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