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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Los Angeles, old is new again at the Bel Air Hotel.

Post Hotel Critic

Back in the summer of 2005, I was dispatched to Southern California to assess the newest of the new on the region’s booming resort scene.

From the St. Regis in (but not on) Monarch Beach to the Parker in Palm Springs, to the plastic-fantastic Bacara just outside of Santa Barbara, it was a brave new world out there, a world of super-sized luxury. Of complimentary Evian spritzers and hunky towel sommeliers, of rooms with nightly rates as high as the GDP of some small island nations. (Well, almost.)

It was certainly a good time, driving around with the top down in the sunshine, dipping my toes into one gorgeous pool after another, being massaged into oblivion in too many spas to count. Along the way, however, I stopped in Los Angeles for a peek at one of the West Coast’s most classic hotels, just to see how it was keeping up with the times.

THAT WAS THEN

The Hotel Bel-Air, tucked away among the trees just north of Sunset Boulevard in one of the most exclusive sections of Los Angeles, had been sequestering Hollywood’s brightest stars since the 1940s.

Steeped in history and offering warm and familiar service, its shabbiness had long ago begun outweighing its chic. It had all the right elements: a cloistered location on Stone Canyon Road. It had expertly hosted everyone from the British Royal Family to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

It also had a staff that had upgraded me to a garden room and fussed over my unregistered guest sister and her baby with sticky buns and teddy bears. Still, our room in the original wing had, as I noted in a Post review back in 2005, "faulty plumbing and a tub-to-shower switch that wouldn’t flip, until it popped out and slimed our hand."

We also felt that "their reluctance to part with the time-honored, slightly worn Tavern on the Green-like d├ęcor" was charming, but should have meant no nickel-and-diming, such as the $20 fee to self-park, and a $13 Internet fee.

It turns out that the hotel wasn’t as reluctant to part with its shabby bits as I’d assumed. It was just waiting patiently for its facelift. In 2009, the hotel, owned by the Sultan of Brunei’s Dorchester Collection, underwent a comprehensive multi-million dollar renovation in which nearly every aspect of the hotel was refreshed, at the added massive opportunity cost of being closed for approximately two years. The design services of The Rockwell Group were retained; Wolfgang Puck agreed to rethink the food.

While it was out, everything changed. At this point, who even remembers Bacara, or the St. Regis? It finally opened, but who cares about the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes? Nobody mourns the gone-and-forgotten Four Seasons Aviara, now a deadly-dull Park Hyatt in a remote North San Diego location. And what of the plans for world domination laid out by the folks behind the Montage Laguna Beach? A subsequent hotel in Beverly Hills is more than fine, but it has never garnered much buzz. (Locals refer to it as The Monstrosity.) The Irvine Company’s Resort at Pelican Hill, which came in on the tail end of the boom, is a perfectly nice resort, but its sterility is almost oppressive.

In Los Angeles, old is new again at the Bel Air Hotel. The Hotel Bel Air has been one of the local favorite hangouts for years.
Los Angeles, Platinum Triangle, Beverly Hills, Real Estate, 90210, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Sunset Strip, Hollywood Hills, Luxury Estates, Mansions, Celebrity Homes, Homes For Sale, Listings, Realtor, Real Estate For sale, Luxury Homes, Los Angeles Realtor, Bel Air Real Estate, Christophe Choo, http://www.ChristopheChoo.com

Posted on: Beverly Hills Real Estate-Beverly Hills Homes For Sale

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