Star spotting at desert hideaway
I WAS strolling past the swimming pool, just by the lemonade stand, when a bloke lounging on a sunbed laughed. For an instant I could have sworn it was Orlando Bloom. I glanced again and realised I was mistaken - it was Gerard Butler.
A third look revealed that it was neither of them - just the guy with the loud shirt and mop of hair from room 34.
My excuse for jumping to conclusions was that I had been told both Bloom and Butler had stayed here at the Parker Palm Springs - a resort in East Canyon Drive, Palm Springs - and I really wanted to see someone famous on my first trip to the US.
Situated behind a rather large hedgerow, the Parker Palm Springs is a little slice of genteel English country living, a place so secluded and peaceful that even the most famous of movie stars could feel quite at home.
Palm Springs is an oasis of green in the parched desert that shuts the real world out. At first it has a bit of 70s kitsch to it, but as you venture through the foyer and into the gardens beyond it begins to grow on you, much like the abundant foliage.
The property has certainly lived a few lives over the years. At one stage it was called Melody Ranch and belonged to the Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. You are still able to stay in the Gene Autry guest house, a secluded house which oozes luxury.
In another incarnation, it was movie and television star Merv Griffin's Givenchy Resort and Spa.
These days, the 5ha of landscaped gardens surrounded by desert and mountains is home to a resort with 144 guest rooms, including 12 private villas, clay tennis courts where whites are required, two petanque courts and a croquet lawn. There is also a real Lemonade Stand, at the pool, where a rather cool-looking gent spends his days turning lemons into lemonade.
With no lake or sea in sight and surrounded by desert, it may seem a bit weird that the grounds are also home to the Palm Springs Yacht Club. The thing about this yacht club is that it is actually a spa - quite a spa it is, too. A facial, massage or a dip in the indoor pool provides the perfect recharge after a day out in the desert sun.
The resort also has two choices for dining. There is Norma's, a five star diner, where you can order a $1000 omelette which is actually a frittata filled with lobster and caviar. Then there is Mister Parker's, which has a white grand piano and serves French cuisine.
We only stayed at the Parker Palm Springs for one night but, having come from Las Vegas, it was a welcome change of pace. The Vegas hotels were fast paced but the Parker Palm Springs was laid-back elegance. Nice.