I was quite surprised to end up in Palm Desert. We booked this holiday three months in advance and all along, right up until the moment that Emma typed the postcode (zip code? feck off, postcode) into the sat nav (GPS? feck off.....) I had thought we were going to Palm Springs.
In actual fact Palm Desert is a city close to Palm Springs. Palm Springs is a little more famous and has more places to visit but Palm Desert is a little more upscale. That is the exact definition of the difference given by Yahoo Answers. Except that I put the word 'visit' in instead of their word, which was 'go'.
Anyway it mattered not. We were only there because it was the nicest looking place we could find somewhere between San Diego and Las Vegas ahead of our return to the gamblers paradise. We just wanted somewhere we could spend a day doing nothing much of anything. The previous week spent getting lost, running out of petrol and arguing with irate commuters had taken it's toll. There was a point when I thought we might not make it and should just head straight over to Vegas. The sat nav mysteriously directed us on to what, on the face of it, appeared to be a random, rather grand looking ranch. Thankfully, after finding itself at a dead end the sat nav took hold of it's senses, spun us around and miraculously righted itself. There wasn't much point trying to spend too long trying to figure it out. We were just glad to be on the right track once more.
Palm Desert is everything I expected Palm Springs to be. Hot, peaceful, idyllic. We arrived at our Best Western hotel (right next door to a Holiday Inn, proving once and for all that they do exist in California) early afternoon, and after a quick lunch at John's cafe (Mexican, believe it or not, although a cheese and ham toastie is pretty much a cheese and ham toastie wherever you are) were relaxing by the pool. Doing nothing. Mission accomplished.
We must have got cocky. As we got to early evening we decided to DO SOMETHING. Yes, I know, fraught with danger but there it was. We had decided and there was no going back. All I had done that afternoon was plough through the larger part of a John Grisham novel but now I was ready to go back out there into the big wide world. Well, the big wide California anyway. A place where things go wrong as a matter of course. It would not let us down.
On arriving earlier we had noticed a steak house across the road by the name of Ruth Chris's. No 'and' there, you'll notice. That is not my grammatical duncery at work, that is exactly what it was called. I can't imagine why. All I can come up with is that Ruth and Chris had some kind of Lennon & McCartney type row about whose name should come before the ampisand. Maybe things got a bit tasty and Ruth won a points decision to have her name placed first. Chris had perhaps scored a late blow and managed to negotiate the removal altogether of the ampisand.
We had considered that it might be a little more classy than the places we had eaten at up to this point. With that in mind Emma wore the most beautiful long, turquoise dress (she says it's green) while I even put a proper shirt on. We weren't playing games. This wasn't a Sunday tea-time drive to McDonalds near the petrol station. We strolled over to Ruth Chris's, a task made more difficult by some bizarre pedestrian crossing arrangements and a strong wind. But it would be worth the effort, right?
Wrong! Ruth Chris's was beautiful inside, improbably grand in it's layout and decor and for a fleeting moment we thought we might be in for a highly agreeable evening. We sat down and waited for the complimentary waters. Soon after our waitress arrived with the menus. Oh the menus. Damn those menus. Now, I am not a tight person by any stretch of the imagination. I can often be seen trying to throw my money away on everyone else's beer. However, if I told you it was $23 for a piece of chicken you might start to get an idea of what the entire bill would have totalled.
It was an a la carte menu from which everything had to be ordered individually. No set meals here, which just made it even more awkward for an un-cultured oik such as myself. Want mash potatoes with your chicken? That'll be another $8 then. Or anything else for that matter, mashed or otherwise. Salad? French fries? Sweet potatoes? Spinach? Asparagus? Broccoli Au Gratin? Broccoli Au What? Whatever. Eight dollars apiece, at least. The wine is always the most important part of any meal that Emma and I enjoy, and a bottle of house red here would have taken the bill well over the $150 mark.
A brief and frankly painstaking discussion ensued. The negotiations were highly prejudiced by the fact that there was a Domino's Pizza outlet just over the road, a short distance from the Best Western we were going to have to return to at some point in any case. Excruciatingly, we opened up the debate to our waitress, whose only advice was that there was a cheaper steak house a few minutes drive from here. Suddenly there was no discussion to be had. We gulped down the waters, and the cokes we had also ordered during a more optimistic time. The waitress must have thought we had no money at all because she insisted on giving those away for free along with the water. We left quickly, trying not to laugh at our ludicrous predicament. It was a futile endeavour.
As I waited in the lobby for the Domino's man to arrive with our pizza I did something odd. And just plain.....wrong!! I'd already decided I was going to pass the time by browsing the internet in the lobby, but I couldn't just be happy with that. Ladies and gentleman, look away now if you cannot stand to learn that I..........CHECKED MY WORK EMAIL. I can't explain why, my best guess being some kind of wild paranoia that my taking more than a day off from work at any one time will doubtless result in the complete undoing of anything I have achieved to that point, resulting in my having to totally rebuild every spreadsheet, database and word document I have ever caught sight of.
There were no dramas. I breathed out and resolved that I would never again check my work email while in a nice hotel 8,000 miles from Liverpool.
There was too much salt in the crust in the Domino's pizza. But it was reasonably priced.