California

Stagecoach 2011 – Day 1 Review

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Stagecoach, it’s a country music festival that takes place in California in April at the Indio Polo Grounds – the same place that the Coachella Festival happens – way out in the So Cal desert.  It’s on this weekend & this year is its 5th year – but my first time attending.  Why am I there this year.  3 reasons I guess – it’s definitely an experience & an opportunity to see Americans at leisure on their home turf, we usually go to Coachella but this year the tickets sold out so fast we weren’t in time; some of the music is interesting and thirdly my friends wanted to go.

This is a quick review of Day 1.  We made the mistake of hanging out at the main stage most of the day.  Really the place to be was probably either of the two minor stages.  As a result the first 3 acts I saw were more like pop music with a bit of country twang thrown in – Steel Magnolia (a young poppy country couple), Chris Young (again – something for the younger pop crowd – he sang a lot of songs about saving water by drinking beer which the crowd loved) and Darius Rucker (once of Hootie & the Blowfish, a rocker turned country – he was wearing a very cool t-shirt).  It was all very enjoyable & provided a decent “day out” backdrop for chatting with a gang of friends.  The real action at the main stage however was in the people watching.  In my life I have never seen as many:

·         cowboy hats & bras (the latter on young girls but I saw quite a few men that would definitely have benefited from a bit of “support”)

·         semi-naked girls – a lot of them quite drunk

·         bad dancers – again – a lot of them quite drunk (American dancing looks strange to us Europeans anyway – lots of waving of arms in the air goes on) (see photo number two for a real horror sighting)

·         tattoos

·         sunburn

·         portable chairs – fine during the day but a menace at night once abandoned

Kenny Chesney  was the big act Saturday night at the main stage.  We ducked out to go & see Kris Kristofferson at one of the side stages.  Very glad we did because he was entertaining & excellent whereas this morning’s Los Angeles Times described the Chesney performance as “lite as usual” & “including many songs about the choice to be made between a beer & a margarita”.  Kristofferson is 75 in June but he’s every inch a real heavyweight star – no doubt about that whatsoever.  He sang & talked for over an hour and his set included many of his great & famous songs – Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, For the Good Times, Help Me Make it Through the Night, The Silver Tongued Devil & I, Here Comes that Rainbow Again.  He is clearly adored by his fans and I’m pleased to have snapped one really good photo of him (featured).  He told stories as he went along & said he wished he was in better voice – but then went on to say it had always been that bad.  He was well worth seeing.

Annoyed to have missed the Cleverlys and Mel Tillis yesterday but better prepped for today & especially looking forward to seeing Rosie Flores, the great Wanda Jackson, the Gatlin Bros and Leon Russell.  I’m also going to take photos today of a lot more of the side action going on around the music as that’s at least half of the craic.  Part 2 tomorrow folks – happy to receive comments/stories from anyone else that was there yesterday.

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Top 10 things I love most about Palm Springs

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I’m on holiday in Beautiful Palm Springs in the southern California desert this week so it’s only right that I should tell everyone how lovely it is here.  This is my top ten not anyone else’s – I’m just getting that in now before people start giving out about the fact that golf or celeb spotting aren’t mentioned anywhere on this list!

1.       It has to be the weather.  OK – so it gets a bit hot in the middle of summer but the rest of the year you can’t fault it.  It makes outdoor living a reality.  Even Palm Springs airport is outdoors (it calls itself a resort-port instead of an airport – how cool is that!)

2.       Our wildlife – especially the glorious variety of colourful garden birds & hummingbirds that you see everywhere.  I also have a soft spot for the bats that appear at twilight and the roadrunners I see running across the lawn when I’m swimming early in the morning.  You can also visit the Living Desert if you want to see the stuff that lives here but isn’t readily visible – owls, tortoises, big horn sheep – check it out at this link http://www.livingdesert.org/

3.       Healthy, tasty, cheap vegetarian food – it’s everywhere.  Without doubt the worst thing about living in Northern Ireland for me is the poor choice of restaurants to visit for people that don’t just want to eat steak or chicken (I know – market forces – small population – I accept it’s my fault…)

4.       The people – most people who live here are blow-ins so there’s a rich tapestry of stories from pretty much everyone you meet

5.       The ubiquitous palm trees – who would have thought there’d be so many different types – don’t knock em until you’ve tasted a date shake

6.       Location, location, location – easy driving distance to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix & San Diego – just in case you ever get bored

7.       The flowers – especially the spectacular cactus flowers that are blooming right now and this year’s flame red ocotillo flowers – absolutely spectacular

8.       The mountains – changing colour all day long & allowing you to walk in snow at the top of the tram ride – even when it’s roasting hot down in the valley

9.       Mid century architecture everywhere & giving Palm Springs it’s unique retro look – it’s what we’re famous for & you can’t see it anywhere else

10.   The Ocotillo Lodge where we live – built in the mid 50s by the Alexander company & still exactly as it was the day it was built – just beautiful & with the best pool in town – that’s it pictured in the photo.

That’s my top 10 – would love to hear from you what I’ve missed.

 

 

 

Hummingbirds truly are the jewels of the desert…

One of the many pleasures of a Palm Springs location is the variety of amazing small birds of every colour under the sun that visit our back garden.  Top of the pile for me however without any close competition is the hummingbird, as commonplace here as sparrows are at home.  I can still remember clearly the first time I ever saw one.  I was with a crowd of engineers in Silicon Valley – they didn’t seem too impressed & I then felt a bit embarrassed for making such a fuss and showing myself to be such a newbie in the Valley.  Out here I see them many times a day, but each sighting still stops me in my tracks & I watch them for the few seconds they remain in a single place, feeding or perching.  In flight, they’re harder to track than a golf ball on the tv, flying in short bursts at up to 60 mph.  They are like tiny bright jewels, moving at a million miles an hour in a blur of iridescent colour & wings, chattering away to themselves constantly. 

We’re staying at the historic Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs.  It’s one of the many examples that still exist out here in the Californian desert of fine mid century architecture.  Aloe vera plants line one edge of the champagne cork shaped swimming pool and the hummingbirds seem to love the orange trumpet flowers.  The one I’ve been observing this morning is a female Costa’s hummingbird.  She’s about 3½ inches long and after feeding on the flowers, perched for a couple of minutes on the fence around the pool so I could get a good look at her.  Last week I watched one taking a shower in the raindrops – it sat on the fence during a brief downpour & fluffed up its feathers.

Hummingbirds are territorial & fiercely aggressive for ones so small.  They will attack other hummingbirds that are encroaching on their territory (when I’m swimming, I can hear them angrily “buzzing” at each other) and also much bigger birds without hesitation or any evidence of fear.

If you’ve never seen one check them out on Youtube, follow @WeLuvBirds on Twitter and enjoy the great bird photos they post up every day or follow @craignewmark also on Twitter – Craig has a live webcam on his hummingbirds in San Francisco during the breeding season and provides enjoyable daily coverage of news about the babies.  Thanks Craig!

My camera isn’t good enough to capture a hummingbird in flight so I’ve borrowed this picture from the excellent feedmyhummingbirdblog.com site – I hope they don’t mind.

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