I never thought I’d pay $580 a night for a hotel and consider it the deal of the century.
The first thing you notice about the Bel-Air is the setting. Tucked in a canyon and surrounded by lush hills, you’d think you were in Sonoma, not a few miles from downtown LA.
The garden locale not only looks beautiful, a heady mix of jasmine, lavender, roses and pine permeates every square inch.
We originally considered splurging for one of the new Canyon Suite with its own private plunge pool. But we decided on one of the original (renovated) rooms because they have real wood-burning fireplaces— a real rarity in an urban hotel. Even in late May, the nights are cool in LA. We delighted in having our fireplace lit with fresh wood every night just before bed.
The rooms are enormous: Hollywood Regency done in muted grays and browns. The floors are stone (so luxe); the ceilings wide-plank wood (so unexpected). The tech is state-of-the art, with B&O TVs and iPads for room service. The bathrooms deserve a review of their own, with amazing showers, a TV in the tub and beautiful tiling throughout.
All of this would make the Bel-Air special enough, but it was the service that set this hotel truly apart. There’s a special kind of treatment that’s professional but informal; attentive, but not cloying. Very few hotels can pull it off. At the Bel-Air, we experienced it at every turn.
Be sure to sit at the bar and chat up the staff as they trade barbs with each other while using old-fashioned ice picks to create their drinks. Make a request in your room and you can be sure someone will be by in five minutes or less. Sit by the pool and soak up the rays and the outrageously cheerful service (thanks, Taylor and Chris!).
The pool is the real heart of the hotel—and part of the reason we cancelled sight-seeing plans day after day. I’ll never forget sitting under a billow-y umbrella surfing the web on my iPad for stories on the hotel’s history. Lauren Bacall did laps here every day. Robert Wagner was a pool boy. Marilyn Monroe lived here for a decade, and poses by the diving board on the cover of the pool menu. You can even order a “Nancy Reagan” chop salad for lunch. At the same time, the adjacent Wolfgang Puck café is jammed with today’s crop of Hollywood movers and shakers morning, noon and night.
Unlike so many “historic” hotels, this isn’t some grande dame coasting on former glories. This is the real deal. You must experience it at least once before you die.