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April 4, 2014

Palm Springs: Two Timeless Classics

The Willows Historic and the Viceroy both share a stylish throwback elegance. And they couldn't be more different.

Even if you didn’t score tickets to this year’s Coachella Music Festival, there’s no reason to stay at home. While your friends rough it on the Coachella campgrounds, air-kiss them adieu, put the top down on your ride and head on up the valley — and by that, we mean to Palm Springs.

Cozied up to the San Jacinto Mountains, Palm Springs is literally an oasis in the desert — natural hot springs, mineral pools and lush vegetation make this town a refreshing destination in an otherwise arid clime. It was the old Hollywood guard that put Palm Springs on the map — Bob Hope, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra all had homes here — and the stardust has never quite blown away. Palm Canyon Drive, the city’s main artery lined with boutiques and restaurants, even has its own walk of fame — pardon: “Walk of Stars.”

If you turn off the drive at the super-sized Marilyn statue (dress blown up in the wind and all that), head up past the Palm Springs Art Museum and you might spot a lovely Mediterranean villa behind a gated drive. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a private home.

With all the glitter and showiness of Palm Springs, there’s something very civilized about the anonymity of The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. Discreetly unmarked, it’s a luxurious, eight-room bed and breakfast where regulars know each other by name.

The villa began life as the 1920s winter retreat of a California businessman. You can still climb the steps of the hillside garden to the bench where frequent former guest Albert Einstein liked to take in the view of the valley. (You’d be hard pressed to find a panorama like it in Palm Springs.) Staying at the Willows still feels like you’re staying at a friend’s home — a chic one, who serves evening cocktails fireside and the most extravagant three-course breakfast, savored in a stately room overlooking a waterfall fringed with bougainvillea. Each room of the house has its own DNA, too, but perhaps the most unique is the “Rock,” with an open shower shared by a fantastic boulder left intact during construction.

But Palm Springs appeals to all kinds. If you’re less Helen Hideaway and more Look At Me Lucy, then you might consider the Viceroy, right down the road. If you like the mid-century vibe of Palm Springs, then you’ll love this place: no one else does it better than the Viceroy with their Hollywood Regency style.

Think: black-and-white mod-pop bungalows with flashes of lemon yellow, full kitchens and working fireplaces filled with dazzling quartz-like stones. OK, they call them “villas.” But the point is, they’re large, stylish and comfy.

The hotel layout is comprised of a collection of manicured courtyards — modeled on its original incarnation as a 1930’s inn — so there’s always a place to retreat for peace. Otherwise, poolside is the place to be, where the beautiful people lounge beneath citrus trees and sip cocktails in the sun.

You just know if Ol’ Blue Eyes came back, he’d pull up a chair.

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read more: 02. Sleep | boutique | historic | romantic | villa | 10. Culture | performance


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