Category Archives: Bel Air

How To Fall (and Stay) In Love with Los Angeles – Volume 2

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

Relationships take work.  Love affairs are dynamic relationships that challenge us more than, let’s say, friendships.  Best sung by Motown’s Four Tops, one of my favorite old-school songs titled “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” concludes with this refrain:

Los Angeles At Night“If we can try with every day to make it better as it goes
With any luck then I suppose
The music never ends.”

The love affair I began with Los Angeles in 1991 has gotten better because of will, effort and intention.  I’m committed to my relationship and I believe that Los Angeles loves me back. It is my hope that even if you’ve begun your LA divorce proceedings, you can reconsider and rekindle the fire!

In Volume 1, I sent you west on Sunset Boulevard as far as the road can go.  It’s a cheap trick – that drive to the ocean at sunset is fail-safe.  Who wouldn’t, who couldn’t fall in love with that breathtaking crescendo?  Admittedly, it’s been a bit trickier to navigate that ride since road construction has threatened our “marriage” but if you stay the course and keep going west, the payoff is worth it.

Here are some other detours, chosen ones, that can lead you to more of LA’s charms.  They offer good reasons to veer off the road even if there are no roadblocks.  On a day when a schedule is not harrowing and you have the time to breathe (oh, that’s key in all of this love affair stuff – breathing), explore in and around Sunset Boulevard as you’re heading west.  Some of these divergences are as free as the ride; others will call upon your wallet.  You’ll know which is the right diversion for your particular exploration.  Keep in mind that the goal is to revive your love affair with Los Angeles or begin a new one.

Beverly Hills Hotel 1989

Beverly Hills Hotel 1989

The first stop, should you choose, is The Beverly Hills Hotel, affectionately called the Pink Palace.  I’ve done this stop many ways.  Try one on for size.  I’ve pulled up to Valet Parking bidding my friendliest greetings to the valets and doorman (I wouldn’t suggest shorts and flip flops for this version) explaining I’m meeting a friend.   And then I just wander – and sometimes just sit in the lobby.  It’s a small lobby, not particularly inviting but I just sit and breathe.  On one stop, I saw a very young, very awkward, regal sort sitting there bemused.  I began light casual conversation with him to ease his way.  Little did he know, I had no business there at all.  Long story short, he turned out to be a prince in Norway (and no jokes about the Prince of Bel Air).  No, really, a royal prince!  I’ve since seen him on the news.  His entourage and his grand limousine (let’s just say this one is not in uber’s fleet!) were at the ready to have me join him for a tour of the area.  We spoke for hours though his “people” stayed near.   He was so hungry for a person with a life in the real world with whom to communicate.  Despite his eagerness to have our friendship continue on another day, my work at my detour had ended.  Los Angeles was magical again.  “Only in LA,” it’s said. Being friendly in a royal hotel costs nothing.

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool Area

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool

I’ve also been enchanted at the Beverly Hills Hotel with lunch or snacks there on my own. (Remember these are mostly unplanned detours!) Not at the Polo Lounge where the bill will set you back some serious change.  No, the way we locals do it is to head directly to their pool and sit at the Cabana Café.  Surprisingly, you do not have to be a guest to sit in this gorgeous, albeit exclusive-feeling setting.  And lunch can be whatever you want it to be – including a cup of tea and a bagel.  And the other locals’ secret is to go downstairs from the lobby to the Fountain Coffee Shop.  Get a milkshake – or have breakfast – at the counter.  It’s an authentic old-school diner, except that it’s in the basement of a palace.  Then back to Sunset the boulevard or the rose-colored one in the sky.  By the way, Options #2 and #3, the meal ones, don’t require valet parking.

Spelling Manor

Spelling Manor

If hotels and people watching are not your thing, another alternative route off of Sunset Boulevard is to explore Holmby Hills.  I discovered this quite by accident on one of my Sunset Boulevard meanderings in the mid-90’s.  I turned left on Beverly Glen and then noticed magnificent homes and landscapes tucked on some of the streets behind Beverly Glen.  I turned again onto Charing Cross Road, then onto Mapleton. Inching my car slowly, I remember getting quite an eyeful ogling properties on Mapleton.  I had no idea that I was heading to the Spelling mansion at the time, the penultimate eyeful. What’s key about this kind of exploration is that it not trigger resentment, animosity or worse, feeling bad about your own life.  These rides are supposed to feel like receiving a bouquet of flowers unexpectedly.  Don’t make up stories about the inequality of wealth at these times; it defeats the purpose.  There is a purity of aesthetics that your new eyes can bring to the vision.  Greenery, architecture, texture, color, and surprise light your mind as you take in new things each time you explore.  Years later, I took a New York friend to see the Spelling mansion.  It was a Sunday afternoon and we slowly pulled up.  Wait, what?!  How did I not know? Purely by accident, our car kept getting guided towards a Valet Parking umbrella in front of the compound. It was Tori’s wedding day, at home. They thought my friend and I were guests and we kept smiling, okay flirting, with each of the officers directing our car.  It was such an uproarious spectacle.  We laugh.  Only in LA.  Love.

Playboy Mansion

Playboy Mansion

By the way, Charing Cross Rd., on the other side, will lead you to the Playboy Mansion.  That is a horse (pardon the reference) of a different color.  And driving up and thinking about what has gone on and for how long may just amuse you. Or not.  It doesn’t pull my chain (pardon the reference).  Seriously, there is lore, not necessarily lure, and American history there and it’s right in our L.A. backyard.

Volume 2 ends there with two forks in the road – the right turn into the hotel or the left turn into Holmby Hills. When we continue, we will be turning right, into what look like private gates, the gates of Bel Air.  It’s an elegant twilight zone.  Can’t wait to continue…  til next time.

About Bel Air

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Bel Air?

Bel Air Sign

Bel Air is, according to mapquest, a 21 minute drive from LAX due north on the 405 freeway.   If the 405 freeway and you are friends, or if you’ve never had any “issues,” with it, then I think you’re okay in planning.  (The 405 and I have been in therapy for years with marginal progress).  Geographically, Bel Air is situated between Brentwood and Beverly Hills and on the northern edge of UCLA, stretching across Sunset Boulevard and continuing north into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.  It lies south of Sherman Oaks and north of Westwood Village.

WHAT characterizes Bel Air?

Two words come to mind: residential beauty.  Bel Air is an extraordinary community of homes, often hidden but always exuding an air of exquisiteness.  Large mansions are overwhelming to behold and many small ranch-style homes prevail more and more as the roads of Bel Air wind upwards.

Beverly Glen

Beverly Glen

At the core of Bel Air is the founder’s vision. In the 1920’s, a highly successful farmer, Alphonzo Bell, bought a large ranch with a main house atop what is now Bel-Air Road.  The natural beauty at that location was awe-inspiring to him (as it still is to me), thus motivating him to develop a magnificent community of roads and generous-sized lots for the original founding families of Los Angeles.  During this subdivision, Alphonzo conceived and built the Bel Air Country Club and the Bel Air Beach Club, completed in the mid-1920’s.  Alphonzo and his wife, Minnewa Shoemaker Bell traveled extensively, in grand style replete with limousines and a governess.  While in Italy and France, Minnewa was inspired to name the streets of Bel Air and to this day the names remain. She became involved in the community, upholding her husband’s vision and formed the Bel Air Garden Club dedicated to maintaining the beauty of the gardens and the surrounding community.  The enclave continued to flourish and in 1945, construction began on the now-famed Bel Air Hotel.

There is an exclusive and private air in Bel Air and the illusion of grandeur is present.  Less known is the civic-minded and charitable heritage that Alphonzo Bell and his family continued. Alphonzo Bell left the larger share of his wealth to various charities – including Occidental College, UCLA, the L.A. Presbyterian Church and other charitable organizations. His son, Alphonzo Jr., served in Congress for eight terms and was reputed to be fair-minded and honest.  Somehow, I am comforted by the knowledge that this elite neighborhood of homes and homeowners had a balanced legacy of giving back to the community and a meaningful interest in the preservation of the natural environment.

Home of hit TV show "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"

Home of hit TV show “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”

Today, Bel Air upholds the tradition of single-family residences. Multi-family dwellings (apartment or condo buildings) are prohibited.  Truly, the estates of Bel Air etched in the hills above Sunset appear regal.  In fact, to enter Bel Air, cars still ride through now-faux gates on Sunset Boulevard. There are no guards or qualifications needed to enter but the representation of the old iron gates makes one feel as though the property is private or as I like to think, I’ve been invited!

Restaurant inside Bel Air Hotel

Restaurant inside Bel Air Hotel

Aside from the homes and gardens, the Hotel Bel Air captures Bel Air’s essence.  When I was much younger, I was almost afraid to walk into the Bel Air Hotel as though two guards would pick me up, one at each elbow, and escort me out for not being a hotel guest!  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  This is a simply gorgeous property where everyone is friendly and welcoming.  Yes, it fits with the allure of Bel Air. The hotel is secluded, private, and intimate in nature, but with an understated accessible elegance too.

Less staid and more fun are the facts about Bel Air relating to the television and movie industries.  The facades of homes in Bel Air reached millions of Americans on their little screens when the Beverly Hillbillies was TV’s most popular program.  The exterior shots for the show occurred around 750 Bel Air Road.  Other shows and movies followed (The Rockford Files, Get Shorty, and recently House of Cards).  According to the Bel Air Association’s website, filming is invited as long as guidelines and permits are in order.  Just saying!

 

WHO is in Bel Air?

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

Perhaps the question should be, “Who WAS in Bel Air?   My reflexive response would be Elizabeth Taylor! She was emblematic to me of Bel Air’s secluded grandeur.  Her house at 700 Nimes Road was the house I was determined to glimpse when I moved here in 1995.  Many celebrities of her stature and some of questionable repute have lived or currently do live in Bel Air. You can categorize as you see fit.  To name a few – President and First Lady Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Meg Ryan, Rudolph Valentino, Gregory Peck, Jerry Lewis, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alfred Hitchcock, Lauren Bacall, Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, Rob Pattinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor. “And the beat goes on, on and on and on.” Oh that reminds me, Sonny and Cher lived in Bel Air!

DINE AT THE TOP:

Bel Air Bar and Grill
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel Air
Vibrato

DINE IN THE MID (range):

Le Chine Wok
Shu

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Communitea and Coffee Cake
Starbucks

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

The Bar and Lounge at the Hotel Bel Air
Bel Air Bar and Grill
Vibrato

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

Beverly Glen Marketplace  – shops, restaurants and weekly Farmer’s Market 

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Single Family Residences $1,700, 000

If you land in Bel Air, you’ve landed in the lap of luxury.  The neighborhood exemplifies elegance, rich in charm and wealthy in natural beauty.  The Bel Air Association actively lives out its mission to maintain a safe, beautiful and vital community. If I can’t ever live in Bel Air, you have my permission to spread some of my ashes there.  Just check with the Association first.  I’d hate for you to be escorted out by your elbows.