Hidden from the sometimes busy traffic on Sunset Blvd. only a few minutes away, the legendary Hotel Bel-Air (701 Stone Canyon Road) wears its crown as the best hotel in Los Angeles quite quietly. While everyone has heard of its sister hotel, the equally legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air is more of a secret among luxury travelers who know and expect the very best. The hotel is part of the Dorchester Collection, an ownership group whose properties are truly the finest in the world.
My luxury weekend getaway
To make the trip in luxury, I drove a 2014 Audi Q5 TDI quattro Tiptronic. This amazing crossover SUV features Audi's clean diesel TDI technology which gives fuel economy, environmental benefits (lower emissions and better mileage) and wonderful torque. The 3.0L TDI engine has 240 hp and 420 ground-pounding lb ft of torque and asks for 27 MPG (and just over $55,000) as its price.
With the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission in "sport" mode, I headed out for my weekend which involved a canyon drive from home in the Valley to the hotel, located between Beverly Hills and UCLA. Torque is what propels a vehicle forward from a start and throws you back in your seat and the Q5 is a rocket off the line, especially surprising considering this is a diesel. The Audi adaptive damping suspension and their dynamic five-link front suspension provide a great ride and car-like handling. It's comfortable when you want it to be and aggressive and racy when that is called for. Running up Laurel Canyon, across Mulholland and down Beverly Glen, in sport mode, was exhilarating with the Q5 inviting me to really throw it around those tight switchbacks. After the canyon drive, cruising down Sunset was comfortable, as it should be in a luxury SUV.
My suite at the Hotel Bel-Air
The hotel has that Spanish-style, early California design, which it retains from its original construction. The large, spacious, luxurious patio suite had a wonderful outdoor patio with its own hot tub. There were two chaise lounges which were always perfectly wrapped in Hotel Bel-Air logo towels. The other area of the patio had a large glass table and chairs, which was ideal for room service breakfasts.
Inside, it was like an luxury apartment, with a foyer with powder room, a spacious and contemporary living room with a couch, beautiful Bang & Olufsen flat screen TV, desk and table and chairs. Design is modern luxury, yet with California inspirations. The bedroom was also huge, with another B & O TV and one of the best bathrooms I've had the pleasure of experiencing. A lot of marble, from floor to ceiling, and a huge tub. The bathroom room was just large, as big as some New York City apartments. There was also a fancy Japanese Neorest toilet with all kinds of fun automated features and functions.
Like other Dorchester Collection properties, staff at the Hotel Bel-Air focus on personal, friendly service. From those at the front desk to room service people to random staff members you may encounter on the property, everyone is there to ensure your personal experience is ideal. Any and every request or wish is promptly handled. The hotel retains many long-time staff members and their love and dedication to the property and its guests is apparent.
Dining and drinking
The hotel features farm-to-table, true California cooking from one of the world's great chefs, Wolfgang Puck, with their restaurant, Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel-Air. The restaurant is half outside and half inside, housed in the hotel's central courtyard area. It's a great space and is also very popular with local residents. In addition to the restaurant, the hotel's iconic "The Bar & Lounge" is more like spending time at a party at a very rich persons' mansion. There are couches, luxurious design, a fireplace and always great music, drinks and conversation.
The Audi Q5 TDI
With aggressive Audi S-line styling, 20 inch rims, paddle shifters and 420 lb ft of torque, this is a very unique vehicle. It's a sport SUV and can whip around the canyons, yet can pack a lot of luggage for a long weekend road trip, all while getting 27 clean diesel miles to the gallon. Filled with Audi technology like the Audi MMI Navigation plus system which uses Google Maps and is one of the best out there, the car provides a true luxury experience. All the controls are intuitive and it's easy even for first-time users (like me) to find what they need.
Accommodations provided by Hotel Bel-Air / Audi Q5 provided by Audi of America
Read about more weekend getaways on the author's travel blog at luxuryfred.com.