Travel visors, so you can read while achieving the perfect neck-down tan. My book is neglected though, as I people watch: a smattering of Hollywood starlets, bear- dies who look like theyve come straight from a gig, groups of gay men in board- shorts, and Puerto Ricans with crew cuts walking their French bulldogs. My friend Shauna calls. Oops, Id nearly forgotten her birthday -- the reason Im here. Shauna is a TV producer in LA and has chosen Palm Springs to celebrate her big day with a group of friends. HOUSEPARTY THe house shes rented is in a swish area called Las Palmas. Its a three- bedroom, retro-styled party pad with a mirrored bar and private pool (roomservicestore.com). After warming up at hers, we swing by one of Palm Springs most notorious celebrity hang-outs, the Parker Hotel, for a slap-up meal at Mister Parkers (sirloin steak, 30) then on to the Viceroy boutique hotel for cocktails. Other options include Zeldas, a buzzy gay club, and the glamor- ous Spa Casino or Riviera hotel. AERIALTRAMWAY TO CLeAR my head the next morning I take a ride up the aerial tramway (pstram- way.com, 15) to the top of San Jacinto peak, where it can be 25 degrees cooler. When I get to the top, its a nippy 3C -- great for active, outdoorsy types who like hiking, but Im on the next cable car down, eager to explore Palm Springs by day. The city is like a funkier Beverly Hills: the streets are lined with palm trees and beautifully manicured verges fringe funky geometric buildings. The main drag, Palm Canyon Drive, has a good selection of boutiques, organic cafs and design shops. I spend the afternoon admiring Fifties architec- ture on a self-drive tour (alternatively, PS Modern Tours organise celebrity and architecture tours from 50, email psmoderntours@aol.com). Make sure you check out The Kaufmann House -- worth 9.1m -- and the Orbit In Hotel, a favourite home from home for Hollywood writers and directors. JOSHUATREE FuRTHeR afield lies Joshua Tree National Park, a vast expanse of desert populated only by chipmunks, cacti and thousands of spiky tipped Joshua Trees. There are masses of hiking trails to choose from and you could lose yourself for weeks here. Its beautiful and tranquil and Im grateful for the silence as I stretch out on a flat rock warmed by the sun. After my desert adventure, I return to the pool at Ace to cool off and am greeted like a long-lost friend by Christian the barman. As he skates over with a water- melon treat (5), I ask him what origi- nally brought him out to Palm Springs. Squinting up at the sun, he shrugs and says: Not one cloud in the sky. That means not one worry should be around. And hes right. See palmspringsusa.com. Virgin Atlantic (virgin-atlantic.com) flies from London to LA from 424 return l London Lite Friday, 26 June 2009 19 A high old time... lThe Alps arent just good for skiing. In summer, hiking and biking come into their own. And prices are great, too -- a week at a beautiful mountaintop eco-lodge costs 599pp. The converted 19th- century farm even has its own climbing wall and outdoor wood- fired hot tub. price includes guides, transfers, equipment, seven nights accommodation, breakfast, three dinners and some lunches, (not flights). Departs 23 July. 0800 612 2202; adventura.com ToOz,butnowhizz l FAncy nye in sydney? Oz-Bus, the legendary london to sydney bus service, is launching its new years eve special to take you on a journey of a lifetime to see in 2010. The 100-day trip starts on 27 september, going through europe, Turkey, Iran, India, pakistan, nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to Australia. It costs 4,799 with accommodation, breakfasts, guides and all flights, including those due to unforeseen circumstances. oz-bus.com A forward retreat l The parador de sant estevo in Galicias Ribeira sacra, spains valley border with portugal, looks ancient, but behind stone walls is an all-new 1.2m spa. Only the fourth spa in one of spains 93 paradors (a group of converted castles, convents and monasteries) the retreat features a hydro- massage bath, a heated pool and cold plunge pool, saunas, steam rooms and bithermal showers. Double rooms from 136, paradores-spain.com Value villa for two lThe hilton Maldives Iru Fushi resort and spa on the noonu Atoll officially opens on 1 July. To celebrate, the resort offers two- for-one on bookings made up to 17 August for travel before 31 August. The beach villas are available from 78 per night including a buffet breakfast. each villa features a large bedroom, en suite bathroom, private courtyard, spa bathtub, sun deck, a large gazebo and two rain showers. hilton.co.uk/maldivesirufushi Takingoff... edited by olivia walmsley hangoutforhotsun,coolclubsandboardingbarmen LA chic: Leo Bear soaks up the desert sunshine at the quirky Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, which has a hippy-chic commune vibe Skater waiter: drinks are brought on skateboards Picture:charliecamPbell index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html36.html37.html38.html39.html40.html41.html42.html43.html44.html45.html46.html47.html48.html49.html50.html51.html