First is anxiety before you leave worrying about all the things you have to get done. Pack, don’t forget to cancel the paper, board the dog, what have you. I have such a worry check list prior to travel that, even though I don’t have a dog, I still worry about it.
Second, you get to the destination and have to dial down from normal life. “There isn’t cable! I can’t live like this!” “Intermittent wifi, gasp! The room is getting dark; hold me, I’m frightened.”
Third, and this takes me about two days to achieve this totally. Mellow groove. If it’s a trip where I’m living out of suitcase in Europe going to 50 countries in 50 days I click in and think, “I could do this forever. What do I need more than this one black cotton dress I clean in the sink at night?” If I am having a beach vacation, “Why don’t I sell shell necklaces and just stay here?”
So, when I was trying to think of a vacation this year I had a few considerations to keep in mind. Money, travel with an infant. I’m not super plucky in that regard, and if I am going to blow the bank on a big trip I want to enjoy it, and sorry, need older kids in order to do so. I don’t want a 13-hour flight with small kids. Mark works constantly and getting him to take time off is… um, difficult. So, when he was asked to be in the Palm Desert Food Festival I smelled an opportunity. They would put us up for the first night or two (check savings off the list), and it’s close (no long plane ride). I imagined renting a stunning mid-century home until I saw how much they cost and that none had a fence around the pool. So I settled on a condo (more like a townhouse) with a communal pool. Added benefit, they don’t charge extra to heat the pool, which the house rentals do.
Okay, I’m getting ahead of my story here.
First off, the food festival. Which Mark and I have been referring to FOR WEEKS as the Palm Springs ood Festival. It’s only when we were 15 minutes from the springs that I suddenly came to.” Hey, I think it’s in Palm Desert.”
“It is?” Mark asks. I check my emails. “Yep, it’s Palm Desert.”
Mark: “Well where is that?” Mind you he is scheduled to be doing a food demonstration in about 45 minutes from our conversation.
“Keep driving, it’s about ten more miles.”
I’ve been down here many times. We had our wedding ceremony in Palm Springs (the big, fun one, not the legal one). We easily find the place, and it looks great. Big white tents and a couple people ready to help Mark. Normally he has someone to help he brings, but logistically that would be tough. Now, I could be of some help, except I am alternating pushing Rex in the stroller or strapping him to my body in the Ergo and minding Vivien. So, helping him make the gnocchi is out of the question. What can I do? Try to eat and drink with a mildly cranky 13 month old. Vivien’s been to enough of these she kind of gets the drill. I will find her some yummy nibbles if she lets mommy try that French Red the nice man is going to pour for me. My sister Carole, brother-in-law Kevin and nephew Charlie also came which made it more fun.
I did notice there was no signage for Campanile or Mark at his table, and we hadn’t brought any. Must remember to have a big sign I can roll up and travel with. I stacked some of his cookbooks up around his chafing dish for an improvised sign. His catering director had also made up some cute cards with a description of the restaurants and a recipe from the book.
I hear Mark’s voice loud as he is finally up at the stage showing how to make gnocchi. I think he was about 40 minutes late as they had to be made there. He served them with beef cheeks. Very good. He also had meyer lemon and basil sorbet, but since he was understaffed, so most of that never got served, and we took several quarts to our condo. I wish there was a taste app for this blog because this sorbet is the definition of refreshing.
My sister and her family really wanted to hit the pool at the Riviera where we were staying and so did Vivien. Mark, ever the nice guy, said go ahead! Kevin said he would come back and pick him up later and Mark said that maybe he could hitch a ride.
Well, none of us realized how FAR Palm Desert is from Palm Springs, especially where our hotel was. It was about a 4- minute drive. I checked in, had to change rooms, change a poop diaper, get a snack for Viv. And the place was kind of strange. The Riviera has been redone recently. My family and I used to stay there when we were little kids, so I remembered it had two big pools, which it still does. The grounds and rooms are a nice. The staff is good. Their nice restaurant, where we had dinner, is good. But… the clientele. Well, there is no other way to put it.
I’m used to being the only one these days who doesn’t have A tattoo, but everyone around us had multiple tattoos, baseball cap backwards, smoking, and bags of fast food. There seemed to be packs of young adults who had gathered for a mini Vegas experience.
We finally made it down to the “kiddie” pool (which was calmer than the wannabe pool) and spent a nice 10 minutes when I hear my phone, “Can you pick me up now?” my husband asks. I’m a kind wife.
“Can’t you get a ride? It’s really far.” As luck would have it, Kathy Ireland’s chef was leaving right at that moment. So, he got a ride and was given her latest book and a blueberry cheesecake candle. He said he also told the guy Kathy should guest on momversation, which I thought was really cute.
Kevin and I felt kind of bad for abandoning Mark. Kev had noticed two messages from Mark, “Kevin, I’m ready to go now.” As Kevin downed his martini, “I did tell him I would pick him didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.” As I sipped a gin and tonic bouncing my son on my knee.
The next day I dropped Mark off at the festival again, and I made my beeline for what I was sure would please my kids. Sonic burger. Not at the pool, in the car. Now, here in the big city we don’t have Sonics. But I had spotted one in Cathedral City and figuring there is only so much being dragged around my kids would nicely put up with I had to give them a win. And I love Sonic. We get to stay in the car, the waitress with the skates, the toys and I got a chicken wrap, which wasn’t fatty, fat, fat.
I was in mom mode taking them grocery shopping for the week (thanks homeless guy who helped me load the bags into my car, will give you $5 for that anytime), moved all our bags into the condo. Helped a lot by the sweet neighbor Brenda who offered me use of her dolly. How else would I have brought my wine in? But I was thinking, I would like to experience a LITTLE of the food festival if I could.
Beat it back to the festival in its last 40 minutes.
“Here” I put Rex in Mark’s hands. “Jump in Vivien, I’m going to find you a brownie.” I did… but I also found myself, great bbq, some yummy shrimp and various samples of wine.
Mark said he had a good time at the festival, but he was a tad rattled by one lady. Now, you got to understand that the older ladies of the desert are painted ladies. I found my big take away of the weekend was, “I have to remember to wear LESS make up as I get older and not to wear tight dresses.” One lady who he figured was in her late ’60′s or early ’70′s asked what he was serving. He gamely offered her the beef cheeks.
“Will you feed me?” she asked. Nervous laughter from Mark.
Then she said, “I’d rather have a chef’s BLANK in my mouth.” I’m censoring the lady here.
Poor Mark, “Um, well, here are beef cheeks.”
“you big stud. They are throwing themselves at you.” I said. He didn’t look pleased.
We packed our Coleman coolers back in the car and made the pioneer like trek to Palm Springs to start the chill part of our trip.
I told my mom about the hotel and she said, “Don’t you remember why we stopped going to the Riviera?” I was about 5, so no, I only remember when I won the doll whose hair you could wash in the pool games. God, she was a cool doll. I can see her washable hair now.
“It was a nice hotel, but there was a low-class element that congregated there.” Mom continued. “They used to bring their Coleman coolers to the pool.”