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The Best of the Best 2003: Hotels – Hotel Bel-Air

Hotel Bel-Air is not for those seeking the hip Hollywood or California beach scenes. On the contrary, since the 1940s it has been a favorite sanctuary of heads of state, corporate executives, and celebrities who prefer complete seclusion, guaranteed privacy, and attentive service in a gorgeous setting.

The grounds burst with ferns, flowers, and fountains. Wisteria blooms over the rooftops, and a lake at the entrance is home to two much-indulged swans. Each of the 92 spacious guest rooms—all updated and redecorated this past year—feels like an estate, with back and front entrances, a private garden, a Jacuzzi, and a wood-burning fireplace.

The quiet refinement continues in the piano bar and in the restaurant, which is elegant and formal (jackets are required). New teak chaises, draped with the hotel’s signature plush pink beach towels, surround the famous oval pool. All that is missing from the picture is Marilyn Monroe. As a nod to 21st-century priorities, her favorite suite was converted into a fitness center.

Hotel Bel-Air, 310.472.1211, www.hotelbelair.com

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