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Hotel Bel Air
My LA story, Posts, Visiting LA

The debonnaire Hotel Bel-Air

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Beverly Hills Hotels

 

 

 

 

Timeless elegance with a modern twist; serene yet “happening” the Hotel Bel-Air is  a secret oasis in the heart of anything-but-modest Bel-Air. If you want to feel like a movie star (or a rock star for that matter) who just wants to be left alone stay at Hotel Bel-Air.

It Started in LA rating: 3 ticks √√√ (just needs to sort out this retched boycott mess to bring it up to 4.5.)

A Resort crossed between a boutique Hotel crossed between a Health Retreat (or how I imagine a Health Retreat to be) is how I can best sum up Hotel Bel-Air.

As I walked through the reception foyer, past the firepit and onto the grounds of the Hotel Bel-Air I immediately felt like I was a movie star.  Or was that rock star? I’m not sure.  I did see a couple of people who looked like movie stars on my visit.  Perhaps that was all I needed to make me feel special.  (I did feel like all eyes were on me as I walked past the breakfasting guests but I think it was the clunking of my boots rather than the wonder at “who” I was!)

Also part of the Dorchester Collection it bears little resemblance to its sister hotel the Beverly Hills Hotel yet they both reek of class and that “je ne sais quoi” that makes you want to soak it all up hoping it will wear off on you.

Surrounded by 12 acres of lush gardens Hotel Bel-Air has 58 guestrooms and 45 suites, including 7 one of a kind specialty suites.  It’s small, it’s intimate, it’s quiet and it’s very LA.

I love that LA is casual, polo shirts yet classy all at the same time.  This is the feeling you get at Hotel Bel-Air.  You feel like you should be in your best, most crisp but casual clothes and I felt out of place (and decidedly overdressed) with my vivid blue high-heeled boots, linen shorts & matching blue pleather jacket.

I have yet to eat here but the menu looks divine (after all it’s one of Wolfgang Puck’s signature restaurants).

So what about the rooms?

The rooms take on a more modern feel leaning towards great use of outdoor spaces through terraces and outdoor balconies, which is easy to do given the setting.

Many rooms have fireplaces (they come standard in the Grand Deluxe) and offers a technology bent with complimentary iPads (no, you have to leave them in the room when you go but you get to use them while you’re there) and a nifty app where you can order everything you need through the iPad.

The Junior suites are bungalow style by the pool and while I didn’t get to check one out myself the pics look nice.  They are also in the far end of the property making them a little more secluded.

Where should you stay?

The Canyon section consists of 12 rooms each well appointed and it’s quite popular.  The Grand Deluxe rooms are really nice with an indoor wood-burning fire, private entry and outdoor courtyard.  My favourite was the upstairs suite complete with its own jacuzzi.

Hotel Bel-Air balcony

What’s there not to like about the balcony of this suite? It Started in LA

 

Really it’s all nice here.  It was shut down for a complete refurbishment in September and reopened in grand style two years later on October 2011.  The rooms are designed in such a way that you don’t feel “ripped off” if you didn’t book the best room in the house which is always a good feeling.

People go to the Beverly Hills Hotel to do deals and be seen.  People come to Hotel Bel-Air to get away from it all, have some downtime (while still being seen).

Picnic at Hotel Bel Air

Hotel Bel Air can arrange a picnic on its grounds

 

The Hotel Bel-Air, while much quieter than I usually like, definitely requires more exploring. While I’m here I’m keen to book a picnic on the tranquil grounds enjoying fine food and Champagne.  All old-world English style.  With a dash of LA.

The Bel-Air Hotel is steeped in LA history. Bel-Air–as you might know from my fact or fiction section is not an actual suburb rather a 600-acre estate  acquired by Alphonso E. Bell to be known as “Bel-Air.” Determined that the estates would become an exclusive and upscale neighborhood, he enhanced the surrounding area with new roads, utilities, a country club and lush, exotic vegetation.

According to its own website, “For the next few decades Bell’s dream flourished. In 1946 Joseph Drown, a hotel entrepreneur from Texas, purchased 18 acres, and the land offices, and began plans to create an elegant pastoral hotel hideaway encompassing most of the land. Drown immediately hired architect Burton Schutt to convert the buildings and construct the 62 rooms of what was to become Hotel Bel-Air. Drown transformed the grounds into lush, beautiful gardens, adding Swan Lake to the picturesque front lawn. He had a vision of creating a natural California oasis, planting palms, ficus trees and perennial blooms. Drown also closed the Stone Canyon stables and built the sparkling oval-shaped pool at the site of the original riding ring. The hotel opened on August 24, 1946.”

Oooozing Hollywood style taken in 1951 | It Started in LA

Oooozing Hollywood style taken in 1951 | It Started in LA

 

Over the years many films have been shot at the hotel and its charm continues to grow.  Recently it has been a little scarred by its owner Brunei leader Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, instituting Islamic Shariah criminal law in his home country.  Most of the focus remains on its sister hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel however.

It’s unclear how long the boycott may last but some people are changing their perspective or opinions.  Here’s an article (dated July 4) that might give you a different perspective. Either way I’d like to share the hotel with you and you decide whether or not you’d like to stay there.

Stay at the Hotel Bel-Air if:

  • you want a bit of seclusion yet are still close to Beverly Hills and other shopping districts
  • you want to see and be seen–don’t mistake its quiet ambiance for not happening but stay cool this is a place to go to get away from it all
  • you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are shuttles to nearby shopping districts and direct to the Beverly Hills Hotel)
  • you can afford it–if you’re going to do, do it properly; and enjoy it.

Don’t stay at the Hotel Bel-Air if you’re looking for a party atmosphere, this definitely errs more on the side of retreat than hotel.

Enjoy and do share with me how you enjoyed your stay.  And who you saw ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

Special offers can be found at the hotel’s website and there are some pretty attractive ones there.  More about the hotel’s history can also be found on its website.

All pictures with thanks to Hotel Bel-Air, Dorchester Collection.

Beverly Hilton
My LA story, Posts, Visiting LA

A night to remember: the Beverly Hilton

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Beverly Hills Hotels

 

 

 

 

Shhh …. I’m having an affair.  I know, so LA right?  It feels so good.  It feels so right.  It’s like an addiction–just one more night, one more time.  Then I’ll stop.  I promise.  Maybe if I’m careful I won’t get caught.  I think I’m in love …

 

Stay at the Beverly Hilton to relive vintage Californian retro chic.  Centrally located, driving towards Beverly Hills from LAX along Santa Monica Boulevard and there it is–for all to see. The Beverly Hilton stands out as if to say “look at me” and damn it so people should.  With Beverly Hills at its front doorstep, a centrally located pool (complete with beautiful people adorning it) a huge white wall for after-dark movie screenings all you need to do is close your eyes and you’ve stepped back in time.  And what a time that was.

It Started in LA rating: 5 ticks √√√√√

I’m loving discovering these Beverly Hills hotels for you.  Each one so far has had its own look and feel, there truly is something on offer for everyone.  I’m in love with the Beverly Hilton.

The Beverly Hilton ticks quite a few boxes as it’s a large hotel so it’s able to cater for different needs.

You think of Beverly Hills and you think Oscars, Golden Globes, celebrities and of course the Beverly Hilton.  The Beverly Hilton is one of the most iconic Beverly Hills landmarks with its ode to all things vintage and 1950s. It hasn’t changed a bit.  And it’s a good thing.

Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton each year

Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton each year

 

(OK, it has been refurbished and they’ve kept the hotel looking spic and span but they haven’t tried to recreate its essence: it’s staying very true to itself. Thank god for that!)

The first time I visited and as I walked through the lobby of the hotel I was in another world.  Sure, you say it’s just another hotel but it’s the era, the events that have happened in the hotel–the same feeling you get as if you’re in the middle of a Mad Men set or on a Pam Am flight bound for Europe.

I’m looking around taking in the sights, smells and ambiance.  Sneaking in the back via the carpark,  I walked through the first floor and hear sounds of a woman talking; I smell smoke.  I gaze down casually to find a blonde lady in her bathers smoking a cigarette surrounded by friends.  It’s so 1950s LA.  Careful not to stare for too long I take a step back and casually take a photo–not of anyone in particular but it was a gorgeous day and the pool is glistening in the sun.

Beverly Hilton Pool

Looking down at the Beverly Hilton pool it’s not hidden away somewhere: it’s on show for everyone to see

 

This pool is the largest heated hotel pool in LA.  Infamously Angelina Jolie jumped in fully clothes the night she won her second Golden Globe for the movie Gina.  (If you were paying attention this was the subject of one of my Fact or Fiction posts.)

I’m early for my appointment so I walk through the lobby having a look around.  In a matter of minutes two people ask me if I need help–clearly I look lost and they’re very attentive.  I politely decline.

Actually this isn’t my first rip to the hotel. the last time I was here it was the night of the Golden Globes, one of guests to the many after-parties.  There were monitors and signs pointing guests in the right direction: Weinstein; Warner-Bros/InStyle; Fox; NBC; E!  I was overwhelmed then but now I’m trying to picture where it all fit.  It looks nothing like it did that night.

Golden Globes

All signs point to an After-Party. Golden Globes Style | 2014

 

Immediately after the last guests go home the hotel is back to its normal self ready for another “normal” day.  And here I am.  My first visit on a normal day.

Rooms

There’s a lot to offer in terms of choice: right from a standard room to a suite to the Penthouse Collection, the Royal “wing” (or group of suites), the Presidential Suite and the Cabanas.

Previously guests have been practically every American president, and is often referred to as the “White House of the West”.  Royal families have stayed here (yes more than one) and their entourages, movie stars, pop stars, business people and everyday run-of-the-mill people like me.

There are two towers: the Wilshire Tower and The Oasis.  My favourite is the Cabana rooms.  Tucked away nicely out the back these rooms back onto the pool.

Cabana rooms

View from ground floor Cabana room

 

On our staycation we scored a ground-floor room that opened up onto the pool.  Glorious.  It was as if we were in Palm Springs-minus the drive.  I felt like I was in a cross between a drive-in and a Californian motel on Route 66 (not that I know what that looks like but it’s a look I’m going with).  The cabanas have a motel feel with a hotel vibe.

Poolside

Feels more like a cosy 1950s motel than a big hotel … and that’s the way I like it

 

Suite 100 Collection: an ode to Audrey Hepburn & the 1960s

At $1914 a night* not a detail has been skipped in the planning of this suite.  I walked in and felt like I was in Darren & Samantha’s living room (you know? from Bewitched.  Right.  Probably a little more Audrey Hepburn then their lounge but I was definitely transported back in time).

It was the attention to detail that tickled my fancy most.  You could order–via a phone of the time–room service from the room service menu in 1960 at 1960’s prices.  A lot of relics had been pulled from the archives so the menu is as it was in the 60s and the drink coasters and “merchandise”.

Suite100 Hilton

This old B&W TV actually works!

 

And in the bathroom there is a Givenchy Bar”–full-size Givenchy perfumes and toiletries (word is Audrey’s favourite).

Dining Choices

I have to say there aren’t a lot of dining choices in the hotel so mix it up by going out to dine.  Hey, this is a good thing.  LA has plenty of great restaurants so get out there!  The breakfast buffet is pretty good and the Trader Vic’s menu was right up our alley (it was just a shame it wasn’t available at lunch when we wanted to test drive it).

Spa

I’ve fallen down in the Spa review department as I didn’t try out any of the treatments on offer despite there being some great Memorial Day specials.  One I’m dying to check out (see how well it works) is the Red Carpet Ready Facial.

We had an amazing night at the Beverly Hilton.  The service at the pool was fantastic and at lunch at Circa 55 we weren’t rushed through.  It was busy and the vibe was good.

 

Stay at the Beverly Hilton if you:

  • want to step back in time to the glorious 1950s
  • want a hotel that has a great vibe and soul
  • want to be conveniently located in Beverly Hills
  • have time to hang by the pool to see and be seen
  • don’t have time to go to Palm Springs but want to feel like you’re there.

I’m going to end as I have with my last two Beverly Hills Hotel reviews.  I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (“been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA.  LA is not a modern City with all the glitz and glamour.  Many say it hasn’t changed much at all.  If you look closely it has.  And it hasn’t.  What its done is clung onto its essence: mid century vintage, crisp and cool.  Once you understand that’s what LA is all about you’ll love it.  I count my lucky stars I got to come back to LA–not just come back but live it.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  Which one is your favourite to date?  Any others you want me to review?  Let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

* Price for suite effective the year of 2014, check back with the Hilton to see what they’re doing once this initiative is finished.

Four Seasons LA/BH
Celebrity, LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

Four Seasons in LA? Well of course.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Beverly Hills Hotels

 

 

 

Are there four seasons in Beverly Hills?  But of course.  The Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills to be precise.

Stay at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for five-star treatment without pretension. If you don’t know LA you might think the location is not for you but actually you’re right in the middle of great shopping, amazing restaurants and have my two favourite areas, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills at your doorstop. With 100 of the 285 rooms being suites there’s a room for everyone but don’t be fooled the standard rooms are roomy and well kitted out.

It Started in LA rating: 5 ticks √√√√√

How a hotel makes you feel is so important: it can make or break a stay don’t you think?  Absolutely I say.  Let’s face it if you’re not Kim or Kanye or JLo you still want to be treated like you are.  You’re important.  You’re special.

Well it’s no secret yours truly believes in that premise: I want to be treated like I’m a VIP (and understand to most people I’m not damnit).  When I visited the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills I felt like the red carpet had been rolled out for me and so here I am telling you all about it.

Unlike the Beverly Hills Hotel where I walk in and immediately take on a strut (with swag) you don’t feel the need to do that here.  It’s comfortable and unassuming.

I didn’t realise the Four Seasons is reputed to be the number one hotel in LA for the entertainment industry.  (Hmmm truth be told had I known this I probably would’ve been in a bit sooner so I’m telling you now).  Apparently it’s the venue for the majority of Hollywood’s press film events.  You get that sense when you see a mini version of the Marilyn Monroe statue as you pull into valet.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn statue as you enter Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills

 

Guests are anyone from pop stars (there was a very well-known one staying there the day I visited) to celebrities to agents.  (In the leisure category it’s popular with us Aussies so it must be good.)

This was my first visit to the Four Seasons.  As I said had I known what it was known for I probably would’ve visited sooner.  It makes sense that one of the families from school (who ran one of the top Studios) nominated the hotel as their favourite staycation location.  I immediately popped it on my list but it’s taken until now for me to get there.  Better late than never I say.

The first thing that hits you is the impressive display (and aroma) of flowers.  Not just a centrepiece in the lobby but throughout the hotel and gardens.

Lillies

Those lillies are stunning and positively fragrant–not even Pepe le Pew could upset you

 

Beverly Hills-renowned florist Eric Buterbaugh’s inspiring displays made me feel like I was back in the flower markets in Shanghai: so many flowers.  And that smell of perfectly scented lillies was powerful enough that not even Pepe le Pew the skunk could spoil it.

Flowers

Flowers anyone? Simply stunning

 

The flowers are no accident.  The property’s owners (it’s managed by the Four Seasons), the Cohen family, were in the flower business so their passion is reflected in the hotel’s design and mood.

The next thing I notice is that, despite its five-star rating and smartly dressed staff (rather than the preferred dress-down approach of many local hotels) it’s not stuffy or snooty.  On the contrary it’s welcoming and unpretentious.

What are the rooms like?

OK.  I love them.  The standard room is really spacious, not at all claustrophobic.  Nice touches are the floral theme (in the most tasteful way) through the bedheads and carpet (some of the nicest carpet let alone hotel carpet I’ve ever seen).  A vase with fresh orchids in the bathroom showed that nothing escapes the detail put into the rooms.  Toiletries used are Bvlgari which also makes for a nice touch.

There are many different categories of Suites catering for the breadth of guests the hotel attracts.

Adjoining rooms

There are about 20 adjoining rooms ranging in category from suites to standard rooms offering different combinations of sleeping arrangements.  If you’re anything like me the most frustrating thing about booking via an online travel company is finding or securing adjoining rooms.  I get that they’re limited and cannot guarantee but help us out guys and give us a guide as to what’s available.  If you fall into this category call or get in touch with hotel direct and make the booking.  Less headaches and a better chance of getting what you want.

Naturally suites can also provide the option you’re looking for too.  The Executive suite has a pull-out couch in the main room and the Luxury Suite offers two full bathrooms (and a wrap-around balcony).  If you happen to have a huge family the Presidential Suites, Royal and Luxury Suites are all big enough to cater for larger numbers.

Four Seasons

Rooms at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills feature lush carpet and beautiful flower motifs

 

So LA

If you’re looking for that LA feel the Four Seasons Beverly Hills has nailed it.  There’s no mistaking it caters for entertainment clients and is in touch with what LA is about.

The pool is stunning with obligatory cabanas (for Beverly Hills anyway) and plenty of room for sunbathers.

Four Seasons Pool

The pool at the Four Seasons is quintessentially LA with that vintage look and feel (love the green & white)

 

 I work out

It wouldn’t be an LA hotel without great workout facilities and the Four Season’s is outdoors.  That’s right, Muscle Beach comes to the Four Seasons.  Check it, it might even encourage me to work out!

Being LA you can line up a personal trainer to make sure you’re not slacking off while you’re away from home.

Gym

The outdoor gym at the Four Seasons is temperature controlled giving the best of both worlds

 

If all that doesn’t scream: “So LA!” then the dining options will.  LA has sooo many fantastic places to eat.  Here in LA people go to the hotel restaurants to eat.  If it’s good.  (I don’t know why we don’t go to them much in Australia, you certainly do in Asia).  So you better make sure your restaurant is good–or offers something unique–to bring the people in.

Dining Options

The Four Seasons Beverly Hills has its own little secret known as the Cabana Restaurant, tucked up behind the pool and open to the public.

Culina

Culina at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills

 

I just love that the menu is broken down into four categories: indulgence, antioxidant, energy boosters and comfort food.  How LA is that?!

Don’t believe me? Check out the lunch menu here.  Did you click through and notice the smoothies?  Antioxidant (Goji Berry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Papaya) and Jet Lag (Orange Blossom Honey, Nonfat Plain Yogurt, Orange Juice, Banana, Strawberries, Bee Pollen).  Can’t get more LA than that.

I’m so impressed that the Four Seasons knows and understands its clientele and market.  It attracts a younger clientele (think celebs people).  You can’t be offering burgers, burgers or burgers to a dieting Kim Kardashian (not that I’m saying she comes here.  And not that I’m saying she doesn’t).  But if that up-and-coming Blogger Gwen John goes to visit as much as she wants to be good and go and antioxidant menu there’s a good chance she’s going for comfort.  So you’ve still got to offer it.  Right?  Right.

I was treated to breakfast at Culina–its destination restaurant aimed at keeping guests in and Los Angelenos coming.  Word is the Sunday brunch is to die for so we’re checking into that one ASAP.  Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which is June here and not September–you’re welcome) are big ones so book early.

I was so impressed by the breakfast that I’m going to blog about that separately.  Watch this space.  Really quickly though there are healthy options and your traditional fry up options and lots in-between.  OK I had the sinless Eggs Benedict which was to die for.  If eating healthy was this good and this easy yours truly might be a skinny fashion model rather than a Blogger.  The other highlight for me was the freshly squeezed juice bar.  You can order one from the menu (I had the Antioxidant Booster–it was Monday morning 🙂 ) or you can create your own.

PS:

If you’re an LA local you’ll be pleased to know there’s a fully kosher kitchen. So LA.

Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel if:

  • you want five-star Beverly Hills luxury without the snootiness or pretension
  • you want to feel part of the “younger Hollywood” crowd
  • you’re looking for healthy yet yummy dining options that are so un-American yet proudly Los Angeleno
  • you want to be centrally located between West Hollywood, Third Street, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills (never mind Rodeo Drive, you’re right near the boutiques on Robertson)
  • you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are cars to drive you within a two-mile radius of the hotel).

 

I said it for my last review and I’ll say it again.  I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (I think the words were “been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA.  And I don’t mean which theme parks you might visit.  Understand what LA is all about and it will be your friend, expect something it’s not and you may as well give it a miss. Thankfully I’ve grown up now, made that rather naive mistake and fate took me back here. I count my lucky stars everyday.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Again I’d recommend you compare prices online but try booking through the hotel direct.  Rack rates are becoming a thing of the past (I have absolutely no proof of this except through my own booking experience) and hotels offer competitive online rates.  Sometimes it’s so much easier to get exactly what you want when you book direct.

All pictures with thanks to Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

To find out more about Beverly Hills Hotels visit my Pinterest board.  I’m pinning to it faster than I can blog!

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