Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Great Getaway: Part 1

When the Peach was invited to experience the first-ever epicurean weekend at Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa (www.rancholaspalmas.com) in Rancho Mirage, Calif., with a guest of her choice a couple of weeks ago, her first thought was to take along her partner in crime, the Rose. She took me up on the invite, thrilled to be able to go anywhere but her hometown of Laguna Niguel for the weekend, she declared, and especially excited about joining me to partake in all of the advertised culinary offerings, including a Hogue Cellars five-course wine dinner hosted by the resort’s chef, Sean O’Connell, a wine tasting and Bloody Mary brunch, not to mention relaxing facials and a few other special surprises along the way.

After sorting out several emergencies before embarking upon our 36-hour getaway (first and foremost, a typically strong and in-control man who was slightly freaking out with the thought of being left alone to chaperone a 13-year-old boy for the entire weekend), the slightly jaded Rose was ready to leave with the Peach for their much-needed escape.

The busman’s holiday (the British term for what we were setting out on, according to the Rose) started off with a quick stop at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets (www.premiumoutlets.com/deserthills). Situated about 30 minutes west of Palm Desert in Cabazon, Calif., against a stunning mountain backdrop, this huge retail center features 130 name-brand and designer stores offering savings of 25 percent to 65 percent off retail prices every day.

Since we never have been allowed to stop at the outlets by fellow car passengers on previous trips to the desert, it was decided that this was an essential break in the journey!

Having never stepped foot in an American outlet mall in her life, the Rose was immediately blown away by the vast array of clothing styles and quantity of shops offered at the outlets.

It didn’t take long for the Rose to realize that there really are bargains to be had, if you know how to shop. Unfortunately, she says she does not know how to shop, so it took her some time to get used to the size and costs of all of the goods. Yet, never fear, the Rose was with a professional Peach who does know how to shop and she enjoyed every minute, noting “it is always a good idea to be led by enthusiasm, plus a little savvy, as it can lead to a stellar purchase.”

The gale force winds did not deter the two women from their intended mission, which for the Peach included the Gap, of course, where she picked out some early birthday presents for herself.

For the Rose, a trip to Van Heusen yielded a black “rain mac” (another British term) jacket that retailed at $250 but was on sale for 50 percent off. Deeming the jacket a medical necessity — as we both were freezing with the day’s unusually high winds and chilly temperatures — the Rose at first was disappointed that the store did not have her size. Upon further inspection, however, a jacket just her size was found. In addition, upon hearing our chatty banter and laughter, a lovely woman in line next to us offered the Rose a 10 percent discount from her book of savings, making the jacket just $57, including tax, and restoring our faith in humankind after a week of dealing with overly fractious individuals.

“Oh, how I love this mac!,” the Rose exclaimed with glee, as she clipped the tag and proceeded to wear her new purchase out of the store.

Other stops along the way included the Ugg store (where the Peach had hoped to find a pair of particularly fun flip flops she had seen in a magazine, to no avail) and Last Call by Neiman Marcus (where the Peach admits she couldn’t even afford anything at a discount!).

All shopped out (if that is even possible for at least one of us), we decided to move on to our intended destination and our weekend of eating, drinking and savoring. And, having only visited a portion of the stores that make up the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, we vowed to return and conquer the remaining stores, as well as the neighboring Cabazon Outlets (www.cabazonoutlets.com/), on our way home!

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