Archive for May, 2012

Mojave Sands Motel: A Funky Place to Bunk in Joshua Tree

Interior room 4 at The Mojave Sands Motel

If the Bates Motel had a funky, friendly hipster cousin in the desert, it would be the Mojave Sands Motel in Joshua Tree, California. There are only a few options for accomodations in this part of the Yucca Valley: you can pitch a tent and camp in the park, stay at a generic desert motel nearby, or do what the cool kids are doing: going east of the Ace Palm Springs and staying at the still-below-the-radar Mojave Sands.

Mojave Sands Motel signMojave Sands -signs

Neon signage of The Mojave Sands Motel can be viewed on 29 Palms Highway

Owner Blake Simpson, who used to live in Silver Lake, started transforming this desert motel on 29 Palms Highway in 2002. He  has rebuilt it to be a funky, shabby chic motel that feels like a bit of Silver Lake coolness in the desert.

Interior of room 4 of The Mojave Sands

Interior of room 4 of The Mojave Sands, with coffeemaker and vinyl, it’s not your average Joshua Tree Motel

My bed at the Mojave Sands Motel

Not your average motel photos: the bed at the Mojave Sands Motel in Suite 5

Glass bottle details in Suite 5 at the Mojave Sands

Glass bottle details in Suite 5 at the Mojave Sands

Room details at the Mojave Sands MotelThoughtful and cool details like vintage globes and an interesting books are in all the rooms

Thoughtful and cool details like vintage globes and an interesting books are in all the rooms

Funky old camera in room 5 at the Mojave Sands

Funky old camera in room 5 at the Mojave Sands

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Guest Post: How To Rent a Family Friendly Apartment in Paris & London

Editor’s note: I often get asked travel questions that I don’t have an answer for, and they are often about traveling abroad with children. On multiple occasions, I’ve been asked “How do I rent a flat in Paris or London?” even though I haven’t done this myself, my friend, Mike August, has.My husband and I even tagged along on the August family vacation to London and Edinburgh, and we had Mike book a flat for us, too. I asked Mike to write this guest post for the blog and I’m honored feature it here. – Jen Pollack Bianco

Veteran world travelers, my husband and I spent the first three years of our daughter’s life traveling exclusively across the United States to visit the grandparents — and nowhere else. With her fourth birthday nearing, we decided to venture back abroad, preschooler and 15-year old cousin in tow and our sights set on Paris. Paris with kids requires a different approach.

Overseas travels always had us in hostels, hotels and resorts. But, experiencing a foreign city with the unpredictable schedule (and finicky palate) of a child, we thought an apartment (or flat, as they are often called in Europe) the best way to accommodate the four of us. We felt an apartment would provide more space than the typical hotel room, with separate bedrooms for kids and grown-ups. It would have the benefit of a kitchen (and refrigerator) for storing and preparing provisions (self-catering is the norm with apartment rentals), plus a common room for entertaining friends who would be traveling with us (but lodged elsewhere).

I explored options presented on various vacation-rental sites, such as VRBO and similar Parisian iterations. However, I was reluctant to use these services, because results can be unpredictable (floor plans are unavailable, locations are vague, amenities are trumped up, pricing is opaque, etc.). While some of those factors would be acceptable for well-seasoned family travelers, we didn’t want to take risks on our daughter’s (and nephew’s) first trip abroad. A fortuitous Budget Travel article I read during the time of my search gave me the one and only resource that ended up mattering: A link to Guest Apartment Paris.

View of the Paris apartment living room -- from Guest Apartment Paris website

View of the Paris apartment living room — from Guest Apartment Paris website

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Roadtrip Roadhouse Review: Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

Sunset in Pioneertown

Sunset in Pioneertown, California (mobile photography)

One of the best things about roadtrips is stumbling upon interesting places you didn’t plan on seeing. I’m a big fan of pit stops at local roadhouses. During my Southern California desert road trip last week I was thrilled to discover Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace which is located in the Yucca Valley on the way to Joshua Tree.

Pioneertown sign

Pioneertown Sign

Pappy & Harriet’s is a 5 star dive bar and friendly roadhouse located in Pioneertown, a rural part of the Mojave desert nestled in the San Bernadino mountains. In 1946 the studio folk build a standing permanent movie set of a Western Main Street for stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers to film westerns.  More than 50 films and television shows were shot on the Pioneertown sets,  including The Cisco Kid and The Whirlwind.

Pappy and Harriet'sWindow reflection at Pappy and Harriet'sRoadhouse regulars at Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown PalaceRoadhouse regularsPioneertown atmosphere

The atmosphere at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA

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Chasing Waterfalls in Argentina and Zimbabwe

On Top of Iguazu Falls

On Top of Iguazu Falls

I was really excited when I learned this weeks #FriFotos theme was waterfalls.

Currently I am deep in the California desert road tripping to Joshua Tree, so I’m not around any waterfalls today I can show you. But before I started this blog I saw two of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, and I’m excited for the opportunity to share my pictures of waterfalls through #FriFotos.

The first was Iguazu Falls,which borders Argentina and Brazil. I visited from the Argentine side and stayed at the Sheraton Iguazú Resort & Spa which was sub-par, understaffed and overpriced… but has a spectacular location within the Parque Nacional Iguazú, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Note: Iguazu Falls has a few different spellings: Iguassu Falls, Iguaçu Falls, and Iguaza Falls are all the same waterfall.

Iguazu FallsIguazu leicaIguazu hike

Various views of Igauzu Falls

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Southern California Desert Road Trip

Wind farm

Wind farm

Since it’s Memorial Day weekend here in the United States, I’m taking a few days to do a southern California desert road trip to Palm Desert and Joshua Tree.

The winds were incredibly strong yesterday and I almost lost my hat when I stopped to check out the turbines at the AES Wind Generation in nearby Palm Springs.

Hotel Lautner room - sitting area at night

Hotel Lautner room – sitting area at night

My first stop: Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs. Owner/Designer Tracy Beckmann is incredibly friendly and has renovated a mid-century modern classic into her own little Shangra-La in the desert. There are a variety of hotels in Desert Hot Springs, but Hotel Lautner is the most stylish of the bunch. It’s really more of a private pied-a-terre than a full service hotel, but the award-winning renovation of the 1947 property designed by famed architect John Lautner is seriously impressive and makes it a nice place to bunk in the area.

Here are a few images from my first day in the desert.

Hotel Lautner - outsideHotel Lautner - Front door room 3 verticalHotel Lautner - desert flowers

Hotel Lautner – outside with desert flowers

Hotel Lautner - groovy outdoors bbq area

Hotel Lautner – groovy outdoors bbq area

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