The magical vanity fair

Date: 11 June.

Location: by the pool, Palm Desert.

Notable sightings: the ritzy El Paseo shops (the Rodeo Drive of the desert), a rattlesnake, a real kitchen of our own!

State: California / Liquid / Relaxed.

Did you know it’s really hot in Palm Desert? Like, so hot that the only activities in which the locals partake with any enthusiasm are lizard lounging by the pool, shop-hopping from air-conditioned store to air-conditioned store and raiding fro-yo bars.

We make excellent locals. Save for our failure to embrace white pants and our alien accents, we could pass for locals.

We’re now staying at my aunt and uncle’s new Palm Desert hideaway in the Coachella Valley. After a midnight arrival on Sunday — I told you, we’re easily distracted — we scavenger hunted around the unfamiliar dark house and garden trying to locate the spare keys, like the world’s worst cat burglars. We used iPads as torches, giggled sporadically and occasionally remarked how we were behaving like “such total creepers”. Surprisingly, the neighbourhood watch didn’t raise the alarm. Keys located and front doors defeated in battle, we meandered into bedrooms and passed out. It was the first time in a few weeks that we’d not all slept in the same room and Bunky, originally put to bed alone in the gigantic master suite, was spotted in Tassels’ little foldout bed in the den come morning.

I love arriving somewhere after dark and then waking up without any concept of what surrounds you, what colour palate to expect, what scale to expect. You use fresh eyes when, come morning, you throw back the shutters and take it in. What we took in was this: expansive cerulean sky that seemed impossibly tall and long, like we were in Peter Weir’s The Truman Show; spear-like palms shooting hopefully up towards it; dusky, sandy mountains embracing us on most sides; the turquoise pool glittering invitingly; a lofty casa all to ourselves. Palm Desert: a collision of bright blues, bleached whites and oases greens below a big sky.

Monday, we lolled about and explored the local shopping precint, indulging in a few rounds of Style Me, a game we’ve played forever and will never ever grow out of. In a big chain store such as H&M, each player is assigned another player and then may select outfits – usually to theme – for that victim to try on. Themes for the day included Vegas Poolside Bunny, Bachelorette Gone Wild and trendy El Paseo Drive Shopper. We then showcase each theme in the fitting room. I feel for the fitting room attendants who have to watch the spectacle as we parade about in our ensembles, falling about with laughter at one another’s leopard print suits, sparkly hot pants and sheer white confections.

We haven’t been complete sloths though as the other thing you do in Palm Desert is to hike. Unless you’re really into letting the sun sear your flesh to your bones, you want to wrap that up before 8:30am. On Tuesday we tackled the Bump ‘n’ Grund trail, a local favourite. Of course, if we were really locals, we’d do it with our cellphones blasting disco music and our tops off.

Wednesday we attempted the much easier Homestead Trail, up to a giant cross that overlooks the valley. Sadly, scaling this 2.2 mile steep and rocky hike was too facile a victory for Bunky who then led us in a strength training circuit. I have to admit, it was utterly exhilarating being high above the hazy valley doing push ups and squats. (Though, a little embarrassing when my iPod, which was on speaker and on shuffle, started playing Barbie Girl just as some fellow hikers joined us at the top of the mountain).



Our desert ‘hood by morning.

Our desert ‘hood by evening.

Hard day being locals.

When the hike wasn’t ‘hard enough’.

At the top of the Bump ‘n’ Grind trail.

Bumpin’. Grindin’. Bunky & Tassels are the little ants.



Vegas themed.

El Paseo. Valet, of course.



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