By: Wilmer Góngora
Photos: Carlos E. Gómez
It’s almost impossible to believe that less than two hours southeast of Los Angeles’ crazy traffic you can move freely amidst idyllic vineyards and exceptionally lush landscapes blessed with a spring-like climate; here, you too can be part of a picture postcard landscape.
These places are so famous that travelers from diverse corners of the world are united here with the same objective: to discover with their own senses the reasons why this first-class wine region rivals the posh Napa Valley, as much for its wine production as for the sophistication of its hotels, restaurants, and entertainment options. It’s common to see groups of locals and visitors delve painstakingly into learning in detail how wines are produced, from the planting of the seeds, to the care of the vines and shoots, to the distillation of the whites, reds, rosés, and champagnes.
This privileged area is nothing more or less than the Temecula Valley, Southern California’s wine region. The Wilson Creek Winery is located here; it is a family winery owned by eighty-year-old Gerry and Rosie, who spoil their guests as if they were their own children. Everything around this valley is magnificent and lively. A chain of green, indolent hills rests at the foot of the arid, soaring mountains, giving this landscape a unique quality, just sixty miles from the Mexican border. A string of vineyards, each more beautiful than the next, sit side by side along the Rancho California Road, all the way to the very heart of the old city: Old Town Temecula.
Old Town Temecula is a typical western town that remains frozen in the 1840s, when it was a mandatory stop for cowboys and the occasional rogue spurred on by the gold rush. Bank robberies and shoot-outs in saloons were part of daily life. Today, these adventures make up part of a remote past; nevertheless, the people here preserve the town’s history so perfectly that it resembles a movie studio ready to film a western. The old streets and old original wooden buildings, which can be viewed on a leisurely walking tour, are listed as historical sites.
Peaceful walks in the vineyards and old town co-exist with more mundane types of diversions. Betting games, partying, musicals, and comedies are on offer at Pechanga Resort & Casino, California’s largest casino. Located on an Indian reservation, this entertainment spot includes an all-inclusive resort, a golf course, nine restaurants, theaters, and a marvelous view of the valley of vineyards.
In the Direction of the Oasis
You should definitely extend your stay in the verdant Temecula Valley to take Highway 79 northeast, in search of the hidden desert paradise called Palm Springs. The sophistication of this fabulously wealthy city surpasses all the limits of the imagination.
Every house and building here was built by a world-famous architect or designer, each of whom left their signatures on the raised spaces. This is definitely the case for the Hotel Hyatt Suites, which was designed by Pierre Cardin. Here in Palm Springs, considered the world capital of modern, mid-twentieth century architecture, it’s easy to recognize the mansions of the legends of the entertainment industry, who, from the 1930s to the 1970s, dedicated themselves to building retreats here; Palm Springs is eighty-seven miles from Los Angeles and the Hollywood studios insisted that the stars live no more than ninety-nine miles from L.A.
The beautiful mansions of Palm Springs were the backdrop for intriguing stories featuring such stars as Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, Cary Grant, and of course, Marilyn Monroe, who is currently being honored by a huge statue from Chicago, which will next move to Tokyo.
The arid, rough, rocky mountains surrounding Palm Springs rise more than 9,300 feet high and are covered with snow in winter. Travelers can reach the summit of the San Jacinto Mountain aboard the aerial Tramway, passing over Chino Canyon and enjoying a 360-degree panoramic view.
At this elevation, the mountainous landscape of pines and birch trees on one side contrasts with the almost endless desert on the other. And there, in the middle of the extreme drought, rests a green oasis, which serves as a refuge for Palm Springs and its sister cities. Every Thursday night it becomes an outdoor festival, offering art and cuisine in the traditional VillageFest.
This beautiful city-oasis guarantees fresh air and rest for the body and soul in its natural thermal spas and beautiful, multicolored hotels that give a warm welcome to diversity, with a touch of sophistication and elegance.
Copa Airlines operates two direct flights daily to Los Angeles from the Hub of the Americas in Panama City, where passengers from the airline’s other fifty-six destinations in the Americas and the Caribbean can make connections.
Embassy Suites Hotel
29345 Rancho California Road
Temecula Creek Inn
44501 Rainbow Canyon Road
In Palm Springs
888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Ace Hotel & Swim Club
701 E Palm Canyon Drive