LA QUINTA, Calif. “Honey, turn to the side so I can get a picture
of your belly.”
There’s only a very small window of opportunity in any man’s
life where he can say these words to his wife. In my case it was
when my wife, Julee, was six months pregnant far enough along for
her to be showing, but not so far for her to be sick of it
It was the perfect time for that question, and also for the two
of us to find a sitter for our son, and go off on a romantic
weekend getaway before we were once again thrown into joys and
stresses of parenthood. And in Southern California there’s just
about no place better for a romantic weekend than La Quinta Resort,
19 miles east of Palm Springs.
Built in 1926, the resort has the unmistakable feel of old
California, with Spanish-tile floors, adobe walls and wood-beamed
ceilings throughout. Despite being spread out on 45 acres, the
resort manages to create an intimate and romantic feel thanks to
the setup of the casitas, with small groups of rooms often
clustered around a swimming pool. (There are over 42 pools and 52
whirlpools on the grounds.)
One of the qualities that makes La Quinta unique is the range of
lodging options available. The resort has an astounding 800
guestrooms and suites situated in Spanish-style casitas. Some of
the casitas resemble private residences, with multiple bedrooms or
suites for families or small groups, others are more like
traditional hotel guestrooms, and there’s a range of options in
between. Some suites even come with a private swimming pool.
Frank Capra wrote “It Happened One Night,” among other
screenplays, in one such casita. (How much more romantic does it
get?) And a variety of celebrities, from Bette Davis to Adam
Sandler, have been guests here over the years, which is no surprise
given the laid-back ambiance and homey, yet classic,
Our Southwestern-style guestroom featured ornate ironwork, a
wooden four-poster bed, an antique blanket chest, a fireplace
although late-spring temperatures were in the 90s and whitewashed
walls. The tiled bathroom was huge, with a big bathtub and a
separate shower with a seat and dual showerheads. Amenities
included everything you would think, including the resort’s own
brand of premium bath products. Overall, the room was large,
comfortable and air-conditioned enough to tempt us to stay indoors
the entire weekend, almost.
With what felt like our own private pool (but was actually
shared by a small group of casitas) mere steps from our door, there
was good reason to leave our room. In fact, floating lazily under
the twilight desert sky, while a warm evening breeze blew, was one
of the highlights of the weekend. While the pool provided the main
attraction during our stay, Julee did find time to try out the spa
The 23,000-square-foot Spa La Quinta offers indoor and outdoor
massage, a fitness center and the Yamaguchi Salon. The spa tries to
incorporate ancient treatments of the indigenous Mexican and Native
American cultures, and highlights include wraps made with local
herbs, yoga and personalized fitness training.
Julee chose the Pregnancy Massage a 50-minute treatment for
moms-to-be. The massage utilizes special pillows for added comfort,
and in Julee’s case it focused on the areas she found especially in
need of care, such as her feet and lower back.
It being a weekend for romance, I had resisted the urge to bring
my golf clubs and sneak off to one of the resort’s five courses,
including the top-rated PGA West. (The resort also has a lighted
tennis club with 23 courts with all three types of surfaces.)
Instead, I found my way over to the Plaza Shops a two-story arcade
with a variety of retail stores.
For dinner, La Quinta offers several options, including Azur by
Le Bernardin, by the same people behind Le Bernardin in New York.
We opted instead for the more casual Adobe Grill, which features
Mexican cuisine and live Mariachis.
The gazpacho here served chilled in the skin of an avocado was
incredible. And as much as I sympathized with Julee’s state, I
couldn’t resist trying one of the restaurant’s oversized
A walk around the grounds after dinner reinforced the romance of
the resort. An amateur stargazer had a telescope set up on the
plaza and was happy to share views of (what else!) Venus with
As an indication of how popular La Quinta is for groups and
special events, there was a formal dinner in one banquet room, and
when we peeked into a smaller room we caught a bride and groom’s
first dance. It was just another reminder of the magic that can be
felt throughout the resort.
The next day, at the busy “family pool,” as we watched parents
playing with their kids with brightly colored floaties and pool
toys out in full force I noticed Julee cradling her bulging belly.
Next time we’ll have to go back with our new addition and her big
La Quinta Resort
49-499 Eisenhower Drive,La Quinta, CA 92253
Hits: This charming, classic resort is a
throwback to Old California at its best. With 42 pools on the
property, you never feel crowded. Starbucks and Krispy Kreme the
breakfast of champions on property!
Misses: We arrived in the evening and parking
was far from our room, especially lugging our own bags. No hooks
for wet towels in the bathroom.
Be Aware: Clients should make reservations for
the spa and restaurants well ahead of time and be sure to ask for
outside seating at the Adobe Grill.
Plugging In: Rooms have high-speed Internet
although I couldn’t get it to work despite the very friendly help
of the resort’s on-site expert.
Clientele: Mostly leisure. Popular with
families and couples. Meeting and banquet space available.
Rates: From $225 to $3,500, depending on season
and type of accommodation.
Commission: 10 percent
Thanks to changes spawned by the attractive and educational
National Steinbeck Center, downtown Salinas in central California’s
agricultural region is worth a side trip for anyone visiting nearby
Monterey or Big Sur.
John Steinbeck, the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning author of
“The Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men,” “East of Eden” and other
novels, was born in Salinas in 1902, and is buried there. In 1998,
a non-profit foundation raised $12 million to build the modernist
center in the heart of old-town Salinas.
The center’s focal point is the John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall,
featuring seven galleries with interactive exhibits on the author’s
life and work. Highlights include the camper-truck Steinbeck used
on a road trip with his dog, immortalized in the 1962 book “Travels
The center, which attracts 90,000 visitors a year, is spurring
renovation and new construction along Main Street. A parking garage
for the center is under construction, to be followed by an adjacent
multiplex and a new 14-story hotel. Several restaurants have moved
into nearby renovated buildings.
The Steinbeck Center is located at One Main Street, 17 miles
east of Monterey. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is
$10.95 for adults. Travel-agent commissions and group discounts are