Chasing my mid-century modern dreams in Palm Springs

It may come as a surprise to some that my personal aesthetic leans quite modern. There are a variety of reasons while my own home will never look like Charles and Ray Eames designed it - I often wonder how they would design around a collection of matchbox cars and superhero figures - but as I grow older, my taste has really narrowed toward clean lines, open spaces, large windows, and a feeling of overall lightness. I start to draw the line at complete starkness and minimalism, however, for its seeming impracticality (again, kids) and lack of personality (namely, mine - I enjoy having personal vignettes around the house). A strict follower of modern design would probably balk at the more traditional elements in my home, but I still firmly place myself on that end of the design spectrum.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that Palm Springs - the epicenter of mid-century modern design in America - was at the top of my list of must-see destinations in California. And the quick, 2.5 hour drive from San Diego meant that we had reservations for a little getaway within the first three weeks of our arrival. (The 100 degree desert heat didn't deter me.) And I was not disappointed with what we found.

The best tip we received for finding these beautifully designed homes was on the Pathport guide to Palm Springs, which recommended that we download the self-guided design tour from the Palm Springs Visitors' Center. It highlights all the well known structures designed by famous architects, like Richard Neutra's Kauffman House (top left), but it also gives interesting background on some lesser known designs.

Some house hunters, myself included, might be disappointed that a number of the featured homes are tucked way back off the street, behind large gates, and away from the prying eyes of observers. That's when a walk down a street like N. High Road is in order.  These mid-century gems are on full display for everyone to enjoy.

Now, for some travel notes: if you are interested in staying in a design-oriented hotel, you have two great options available to you.  First up, the Ace Hotel & Swim Club.  The star of the show here is the pool scene, but the overall retro vibe of this renovated mid-century motel is good fun.

The other option is the Parker Palm Springs, an interior design lover's heaven. It is an iconic Palm Springs hotspot for obvious reasons. My husband and I swear that we'll stay here on a child-free getaway, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my daughter was all about the cool designs featured here.

The wonderful thing about Palm Springs is that it is like nowhere else in the world. From its high-brow, Hollywood connections to the cheeky nod its residents pay to its playground reputation, Palm Springs is absolutely one of a kind - exactly the way you want a city to be. When can I go back? (And who wants to join me for Modernism Week?)

Paris in three days: Day three (plus)

The itinerary for our last day in Paris was pretty simple:  visit the Palais-Royal and Galerie Vivienne, meet a friend for lunch, and visit a museum. Thankfully, it was that simple because I had no idea what a hit the Palais-Royal was going to be with my daughter. If you ask her, riding the carousel was her favorite part about visiting Paris, but I know it actually was running around the Colonnes de Buren in the courtyard of the Palais-Royal.

I could hardly blame her, because what child doesn't like a playground that isn't actually a playground? While the striking black and white columns and beautiful surrounding facades might make for a photographer's dream (and whoa, were there a lot of photoshoots going on), the varied heights of the columns and wide open space are a dream-come-true for a kid. We couldn't get her to stop running the lengths of the rows, climbing up and jumping down from each column. If someone was in her way (e.g. a photographer waiting for everyone else to get out of his way), she stood and stared and politely shouted "Excuse me!" There was no stopping her. So while she had her fun, I had some fun of my own with the beautiful symmetry.

When we were finally able drag my daughter away with the promise of chocolate, we explored the rest of the gardens and the beautiful arcades, on our way to Galerie Vivienne. We paused along the way to watch a man play boules.

Galerie Vivienne. How this was my first visit to this beautiful place is beyond me. It is sublime. The shops and restaurants are impeccable. The tiled floors, beautiful. And at Christmas, the decor was my favorite in all of Paris:  simple and classy. This place is a dream.

And after a lovely lunch with an old friend of ours from America, we made one last stop:  Le musée de Gustave Moreau.  While the entire museum is a fascinating tour through one man's art, home, and studio, I came to see one piece and one piece only.

The staircase that links the two floors of the atelier is a cast-iron spiral piece of art. Go to see Moreau's fascinating take on biblical symbolism, stay to stare at this masterpiece.

It had been a simple day, but after a delicious dinner at Marcel, we were exhausted and called it an early night. I rose early the next morning to head out for one last peak at the city before we hopped on the EuroStar for home.

Montmartre did not disappoint me, showing off with a gorgeous sunrise and near-empty streets on an early Sunday morning. It's my favorite time to get out and explore a city - just as it is waking up.

We leave Europe in two months, and I don't know when I'll be back to Paris again. I'm hoping it's not too long. It has been a part of my travel diary since I was a teenager, and I hope my adventures in this special city continue to fill the pages of journals (and my camera's memory card) long into the future.