25 N Sepulveda Blvd,
El Segundo; 800.421.5900
Big Blue Bus;
310 451 5444
310 838 2121; Beverly Hills: 310 272 6611
213 653 5050 L.A. Taxi:
310 204 4833
Celebrity Red Top
310 278 2500.
849 Ocean Avenue 310.393.0486.
22878 Pacific Coast Highway;
Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
2025 Avenue of the Stars; 310-228-1234
Apartments 1001 Third Street
1025 Wilshire Blvd; 310.899.1106
PF Chang's China Bistro 326 Wilshire Blvd; 310.395.1912
Traveler walked out of the cinema in disgust once again.
And yet he had an epiphany.
He had just seen the latest in a series—an unending series—of bad movies. What wonderful news: Hollywood moguls obviously were buying up bad scripts. There was hope for Traveler. Okay, so he always wanted to direct; but how hard could it be to write a ba-a-a-ad script? Traveler figured he could do it in his sleep. But to make this work he had to go out to L.A.
This is his story.
A late night landing in LA. Had to change planes in Salt Lake. Great aerial views of the moon and the gob-smacking, spooky architecture of the outrageous Mormon Temple, though. Bone-weary from two flights, a week of bad packing and frantic getting-ready-to-go errands, Traveler doesn't want to think about a car rental tonight. Thanks to the sweet Hacienda hotel, you don't have to, either.
`Only one mile from LAX with a constant, complimentary 24-hour shuttle, the Hacienda really will pick you up, no matter what time you get in. They'll also take you back to LAX, or to three shopping centers, (including Target), for free.
Softly glowing Internet pictures of a pretty hotel entrance—its muted
golds, oranges, terracotta, a bubbling fountain glowing nicely at night,
Spanish tiles—lured traveler. Traveler was not disappointed. At the
lobby entrance arriving and departing guests find a choice of chilled
waters—one with fresh limes, the other pink grapefruit. The welcoming
staff has a reassuring air of alert grace. They don't try to upsell, nag
or hustle you, as expensive hotels do.
The man at reception offered a choice of rooms and Traveler flipped a coin. Room 1873 it was. There's even a green stripe along the hallway walls to direct you to the other Tower, just in case you're hallucinating after a 16-hour flight. Eighth floor. Eight is the Chinese number for good luck. Pleasant room. Standard LA motel theme, cream and muted earth tones, with a few typical LA Spanish Revival touches, and a box of tissues. The top tissue was folded into a rose. Sweet. Mi corazon!
Ordered up a couple of extra pillows. Arrived in five minutes. Last outpost of literate civilization—stationery in the room!!! Huge comfy armchair and two chairs at a nice cherry desk. Bed fine. Slept like a rock. OK, no double-glazing, so you do hear the early morning planes. Not a big deal if you're coming from the East; six a.m. L.A. Time feels like 9:00 a.m. in New York. Nice piece of soap in the tiled bath and lots of room for your stuff, hair dryer, iron and board, coffee maker and (good, Supremo) coffee in-room, WiFi. Big full length mirror – pilots and flight crews have to check themselves out, fellas.
Other amenities: good gift shop and newspapers, a $5 parking fee a day – no car, no problem—excellent pool and Jacuzzi, fitness room, a library, coffee shop, bar, restaurants (and Rudy's buffet) pleasant meetings spaces (Kiwanis was there), mailbox outside, a coin-op laundry room (not working the day Traveler visited), or they'll send it out and back same day. You're opposite a 24-hour Ralph's supermarket, a Starbucks and a little strip mall.
The Mariposa Coffee Shop, part of the Hacienda, is not a gussied-up,
pretentious restaurant but an honest-to-god coffee shop, with a nice
mixture of locals and guests. A hand-painted mural of pink
bougainvilleas graces the wall, with butterflies and blue tiles. Two
poached eggs, excellent hash browns and toast and coffee, a bottle of
Tabasco – perfecto.
For more information about the Hacienda Hotel, call 800.421.5900 or click here.
There are public buses to take you to LA and Santa Monica for a few quarters if you're scrimping, don't drive, or like to keep it green. The Big Blue Bus #3 runs between the airport and downtown Santa Monica every day for 75 cents (25 cents for seniors and disabled). And there are other public buses to take you back and forth to the airport as well.
The catch: you have to take a free airport shuttle bus from LAX to the transit center at Parking Lot C first. No biggie: the shuttles to Parking Lot C go round and round the airport baggage claim areas all the time. It's only a few minutes to make this connection, but it's a drag if you're lugging a suitcase full of books. For 75 cents, though, it's worth it, and it's only about 30 minutes from the transit center at Parking Lot C into Santa Monica proper. For more info, click here, , or call 310 451 5444.
Compare this with a taxi to Santa Monica, about $30-$35, plus tip. Or a shuttle van at about $22 plus tip, one-way. A limo to Malibu will set you back $150. Hah.
Doing L.A. without a car? Yes, you can. The other number you need to know is the MTA. Their buses go all over the place, and there are some subways, too. Traveler took the 534 bus from Santa Monica to Malibu for $1.25. Buses require exact change and all MTA timetables are online or call 1 800 266 6883 or 213 626 4455.
Need a taxi? Yellow: 310 838 2121, Beverly Hills: 310 272 6611,
United: 213 653 5050, L.A. Taxi: 310 204 4833, and Celebrity Red Top:
310 278 2500.
On Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue at the corner of Idaho you'll find a nondescript but pleasant building. Step inside, but make sure you hold onto your socks... because they're in danger of being knocked off—it's too gorgeous.
Open with The Room: Suite 302.
Yeah, this is the kind of room an enterprising screenwriter on the way up (you know, like Traveler) could settle into. It has VIP written all over it (In calm pastel tones, of course).
Some walls are a soft yellow, with white ceilings and highlights. The bedroom's pale blue walls capture, the hotel explains, the "complementary orange . . . Santa Monica sunsets." But Traveler insists the blue echoes the blue of the ocean. Yes, gazing through bedroom and sitting room windows while curtains luff and flap in the breeze, you can see Ocean Avenue, the beach and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
The suite's a study in opulent grace, lovely and relaxing. Tasteful touches abound: seashells, banyan bonsai, 50" plasma TV. The guest rooms and suites circle a courtyard which has, as its centerpiece, a heart-shaped heated pool, maintained at a constant 84° throughout the year. At night the hotel logo glows up from the bottom of the pool. Outdoor tables blur the distinction between inside and poolside; a lounge with open doors adjoins the pool.
The lounge itself is beachy, with its white, wood-slatted ceiling, tile floor and pale pink walls. Fresh flowers adorn the tables. Outside, you see Ocean Avenue while you sip your cranberry juice. Traveler saw a man walking two dogs along the beach and wondered: could that be Spielberg? Hey, you never know.
Alas, breakfast is the weakest link in this excellent hotel and is not worth waking up for. Buffet, you say? Cold luncheon meat and cheese? Oh, puh-leeze. That Traveler can get anywhere, and better. Vegetarians will be startled, then turned off, by the way bacon and potatoes are thoughtlessly thrown in together, side by side, in the same heated stainless steel bin. Could this be happening in California? And you'd expect to see some sliced papaya or avocado lying around in a classy joint like this, not the usual sad bin of tough, dressed-up scrambled eggs. Traveler split an unremarkable $16 herbed omelet and its miserable, lackluster companions, nine (very small) potato chunks. Skipped the ludicrously overpriced coffee. One ray of sunshine was one server: Johnny Diaz. He was quick, helpful and affable and couldn't do enough, while other servers stood around staring into space, studiously ignoring customers.
The families Traveler spoke with love this hotel, returning again and
again. Their secret: they only book rooms with kitchenettes. If you do
so, and you'll want to if you're staying for more than one night,
remember that Whole Foods and other grocers (and please, even a
McDonalds is friendlier than this) are a long hike away.
Dining out? Better bring your Zagats. Whoever answered the hotel Concierge phone recommended the Gate of India restaurant for lunch. Big mistake! As Traveler later learned, the Gate is notorious among curry connoisseurs in Santa Monica for being the Gate to Hell. Don’t ask!
For more information about the Oceana Hotel, call 310.393.0486 or click here..
It was apparent to Traveler that to make it in the movie game, he had to show he could think the deep thoughts. It was time to go to Malibu Beach, stare pensively into the sea and ponder whatever the heck it was he was supposed to ponder.
Malibu—" the Bu" to you—is a perfect 27 miles of coastline facing, oddly, south. The rising and setting sun doesn't even sock you in the eyeball here. Malibu has mountains, canyons, forests, all sorts of wildlife, beaches, and a pier, which is about ¼ mile north of the hotel—easily walkable—and Surfriders Beach, one of the rare spots accessible to the public and where Gidget fell for Moondoggie in the beloved Gidget books and films.
And Malibu, of course, is a well-known "celeb ghetto." You hear about all the people who live or lived here (Steven Spielberg, U2, Mel Gibson, Pierce Brosnan, Dick Van Dyke, Barbra Streisand, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Harold Lloyd, Ronald Coleman, Clara Bow, and on and on and on) but you don't always hear about how many of the world's most celebrated architects did—and are still doing—houses here: Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, John Lautner, Mark Mack, Edward P. D'Andrea, Robert A.M. Stern, Richard Meier, Frank Israel, and more. People out here can afford to hire the best. (In 2003 a parcel of five 40-foot lots on Carbon Beach sold for $65 million.) Why do stars, moguls and zillionaires tend to cluster here? Sweet seclusion, for one.
It is still secluded today, though easily accessible. (In June 1929 the old Roosevelt Highway was officially opened up from Santa Monica all the way to Oxnard to the North, and renamed the Pacific Coast Highway.)
Frederick Rindge, the original Malibu real estate man, who bought the original Rancho Malibu acreage (eventually, in 1924, it morphed into the Malibu Film Colony) wrote in 1898:
"Here in these almost holy hills, in this calm and sweet retreat,
protected from the wearing haste of city life, an ennobling stillness
makes the mind ascend to heaven."
Arriving at the Malibu Beach Inn you get the idea—no, the Concept—immediately. Style and discretion rule here. It is a combination that offers sanctuary for body and spirit. Maybe it's the waterfall at the entrance. Maybe it's the original art works hanging on the lobby walls (two Jasper Johns behind the registration desk, David Hockney drawings near the elevators. Maybe it's the in-house iPhone they lend you at registration. Tap the iTouch screen and you connect to the service or amenity you need. Maybe it's the flat screen TV, hanging in the lounge area, It shows endless loops of beach scenes. Ahhhhhh. Ohhhhhhhh. Sorry, CNN. Regrets, ESPN. Relaxation spoken here. But mainly it's because, unless you want something, they know enough to leave you the hell alone. Priceless.
details continue in the room. White orchids flirt with guests throughout
the lobby and in your room as well. And—how's this for karma?—the room
Traveler was given at Malibu Beach Inn was 302. This "coincidence" gave
Traveler the shivers. He soon learned that there were only three things
to know about this 302:
The glass-doored balcony
Everything else is frosting—a most delicious frosting.
The room thinks so you don't have to. You can just be. Want coffee?
Leave it to your Keurig Coffeemaker. About to take a meeting and need a
quick blowdry? The room's Hairdryer is an 1875 Andis Ceramic ionic.
The stately, plump bed promises ease. Perhaps it's the Custom Serta Presidential mattress. Or maybe it's the Tempur-Pedic topper. Together they croon, schloff bubbele. When you lie on the bed, you face the balcony. When you look through the clean glass doors, you see nothing more and nothing less than the Pacific Ocean—timeless, deep and infinite.
View from glass wall, Malibu Beach Inn
The room itself is your living room on the beach, your window on the
Pacific Ocean. And it offers comfort and ease through the accumulation
of gracious details. Built-ins and recesses. Wall-mounted LG HDTV is
A-OK. A dark wood desk with slide-out tray for your laptop. Vaulted pine
ceiling. Walls are cream, with a soupcon of lemon. If you want the glow
and mystery from the glass-enclosed fireplace, just touch a switch.
Most of the lighting is recessed. Silent on/off/faders are virtually flush with the walls; a discreet set of track lights hovers above the super-cushy sofa. Baby spotlights mounted on the headboard provide individual illumination for that laid back pre-sleep reading (whether you're looking at the trades or rifling through the book review in search of the next hot property).
For vegetarians, the restaurant has an extremely limited menu (Gordon
Ramsey would be proud): Consider the Pasta Penne Primavera. In this
primavera, vera is the first casualty. there were hardly any vegetables
in it at all and it was inexcusably bland. And as God is our witness,
there was no sour cream for the scrambled eggs, (what do visiting moguls
from New York do?) but this is mostly about room service anyway and
holing up. Down the road apiece there is Nobu, etc.. But Malibu was
never a food destination. Who needs food when you have romance?
For more information about the Malibu Inn, call 310.456.6444or click here.
Located on the Avenue of the Stars, for Pete's sake, next to too-too Beverly Hills, smack in the middle of dealtown, the highly historic Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel felt so right to Traveler. Even the waitresses have their own production companies. The graceful arc-shaped building rose from the site of a 20th Century Fox back lot. It opened its doors on 1 June 1966. Of course it's a Gemini—knows everyone, stays on trend.
Since then, other office and hotel towers have muscled themselves into the neighborhood. Diane Keaton, one fan of the hotel's design, described it as a, ''sexy woman surrounded by ogling men—Sophia Loren in the 1960s.'' This metaphor might make the room you stay in particularly important.
Century City, "the city within a city," is the weird, annoying cluster of looming corporate glass buildings you whiz past a million times when you're on the freeway. Forgettable, ignorable, and to most residents, a mystery to be skipped.
How wrong that would be!
For here is Mecca, Shangri-La, Valhalla, Xanadu – Where It All
Happens, where the multi-million deals get done.
A Mr. William Fox opened the Fox Studio Corporation here in 1915. In 1917, Tom Mix, the great cowboy movie star, joined up—and became a superstar. Mix bought 176 acres between Pico and Santa Monica Boulevards; in 1925 he sold the lot to Mr. Fox. In 1935 Mr. Fox merged his film studio with Mr. Daryl Zanuck's Twentieth Century Pictures to form Twentieth Century Fox.
We know all this because there's a long "secret" tunnel between the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel and the Creative Artist Agency (CAA) building, lined with photographs and the story of Century City. At first glance, it looks like a corporate hagiography, but as you move along the corridor, zig-zagging between the photos, it is easy to become utterly hooked.
The architect Welton Becket was the master planner for the new Century
City. Never heard of him? He did LA's iconic buildings: the Capitol
Tower, the Cinerama Dome, the Theme Building at LAX, the Beverly Hilton,
and UCLA 1948-1968, OK? Other world-class architects joined in:
Skidmore, Owing and Becket; I.M. Pei; and Minoru Yamasaki, who did the
twin buildings behind CAA, and later designed The World Trade Center in
Manhattan. Yamasaki died in 1986; he did not live to see the destruction
of the Twin Towers in 2001.
So by May 1959, we see they've made models for what Time magazine called "a modern acropolis". The entire back lot of Fox, a huge chunk of land, was demolished – neighbors were furious—and Century City was 'born'. Jack Benny moved in, Lana Turner later, etc. Ronald Reagan kept his offices here, at the top of the Fox building for years and had his parties at the Century Plaza hotel, which became known as 'the Western White House". More recently the Democrats had their Obama victory party here – the entire street had to be roped off – while black helicopters hovered above.
A Grand Hotel
The 19-story, 726-room hotel was recently refurbished. It's your normal, gorgeous, anonymous hotel suite with everything you could want as long as it's in beige, tan, cream, putty, dark brown and black. It sports a clean, fresh design that just purrs luxury. The Hyatt "Grand Bed" is fab—the pillows amazing. They are fit company for the 32" LCD HD televisions and the marble baths—and, though Hyatt keeps changing the bottles they come in, you can't beat those Portico goos and gels and 'poos and conditioners. Unlike most hotel chain fare, the Portico products are keepers.
Equinox Fitness Club + Spa offers exclusive fitness equipment; Personal Coaches and Group Fitness classes are available. And you can get 14 types of massage at the Spa,
And hey, let's not forget the infinity edge pool.
Traveler loves big anonymous glossy hotel chains and Hyatt does them to perfection. No one greets you in the morning asking how you slept or where you dined last night—it's just you and the blank screen and the CAA building that makes you want to write that screenplay and sell it to the swirling fins across the Avenue of the Stars. Traveler recommends signing up for the ground level, VIP Regency Club. (It's free for those who stay in the Regency Club rooms.) You can avail yourself of complementary newspapers, coffees (cappuccinos alone are worth the price.), Internet access, cheese, fruits, Pellegrino, yogurt, cereal, crudités, cold cuts, hor d'oeuvres depending on the time of day. It's a great place to invite someone to a working meeting or to play hide-and-snack in comfort.
Room 1050 is in the North Tower, on the convex side of the building
that fades away from the CAA building and all the shark agents who swim
there. Traveler was facing the watery, glassy MGM building. Was it a
sign? Of course Traveler was facing Macy's too and the Westfield
shopping mall (Louis Vuitton, Sephora, Border's, pretty good food court,
great 10 minute massage Qui Gong guys, blah blah, blah.) Wonder if they
house the agents on the convex side?
Drinkin’ And Slinkin’
These days, it's all about the agents. And that takes us to the one, the only X Bar, the ne plus ultra of the bar scene if you want to bump elbows (or more) with the power moguls and agents who make the big bucks deals.
What does X stand for?
X marks the spot? Ecstasy? Excitement? Extra-special? Exhilarating?
Exotica? Probably all of the above. But really the answer lies
Actually, it's a large architectural steel X-shaped cross brace that already was on the site and could not be removed. The architects incorporated it into the room's design and it now separates the bar from the lounge.
X also could stand for a kiss. Which may be why LA scene-makers seem to have quite a love affair going on with the X Bar. It is so California with its shifting-LED lights and glass and flagstones and 4500-sq. ft. patio, complete with fire pits for that casual feel. Indoors, beaucoup cabana-style candle-lit booths line the walls. They're perfect for having a sense of privacy while still being in the center of the scene.
Lovely, make-yourself-at-home-design is a great start but not enough by itself to make a great bar. The drinks are stunning. The team comes up with fresh ideas in magic potions.
There are lots of single malts, fine tequilas and innovative tasty libations such as something called the California Greyhound (with salt and fresh pink grapefruit juice) and a couple of cocktails for only the brave .
This is one place where you might be tempted to mix drinks and try different cocktails (there’s a #5 bus with a friendly bench opposite the X Bar.) These are exquisitely composed cocktails, some with tiny bubbles, some with big ones.
And even the food is intoxicating and the menu veg-friendly.
Traveler sampled the warm tomato mozzarella bruschetta; mushroom and three-cheese (goat, fontina, mozzarella, hold the prosciutto) pizza; trio of fabulous veggie burgers sliders; garlic fries so more-ish really had to keep ordering and eating them. It’s particularly good when coupled with a ginger pear martini. Oh, and there also was a pressed vegetable panini. Yum! Market vegetables, provolone cheese, balsamic aioli on sour dough. It’s embarrassing to say this but the food is so good it could be a dining destination.
Just about everything was just right at the Hyatt Century Plaza and X
Bar—lovely room, great drinks, delish food, hot and cold running agents.
Only one thing was missing. The agents had this thing about wanting to
see the script before pitching anything to their contacts. It was time
for Traveler to move on. For more information, call 310-228-1234 or
French magazine Maison Francaise declared the one-of-a-kind Embassy Hotel Apartments both "the Most Guarded Secret in Santa Monica" and 'the Chateau Marmont at the Beach." This was in a sumptuous, lovingly photographed spread. There you will find a photo of the 1927 elevator button, still in use today, and a caption that reads: "The very slow and very old elevator still functions."
The three questions everyone asks, according to General Manager Josh Bond are:
Who has stayed here? When was it built? And is it haunted?
There seems to be no evidence of the supernatural but the lingering
aura of other-timeness lends a bit of grace and wonderment.
An amazing lush garden at the courtyard entrance may convince you that you’re entering a grand mansion, converted into a lovely hotel. But the historic-landmarked Embassy Hotel Apartments was built as a hotel with 34 rooms and suites in 1927 by a very determined woman.
Naturally the French are crazy about the place, (they loved the Santa Monica light.) but they're not alone. Movie stars, TV writers, pianists, screenwriters, families from Australia, Tahiti, and heaven knows where else, come to stay awhile in this Mediterranean mansion with Spanish influences. Back in the day, movie stars summered here. As to those who come here now? Mum’s the word. We do know that a huge number of television writers and also film stars who write stay here from time to time. We also know that a European psychoanalyst comes here regularly to counsel the very famous. He values the hush-hush atmosphere and comforting discretion. Another shrink spends about 10 days or so every month here to see clients.
No glossy corporate chain hotel, this. As Traveler had just come in from Century City, it took a few hours to get over the shock of sunlight streaming in the room and weird golden slants of light at various times in the lobby.
There are decorative tiles in the lobby. They come from the famous Malibu Potteries and lend the lobby its particularly Mediterranean look. A baby grand Brambach piano sits in a corner of the lobby. (Traveler heard it being played one evening as he approached the hotel.). A menu book, neatly stuffed with menus from every restaurant in town was planted on a table. Oversized windows looked out on a garden. Well-stuffed furniture added to that homey feeling. Look at the wall tiles in the lobby and obserbe the impact of a tectonic shift many years ago.
Traveler stayed in 211, a one-bedroom studio suite. It was spacious and gracious. Vintage posters dressed the cream walls. A dining table in one corner of the living room looked out on the quiet tree-lined street. A small table stood in he fully equipped kitchen. (If you call your order in ahead of time, the hotel will have groceries waiting for you when you arrive.) A huge, walk-in closet makes you just want to overpack and stay forever. (Actually the hotel does have its share of long-term tenants.) There are antiques throughout the suite and, in fact, throughout the hotel. They were purchased on various buying trips by the owners.
"They built the rooms so big," sighed beautiful blond Birgitta Farinelli, the Swedish hotel manager who happens to speak seven languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, German, French, Spanish and English). It will probably be she who takes your phone call.
Huge, old-fashioned rooms, with screened windows and banana palms flapping outside; baths and showers enclosed in pentagonal glass (Soap: Bath and Body Works Pleasures coconut lime verbena infused with real coconut extract); mirrored vanity coves for applying makeup before going out to greet all those 'little people in the dark;". spacious, fully stocked kitchens; old push-button phones (the heavy ones you wish you still had); huge oomphy pillows; little balconies; birdies chirping in the garden in the morning; a grand home away from home. There are even washing machines in the basement.
Two-bedroom suite 307 sleeps five. Its little balcony offers view of a beautiful red bottlebrush tree outside. Studio 303 just down the line has a king size bed, and very attractive kitchen. Through its window you can see palm trees and mountains.
The hotel’s location puts it close to a Whole Foods, a PF Chang’s and
Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade with its assortment of restaurants
and shops. You can also take a longer walk to El Cholo, a venerable
Mexican restaurant. You’ll love the nachos and margaritas.
Speaking of location, the Embassy is a short walk to the bus stop that takes you back to LAX. Have your 75 cents fare ready, please. Thank you very much
It's weird, on reflection, how the more human and humbler hotels tend
to be so thoughtful and generous with their guests. Traveler started off
at the Hacienda LAX, where there are washing machines, lovely scented
ice water, tissues shaped into roses, and ended up at the legendary
Embassy in Santa Monica, where there are, again, washing machines for
weary travelers, generous Italian coffees in the coffeemaker, beautiful
gardens, a piano you can play in the large and atmospheric, Spanish
revival lobby, and so much room to float around in. It all made sense.
No wonder screenwriters set up camp here. This is home but without the distractions. Screenwriters come to work on scripts and live here for weeks one end.
For more information, about the Embassy Hotel Apartments, call or
Third Street Promenade at night
Traveler booted up his laptop. He looked through the window at the palm fronds waving in the slight breeze. When he was sure the cursor was winking at him, he brought his fingers to the keyboard.
A tall, handsome man with a faraway look n his eye that is both commanding and sensitive saunters out of a movie theater. He shakes his head in disgust. He is about to start a hero’s journey.