A testiment to Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Bel Air Hotel, an institution in itself, has been a true second home not only for celebrities but also for the residents of Beverly Hills, probably the most glamorous neighbourhood of America.
Richard Nixon wrote his memoirs while staying at the Bel Air for a couple of months, while Grace Kelly spent long stays at the Bel Air Hotel during her movie career but also after marrying Prince Rainier to become Princess Grace. Marilyn Monroe lived at Hotel Bel-Air on and off for more than a decade and the Bel Air was the venue for the now legendary Vogue photo shoot. Regular guests of the Bel Air also included: Judy Garland, Bette Davis, David Niven, Jackie Gleason, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn. In its more recent history, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore spent their wedding night at the Bel Air, Oprah Winffrey celebrated her 50th birthday at the Bel Air Hotel.
In 2008, the Sultan of Brunei, owner of the Dorchester Collection, purchased the Bel Air Hotel, and became the sister of another legendary property, The Beverly Hills Hotel, also owned and run by the Dorchester Collection. In 2009, the Bel Air embarked on a massive renovation supervised by Alexandra Champalimaud and the Rockwell Group, which have succeeded in preserving the unique residential feel of the hotel. The hotel was also enlarged with new “Loft” and hillside accommodations, many with sweeping canyon views, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, grand pianos, and spacious decks.
Bel Air Hotel’s spectacular history, its location right in the heart of Beverly hills on 14 acre lush vegetation (they even say that the Bel Air is cooler in summer), the exquisit food and the perfectly manicured gardens turn the Bel Air Hotel into a second home for the locals. Who would have guessed that most of Bel Air’s patrons are Californians? Whether to escape the bustling cities or simply to enjoy the SPA or a day at the pool, locals cherish the Bel Air, which has become an integral part of their life. During my stay, I would encounter a romantic couple staying for the weekend, a group of girlfriends having lunch or a business man working on his laptop by the pool.
The interior design of the rooms and suites beautifully captures the style of the 50’s mixed with contemporary elements of understated luxury. Rooms impress with their custom made furniture of the finest quality and plush carpets (most suites have a working fireplace) while the large marble bathrooms have direct natural light. A heavenly rain shower with just the perfect water pressure and a state of the art tech vanity compliment a very cosy bathroom. Rooms are equipped with the highest standard of technology from touch screen pad phones from which lighting, air-conditioning, DND and other services can be controlled. Other tech details include an iPad for each room, wi fi internet, DVD player and the latest version of a large Bang & Olufsen LCD TV.
The restaurant is managed by Michelin starred chef Wolfgang Puck, whose team oversees every detail, from breakfast, lunch to dinner. My favourite time of the day at the restaurant was lunch, the perfect timing for spending time at the Bel Air. I was most impressed by the service extended by the restaurants, swimming pool and porters. Housekeeping keep up the rooms immaculate, but still need to fine tune the preferred timing for service, while Front Office could improve their efficiency and manner in dealing with hotel guests – at times, the house guests (the locals) may seeme to benefit from a priority service.
All in all, the Bel Air is a unique property not only in the US but internationally, hard to compare with any other luxury hotels and it is not just location but so many other factors that weigh in. I praise Dorchester Collection for their long term vision and for reviving the spirit the hotel has always been famous for, while ensuring there is a Dorchester DNA in every hotel of their collection – and I was pleased to discover several similar features from other Dorchester Collection hotels.
Memories are made of moments that last forever… strolling through the gardens of the hotel, walking on colourful petals and freshly cut grass while taking in the superb scent of fresh jasmine and gardenia flowers….and watching the swans – the lasting symbols of the hotel, in their own lake, at home at the Bel Air…a mesmerizing experience…
Oliver Petcu in Beverly Hills
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