photography by Heide Van Doren Betz

Maison Felice, one of Palm Desert’s finest antique galleries.

 

The first sight when arriving in the California desert is that of the towering, imposing windmills. The visuals are reminiscent of a science fiction film; rocky, sandy, tumbleweed ground with constantly spinning white blades churning away on slender, elegant columns. The windmills are like a gigantic art installation – thinkChristo – yet they provide an energy source that will supply about 20 percent of U.S. electricity in a few years.

Just a few miles further is an extensive oasis created out of the desert. Palm Springs and its newer luxury neighboring towns like Pam Desert, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Indian Wells and Big Horn afford many visual and cultural pleasures, recreational activities, and creature comforts. Most of all it is warm in the desert and it beckons those from the cold northeastern winter climates to bask in its sunshine. The temperatures soar to 120F degrees in the summer.

Centuries ago the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians settled in this rough and punishing terrain in the canyons, where the giant palms, plants, animals and spring water supply allowed them to thrive. Around 1890, this entire area became popular as a recreational oasis. The Indian Canyons are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Today Palm Springs is a haven of creative Spanish and modernist architecture once owned by the rich and famous, especially due to the proximity to Hollywood. Homes by such masters of mid-century design as Frey, Wexler, Neutra and Lautner abound within the city as both residential and commercial buildings. In the “old days”, the studios were known to put into their stars’ contracts that they may not be further than a few hours away from the set at all times, therefore Palm Springs, about an hour and a half by car from Los Angeles, beckoned. Today, a tour of the old Movie Colony, where the custom estates of Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Elisabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Liberace, and Walter Annenberg can be seen, is one of the most popular attractions. Golf courses are too numerous to count. Shops, restaurants and galleries for every indulgence line the streets of Palm Springs and Palm Desert. The Palm Springs Art Museum has an extensive contemporary collection of art as well as special exhibits. Galleries such as Maison Felice, Imago, and Heather James display quality exhibitions of upcoming and established artists.

With beautiful homes, elegant boutique hotels, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, hiking trails, restaurants, galleries, shops, and more golf courses this is a small section of paradise on earth.

 

JL

 





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