Conquering fears

10 04 2006

Well, yesterday (Sunday) was a BIG day for me. For years I have not been able to get on such things as ski chairlifts, let alone cable cars. But yesterday I actually got on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and took it to the top without collapsing in a screaming heap! Of course, having good friends and my partner with me helped a lot, and there were times when it was a little scary and I closed my eyes (like each time we went through one of the pylon stations and the car got a bit of a sway up).

But I did it! And enjoyed it – probably because the views were absolutely fantastic and the weather was brilliant and there was no wind. It was a great ride and I highly recommend it. Not bad from someone who's usually pretty phobic about these sorts of things!

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway


Comparing hotels

10 04 2006

On Saturday night, we stayed at the Marquis Villas in Palm Springs. HUGE! Full size kitchen with all amenities, 1 bedroom with 2 double beds, a large living/dining room with a double sofa bed, 2 bathrooms (one was massive), walk-in robes and lots of storage space, a wide balcony, and a great view of the mountains. Definitely a great choice for 5 people and all their stuff – good one, Sue!

On Sunday we moved into the conference hotel – the Wyndham Resort, Palm Springs. Well, how do you compare these two places? On price, the Marquis Villas was more expensive ($225 for the one night… but we split that between 5 people so that was very affordable), but the Wyndham at $159 a night (conference rate) is very pricey for what you get… or, more to the point, don’t get. No fridge (you have to collect ice from way down the hallway) or mini bar (not that I ever get anything from the mini bar); two double beds that are really slightly oversized singles and couldn’t fit two normal sized people; high-speed internet access (but only if you have wireless; dial-up is still dial-up and slow); car parking out in the open at $5 per day (the Villas had free underground secure parking); a bathroom that looks tired and has a shower faucet that takes some fiddling to get right, with a showerhead that spits water at you and a drain that doesn’t drain properly, and a vanity area that fits two toilet bags at a pinch with no room for anything else. The Marquis Villas beats it hands down. And to be honest, for the level of facilities, I think that the Motel 6 in Paso Robles was better value for money at $42 a night. The facilities in the room at the Wyndham offer very little more than we got at that Motel 6… for more than three times the price. And remember, we’re getting the conference rate, not the standard rate.

California country

10 04 2006

The drive from Paso Robles to Palm Springs takes in two of my favourite areas of California. The rolling green hills (at least at this time of the year!) of the country in and around Paso, and the Mojave Desert. Yes, California has some wonderful countryside and scenery (Yosemite, Big Sur, gold country), but these are perhaps two areas that aren’t on the tourist trail. The hills of Paso reminded me a lot of the Bridgetown area in south west Western Australia. Similar climate and landscape, but Bridgetown doesn’t have earthquakes!

It took about 6 hours to drive to Palm Springs from Paso. We took a minor detour off Highway 58 into Mojave itself to have lunch at a place we’ve stopped at quite a few times now. Primo Burgers (near the aeroplane ‘graveyard’) make a fine burger… and it’s cheap too!

Past few days…

10 04 2006

[written Saturday morning; not posted until Monday]

Well, we’ve been in California a week now. The first few days we stayed with my uncle (well, cousin x times removed, but as Bill’s 82, I call him my uncle out of respect) in Corona Del Mar near Newport Beach. The weather was pretty miserable – rained most days, cool and cloudy the rest. So much for “It never rains in Southern California”! I was able to get a 30GB MP3 player (Creative Zen) and have loaded up some talking books by Bill Bryson onto it. So far I’ve listened to a few chapters of “I’m a stranger here myself” – his experience with the car rental agency almost mirrored ours… hilarious!

The last two nights we’ve been in Paso Robles, California (wine country north of LA; just north of where the movie “Sideways” was filmed and located). Our friends there – John and Suzie – have moved into a new house from their 23 acre property outside town. The new place is much closer to town, and on an acre. We had a superb dinner with them both nights – Suzie’s a GREAT cook – and there’s always good wine and lots of laughs. And last night we were joined by the new owners of their old place – Lewis (sp?) and Kate from Boston. Lovely couple. John opened one of his very special wines – a 1981 Smith & Hook. It was brilliant! Yesterday we went with Suzie and looked at a new house in Paso Robles up for raffle – neat cellar! Then called in on Jon and Mary who have a vineyard in the hills near Paso. It was good to see them again; poor Jon was having to deal with some plumbing issues under the house!

Today we drive to Palm Springs from Paso Robles and will have an interesting evening sharing a room with three others! Getting a one night bed in Palm Springs on a weekend is almost impossible so Sue (from San Diego) has organised a 2x Queen bed villa unit for us, with a rollaway. So there’ll be five of us – two from the San Diego area (Sue and Dave), one from Boston (Char) and us two from Perth. Lucky we’ll all know each other pretty well! On Sunday we move to our respective rooms at the conference venue – the Wyndham Resort – so we’ll be able to spread out a little more.