Saturday, 3 March 2018

A Newbie’s Guide to Palm Springs.

A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs

Recently, the Hubs and I took our first trip to Palm Springs. Being We(s)t Coast-ers, we were looking for somewhere warm and dry to get some relief from the February blahs. Having only one week however, we also wanted a location that was easy to get to, and with no jet-lag or time change to acclimatize to. Palm Springs became the logical choice.

A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs

5 Observations & Recommendations from Newbies (to other Newbies!)

1. Be aware, which we were not, that all of the morning flights from Canada arrive in Palm Springs within an hour of each other – 5 flights in all. And, as mentioned, these are just the ones from Canada! If you don’t know, or expect, this the airport can seem like barely-organized chaos, as you try to retrieve luggage and join the line-up for car rentals. However, things do calm down quickly, as people get themselves sorted.

2. February (winter in general) seems to be peak visitor season, so booking everything well in advance is essential. It is also the way to get the best prices on everything from flights to accommodations and car rentals.

3. Take a couple of sweaters. We took one each, but another would have come in handy. Clear skies and low humidity means that it cools off at night, and takes a while to warm up in the morning, especially at this time of year.

4. Palm Springs is great to drive around, even if you’ve never been before. The main roads are laid out pretty much as a grid. It isn’t as large as I thought it would be (a good thing!), so the drive to our condo took less than ten minutes. And, there was lots of parking in downtown Palm Springs, much of it free.

5. There is also a free bus – the Buzz Bus – that runs Thursday to Sunday through downtown and out to where we stayed on E. Palm Canyon Drive. It’s a great deal, especially on Thursday evening, when Palm Springs holds its VillageFest street market. It is supposed to run every fifteen minutes, though the schedule can be… fluid, shall we say?


Even booking six months in advance, hotel prices in Palm Springs seemed expensive to us. As an alternative, we decided to check out what Home-Away vacation rentals had to offer. Being people of a ‘certain age’, we like our own space when we travel. We also like to try and keep costs down. A quick search of the HomeAway website ( gave us over 300 rentals to choose from. Of course, these were at a variety of sizes and price points, which we narrowed down to suit our needs.
Our rental was at a place called Ocotillo Lodge, a mid-century complex on East Palm Canyon Drive. (HomeAway shows that there are over 20 units for rent there alone). It was quiet and well-maintained, with a nice pool/hot-tub area and a fantastic mountain view. With grocery stores and a coffee shop nearby, setting ourselves up in our ‘home away from home’ was easy!

A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs

It turned out to be a great location for getting around as well. Driving downtown took ten minutes (if that!). Going further in the same direction (north), took us to the highway to Joshua Tree NP. And, if we had ventured the opposite way, would also have taken us easily down through all the other towns in the Coachella Valley.

Joshua Tree National Park

Full disclosure here: we did not do anywhere near the amount of sight-seeing we could have done, even in just one week. Of course, the entire region is a golfing mecca, but there is also the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, water parks for the kids, parks and hiking for all fitness levels, not to mention museums and galleries for all ages and tastes.

However, the purpose of our trip was to have a break from dreary, cold days and recharge after a busy and, at times, stressful year. Several days were spent lounging by the pool, reading.

The day out at Joshua Tree NP however, was not negotiable. It was a must-see for us. I wasn’t sure what to expect though, as national parks in Western Canada especially, are all about the mountains and lakes, or the coastline and big trees. What would we see in the desert?

A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs

Lots, that’s what! The whole park is fascinating, from the rock formations to the unusual-to-us fauna. If you love the outdoors even a little, I would thoroughly recommend a visit. We had a couple of items on our agenda already – Keys View and Skull Rock. However, the guides at the Visitor Centre were helpful and knowledgeable, giving us advice on some other places to stop and check out.

Keys View and Skull Rock are probably the two most popular places in the park for visitors, so they are always crowded. Keys View though does have a large parking area and a paved path up to get the full benefit of the awe-inspiring view over the Coachella Valley and the San Andreas Fault.

A Bit About Snowbirds

We are not in the position, quite yet, to call ourselves Snowbirds (retirees from Canada and the northern US who travel south to warmer climates for extended periods). The Hubs still has a few years to work, so we haven’t really considered our options for when that time comes. There’s no doubt however, that Snowbirds make up a large contingent of the visitors to Palm Springs in the winter. And, it’s because we have friends who are Snowbirds that Palm Springs ended up on our radar at all.

So, I asked them why they chose Palm Springs, what they liked best and least about it, and if they had any advice for others who might want to become Snowbirds in the near future. Here’s what they said:

We briefly looked at Arizona as a Snowbird place (because it is cheap) but chose Palm Springs because our friends highly recommended it.

The best part for us about Palm Springs is the and sunny but not humid.

There really is no "worst" thing....however, it is landlocked and you have to like being in desert terrain. I prefer a pool to an ocean anyway!! Also, the difference between the American and Canadian dollar is depressing.

My best tip for someone coming to this area is to travel light and buy your clothes in Palm Springs as they are better and cheaper… also more appropriate for the climate for sure.

Keep your eye on the exchange rate and buy when it is good, for future trips. Have a bank account in US dollars that you can easily transfer money to when you see a good rate.

You will meet lots of great people and enjoy the camaraderie but stay away from any discussions about politics. Always stay friendly and positive.


A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs
Our Friends, Elsa and Michael. Happy, Relaxed Snowbirds!

That’s excellent information to have, and I agree about the weather!

So, now I am home, staring out at the grey overcast skies when I should be typing, and wishing that we were still there. Or that we could have stayed for longer. I had looked forward to our trip to Palm Springs as a respite from winter; I didn’t expect it to affect me so much. But with its obvious attributes of weather and scenery, friendly people and small town vibe, I now understand more why people go back there year after year. I may yet become one of them.

Thanks, Palm Springs!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

My Golden Olympic Memories

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My Golden Olympic Memories

While the rest of the world celebrates the current Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang (which are awesome), I’m throwing it back to 1988. To Calgary. To ‘my’ Olympics.

No, I wasn’t an athlete, but I did get to use some of my talents in the spirit of the Olympic Games. Because I was conversant in four languages, I volunteered my time and was hired as a host at the Athlete’s Village.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Olympics of Eddy the Eagle, the Jamaican Bobsled team, Alberto Tomba, fierce figure-skating rivalries, and the crowning of a new sweetheart for Canada, Elizabeth Manley.

At the time, the Calgary Winter Games were the most expensive ever, largely because the facilities had to be built from scratch. Canada did not win a gold medal in ’88, but these same facilities have since been put to use to improve athletic development. That investment has shown itself in our podium placings ever since.

As a volunteer, and especially as a host, there was an extensive interview process to ensure suitability. From there we had to attend workshops on protocol, learning how to correctly address royalty, IOC officials, and representatives from every level of government.

Olympic Athlete's Village Hosting Uniform

Once in our uniforms, we had to be aware that we could be photographed or filmed at any time. Not only were we supposed to conduct ourselves appropriately, but we had to look the part - polished, fresh and professional - so we also received style and makeup lessons. I don’t believe I ended up on any TV footage, but I was stopped by two former USSR athletes who wanted to take my picture. It blows me away that my photo might still be a part of someone else’s Olympic memories!

While many of the volunteers worked only for the two-week duration of the Games, those of us at the Olympic Village worked four weeks, to accommodate athletes arriving well in advance of the start of events. By the end, I was exhausted, from juggling hosting shifts with my real job. However, it was worth every minute – one of the most rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling experiences of my life!

Olympic Welcome Calgary '88 Hosting Lichtenstein

These are some of my personal highlights:

- Being part of one of the welcoming ceremonies at the Village itself – for Lichtenstein. Though I did do a double-take, thinking the organizers had made a mistake with their national anthem – it is the same tune as the British! A quick side-eye check of the delegation showed me that all was OK… and I learned something!

- The Opening Ceremonies, although I wasn’t there as a volunteer. My Dad got tickets and took me. Probably the coldest I have ever been, and we had to leave before the end, but saw all the important parts, including the lighting of the Olympic Flame.

- I saw very few other events because of working, but was comp’d a ticket to the speed-skating. I saw Yvonne van Gennip (most successful female athlete of the Games) race and win.

- Being downtown Calgary, at Olympic Plaza, for the medal ceremony – absolutely jam-packed with people and the flame lit on top of the Calgary Tower.

- Meeting (briefly) Eddie the Eagle and getting his autograph.

- Meeting (briefly) Prince Albert of Monaco (on whom I had a crush at age thirteen!). No autograph, against protocol!

- Getting to hold one of Tomas Gustafson’s gold medals. I had had to escort a Swedish journalist through the Village to interview him, and started chatting while waiting for photos. I’m sure I was gushing (he was quite handsome!) about how proud he must be and he just handed one over!

My ultimate memory though, has to be the Closing Ceremonies. As volunteers, we were all given tickets. I worked that day in the staging area for the athletes, as they readied to enter the arena one last time. The events were over, our jobs were coming to an end. It was high spirits all round and as more people congregated, I am sure the noise levels were way beyond what health and safety would deem reasonable!

Because of where we were working, my fellow hosts and I were some of the last volunteers to take our seats, giddy with excitement and our adrenaline levels off the charts as we ran through the stadium literally moments before the parade of athletes. Olympic Closing Ceremonies are always less formal, more fun, than the Opening. This one was no different; k.d. lang sang her heart out, Canadian athletes did backflips on stage, and a good time was had by all.

But at some point, the IOC had to officially declare the Games closed. Just like that, in an instant, it was all over. I had been laughing and singing along with everyone else, and even though a hush had fallen on the stadium with the official pronouncements, I really didn’t expect to cry. But cry I did. As the flame died, I held my breath, the tears coming without warning. And I was not the only one!

To this day now, I cannot watch that moment of an Olympic Closing Ceremony without getting a lump in my throat.

The Olympics are about dreams and accomplishment. For my part, it was an honour to be part of Team ’88, over nine thousand volunteers who helped make that happen for the athletes of the XV Olympic Winter Games. And I am so grateful to have lived my own little piece of the Olympic dream.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Midlife Mediocrity (or Being Myself – and That’s OK)

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midlife mediocrity-B FB T

A couple of weeks ago, an article appeared in my newsfeed, called ‘What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life’ by Krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui. The title called to me so I did something I rarely do on Facebook– I read the article right then and there.

What I read stopped me in my tracks. On a day when the sheer weight of stuff – physical stuff, mental stuff, the stuff not done – threatened to pull me under, it was exactly what I needed to see. I have been fighting all summer to get back on my feet, get back on track, to do all the things. Hell, I have been fighting the battle for ‘perfect’ (or even ‘good enough’) for more years than I can remember!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Menopause Moi Book Review – The Magic of Menopause by Lorraine Miano

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MM book review magic menopause-B-FB-T

I was provided with a copy of this book to review. However, all opinions are my own. Also, please note that this post contains an affiliate link. If you click on the product image/text link and purchase it through my account I receive a small remuneration, at no extra charge to you.

The first thing I noticed when I received The Magic of Menopause was its size. Compared to other books I have read on the subject, some of which are tomes, it is comparatively small clocking in at 150 pages. This is NOT a judgement on the book or its value however, just my initial reaction.

I actually liked this book because it is short and sweet – an easy read. If this book had been available when I was beginning my menopause journey, it might have been a better resource to start to learn about the changes I was undergoing. Knowledge is power, but too much at once, especially for my hormone-addled brain, was overwhelming.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Creeping Cholesterol and Burgeoning Blood Sugar

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creeping cholesterol and burgeoning blood sugar

This is me! While recent bloodwork did not show any anomalies that might contribute to the fatigue I’m currently experiencing, it did show my cholesterol and blood sugar levels edging higher. Although these afflictions are not a forgone conclusion in midlife, I have to face the fact that at 55, being a couch potato with an affinity for crunchy, salty things (fries, potato chips, etc., etc.!) is catching up to me!