Feel Like You’re Traveling Abroad in Palm Springs

Longing to Travel Abroad?  No Problem. Simply Visit Palm Springs!        

By Barbara Beckley

From Paris and Europe to Asia and Morocco, the world is as close as Palm Springs – offering International experiences so authentic you’ll feel as if you’re “over there” – instead of a mere two hours from Los Angeles or San Diego.

How so?  It’s love at first sight for many Internationals, who are captivated by Palm Springs’ unique sunny style. Over the years hundreds of world citizens – often after a single visit – have packed-up, sold it all and relocated to live the Palm Springs dream.

Lucky for everyone, many of these expats are talented chefs, bakers, hoteliers and clothiers who have brought the best of their international cuisine, resort experiences and fashions with them.

It’s a compliment to Palm Springs that Internationals feel so at home. And just one more reason for everyone to love Palm Springs.

Sleep International  

Sakura, The Japanese Bed & Breakfast Inn — From blue roof tiles and sliding shoji doors opening onto the pool to sipping sake in a kimono as Koto and bamboo flute music wafts through the air, this serene two-guestroom inn will make you think you’ve traveled to Tokyo.

That’s the goal of owner/musician George Cebra, who spent years playing gigs in Tokyo and thought he’d live in Japan forever. But his late wife, Japanese-born Fumiko, always wanted to live in California. So 20 years ago, they opened Sakura, and recreated their beloved culture.

Handmade futons; kimonos and slippers, walls ornamented with antique kimonos and Japanese décor combined with traditional Japanese breakfast, serenity and hospitality add to the authenticity. Just ask and you can also experience Shiatsu, the centuries old Japanese acupressure massage.

Dive Palm Springs — Ooh la la! Plunge into the glamor of Cannes and the French beach culture at this Francophile hideaway, bedazzled with vintage French décor and Euro-centric amenities. “Our aim is to transport you to the French Riviera of the 1960s,” says co-founder and general manager Abdi Manavi, who was raised in London and summered in the South of France.

dive doi pond

And so he does. For the ultimate French connection, cozy-up in the 1919 belle époque brass and copper elevator cage. Manavi brought it from Paris and restored and converted it into a queen bed and lounge as the centerpiece of the Paris Suite, amid vintage Parisian chandeliers, Christian Lacroix wallpaper and a full bar with Dom Perignon. In the La Reve guestroom you’ll sleep beneath a ceiling mural by Christian Lacroix in a solid brass bed surrounded by ornate French furnishings.

In the garden, black-striped loungers and cabanas compliment the pool and custom-built benches circle the trees and bar.    

Korakia Pensione – “Here’s Looking at You Kid.” Live the Casablanca fantasy as if you were there in this Moroccan-designed retreat built in 1924 by an eccentric Scottish painter who wished to relive his time in Tangier here in Palm Springs.

Beds in alcoves, arched doorways, stone tubs, candle-lit lanterns, courtyards, fire pits, fountains and winding paths add a Casbah-like intrigue to this maze of 24 rooms, suites and cottages. Stay in The Moroccan Villa, the painter’s original home, and time-travel to North Africa amid wood beam ceilings, keyhole doorways, massive fireplaces and carved doors.

Andalusian Court  – “It’s as if you’re on a trip to Spain,” say guests who have experienced this historic Mediterranean-style gem. Nestled behind private walls, the brightly colored tile artwork, terra-cotta colored walls and densely landscaped courtyards whisk you away to Granada in sunny Spain.

Built in 1921, the original Spanish Revival architecture is reminiscent of a small Spanish parador, with vine-covered arches, a tiled wishing well, fountains, pathways, fire pits and a beautiful courtyard pool. Choose among eight villas and rooms furnished in Old World style many with marble floors. Splurge and say “Ole!” to a spa villa, where you can gaze at the starry sky from the privacy of your outdoor soaking tub.

Dine International 

lAtelier Cafe Sit down and you’re in France – enjoying a light breakfast or lunch prepared and served by Angelique and Christophe Robin the same way they did in their restaurant in Biarritz on the Southwest coast of France.

But that was before they vacationed in Palm Springs! In less than a year afterward, they’d sold their Biarritz restaurant, moved here and bought L’Atelier Café in 2018 from the restaurant’s Parisian founders.

Christophe proudly leads the 100% French kitchen team. In addition to classics such as Escargot Beurre a L’ail – “it’s the favorite dish,” he says – and Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame, he highlights the southwestern French recipes of his Grandmother Esther. “My grandmother’s cooking inspired me to become a chef,” he says, so he’s honoring her by letting all of us experience her inspirational fare. Look for the Grand Ma Apple Cake and the Esther Platter, a cacophony of scrambled eggs, hazelnut and cranberry stuffed brie cheese, sautéed potatoes, Grand Ma Apple Cake, green salad and French baguette.

Pomme Frite – French poster art hung on mustard-colored walls and authentic bistro fare transports you to a village bistro in France – or Belgium – inside this long-time Euro favorite. “France meets Belgium” is how owner Jean-Claude Constant describes Pomme Frite, which he and his late friend Chef Nicholas Klontz opened 21 years ago.

Constant was born in the small town of Spa, Belgium, where he became friends with Chef Klontz. Time passed and in 1998 Chef Klontz invited Constant to visit him in Santa Monica. They took a side trip to Palm Springs – and voila – in less than a year they here opening Pomme Frite in 1999. Chef Klontz brought his recipes with him, and while Klontz has sadly passed away, his recipes live on.

Mussels, mussels, mussels! Plump and juicy in 10 different styles is the specialty. Constant recommends you first try the traditional Marinieres, in their own broth with shallots and celery, white wine and a little garlic. Of course, the pomme frites (twice-fried potato strips) with a variety of dipping sauces are amazing. The Flemish-style beef stew is a must. It’s made with Belgian beer, not red wine as is the French Boeuf Bourguignon.

Peninsula Pastries – The Champs-Elysees or South Palm Canyon Drive?  Either place you’ll enjoy the best of a patisserie/cake shop. “If you’ve spent time in Paris you will be wowed,” say customers. “Everything tastes like it was made in France.”

And well it should. Parisian owners Helene and Christophe Meyer, a French head pastry chef, left The City of Lights for Palm Springs six years ago. But not their ingredients. All the baguettes and breads are kneaded and baked daily by their French head bread maker and professional baker; and the pastries by Meyer, using imported French flour and AOP French butter Isigny Ste Mere.

What’s the best seller?  “We have two,” says Helene. The Kouign Amann (like a Parisian sticky bun). “It’s better than cake!” And the Butterscotch Pecan Twist. “There is no butterscotch in France,” she declared. “It’s an American invention. So we created this ourselves.”

Johannes Restaurant – Just as in a trendy establishment in Vienna, Austrian-born Executive Chef/Owner Johannes Bacher, nicknamed “The Eclectic Chef,” wins accolades for his twist – or not — on traditional Austrian classics, as well as his modern take on European cuisine.

The Schnitzel Menu – yes, there is a stand-alone schnitzel menu — offers seven choices, from his “Mama’s Schnitzel,” (Chef Johannes was born in the mountain village of Tirol, Austria and began cooking at 7, inspired by his mother) topped with organic sliced tomatoes and Gruyere and Fontina cheeses to an innovative Caper-Lemon Schnitzel. Chef Johannes’ classical French training and focus on local and sustainable ingredients also comes through in favorites such as the Seared Icelandic Sushi Grade Salmon and a wine list applauded by Wine Spectator.

From Tirol to cooking in London, Paris and Sweden; five years as the corporate chef for Seabourn Cruise Line and catering Hollywood film shoots for fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the travel stopped when his dream of opening a restaurant came true – in Palm Springs in 1999.

Farm Palm Springs – “Like being transported to the south of France.” This is how owner Liz Ostoich wants you to feel inside her cozy Provencal-style restaurant.

While Ostoich is local — from Riverside and moved to Palm Springs in 2012 – she says traveling through France “forever changed my life.” She opened Farm in 2019 in the likeness of “those great little restaurants you find in every village,” so everyone could share her magical experience.

With garden-like patio seating, floral landscaping and a menu (she still goes to France and compares her menu with theirs to insure authenticity) of breakfast, lunch and five-course prix fixe dinners including Frontiere omelets, baked Brie with hazelnuts, brown sugar, pears, baguettes and house-made jam; roasted pear salad, ratatouille and citron crepe – she’s achieved her goal and landed us in Provence.

Shop International 

Benjamin Perdereau – Walk into this boutique and you’ve crossed the threshold into St. Tropez. Everything is imported from — not just France — but the South of France. Top labels in linens, cottons, shirts, shorts, shoes, bikinis, sunglasses, T-shirts, belts, hats, jewelry – the styles they’re wearing on the French Riviera — for men and women.

“Visitors who know France say my shop is like a boutique in the south of France,” says owner Benjamin Perdereau. No surprise. He once owned two boutiques in Provence. But that was – of course – before he took a summer vacation to Palm Springs in 2013.

“I returned to Aix en Provence, sold my two shops, put my inventory on a ship and voila! I opened my first Palm Springs boutique three months later in November 2013.” Why? “To change my life. Meet new people. Learn your culture and create a new energy. That’s the power of life!” Perdereau enthused.

And — the power of Palm Springs.

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