Palm Springs Places: The Sands Hotel & Spa

So I called up the Captain, ‘Please bring me my wine’
He said, ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine’

Lisa King in front of The Sands Spa.  Photo: d. king

This is the beginning of a series of desirable places to stay, eat, drink and unwind in and around the Palm Springs area.

Photo: Lisa King

As many of you know, I’ve been coming to this desirable desert destination for many years.  Two years ago I purchased a place to escape the rainy Vancouver winters and I love it.  I’ve become somewhat of a homebody preferring to cook meals at home, hang with my dogs and read or watch a movie.  But I also like going out to restaurants and listening to live music.  I especially love to discover the little hidden gems.  Places and spaces that take you away and really make you feel like you’re somewhere special.   Places like this:

Entrance to The Sands Hotel.  Photo:  d. king

So this is what I’ve been doing…in between cooking at home, walking the dogs, exploring new hiking areas, cruising on my bike and watching movies.  Luckily I also found an amazing tango instructor and a place to go dancing swing.  So I’m set.  However I’m still curious and I look forward to exploring the remarkable sprinkling of interesting and exotic places to enjoy.

Photo: d. king

There are so many noteworthy boutique style hotels where you can just stay put.  They’re not only places to spend the night when you come home from late night partying.  They make it hard to want to go elsewhere.  Which brings me to my recent weekend stay at The Sands Hotel & Spa in Indian Wells, CA.  A special birthday weekend with my sister and two longtime girlfriends. We were greeted upon check-in with Moroccan mint tea and pink champagne on ice in a pineapple ice bucket no less, in our gorgeous suite with large outdoor seating area including an outdoor bathtub.  Acqua di Parma bath products – noted.  And if you happened to forgot to pack your sunscreen, no need to worry – they supply “Sun Bum” by the pool.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
Light fare courtesy the Pink Cabana restaurant.  Photo: d. king  fyi: they make excellent cocktails.

The Moroccan-themed property was designed by legendary interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 designers in the world.  And it is simply put; stunning!  I mean these photos do not really do it complete justice.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

A combination of Bullard’s Moroccan-inspired influence and a mid-century vibe that is synonymous with the desert’s everlasting allure, the Sands Hotel & Spa is an exotic, luxurious and personalized take on hospitality. It caters to an adult only environment, therefore all registered guests must be over the age of 18.  I like that too.

Located in close proximity to the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens and glamorous El Paseo Shopping District as well as a short drive to Coachella Polo Grounds,  it features 46 guest rooms, the Pink Cabana restaurant and bar and a full-service spa.  It’s Fabulous darling!

And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’  Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

You can check out any time you like, But you don’t want to leave!

We were well taken care of.  Special thanks to Adam Ramirez; Guest Services Manager and Olivia Prescott; Director of Sales + Public Relations for making our stay extra special.  See you next time! XO

Visit: http://sandshotelandspa.com/

quotes: lyrics from Hotel California

Selfie at the Spa : d. king
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Feel-good Friday: Friendship

From my Fabulous Birthday Weekend

With Lisa, Natalia & Margeaux at the Nest in Indian Wells.
At the Sands Hotel and Spa

These girls made my weekend extra special.  We had a blast at the Moroccan-themed Sands Hotel and Spa in Indian Wells.  More on this in a few days.

Lucky me; I have more than one.

Green Goddess Dressing (aka creamy avocado dressing)

Don’t remember the last time I bought a salad dressing.  It’s all too easy to make your own from scratch and so much tastier.  This creamy, versatile and delightful dressing is packed with vitamins and goes with almost any salad.  It’s a  healthy alternative to dairy or mayonnaise-based dressings.

Image: Simply Scratch

What you need:

  1. 1 whole large ripe avocado.
  2. 1 clove garlic, peeled.
  3. 1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice.
  4. 3 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
  5. ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro
  6. ¼ cup low-fat greek yogurt (optional)
  7. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
  8. 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  9. water, as needed

Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients In a food processor or blender.
  2. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times. Thin the salad dressing out with about 1/3 cup water (give or take) until it reaches a desired consistency.
  3. Keep in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.

ENJOY

 

 

 

“Amazing Grace” – Amazing Aretha

The Gospel according to The Queen

Imagine uncovering lost footage of a young Aretha Franklin making a live recording of gospel music which turned out to be the best selling gospel album of all time?  Music that was deeply rooted, because of her upbringing with having a baptist minister father.

And then finding out that Director Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa, Tootsie, The Way we Were, etc.) was the director of a two part evening filmed before a live audience at the New Missionary Baptist church in Los Angeles in 1972. But for technical reasons the film was never released.  That is, before now.

Finally unveiled, I was excited to view “Amazing Grace,” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, watching a 29 year old Aretha at the peak of her vocal powers.  You can see Mick Jagger amongst the audience members clapping away and getting everybody to stand. They call it a documentary but this was more likely a musical of a soul-stirring experience.  A powerhouse, Aretha certainly earned her title “queen of soul.”

Gospel music is unlike anything else.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  I wanted to experience gospel in person. So on my first visit to New Orleans I made sure to visit a Baptist church on Sunday for the sole purpose of listening to a live gospel choir. My two friends and I were the only Caucasians in the church. I’m not religious but I enjoyed immensely a room so alive and full of spirit that you rarely, if ever get to witness.  It was moving.

The bottom line is that the purpose of this music is to uplift and preach the Gospel through music with the hope of bringing salvation to non-believers; and entertain all people with positive messages and values.

Uplifting and Entertaining with the most incredible voices, it was.

“Won’t You be my Neighbor?”

Love; or the lack of, is at the Root of all things – Fred Rogers

I never expected to shed a tear watching a documentary about a popular childrens TV show from the past.  But one of the scenes from “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) touched a chord. And when I looked around me, it was obvious that I wasn’t the only one crying.  Mr. Rogers Neighborhood hit a common thread in its most simplest form.  It reminded us of our innocence because we all grow up so quickly and the world has changed so much.  But really; we’re still kids at heart.

Our basic needs are the same no matter where we live, our religion, ethnicity, age, economic status or our jobs.  It is to feel safe, loved and worthwhile.  End of story.

Sorry; no skeletons in the closet found anywhere in this feel-good documentary  It’s almost impossible to not uncover even a little dirt on anyone nowadays, specifically the famous.  And you can imagine someone especially as likeable as Mr. Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers).  And by now they would have uncovered something from having interviewed many who knew him. For me, it was a case of not wanting to know any different. Because Fred Rogers was loved by millions of children, even though he was the unlikeliest role model. It is fascinating that he endured for so long.  This doc was a great character study.

We find out Rogers decided to go into television because he hated what he saw on TV.  So he created what can best be described as a landmark in children’s television.

But imagine being that likeable…

The thing is Fred Rogers, along with genuine spirituality…really, really cared.  And that is what is most admirable.  It was not only his persona, it was him.  No big secret.  Kids aren’t stupid; they picked up on his sincerity.  The show was a refuge for kids from all kinds of backgrounds.

Fred Rogers was a tireless children’s activist and advocate, bringing joy into our homes.  Can you think of any program like that now?

We certainly remember Eddie Murphy’s comical take with the spoof “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood on SNL.  It was pretty hilarious.

I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.

Rogers was an ordained minister who studied religion which most likely gave him the tolerance and the tools he used with or without puppets, to teach children about worth, unity, grief, racism, superheroes and…everything else that no other program on TV was offering.  It was a unique and needed niche which only he at the time was able to  recognize.  He even managed to get funding for PBS when they were going to cut programming based on his court appearance about the demand for this kind of educational platform.

There was a conversation afterwards with Director Morgan Neville (Oscar®-winner for Twenty Feet from Stardom).  I was already a fan of his work. This heartfelt portrait  more than does justice to the show’s beloved host. Expect to be surprised by the film’s relevance and deeply moved by its subject.  I know I was.

It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.

“Walk to Vegas” – World Premiere

In the wonderful world of Poker you can’t even trust your friends.

If you’ve ever wondered about how much cheating goes on in the gaming industry, this movie will certainly enlighten you.

This is not the first high stakes gambling movie ever made. Maybe you remember “The Sting”, “Rounders” or “The Cincinatti Kid.”  But I must say, having just viewed the world premiere of “Walk to Vegas”at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival, it is certainly one of the most intriguing and one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.  It was refreshingly different.

These eccentric people will go to almost any length for money. 

Inspired by a true story about Hollywood big shots who will bet on anything, “Walk to Vegas” is about a friendly poker game with colorful, questionable characters which winds up turning into a walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a $5 million bet.

This independent movie by the Van Patten brothers (James and Vincent) was filmed right here in Palm Springs. Multi-talented Vince Van Patten, an ex-child star, former tour professional tennis player, and commentator for the World Poker Tour…wrote, starred and produced this captivating film.  His real life wife, the stunning Eileen Davidson, also stars as his wife in the film and helped produced it.

Real life actor & poker player Jennifer Tilly has a cameo as herself in one of the scenes. I’ve always loved Jennifer Tilly in anything I’ve seen her in.  She was amazing in Bullets Over Broadway – one of my favorite Woody Allen films.   In this role she plays herself authentically (I assume, not knowing her personally).  Anyway…

The energy of the sold-out crowd in the theatre was remarkable compared to other screenings I’ve attended.  The audience certainly showed their appreciation.  Many of the cast members were in attendance and got up on stage for a Q&A after the screening. It was superb.

Side note: turns out the father of one of my friends from Los Angeles is also one of the producers of this movie. Small world!

Bravo!

 

Feel-good Friday:  Spaces & Places

Here in Palm Springs

Photos: d. king

There’s no lack of decadent little hidden gems that I’ve encountered tucked behind the hedges of unassuming boutique hotels, alleyways and restaurants. I’ve discovered so many attractive spots since the last time I was here.  These photos were taken from a narrow corridor at the”La Plaza” shopping centre which used to house workers and now instead, a handful of quaint little shops.

I’ve discovered some secret bars inside of a few restaurants that I’ve been to and didn’t  know about until someone in the know showed me….very inconspicuous. One is hidden behind a phone booth (really!) and the other behind an ordinary curtain.  I love that!

I’m spending time scouting cool locations for my Destinations page.  And let me tell you what a pleasure it is to do so.  It’s a pleasure! I’ll share them with you soon.

Getting back to Film Fest:  Since my last post I’ve viewed two foreign films.  “Everybody Knows” (Todos los Saben) shot in Spain with Penelope Cruz and her sexy real life husband Javier Bardem centering around a kidnapping at a family wedding and Israeli film “Working Woman” about a married woman with children who takes a  job selling high end real estate, only to encounter a “me too” experience when her boss tries to sexually abuse her in the workplace.   Both films were extremely well done.

After my hike tomorrow I’m looking forward to an independent film which centers around gambling, two documentaries from Mr. Rogers to Aretha Franklin on Saturday – (could they be more opposite?) and a Hollywood ending on Sunday.  I’ll be reviewing these throughout the week.

Have a Happy Weekend

 

 

 

 

 

“The Upside”

Part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival,The Upside” is a heartfelt comedy starring Brian Cranston (from Breaking Bad).

Kevin Hart + Brian Cranston in “The Upside”

I’m not going to dissect this scene by scene, because sometimes you just need to laugh. This comedy/tragedy did the trick.

I didn’t realize at first that it is a remake of a French film called  “The Intouchables” from the Weinstein company which was an International success, shown here in 2013.  It was one of the most successful French films in the history of French cinema. Otherwise, I might not have chosen to see “The Upside” because I don’t understand the need to make Americanized copies or adaptations of original foreign films that have proven to be excellent.  One example: I loved “La Cage aux Folles”, the 1978 Franco-Italian comedy. Later in 1996, “The Birdcage” was a remake directed by Mike Nichols and starring Robin Williams. In most cases I find the original to be the best version. But since they continue to recreate these films reasonably well and with an excellent English speaking cast…

The Upside” stars Brian Cranston as a wealthy yet very cynical quadriplegia who is looking to hire a full time caretaker.  When he decides to hire a fast talking parolee, the fun begins.   Kevin Hart (who may or may not host the 2019 Oscars – it’s still up for debate) plays a down on his luck, wise-cracking guy trying to prove to his parole officer that he’s looking for work.  I would say this is an unlikely pairing except for the fact that it is based on a true story and confirms the fact that opposites do indeed attract.

Nicole Kidman plays  a humdrum  assistant. For such an amazing actress, this part does not do her justice.

Julianna Margulies has a small part as potential love interest which comes to an embarrasingly unfortunate ending in a restaurant.

Overall, this movie was entertaining and the characters were excellently portrayed.  It brought many laughs.  Sometimes I think that’s enough.

A little trivia: this was the first film production for Malia Obama, daughter of Barack  & Michelle Obama. She worked as an intern for The Weinstein Company during filming.

Originally to be distributed by The Weinstein Company in March 2018, the film was shelved and sold off following Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. It was eventually bought by STX Entertainment and Lantern Entertainment, who then scheduled it to be released in the United States on January 11, 2019.

 

 

 “Botero” – a documentary

A good painter looks for solutions.  A great painter looks for problems – Fernando Botero.

 A fascinating behind-the-scenes profile of Columbian artist Fernando Botero.   The North American premiere of “Botero” at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival was one of the most compelling documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. The figurative painter and sculptor is known as the world’s most recognized living artist –  although someone I knew very little about and was curious to find out more.

For starters, many people only know him from his illustrious paintings of distorted fat ladies.  Well…turns out he’s much more well rounded (pun intended) than that.  He does not only people but landscapes, animals, fruit and sculptures.

Botero’s style is familiar in the same manner that other famous artists are, no matter what they paint. Picasso, Warhol, Monet, Pollock….their style is always identifiable. Botero’s colorful whimsical work with a touch of satire  tends to appeal to the masses.

I was blown away by Botero’s body of work including enormous sculptures which grace some of the world’s major landmarks and institutions. You don’t have to like everything, however you can’t help but  admire and respect it. Not all art critics understand the thought process behind the artist. Some get it, some don’t.  It’s pretty simple.  A great artist makes you feel because there’s a story behind every piece of art whether it’s abstract or otherwise.  It’s not just brush strokes.

For instance,  Botero did a series of paintings of a young boy –  boy is sitting atop a wooden horse, dressed up as an officer.  We learn the young boy was Botero’s son, struck by a truck early on in life and died instantly. This was Botero’s way of honouring his boy.  For a long while the young boy is all he painted.  It must have been torturous for him to do so.  But we look at the painting not knowing the story behind it and feel what we feel .

Director Don Millar who was here in person for a Q&A afterwards delves not only into the psyche of what makes Botero tick, he also interviews Botero’s daughter and two sons.  You see the love and respect they have for their father. They are clearly family people, educated and articulate.

On display: many works by Botero are on display at the Botero Museum in the center of Bogotá, Columbia.

Botero also very generously donated ALL of his private paintings, drawings and sculpures (including works he owned by Picasso, Monet and more) to the Museo de Antioquia in Medellin, his hometown in Columbia.  He now spends most of his time in Italy but the donation in Columbia is a positive way to take the focus off of a city which conjures up images of drug cartels, gangsters and kidnappers. The collection is the largest of his work anywhere to date.