearing headphones and toys kept him fairly well entertained. Although it was a fun trip, lots of new sights, sounds and memories I’ll treasure forever, I also was glad to get home, unpack and sort life out as normal again.

flight home

So that is that, until the next adventure.

Relaxing in Yucca Valley

On our last day In San Francisco, we decided to check out one more neighbourhood not too far from us. We ventured into Haight-Ashbury and had a nice time strolling in and out of the unique clothing shops before having an early lunch and heading back to Golden Gate Park so that J could stretch his legs and play for awhile. Tyler headed back to check out Amoeba records, a huge music store with tons of records.

haight ashbury

amoeba records

golden gate park

Our very last stop was the Ice Cream Bar – a huge ice cream cone for Julian and a banana split to share for us. Not just any banana split either – a caramelized banana topped with 3 flavours of homemade ice cream, whipping cream, nuts, and chocolate syrup. Our flight into Palm Springs was pretty late at night, so we all tried to rest a bit before packing up and heading on out to the airport.

ice cream bar

Ice cream bar

One of the neatest parts about visiting California is the awesome diversity of the landscape. It’s a pretty huge state, I suppose, and when we woke up after our arrival to Yucca Valley all thoughts of the ocean were gone while I marvelled at a different kind of stark beauty. This area reminded me more of Arizona with the flat spaces and dry brush, the prickly pear cactus, and the spindly sharp trees.

We spent the weekend with my friend Allison and her parents at their home in Yucca Valley and George and Mary, two of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met, went out of their way to treat us like the most welcomed guests with coffee and cookies, plus a plan for the day to show us the best tastes and views of the city.

view

Julian discovered a love for peanut M&M’s in Yucca Valley. Mary had thoughtfully placed a few bowls of the shiny candies around the house and at first he thought they were balls (ball-ball! as he says). He was playing with them, letting them drop and roll, and his delight at finding the scattered chocolate made me realize Easter could be a lot of fun this year.

Next, he pretended to feed them to a lizard statue he’d become friends with. Then I guess he decided to try them himself. Mama!!! he exclaimed happily, dashing over to me with drips of yellow and red on his chin. I was a bit worried at first he’d choke, but he was gobbling them up and never had a problem. This photo isn’t staged – we found it like this. I guess J didn’t mind sharing.

lizard eating cookie

In terms of getting acclimatized to another new place. Julian was just great at going with the flow and he was a bit shy but warmed up quickly, happily eating the fresh melon and berries, and checking out the cool Western themed knick-knacks around the house. He particularly liked the turtles outside, petting each one carefully.

yucca valley front yard

We headed over to John’s place, a local diner for tasty charbroiled burgers smothered with Thousand island dressing, before going to take in a gorgeous view of Yucca Valley, then a drive over to Joshua Tree National park. We did a bit of a walk there, checking out the neat looking trees and smooth rocks. It was the perfect activity for a curious kid who loves to be outdoors, and the rest of us were pretty happy to talk and take in the sunshine.

me and J

Joshua tree national park

Joshua tree park

desert flowers

park

We had a nice dinner of chicken tacos at a local Mexican place, and just hung out afterwards, enjoying the pleasant evening air, the golden setting sun, and the warm company. Julian was enthralled by the rainbow pinwheel spinning madly in the gentle breeze, and had the best time in the motorhome pretending to drive and beeping the horn.

playing

shed

The next day we headed over to Cabazon Dinosaurs, you know…from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure? (Tyler knew!) Julian loved playing around the giant creatures and the weather turned a bit chilly and grey, perfectly suited for the giant Apatosaurus, and Mr. Rex, a 100-ton Tyrannosaurus rex who half-smiled, half-leered at us as we stopped to take photos. We also went up inside to check out the gift shop (a lady stopped me to chow me a photo of her son, because he had red hair like Julian) and let Julian play on a little red stage outside.

Cabazon dino

t rex

Cabazon t rext toe

stage

Isn’t it funny when you can meet people for the first time, spend a couple days together, and then on parting it seems you’ve known each other for a long time? Our friends dropped us off at our resort in Palm Springs after a nice dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and it was hard to say goodbye even though we’d really only just met. They were so good to us, really making us feel taken care of like they were our own parents in a home away from home.

Eating and playing, eating and playing

On our third day in San Francisco, we winged it a bit more. I love food, and Baby J loves to run around and play, so since this is a city full of green grass, fresh air, and is also a foodie’s delight, we spent the day alternating between eating and playing. Then playing and eating. Not too bad for a vacation, am I right?

I’d made a loose list of things we could do, and wanted to do, around the city, and we sort of picked what made sense as we went along. So we started the day by heading to the Mission district, which I’d heard had some funky street art and good food, plus a park with a great view. We wandered for awhile and spotted some cool murals on the street. I’d hoped to find a great bakery to indulge a pastry craving, but no luck, so we went ahead to the Mission Dolores Park.

mission park

mural

There was construction in the front, and then a big green field but there were a ton of off leash dogs running around so we tried to stick to the play area. It was just teeming with kids though, and mostly school aged ones (the age where they’re too young to look out for littler kids but old enough that they run fast and whip around the play structures). We still had a good time and Baby J was able to run around, but the view was obscured by clouds, so we didn’t really get the good, far out look at the city line we were hoping for. The Mission district itself was really fun to walk around and check out though.

mission

shapes mission

old car

mission

Our next stop was the ferry marketplace building. We lucked out with a close spot on the street and headed over to take a look at the farmer’s market that sets up on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. We weren’t sure if we wanted food from the stalls so we took a browse around outside, and then inside where there were all kinds of neat food stops. I saw everything from organic vegan donuts to salted pig parts (the name of the shop!). Baby J passed out in his stroller while in typical us fashion, we wandered around the wharf looking for the Hog Island Oyster restaurant, walking and walking and making a full circle to find it back where we started, near the marketplace. We decided to hop into line and have a nice, long lunch, just adults.

ferry marketplace

macaroons

steamer

Tyler got a dozen local oysters (which he loves) plus some pork sliders, and I decided to try the freshly caught half-crab along with a salad. I love crab and always forget until it arrives to the table that I don’t *really* know how to properly crack it open. I figured though, that as long as I was getting the meat into my mouth, the awkward flying shell bits and greasy fingers didn’t really matter. Right? Everything was fantastic, including the bread (we got extra). Great smells, and the rustle and clatter of silverware, plus a view of the bay bridge added up to the perfect ambiance.

bay bridge

Once Baby J woke up, we let him chase the seagulls on the docks for a bit, observing a few of the massive birds picking leftovers off a discarded plate at an outdoor cafe, before getting some ice cream for dessert. Baby J had a hard time waiting in the line, but it was worth the cups of weirdly unique ice cream – all freshly made with local ingredients – I sampled the Salt and Pepper ice cream and it was so good I thought about getting a scoop. I stuck to a safer choice though, the divine Milk Chocolate Passionfruit, while Tyler chose one called Elvis, The Fat Years. Baby J helped himself to spoonfuls of our ice cream, watching the boats off the bay, and giving a self-satisfied nod after a good scoop made it into his mouth.

ice cream

Then we drove to the Golden Gate Park again and this time headed right for the playground – probably the best playground we’ve been to this month. There was a carousel, and we were there just in time to snag tickets for the last ride of the day. All three of us went on together, and after putting J on a horse, he indicated clearly that he’d rather ride on a chicken. So, off we clucked as the music rang out.

playground

carousel

horses

The park itself was great. There were tons of kids but this time a lot of the older ones were preoccupied with sliding down these massively long metal slides while sitting on cardboard. This left a lot of the easy play equipment for the littler kids, and there were a lot of things to do. Holes to peep through, stone creatures to climb on, sand to play with, and a little spinning cup that made him howl with laughter as he got dizzy with spinning.

spinning

bird statue

golden gate park

playing at the park

I liked going to the park. It felt like a low-key, non-touristy thing to do. There were other families there, kids climbing precariously to the top of a weblike structure, moms sitting in comfy pants talking about their kids sleeping habits, pausing to dole out a snack or call out a warning, and J decided his new favourite way to go down the slides was on his tummy (feet first still, thankfully). We stayed til we were played out and tired, and as we walked up the path towards the park exit, J spotted a homeless man on a bench. “Hi, Ho!” he called out (since Christmas, anyone he sees with a white beard is ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’). The guy called back, “Enjoy the journey!” That we are.

Then we headed home for a steaming hot feast of dumplings, green beans, and noodles from our nearby neighbourhood Dumpling King. A wonderful day of eating and playing!