By Wendy Wood-Prince
After a rough winter we collectively long for a respite, which is exactly what I was looking for when I joined my sister, Sandy, and cousin, Loraine, for a few days of sunshine in Indian Wells, California. We didn’t want any responsibilities other than eating, having some champagne, enjoying some beautiful nature and being warm. The main setting for our escape was the BNP Paribas Open which is a tennis tournament held every year in the California desert and that attracts the top players from around the world.
Roughing it Moet style.
The mid 40 degree temperatures that shocked us upon arrival did not deter us from enjoying ourselves. We just kept our northern attire on and our heads down as we made our plan of attack. First stop was the tennis venue. Beautifully built and maintained by owner, Larry Ellison and the billionaire did not hold back on amenities at the Tennis Garden. We were greeted by gorgeous flowers, amazing food options including a court side Nobu with windows looking down onto the court (one errant shank return during the tournament actually landed on a “lucky” diner’s plate!) and delicious selections from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. (Between the three of us I think we had Spago’s Chinois Chicken Salad with crisp wontons, candied cashews and sesame ginger vinaigrette for about a half a dozen of our meals – and just reminiscing about those ingredients makes my mouth water!)
French tennis player Gael Monfils or affectionately known as “La Mont” and Novak Djokovic patiently signing autographs.
Since my cousin Loraine was born and raised in France, naturally our focus at the tennis venue was twofold; French tennis players and champagne. Moet Chandon had an impressive presence at the BNP Paribas tournament with a large tented area featuring bottle service and private seating areas as well as a specialty airstream trailer ready for photo ops and general hanging out while enjoying Moet’s champagne selections. One new offering that we had to sample was Moet Ice Imperial. According to Moet Chandon, Ice Imperial is “the first and only champagne especially created to be enjoyed over ice.” Being purists, the three of us were skeptical of trying this “over ice” champagne but Moet was right, it’s fresh and bubbly flavor is a great summery beverage and I suggest adding your favorite berry or two.
Thousand Palms Oasis.
After our initial eating and lazing around the tennis venue we decided to motivate and headed out for a hike early one morning into the Coachella Valley. The mention of Coachella conjures up images of concert goers half clad in hippie inspired fashions of florals and cowboy boots experiencing multiple genres of music but it is also a beautiful natural area with stunning vistas and abundant wildlife. We headed out to Thousand Palms Oasis. Wanting to avoid crowds, we arrived early and visited Palm House, an original palm log cabin built in the 30’s. It is full of information, photos both old and new and excellent staff ready and willing to advise visitors on hikes both accompanied and self-guided.
Dwarfed by ancient fan palms.
We were awe struck by the grove of California fan palms, some as tall as 60 feet, we then became struck by the number of rattlesnake warning signs there were. There are rattlesnake warning signs EVERYWHERE! The guide in the visitors center even gave us a short briefing on how to tip toe around the rattlers should we come across a one during our hike. At this point we started longing for champagne in a lounge chair rather than rattlesnake wrangling at 9am, but we forged ahead with bravery, eyes peeled and a conga of rattles echoing in my head.
I think we get the picture.
We chose the 2 mile McCallum trail route and headed off into the primordial palm grove with its cathedral like ceiling of palm fronds. The shade of the palms created cool areas which were in stark contrast to the bright sunny paths that connected the groves. We saw lizards, birds and bright wildflowers, their kaleidoscope colors contrasting with the desert earth. Endangered desert pupfish swam around Simone Pond, one of the major spots on the McCallum trail walk. It was a glorious morning and walk in an incredibly stunning area of the California desert, and we did not see nor hear one single rattle!
Champagne at la Brasserie restaurant.
It was a super relaxing week involving decisions such as “what top tennis player shall we watch?”, “Is Chinois Chicken Salad our choice for lunch?” and “Is it a good time for a cocktail?”
Evening at Indian Wells Tennis Club.
Many thanks to Loraine Riemer for additional photos.