My favourite desert city

Two days in Palm Springs and my world is all right! 🙂 Especially when I can stay in the Palm Canyon Resort. There is nothing better than hiking in the Indian Canyon in the morning, before and spending the afternoon in the pool. We started our day by walking on the “Palm Canyon Trail” for about an hour. As the whole Canyon is 15 miles long, and as we wanted to do another trail afterwards, it was set that we wouldn’t do the whole hike.

The beginning of the Palm Canyon Trail

We parked our car at the Trading Post and descended into the canyon. What we liked about this trail was the fact that it follows a little stream at the beginning. And where there’s water, there are palm trees, as well! So you have some shade – which is definitely worth a fortune in the desert!

Palm Canyon

Click on picture to enlarge

You have to cross the water at one point. When there was a lot of rain, I think it can be difficult to hop over it. When we were there, you only had to be careful not to step into the green, somewhat stinky puddle.

Crossing the little stream

After half an hour or so, you leave the shade of the canyon and climb on a mountain. That was the moment when we decided to turn around and head back to the car… 😉

However, you had a nice view over the mountain from up there…

View over Palm Canyon

For the second trail we had chosen the “Andreas Canyon”. We had done this easy, only one mile long loop last year already and had really liked it. So we were keen on refreshing our memory 🙂

Beginning of the Andreas Canyon Trail

Again, this trail begins with following along a stream of water…

Walking in the shade of palm trees on the Andreas Canyon Trail

… where you can refresh yourself by putting your shirt or your cap – or both – into the water!

Nothing beats a wet shirt and a wet cap in the desert...

Believe me, nothing beats wet cloths in the desert!! OK, maybe an ice-cold cocktail in your Hand… but nothing else! 😛

After 30 minutes or so, you leave the shade of the palm trees and the comfort of the water. The track leads up to a platform above the canyon.

Leaving the shade

Now, the canyon with its palm trees lies to your left…

View from the platform above Andreas Canyon

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…and you walk back through sparse desert vegetation. You will meet the water again at the car park – a great spot for a break and another refreshment!

Sticking the feet into the desert stream

But we do not only love the Indian Canyon because of all the great hikes you can do there, but also because it’s a great place for watching desert wildlife like lizards…

Lizzard

… something that looked like a desert dragonfly….

A desert dragonfly??

… but the best of all were the hummingbirds! At the Trading Post they put up special feeding stations for them – perfect for the birds and the tourists! 😀

Three feeding hummingbirds

Hummingbird

We spent the second part of the day at the pool of our hotel. As I mentioned earlier, we stayed at the Palm Canyon Resort.

Our room at Palm Canyon Resort in Palm Springs The kitchen

We had a room facing the pool, which was actually not as good as the room we had last year. When you decide on staying there, too, ask if you could get a room facing the desert. Like this, you avoid the noise from the pool in the evening plus our room last year was a bit bigger and nicer. But forget about the room anyway, let’s talk about the pool!! 🙂

The pool at Palm Canyon Resort in Palm Springs

Nicely shaped, with a separate section for kids, a pool bar and a waterfall… what else can you ask for??!

Enjoying the pool

Make sure you try one (or more ;-)) cocktails at the pool bar! Very yummy!!

Fantastic cocktails at Palm Canyon Resort

Every thursday between 6 and 10 pm there is a street market in Palm Springs. So that’s where Moritz and I headed on our second evening. Next to all kinds of food and art work, we were thrilled to find..

  1. a pig

Pig at Palm Springs street market

  1. a stand were you could burn marshmallows for free

Marshmallow

  1. Marilyn Monroe!

Marilyn Monroe at Palm Springs

Yep, Palm Springs is definitely worth a visit! 🙂

More information about:

Palm Springs

Palm Canyon Resort

Vegas, Baby!

You know: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! 😉 But OK, I won’t conceal everything from you. Here are my personal top 5 highlights of our three nights in Vegas:

5. Walking the strip

In my opinion, that’s THE one thing you have to do when in sin city – especially when it’s dark and all the lights are on (plus the temperature is a bit lower than during the day….)

The strip

Click on picture to enlarge

Don’t miss New York New York. The Hotel Looks like the skyline of Manhattan, it even has a replica of the Statue of Liberty – and a rollercoaster going all round it! 😀

New York New York in Vegas

When you enter the hotel, it looks like you are walking the streets of New York. The restaurants are located in little houses.

Inside New York New York

Feeling like Europe? Why not visit Paris?

Paris in Las Vegas

This Hotel has a replica of the Eiffel Tower, which is half of the size of the original one. You can take an elevator up to a viewing platform and there is also a restaurant located up there. When you enter the hotel on the ground floor, you feel like roaming the streets of the French capital:

Inside Paris

And make sure you don’t miss the public bathrooms! I love their Art Nouveau design… 🙂

Toilets in Paris, Las Vegas

Why not hop over to Egypt now? The pyramid is waiting…

The pyramid of Luxor, Las Vegas

Inside Luxor

That all sounds like a fairy tale? Then you should check out the fairy tale castle/ hotel – Excalibur…

Excalibur, Las Vegas

… and if you lost your shoe on the stairs, don’t worry, you find just the perfect one in the lobby of the hotel Cosmopolitan – one size fits all! 😀

Shoe at cosmopolitan

And if it was a prince who showed you to your shoe, why not marry him straight away, in the “Pop up wedding chapel”!?! 😀

Pop up wedding chapel, Las Vegas

Aaaah, I love walking the strip!!

4. Staying at the hotel with the best pool

Which is – in my opinion – not Mandalay Bay but Tropicana!

As we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary, we had chosen a suite. This means, next to a huge bedroom…

Tropicana suite, Las Vegas

… we also had a living room…

Tropicana suite, living room

… and a view over the strip!!

View from Tropicana over the strip of Las Vegas

Nice, hum?! 😀

But the BEST about this hotel is the award-winning pool!!

Award winning pool area of Tropicana, Las Vegas

Tropicana, pool area

This is exactly the place where you wanna be between 9 am and 6 pm, when it’s just too hot to be anywhere else in Vegas! 😉

But there’s one thing I have to mention: Make sure you stay at Tropicana during the week. There is a beach club called “Bagatelle” right next to it and their Music is that loud, that it’s really not much fun lying at the pool anymore – especially as Tropicana is playing music, too… Two songs competing with each other is nothing you want to listen to when you try to relax…

3. Hiking in the Red Rock Canyon

Yes, there is something next to gambling, partying and marrying that you can enjoy while in Vegas! The Red Rock Canyon is only a short drive of 20 minutes away and it’s definitely worth getting up early. Why early? Because it gets hot out there!!

Entrance to Red Rock Canyon

You have to pay only 5 $ entrance fee per car and day in order to drive on the “Scenic Drive”, which is a 13-miles one-way road that brings you to all the points where the hiking trails start – and offers great views, too.

Calico Hills

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Panorama in the Red Rock Canyon

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Panorama of Pine Creek Canyon

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Moritz and I had decided to do two easy hikes before it gets too hot. We drove to the Willow Spring picknick area and started the “White Rock Willow Spring Loop”.

Hiking on the White Rock Willow Spring Trail

Lonely hiker

This trail is easy to go and offers great views on the surrounding mountains.

red_rock_canyon5

But make sure to bring at least one bottle of water per person. As I said before, it gets very hot.

For our second short hike, we had chosen the “Fire Ecology”, which is the beginning of the “Pine Creek Canyon” Trail. At the beginning, you descend into the valley. From there onwards, this trail is sandy but very easy.

Beginning of the Pine Creek Canyon Trail

It leads you through some bushes…

Bushes in the valley

… until you reach a small stream of water…

Water in Pine Creek Canyon

… and the reason why this place is called Pine Creek: pine trees!

Pine trees

After 30 minutes, we were back at the car and enjoyed the view we had from up there:

View from Pine Creek Canyon parking lot

Click on picture to enlarge

It was 11:15 am when we had finished our two hikes and the temperature was just below 100 degrees – time to hit the road and get into the pool a.s.a.p.!!

2. Watching the fountains of Bellagio

“The best things in life are free” – Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson must have been in Vegas before they recorded this song. There are many amusements in this city where you can spend a fortune in order to savor them. But one of the best doesn’t cost you anything: the fountains of Bellagio.

Dancing water in front of Bellagio

The fountains in front of Bellagio

Grande finale in front of Bellagio

You can watch the dancing water every half hour before 7 pm, and every 15 minutes in the afternoon. And you can come again and again and again, you will never feel bored: the fountains know a lot of dances to different songs: from “Hey, Big Spender” to “We Need a Little Christmas” and much, much more.

1. Celebrating our first wedding anniversary

What can I say, this was DEFINITELY the highlight of our trip to Vegas. As I told you in an earlier post, Moritz and I got married las year at the “Graceland Wedding Chapel”, so spending our first anniversary where it all began 365 days ago was very, very Special.

We decided to go to the restaurant “Mon Ami Gabi” at the hotel “Paris”.

Mon ami Gabi

Luckily we had made a reservation the day before, because the line was very long when we arrived and people were told they have to wait up to an hour to get a table. The restaurant was very crowded but still nice. We shared a warm jar of olives as a starter and both went for the “Steak Bordelaise” with caramelized onions and red wine sauce.

Steak Bordelaise at Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas

Our program for the night was also very exceptional: we went to see the karaoke singing frog! 🙂

Singing frog at Wynn

Wynn Lake of Dreams

I had heard from a friend that we HAD TO see the “Lake of Dreams” at Wynn. We caught the show where a huge frog is singing karaoke! Hilarious!!! Their website says they have eight different shows. I know our evening program for our next visits to Vegas… 😀

More information about:

Las Vegas

Pop up wedding chapel

Red Rock Canyon

Mon Ami Gabi

Lake of Dreams

From L.A. to Joshua Tree NP – hiking included!

It’s only the second day of our holiday but it feel’s like we’ve been on the road for a week already – in a positive sense! 🙂

After a very relaxed flight with Swiss Air from Stuttgart via Zürich to L.A. (OF COURSE they offer you chocolates when flying with Swiss 😉 ),

Swiss Air chocolate

we arrived in the US on thursday evening.

We picked up our rental car (a Volkswagen Jetta – what else would you expect from two Germans 😀 ) and stayed in a hotel close to the airport for the first night. The next day, we woke up in the middle of the night – bloody jet lag – and had to wait until 6:30 am to have breakfast. We left L.A. around 7:30 am and headed towards our first stop: the Desert Hill Premium Outlet! Well, why not start your holiday with an extended shopping experience, I ask you! 😀

Desert Hill Premium Outlet

When we arrived at 10 am, they had just opened the place so the Desert Outlet was… deserted. Which meant we had most of the shops all to ourselves for the first hour or so!

Deserted Desert Hill Premium Outlet

Three hours and the one or other Dollar later, we hit the road again and drove towards Twentynine Palms, close to Joshua Tree National Park. It was early afternoon when we arrived after a 1-hour drive and as we were keen to see something of the beauty of the NP, we decided to do our first hike: the trail to the 49 Palms Oasis.

This hike is 3 miles in total and leads you to an oasis in a valley. You have to climb up a hill at the beginning before descending towards the oasis.

Starting the trail towards the 49 Palms Oasis

Panorama view

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Another viewpoint

Still climbing

I don’t know whether it was the lack of sleep, the still very hot afternoon sun or me just being not very fit, but climbing up the first hill was really hard work. You can imagine how glad I was when we reached the top and were able to enjoy not only the view over the town of 29 Palms…

29 Palms

but also to spot the 49 Palms Oasis for the first time:

49 Palms Oasis

Descending was very easy and we found the oasis nearly empty of other tourists.

Descending to the 49 Palms Oasis

We sat down in the shade and enjoyed the view.

View from the 49 Palms Oasis

Same view, slightly different perspective

After this little break, we felt refreshed and were ready for the way back. The sun was setting which meant a little drop of temperature plus beautiful light (which did not only make the plants stand out of their surrounding).

Red cactus

White cactus

The last mile flew by and we arrived at our car with the last rays of bright daylight.

Way back from 49 Palms Oasis

We were very happy with our choice of trail for the first hike this holiday.

This morning, we got up early again in order to avoid hiking in Joshua Tree NP at noon. As it was only 8 am when we entered the park, not many other tourists were around and we had the landscape and the street all to ourselves…

Lonely street

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park

Click on picture to enlarge

Lonely Joshua Tree

And of course, it’s also easier to spot some wildlife, when not hundreds of other people have trampled along the same track before you…

Lizzard in Joshua Tree NP

Tiny snake in Joshua Tree NP

We decided to do the mountain climbing in the morning, when the sun has not too much power. So “Ryan Mountain” was our first destination.

Ryan Mountain Trail

The way up to the mountain top is 1.5 miles long. It was nice doing this hike in the morning as it was only 70 degrees (for all Europeans: DON’T WORRY!! I am talking Fahrenheit here! 70 degrees Fahrenheit are about 21 degrees Celsius 😉 ) and no other hikers were around on our way up… Hikers! I didn’t say runners, did I?!

Jogger on his way up to Ryan Mountain

I really hope that this guy is one of the Marines that are positioned on a training area next to 29 palms, and no regular businessman… Otherwise I would feel really deranged… 😉

The way up leads you along some beautiful rocks and offers great views.

Rocks along the Ryan Mountain Trail

Viewpoint

Another viewpoint

Climbing Ryan Mountain

But the most stunning views offers  – of course – the summit…

360 degree panorama from Ryan Mountain

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We took a little break, enjoyed the view and drank half of our water bottle.

Enjoying the view from Ryan Mountain

On our way back, we met a lot of other hikers so I can definitely recommend doing this trail in the morning.

As the day had just begun, we had enough time to do some more, slightly shorter trails.

Our next stop was the 0.4 miles “Cap Rock Nature Trail”.

Cap Rock Nature Trail

This is a really lovely, short path that leads you along some of these awesome, marble looking rocks that are lying around here everywhere (looks a bit like baby giants had played along with them and forgotten to clear them away after they were finished). This is an interpretative trail, so you’ll find signs explaining the flora and fauna along the track. Plus, there are also some benches where you can sit down and enjoy the stunning view of the desert.

Sitting on a bench in Joshua Tree NP

Our next stop was “Hidden Valley”. As the name points out, this valley was hidden from mankind for a long time because of a circle of rocks, that enclosed it. Due to these rocks and the number of green plants in the valley, this 1-mile loop is well worth doing.

Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree NP

Click on picture to enlarge

Inside Hidden Valley

Our last stop was “Skull Rock”. Guess where the name comes from, this time… 😉

Skull Rock

But the skull is not all that you can see in these rocks. Just let your phantasy and your imagination run wild! I for example spotted an igloo (with a palm tree in the front yard…)…

Igloo in Joshua Tree NP

… and a cute looking animal face:

Face of an animal in stone

There is also a little trail called “Skull Rock Trail” leaving from here. It’s a 1.7-mile loop that passes a campground at one point. It’s a bit sandy but quite nice to walk.

Skull Rock Trail

You only have to watch out for one passage: There is a very narrow part of the trail where you have to squeeze yourself through two rocks. So better avoid big backpacks! 😉

Narrow part of Skull Rock Trail

It was early afternoon when we came back to our hotel. We are staying in the “Best Western Gardens Hotel” in 29 Palms.

Best Western Gardens Hotel

We are quite happy with this place: The room has a good size…

Our room at Best Western Gardens Hotel in Twentynine Palms

… breakfast is included and it has a pool (!!!):

Pool at Best Western Gardens Hotel

What else can you ask for in the middle of the desert?? 😀

More Information about:

Desert Hill Premium Outlet

Joshua Tree National Park

Best Western Gardens Hotel

A wedding in Las Vegas

Nearly one year ago, Moritz and I spent four weeks at the US west coast, traveling from San Francisco via L.A., Joshua Tree National Park, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, Pismo Beach and back to San Francisco. It was not our first big trip together, but this one was special – because we got married on the way! 🙂

So here’s the story:

During the first week of our trip we spent two nights at the Grand Canyon.

Hiking at the Grand Canyon

Enjoying the view of the Grand Canyon

On our first evening, we decided to have a picnic at the edge and watch the sunset. So when it was late afternoon, we headed out to find a good spot. But Moritz was never satisfied with the places we passed, he was looking for the perfect spot. Finally, we found an area where the walkway passes behind you and where you have an unspoilt view of the canyon, without people walking through.

Sunset at Grand Canyon

We had a lovely dinner there and even though I didn’t understand why it was so important for Moritz that we have found a spot all to ourselves in the first place, I came to understand later – when he proposed 🙂

Engaged!

The day after, we started thinking about our wedding. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you want to have a religious ceremony in Germany, you need to have a civil one before. And as both of us were not very keen on one of these rather demure events, and as we were passing through Vegas the next week anyway, we went crazy and came up with the idea of just getting married there…

After some research (Yes, as a German you can get married easily in Vegas! And yes, the act does count as an official wedding – as long as an authorised person had performed it.) we were sure, that’s exactly the right thing to do for us. So we made an appointment at the “Graceland Wedding Chapel” for the 14th of Mai 2012 – and felt thrilled! 🙂

Graceland Wedding Chapel at Las Vegas

We arrived in Vegas one day prior to the wedding and had a ton of things to do: find a wedding dress and proper shoes for me (even though we wanted it to be a very relaxed ceremony, hiking boots or flip flops just didn’t feel right… :-)), trousers, a shirt and new shoes – and a wedding ring!! – for Moritz plus we had to get our Marriage Licence at the  “Marriage License Bureau” in Las Vegas. You wouldn’t think so, but actually everything worked out just fine and we had a fun hen AND stag night on the strip – together 🙂 Yeah, we are not for the normal way of doing these things, are we…

And at the afternoon of the 14th of May 2012, we got married in Vegas. Just the two of us. With Elvis singing two of this best know songs (“Falling in love with you” when he walked me down the aisle and “Viva las Vegas” at the end of the ceremony).

Married!

Moritz, Elvis and me at Graceland Wedding Chapel

A picture for the family album: Me, Moritz and Elvis on our wedding day

I had expected a very funny but also businesslike event but I was surprised: We felt special from the moment we stepped into the little chapel: The minister treatet us like he was here just because of us (of course he had tons of couples married that day before we came and we even met the next ones when we left – but he did’t show it), the photographer – who became our best man – made us feel like we were old friends, only Elvis could have been a bit more motivated. But I don’t blame him. After years in this business, it must be hard to sing the same songs again and again and again every day. And he sang well! So after 30 minutes, we left the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas as husband and wife! Man, was THAT an awesome feeling!

So if you are wondering now why for gods sake I am telling all that stuff: The following days, you will read a lot more about the west coast, Las Vegas and other places around here – because Moritz and I came back to celebrate our one year anniversary where it all began 365 days ago… 🙂

P.S: For all of you who wonder why I put up posts about my wedding preparations in Germany in the past: These preparations are for the religious ceremony we want to celebrate this year in July. So more about this is to come up here soon as well.

More Information about:

Getting married in Vegas (on vegas.com)

Clark County Nevada: Wedding Licence

Graceland Wedding Chapel

When a (Silent) Friday falls on a thursday…

… then we are talking about a very special and wonderful event in Stuttgart. In a very relaxing atmosphere, with pillows on the floor and dimmed light, the Silent Friday presents experimental performances and different types of music. It’s a shame that this event won’t be around for much longer in its former way…

I went to the last Silent Friday that is organised every month last thursday. And that’s the first thing I love about this event: despite its name, it takes place on a thursday! 🙂

It was held in the Theater Merlin in Stuttgart-West. Five different performances were awaiting us, from acoustic music over some asian dance meditation to Swedish dance music and relaxing singer-songwriter tunes.

The entrance to Merlin in Stuttgart-West

We were happy that we arrived early enough to get some pillows 🙂

Relaxing on pillows at the floor during Silent Friday at Merlin

The evening started with a band playing acoustic music. What followed was hard to comprehend – and is even harder to explain to you guys…: a girl doing some asian “dance meditation performance”.

Some performances leave you clueless

Well, but that’s the great thing about Silent Fridays: They always confront you with a new type of art. You don’t have to become a fan of it but you should be open and respectful towards the artist. And that’s what the Silent-Friday-audience usually is.

Now it was time for the singer and songwriter Kid Decker, who enchanted us with his tunes. After we had snuggled in our pillows for a while by now, the Swedish band MOMOFOKO made us push the cushions away and get to our feed: it was time to dance!

A "not so silent" Silent Friday moment

It was around midnight by now and it was time for us to leave. So we only saw the beginning of the Performance of “Owls of the Swamp” – quite a pity because we really liked what we heard: soft indie-folk. Luckily one of my friends got his CD 🙂

Listening to indie-folk

It is really sad that I found out about this great event just before it isn’t held in it’s regular way. Nevertheless you still have the chance to visit a Silent Friday. You only have to wait till autumn, but then it’s supposed to come back.

Another great fact about Silent Fridays: The singers and artists are very down to earth and you can talk to them in the breaks between the performances. I had a very nice chat with Pete Uhlenbruch form Owls of the Swamp.

Chatting to Pete Uhlenbruch from Owls of the swamp

More information about:

Silent Friday (only in German)

Merlin (only in German)

MOMOFOKO

Kid Decker

Owls of the Swamp