In the Golden Age of Hollywood, Palm Springs was the desert playground for glamorous types who wished to see and be seen. To avoid the limelight, they escaped to Two Bunch Palms resort [67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs; (800) 472-4334,]. For more than 75 years, Two Bunch Palms has been a shabby-chic sanctuary for guests who are content to soak in hot mineral springs, enjoy massages and mud baths — and go to dinner in their bathrobes. New proprietors have just unveiled a major renovation that includes 20 more guest rooms (for a total of 70), a terrific new restaurant, lush new desert landscaping and 100% sustainable solar energy. The changes have enhanced the resort's original desert hideaway vibe.
The tab: $523 for two nights, $450 for meals and resort fees; plus taxes and gasoline.
My husband, Paul, and I stayed in one of the new Soulstice Kings, a spacious room with sleek modern furnishings and a private patio. Because the Al Capone Suite was booked, I couldn't peek into the fairy-tale-like stone cottage said to have been built as the gangster's "Fortress West." Too bad. I was keen to glimpse the antique bureau that I was told has a bullet hole in the mirror.
"Now, that's what I call spa food!" Paul said at breakfast, diving into a stack of blueberry and quinoa pancakes awash in maple syrup. He said it again at dinner when he tackled a luscious filet mignon served with truffled Parmesan French fries. I, on the other hand, was happy eating organic oatmeal with almond milk, dried fruit, nuts and seeds for breakfast, and grilled king mushrooms with toasted buckwheat and parsnips for dinner. Thanks to the new management's view that "choice is important to wellness" (and a creative chef, Jenna van Loon) TBP's Essense restaurant offers a range of dishes that will appeal to juice-fasting vegans and fervent foodies.
Ducks in the desert? It was no mirage. A flock raucously waddled over to greet me at the bucolic pond they share with migratory egrets and cormorants. The ducks gobbled the organic duck/fish food I had procured at the front desk and guzzled water from the aquifer-fed pond. No question: Wildlife and wellness do mix.
The lesson learned
Paul and I are far from spa buffs, yet we both took to Two Bunch Palms like, well, ducks to water. I couldn't get enough of lolling in the 104-degree hot-springs grotto, staring up at the sunlight flickering through the palm fronds. Though we never made it to yoga or tai chi, we indulged in other complimentary wellness activities. My favorite was Vino & Van Gogh, a mellow workshop in which we sipped wine and painted watercolors with our "wrong" (in my case, left) hand to free up our creativity.