Hip Haunts in Palm Springs

One of the best reasons to visit Palm Springs is to take in the overwhelming amount of great architecture. From the early work of Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra to the countless Palmer & Krisel-designed houses, there's more than enough to see over several trips.

If architecture is on your mind, then you should make it a point to stay in an well-designed hotel, right? We've stayed in three different hotels in Palm Springs and toured two others.

Desert Star Bungalows - The bungalows were known as the Desert Star Inn the three times we stayed there. When Steve and Misako Samiof sold the hotel to move to Costa Rica, a new owner gave the hotel a fresh facelift and raised rates a bit. Still, they're in a tranquil neighborhood and each bungalow is nicely furnished with period pieces. Our recommendation? Stay in Bungalow Number 5.

The pool at the Desert Star

Villa Royale - Of all the hotels listed in this post, the Villa Royale is the only hotel that doesn't have a mid-century pedigree. It's a 1930's Mediterranean-style hotel but it oozes charm and typified Palm Springs before it's 1950s heyday.

Orbit In / Hideaway - What a great pair of hotels. The Orbit In really perfected what a Palm Springs mid-century hotel should look like. Great furnishings in the rooms, a very cool pool scene and evening cocktails. If you can get past the sticker shock, the Orbit In is a great bet. Slightly more affordable but equally hip is the nearby Hideaway.

The Orbit In - Pricey but Worth it!

Caliente Tropics - A 1964 tiki-themed hotel that is better for families or lower key stays in Palm Springs. Not as hip as the Orbit In or charming as the Villa Royale, the Caliente Tropics has its own vibe. If you're into tiki and polynesian style architecture, this is where you will want to stay.

Polynesian Style at the Caliente Tropics

Now... there are other mid-century hotels in town and if you don't like the choices I've listed, these might do the trick for you.

How's that for choices?


Some Sweet Argentine Delicacies

Happy Easter everyone... we had a nice time enjoying some splendid Houston weather. One of the delicacies we also enjoyed this Easter Sunday was a nice portion of alfajores from Asturias Bakery in Houston. Located on Dairy Ashford, just north of the Westpark Tollway, Asturias is a tiny but wonderfully authentic Argetine bakery. We picked up not only two varieties of alfajores but also some other delicious pastries. Outside the strip center bakery are a few tables, typically taken by Spanish speaking clientele enjoying their cortados. Stop by Asturias and pick up some delicacies for your next get-together or just to satisfy your sweet tooth.

If you're not in the neighborhood, you can get your Argentine fix at either Gianotti's at 6539 Bissonnet or the Original Marini's Empanadas Houston at 10001 Westheimer (in the Carillon) or 3522 S. Mason Road in Katy 0r Manena's Pastry Shop and Deli at 11018 Westheimer.


Our First (and not last) Visit to Huatulco

It seems like my computer problems are behind me and I can get back on task - finally!? Hardware problems quickly make you realize how completely dependent we are on technology. Kind of sad, really. Then again, it's technology that allows me to post on a blog like this.

We spent four days and three nights in Huatulco and absolutely loved it - what a refreshing change from Cancun. So laid back, so remote and really gorgeous. It was our first trip there and we would gladly go back. The people were great, the weather was ideal and the water was just pefect!

The Las Brisas Huatulco, seen below, was sprawling and offered plenty to keep us busy, particularly since we were taking a test run with the baby. As you can see from the picture, the 50 acre resort is broken up into four pueblos - each one with a name like mar or estrellas. We were located in Pueblo Mar, situated on the far left of the photo. Since everything is relatively spread apart, regular golf carts shuttle hotel guests around the resort. Foot paths also allow you to get around pretty easily although the resort is rather hilly. It didn't bother us.

Las Brisas Huatulco, as seen from our flight into Huatulco

The Pueblo Mar has quite a few suites with spacious terraces - highly recommended. In fact, I would spend the extra money for a room with a terrace - makes all the difference! The views over Tangolunda Bay were stunning, particularly at sunrise and sunset. Rooms, whether renovated or not, tend to have white themes with marble floors. Bathrooms are roomy with double sinks and a big shower.

Sunrise over Tangolunda Bay with the Sierra Madres in the background

The resort has four beaches that can only be accessed from within the resort. The snorkeling beach, seen below. was right below our puelbo. Just a few feet from shore is a nice coral reef with an overwhelming abundance of sea life... all sorts of tropical fish. Guests commented on spotting turtles, rays and even an octopus. The variety is amazing. Looking at the photo, you can see the resort's larger beach (below the pool and restaurant area) just beyond the first set of rocks. An activities beach offers various watersports and a "secret" beach offers a quiet little cover that, while really nice, is not completely secret - not when it's on the resort map.

The clear waters of the Snorkeling Beach

From the Snorkeling Beach, you can pass the resort's Mexican restaurant and follow a foot-path ot the main beach. Here you will find a bar and a large lawn area. Above the lawn area is the resort's main restaurant as well as other restaurants like Kasbah (Moroccan). The main restaurant offers decent buffet food - mostly used by people on the all-inclusive plan. Depending on the number of nights of your stay, you will receive a certain amount of a la carte dinners, as well.
Passing the main beach to head to the pool area

Most visitors to Huatulco head off the resort to either La Crucecita or Santa Cruz. On Sunday, we took a taxi to La Crucecita for lunch. Quaint little town - there were very few tourists and mostly locals. We found a friendly vibe and a picturesque little town with a charming main square. The food we ate was excellent!

Traditional Oaxacan Cheese.... mmmm!

Given that Huatulco is waaay down south in Mexico, the weather can get awfully warm. We didn't find it too humid (what Houstonian would?) but the temperature did seem a little warm for our baby boy. The main square offers some a nice break from the ever-present sun.

Relaxing at the Plaza Principal

We wandered around for about an hour, checking out shops and the local market. There were quite a few restaurants and a handful of small hotels. Locals were busy going about their day.

Fresh mango for sales in La Crucecita

Overall, we had a great time. There's so much to do in Huatulco but, since we were with the baby, we weren't able to really venture out. That's why we picked Las Brisas - it had everything we needed. Next time, we'll definitely check out the remote beaches, go see some whales and probably go surfing. This was a great start and, as you can see, led to smiles all around :)

A Happy Family!


Computer problems galore

I haven't disappeared... I'm just having all kinds of hardware issues. That's a real pain since I want to post an update on our most recent trip to Huatulco. It was outstanding - really liked it! Anyway, my new laptop is having keyboard issues which forces me to use my old laptop which doesn't want to stay connected to the wireless network. So, until a new keyboard arrives, I'm kind of hosed.

BUT... I won't leave you empty handed - I thought the following article on Rome's subway expansion from Travel and Leisure was fascinating. It paints a good picture of the challenges required to expand the subway system in a 2,500 year old city.


The Laid Back Vibe of Isla Mujeres

As you know, we recently went to Cancun for a company-sponsored trip. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed some simply perfect weather. However, as many of you know, Cancun is not really Mexico. That is, Cancun could just as easily be Miami or L.A. - it is mostly overrun with American food chains and restaurants catering to tourists. Authenticity and Cancun don't necessarily go together.

If you want authenticity, take a short ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres - a small five mile long island just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Yes -it's the Isla Mujeres that some know from booze cruises but the island really offers so much, including a real taste of Mexico.

We made it to Isla Mujeres on a Saturday to go swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery. I can't recommend this enough. If you're going to do it, spend the extra money to actually "swim" with the dolphins and not just pet them. It's one of those "to do before you die" experiences.

Anyway, the rest of Isla Mujeres has a very laid back feel with beautiful waters, a more local vibe and plenty of authentic color. I built a little slide show to give you an idea of the main town. While there, be sure to stop by Mininos on the main thoroughfare for some pulpo and a Sol beer. The food is inexpensive and the two men playing vibes are priceless. Nearby is a public beach and you're not too far from getting to Playa Norte.