Under skies as blue as the chiffon gown Grace Kelly sported in
To Catch a Thief, year-round sunshine as golden as Oscar himself, and reality as unwelcome as a Santa Ana wind, much of La land feels like a giant set designed by MGM. What finer excuse than a visit to this world capital of make believe to play the pampered star? Herewith, a roadmap to how to eat, sleep and spend like a celebrity.
Black Book Travel Guide: Where to stay in Los Angeles
Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles
In this rarefied world even sunshine seems to sparkle like Dom Perignon. Upon checking in, an egregiously handsome valet dressed in whites—ideal showcase for a profound California tan—escorts me past the oval-shaped pool (once a riding ring) where Lauren Bacall is enjoying an early dinner (Bacall has long been a Bel Air habitué). It’s not hard to see why. The 65-year-old property—where Marilyn Monroe lived at three different times in her life, where
Grace Kelly checked in with her Oscar for
The Country Girl after the 1954 Academy Awards, where Oprah Winfrey threw a slumber party for her 40th—nuzzles in 12 acres of gardens so magical and fragrant that London perfumiere Jo Malone fashioned a
scent (Orange Blossom) after an inspiring visit. Like most Hollywood legends, the Bel Air has recently enjoyed an expensive facelift (courtesy of designer Alexandra Champlinaud). Re-vamped rooms in the hotel’s ballet-slipper pink Mission-style buildings are bedecked with marble and limestone floors, claim natural wood ceilings and a discreet, if decadent, palette of cream, sand and pearl greys. The only downside to checking in to the Bel Air is ever having to check out.
More on where to stay, eat and shop in our Black Book Travel Guide of Los Angeles on the next page…
Beverly Hills Hotel
If the Bel Air is where the stars go who don’t want to be seen, they beeline to the Pink Palace when being seen—and photographed—is precisely what they want. The mischief-making, flamingo-pink pile is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and remains La-la land’s party girl non-pareil. Here, Liz Taylor checked in for six of her honeymoons, Rex Harrison bronzed himself outside of Cabana #1 in the nude, and Katherine Hepburn tossed herself in the pool in her tennis whites.
Black Book Travel Guide: Where to eat in Los Angeles
The Polo Lounge
It owes its name to Will Rogers and Spencer Tracy, who headed here post-polo. This is where studio heads come to brunch and squeeze elbows, where ingénues come to breakfast in stilettos and air kiss over leafy luncheons, and where a begloved Marlene Dietrich (a one-time hotel resident) came swathed in furs to smoke the hell out of a Lucky Strike.
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
This new restaurant is as infinitely refined as its Edenic setting. Patrons are escorted past the hotel’s Swan Lake, past a sun-glossed porte cochere, past towering pink floss trees, flowering jacarandas and grand Irish Redwoods—the latter, evidently, only thrive in this environment (one can hardly blame them). Here, the Austrian star chef serves Med-influenced California fare to star patrons (on my visit, Stephen Spielberg was hosting a party on the terrace). Order the dover sole, which comes with a stellar, seasonal supporting cast (summertime involved zucchini ribbons and micro basil and baby squash). Service is unimpeachable.
But where is the costume department on this set? Your must-know shopping tips on the next page…
At L.A’s tastiest Italian restaurant, chef-owners (Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton) are as famous as the patrons. Here, you will also behold that rarest sight: a star eating carbs. The Tuscan dinner menu reads like a fantasy in three, four or five acts. Highlights include Burrata with Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, squid-ink chiterra freddi with Dungeness crab, sea urchin and jalapeno, and melon sorbetto with orange blossom crema and Sicilian pistachios.
Black Book Travel Guide: Where to shop to Los Angeles
Skip the double-decker bus. Instead, opt for a promenade through the carefully curated racks at LA’s Fred Segal—playground for Hollywood stars and their well-aerobicized Platinum cards—and you’ll feel like you’ve wandered into the pages of an US Weekly. Dress the part: maxi dress, sunglasses, gauzy, face-framing scarf (obligatory shield from temperamental Santa Ana winds).
Should you have a red carpet to traipse in your future, you’d be wise to head first to West Hollywood vintage couture shop Decades. Claiming access to the world’s finest closets, Decades has provided flashbulb-ready gowns for the likes of Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, Annette Benning, and Courteney Cox. Tip: head downstairs to Decadestwo, home to a trove of designer ready-to-wear (at about half of what you’d pay retail).
Black Book Travel Guide: What to do in Los Angeles
Read any celebrity profile in Vogue or Vanity Fair, and journalists always seem to be philosophizing with makeup-free celebrities in some picturesque canyon or Pacific-facing bluff. Should you prefer to spot your celebrities in baseball caps and Luon, take to Santa Monica’s Mountain Bluffs or Beverly Hills’ Runyon Canyon.
You can hardly pretend to plot a celeb-style weekend without pampering yourself like one. Book what is redoubtably the world’s ne plus ultra treatment—an epic 90-minute White Caviar Illuminating Facial—at the Bel-Air’s new La Prairie Spa. A wizardly, better-than-Botox assortment of luxurious, wrinkle-cancelling golden-caviar-infused serums, cleansers, peels and moisturizers will leave your skin fresh and soft enough to cause envy in a California rose petal.
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