It’s a time-honored tradition for clean air–seeking Angelenos to head east to Palm Springs. The best way to enjoy the desert sun is in a convertible, of course, and today I’m behind the wheel of an especially gorgeous one: the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster.
Like an oasis, Palm Springs appears almost out of nowhere, between giant mountains, as I approach through the empty desert. The small city has served as a Southern California getaway for a century and was a favorite of Golden Age Hollywood icons, whose contracts stipulated they had to be within driving distance of their movie studios at all times. A steady flow of fabulous visitors resulted in Palm Springs having a large dose of panache, most obviously borne out in its Mid-Century Modern architecture. Almost all of those buildings still stand, and to see a few choice examples I swing through the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood, which is home to a collection of Swiss Misses designed by Charles Dubois. The open floor plans, sharp angles, and pitched rooflines of these structures, all built in the late ’50s and early ’60s, serve up an airy, luxurious-but-fun aesthetic that 21st-century imitators never seem to truly capture.
Ready for a bite, I pop down the street to Jake’s, a popular brunch spot where I sit beneath a parasol in the courtyard and fuel up with a soft-shell crab BLT. On the way out, I peep the styles at the adjacent vintage store, The Frippery, picking up a floral-print sundress for my wife.
Marital harmony ensured, I’m ready to give myself a gift. With Mount San Jacinto towering over town, I don’t need a map to know where the winding roads are. I head up Highway 243, imagining former Palm Springs resident Steve McQueen tailing me on one of his motorcycles. (I doubt he could match the pace of the Aston Martin through the turns.) When I reach the mountain town of Idyllwild, I stop for a pick-me-up at Higher Grounds Coffee House; considering that I’m driving a British roadster, I’m obligated to order the London Fog latte.
Perked up, I zip back down the mountain for some visual stimulation at the Palm Springs Art Museum. I’m not sure if I’m more impressed by the building—the sleek, Modernist design a creation of renowned local architect E. Stewart Williams—or the surreal works of Helen Lundeberg inside it. Either way, a stroll through the galleries offers a mellow counterpoint to the high-octane hours I’ve spent on the road.
After a stop to freshen up at my hotel—L’Horizon Resort and Spa, a collection of 25 recently remodeled bungalows where Marilyn Monroe often stayed—I’m ready for dinner at Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge, possibly the trendiest spot in town. The whimsical spaces inside and out are an influencer’s dream, which is probably why the place is packed with beautiful people. The menu’s global influences bounce from Asia to the U.K. to Latin America, and I endeavor to try a little bit of everything: a poblano chile relleno, an ahi tuna poke bowl, and a carrot cake sandwich for dessert. The artistic presentation of the plates reflects the design-oriented ethos that has brought so many to Palm Springs for so long. I know it will bring me back again.
2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster
“Looks are subjective” is a common refrain among car critics, but the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster’s sumptuous styling transcends any possible objections. Whether it’s in motion or standing still, this vehicle is perfectly graceful. Being that it’s a sports car, the “in motion” part takes precedence, and the Aston does not disappoint, packing a 503-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 hand-built by Mercedes-AMG. Torque is always at the ready, and the sonorous exhaust will keep a grin on your face at every moment. The Vantage is equally brilliant taking sweepers at mind-bending speed and ambling through stop-and-go traffic. Even stuck on the 10, the only discomfort you might feel is a touch of self-consciousness, since all eyes will be on you.
From $150,086, astonmartin.com