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Beverly Hills Hotel

Hotel Bel Air
My LA story, Posts, Visiting LA

The debonnaire Hotel Bel-Air





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.

My LA story, Posts

Our first US summer has come to an end

That’s right, sadly our first US summer has come to an end.  I know many people that would be jumping for joy at the thought of their kids back to school and out of their hair.  Not yours truly.

I love the lack of routine school brings: sleeping in, not having to worry about getting home in time for school pick-up–or even being at school to pick up; no car pool queues and no worrying about what to pack for lunch.

But alas like all good things in life they must come to an end.  And there is always an upside:  I’ve missed you!  I’ve missed my Blogs and have so much to tell you it feels like I haven’t caught up with my best friend for ages.  (Which is true too).

Where do I start? Let me start by telling you that summer was great.  We had one of our good friends come at the start of summer and that meant showing them around the LA we know and love and a couple of roadtrips.  It was with them we conquered Yosemite and then drove to Vegas via Mammoth and Death Valley.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

The day after they left my mum and brother came and five days after they left my in-laws came.  In between we had a great visit from fellow Blogger UK Desperate Housewife of USA.  And that my friends is summer done and dusted.  We estimate five or so days with just ourselves for the whole nearly three months.  No wonder I’ve neglected you and I am exhausted!

There were so many highlights it actually feels like a bragfest if I go through them all with you.  But what that makes me realise, once again, is how bloody lucky we are to be living here doing the sorts of things we’re doing.

Which brings me to how this Blog was born.  You know when you read someone famous talk about the struggle to make it big and you sit back and think, “wow, did you what? Good for you. How did you manage to achieve that?” And it’s hard to imagine them as everyday normal people.

OK, not that I’m saying I’m all over the mags and hugely successful by any stretch but I wonder if I’ve conveyed to you that just over 12 months ago I was a normal, happy person getting up at 5am many mornings a week to take my son swimming then go for a run myself before I had to go back home to help my daughter get ready to take her to the bus to start her day.  Then work or go to the gym, grocery shop, manage the soccer and waterpolo teams and be ready for the kids to come home and do their afternoon activities, dinner etc. Blissfully happy as you can only be when you live in Australia unaware (fundamentally) that there are normal people living similar lives to me in Beverly Hills 90210.

Until my hubby got a call about moving there.

So of course we are constantly pinching ourselves and wanting to share a glimpse into how life can suddenly change for an unsuspecting Aussie family like us.  I’ve had nothing but great support for my blog but I do wonder if people realise that we weren’t “destined” for this life nor were we looking for it per se; it just happened.  Apart from the usual teenage stuff neither of our goals were to make it big in Hollywood–or make a go of it here.  Such is the wonder of life sometimes.  That’s what makes our story so cool.

So … apart from a few travel stories over the coming weeks I’ll share with you tidbits from our summer (told in the spirit of this Blog) in LA including :

  • Heading to our first Bar Mitzvah–90210 style
  • Mr H & I at the Creative Emmys
  • The kids and I at the Teen Choice Awards
  • Brushes with fame out and about in LA.

What’s on this week?

With the kids reluctantly packed up to school for another year and having the house to ourselves again it’s obviously time to focus on It Started in LA.  Aside from that I have a mountain (and I mean mountain) of ironing.

(I don’t mind ironing because I have a system: I record my favourite shows–and with M-Go or Netflix I don’t even need that–and I watch them while I iron.  It passes the time nicely and I have a great excuse for watching TV.  High on my list, if you’re interested, are Orange is the New Black and Scandalwhich we saw being shot when we first arrived in LA and had no idea how big it or the stars were.  I’ve since added Sons of Anarchywhich is tough because it’s up to season bazillion), Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad so it’s just as well I have a mountain of ironing.  Wait, did I mention Mad Men and House Of Cards? No? You get the picture).

Plus I want to get out and meet more people to start my new series, “Profiles” and trying to get on set to get a taste for that aspect of LA life. And of course I need to start planning our next holiday.  Busy huh?

Birthday parties 90210 style

In the meantime I’m party planner for my daughter’s up-and-coming 12th birthday party.  It’s been an eternity (according to her) since she’s had a party and she’s picked this year and turning 12 to have one.

Sigh for me.  And Mr H.  I’m sure it would be the same in Australia but pin the tail on the donkey, bringing in a clown or even an at-home dance party don’t seem to cut it anymore.

What do you do for a girl who is practically last in her class to have a party and everyone else has pulled out the big-gun ideas?  With a lot of tossing up and negotiation we decided on a screening of the movie The Giver (a book my daughter and her class studied last year that I also read and loved) at Mr H’s state-of-the-art “Viewing Rooms” at his sound stage on one of the studio lots.

Sounds flash huh?  I thought so but there was a little skeptical worry that everyone has access to such an amazing opportunity that it wouldn’t be special.  Lucky she realised that living here does not necessarily mean everyone has access to it and we’re on.  We’re all on board and I have to deliver a party that’s 2040 with a twist of 90210 and a Hollywood chaser.

Three key differences between parties 90210 style and 2040 style:

  1. The key difference that’s highly evident is that there are no lolly bags.  That could be a good thing I hear you say except they are replaced with a more upmarket version and called a “party favour”.  Party favours can be anything from a gift card to your favourite store (with the 2040 present budget) to a kit filled with fabulous goodies also equal to or greater than the 2040 present budget (or maybe I was just a little on the scroogey side?).
  2. We’ve upped the anti.  That’s not to say it’s not happening at home but I don’t think it’s happening across the board.  While all very gorgeous some of the parties my daughter has been to include lunching at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, High Tea at Le Montage, a private nails party at a nail salon, dinner and pool parties with ice-cream vans and all the bells and whistles required to keep some 20 girls amused for a few hours.
  3. Catering.  There is no sign of party pies and sausage rolls nor of fairy bread and for that I think we should all have a minute’s silence.  No sign of lolly bags either but we’re changing that with a “candy station” to get us through the movie.

From my son’s perspective there were hardly any parties this year giving way for more intimate affairs with a couple of mates over.  Except one girl who had a massive party at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel–booked out for Saturday night.  That one was quite the affair!

I’ve changed my thinking a little from when we first came.  While I’m not changing who we are or what we believe in I am accommodating things 90210 style.  A wise person (my mum) told me over the holidays that I shouldn’t make the kids stand out as being totally different to everyone else just because I want to stick to how we do things at home.  Her view was that (especially as you get into the teenage years) it’s good to be a bit under the radar and kids don’t particularly like to stand out as being especially different.  That’s not unlike what one of my school friends told me (reminded me of) when she came to visit earlier this year either.  So I’ve wiggled.

I think it’s good advice and I’ll continue to monitor how it means we navigate life 90210 style.

Enjoy the start of Spring Southern Hemispherers while we adjust to Autum (sorry Fall) here.  Thankfully LA’s weather doesn’t really change very much so the forecast is for sunshine and sunshine followed by sunshine.

xx It Started in LA xx

Svend Slipper
Celebrity, Fact or Fiction, My LA story, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Svend Sipper

I’m retiring my Fact or Fiction section, not because it’s not full of interesting material but because hardly anyone is voting.  Buzzfeed this aint!

So, here is the answer to the last Fact or Fiction post.

The Svend Sipper is named after its long-serving Pool Manager.

The answer is Fact.

Svend is somewhat of an institution at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“Svend Petersen, the Danish-American pool manager at the hotel for forty-two years, became a Hotel Ambassador in 2002.  He had notably opened up the pool after hours for The Beatles and taught Faye Dunaway to swim a freestyle crawl for Mommie Dearest.  He was also known for warning Southern California newcomers in drastic and memorable language about the scorching sun.”

As my treat to you you can create one of my favourite drinks at home as I have the recipe.  Thanks so much Beverly Hills Hotel for sharing!

Svend’s Sipper

2 oz Ultimat Vodka
10 halfmoon cucumbers
2 oz coconut water
1 oz simple syrup
Top with club soda

You’re welcome.  Cheers!

xx It Started in LA xx

Fact or Fiction, Posts, Visiting LA

Fact or Fiction: the Svend Sipper is named after Beverly Hills Hotel’s long-time pool manager

God I miss the Beverly Hills Hotel.  There hasn’t been a lot said about the boycott lately except it’s still on.  I keep wondering how they’re doing and what effect (if any) the boycott is having on the hotel.

I heard on Mothers’ Day that it was reasonably full but this article in the New York Post (all in the name of research I’m sure) says otherwise.  Here’s another article summarising what’s going on by Time Magazine.

I searched availability on its website and there are obviously more rooms vacant (I regularly search availability of the bungalow rooms to tick off my bucket list!).  I think I need to make a trip to check it out myself–purely in the name of research and to give a first-hand report to my faithful readers of course.

So, in memory of my beloved memories at the hotel here’s my latest Fact or Fiction (that has been MIA).

The Svend Sipper is named after its long-serving Pool Manager.


Results from the last Fact or Fiction: Yosemite National Park

I hope you weren’t holding your breath for the answer to this one.  The answer required first-hand research.

The answer to this one is a tough one.  It seemed to me when I posted it that the answer was yes.   I called the number that has visibility over all the accommodation IN the park and there was essentially no room at the Inn.  I was told to continually check back because as the time gets closer there are generally cancellations.  Let me also say I was booking for two families (nine of us).

I was also warned by those I’d asked for advice that if you haven’t booked by now (some six months in advance) you wouldn’t get a room–specifically but not limited to the Ahwahanee.  Even as I write this post I tested a number of dates in July and came up blank.  I tried it for two families and one with the same result: nudda.

So, we booked an RV (the only one left) and a site outside the park (the only one left) and the nine of us bunked in for two nights.  Hysterical.

When we got there there seemed to be a scattering of vacancies around the park.  There was one room left at the gorgeous Ahwahanee (but none at the time I called) and a couple we sat next to at the bar had only just booked their room the day before.  Hmph. I felt bad because this was our Yosemite experience and I wondered where–how–I went wrong.

The beauty with this booking link is it covers all accommodation throughout the park.  There is also a phone number to call and their helpful people gave me the same result.

All I can say is plan as early as you possibly can for the high summer months.  It is busy.  If you’re coming from overseas you could take the chance and book something last-minute but if you’re anything like me that’s a huge risk and one I wasn’t willing to take.  I’ll leave it to you and … good luck!

If you want more detailed information on our Yosemite experience stay tuned for my Blog.  It’s coming soon.

xx It Started in LA xx

Fact or Fiction, My LA story, Visiting LA

Fact or Fiction: Book 12 months ahead for a spot inside Yosemite

Here’s a question for you, a very important question if you’re planning a US or Californian holiday that includes a visit to the stunning Yosemite National Park.

You need to book 12 months ahead to get a cabin or even camping spot at Yosemite in summer.

The answer to the last Fact or Fiction:

Is the pool covered over for Golden Globes after parties?

Is Fact.  It is now!  There was a time, however, when it wasn’t.  Read this story about Angelina Jolie jumping into the pool when she won her second Golden Globe before it was covered.

You may have noticed that once again Fact or Fiction skipped a week.  I got caught out with the dramas surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel.  In respect for those trying to boycott the hotel I’ve held back a Fact or Fiction piece.  It’s such a shame because it’s a beauty.

I’m a bit mixed on the boycott though.  I in no way condone the laws enacted by Brunei.  However some people don’t care about boycotts, whether they’re stubborn or too wealthy for it to affect them there could be many reasons.  I would hate to see such an iconic hotel ruined by someone who is not in touch with our society nor cares to be.  Not just that I feel for the staff of the hotels, not necessarily the management but the workers.  I’m sure their owner doesn’t think about them.  Sad.

I also don’t think people should stop the boycott either because then Brunei wouldn’t feel any pressure and continue to do what it wants to do without consequence or second thought.

If only life was simple.

Here’s some reading to catch you up on the issue.


I hope the situation doesn’t last long anyway and it can be quickly resolved.  And hopefully the result will be the right thing morally.  Call me a little cynical but somehow I don’t think so.

On a happy note Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums in the world.  Even you in the UK who celebrated Mothering Sunday in late March.

No one would be here if it wasn’t for our mothers.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: If you were paying close attention I incorrectly called it the Beverly Hills Hotel pool (obsessed by that place I swear!).  It is actually the Beverly Hilton. Shame on me.  Anyway, it’s erased now there’s no evidence of the mistake :-).


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