There’s luxury and then there is ultimate luxury — where you want for nothing. When you translate ultimate luxury into a travel experience, iconic brands like Bentley and Hotel Bel-Air are definitely a part of the equation.
I was recently approached by Bentley Motors Limited to test-drive a Bentley for a few days in order to experience the ultimate in luxury. But what would I do with my Bentley that would be deserving of an iconic luxury travel experience?
When I think of a Bentley, the stodgy British motor company from my childhood comes to mind. But then I wondered, who drives a Bentley in present day? The first person who came to mind was Lisa Vanderpump of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” But she’s not the only one. Apparently the Bentley is the car of choice of everyone from royalty (Prince William has one) to the music industry (Simon Cowell, Spice Girl Mel B, Cher, and a host of rappers and DJs drive them) to actors, actresses, and even those who somewhat defy clarification like Kim Kardashian who has been spotted in one (more about Kim later).
Everyone knows I’m a big fan of luxury travel, having worked at The Leading Hotels of the World. So how would I experience the ultimate in luxury travel with a Bentley? I decided to take my Bentley on a luxurious road trip to Beverly Hills and recreate an experience one might have if they were, say, a “Real Housewife” in Beverly Hills. And there’s no more iconic hotel to stay in that exudes luxury the Hotel Bel-Air.
Once the Bentley was delivered — I was given a 2016 Candy Apple Red Mulsanne Speed with a sticker price of over $400,000 — I set about checking out the automobile. I quickly realized the place to be in a Bentley is the back seat, as this is where ultimate luxury rides.
This car is amazing. The back seat was, if not more, than equally spacious as the front. It is meant for an executive to be driven around in and while the chauffeur negotiates traffic, you can take care of business from working on the iPads that are securely stowed inside what would be the tray table area on an airplane seat to enjoying a glass of champagne from the little mini fridge which keeps the crystal champagne flutes properly chilled. Everything one could need is here. Keep tabs on the market from the iPads or watch a DVD to relax on the video screens also tucked into the back of the front seat, and listen silently with the headphones provided. The back seat even features recliner options, seat warmers, lights, climate control, music, you name it. There is simply nothing this car cannot do — well, perhaps bake bread. But, then again, you can drive to a great bakery for that. Take, for example, Bouchon.
My Real Housewives of Beverly Hills-style excursion began with Sunday brunch at Bouchon of Beverly Hills. While this noted Beverly Hills hot spot is crazy busy on a Saturday evening, Sunday mornings bring about a more civilized Zen atmosphere where those who brunch can do so in a more quiet, relaxed atmosphere. It’s a great way to start a Beverly Hills luxury getaway weekend and sit outside under an umbrella on the second floor and enjoy the temperate California climate.
After brunch and some window-shopping on Rodeo Drive, my husband and I took our Bentley to hotel heaven: the stunning Hotel Bel-Air. This 12-acre estate is located in a wooded canyon near Beverly Hills. It is truly amazing that this tranquil paradise is actually situated in the center of Los Angeles. Once you are inside the property and cross the little bridge past the swans, you hear nothing but the twittering of birds, the rustle of palm fronds, and the droplets of a nearby fountain. The hotel underwent a two-year refurbishment from 2009 to 2011 and what emerged is a retreat that is second to none.
We were given a patio suite with our own living room, dining area, master bedroom, two bathrooms, and a plunge pool. The room décor was stunning and the modern technology and amenities were nothing short of amazing. An in-room iPad and modern phone system helped control everything at the touch of your fingertips. You could do everything from managing the climate control to ordering room service without ever lifting the telephone receiver. The hotel room was very smartly designed with an electric plug inside the room safe so you can charge your electronics while keeping them safely stowed. And the master bath featured an electronic toilet with built-in bidet that was pampering at its best. The plush bathrobes and television inside the master bath mirror were just some other added benefits to help guests relax, unwind, and want for nothing.
Upon unpacking, we decided it was time to check out the stunning grounds and find a place for a relaxing afternoon drink. We walked just down the secluded garden path from our room to the Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air restaurant to inquire with the hostess about the best place to have a cocktail and sit outside. As we were chatting, Kim Kardashian walked past us, escorting her daughter, North West, to the ladies room. No one looked up or even noticed. This is just the kind of place the Hotel Bel-Air is. You can relax, let your hair down, and just be, celebrity or not. No one was treated any differently.
We found a beautiful spot at the Bar & Lounge and sat by open doors enjoying cocktails and the lovely sounds of the garden. It was so relaxing and enjoyable, it was easy to see why a lot of locals make this their hangout on a Sunday afternoon.
Not wanting to leave the haven of the Hotel Bel-Air and deal with Los Angeles traffic, we opted for dinner at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Sunday evening dinner here was busier than we expected but, once again, in true Bel-Air style, the ambiance was incredibly relaxing sitting on the outside patio with the heat lamps warming the air. We opted for Chef Puck’s signature Marcho Farm’s Veal “Wiener Schnitzel” with Marinated Fingerling Potatoes, Dill Cucumber Salad, and Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil and were not disappointed. The service, like the hotel itself, was impeccable, attentive yet not intrusive, and incredibly efficient.
Breakfast the following morning was equally spectacular, with undoubtedly the best Eggs Benedict I have ever enjoyed. Coming from someone who has dined on many incarnations of Eggs Benedict around the world, the “H.B.A Benedict” featured Poached Organic Eggs, White Cheddar Biscuit, Maple Hollandaise, and Tomato Jam, and this storied breakfast staple was quickly elevated to brilliant new heights.
The Hotel Bel-Air offers guests the luxury of enjoying the quiet grounds, relaxing in your own plunge pool or at the hotel’s lovely outdoor pool, indulging in spa treatments, or simply sitting and doing nothing at all.
Following a morning meandering around the grounds, no Real Housewives of Beverly Hills-style getaway would be complete without a visit to Lisa Vanderpump’s own Villa Blanca Restaurant. Set on a busy corner in the heart of Beverly Hills, we stopped for a quick photo with the Bentley (Lisa’s was nowhere in site) before heading inside for lunch.
The ambiance is incredibly romantic, all done up in white with white curtains facing outward to the street to block the sun for the outdoor tables. Inside featured predominantly white furniture, Lisa’s beloved roses and vases of flowers, and pops of elegant colors here and there. The service was friendly and attentive and the food was incredible. The risottos are always a great choice and you simply cannot miss out on the English Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert.
All too soon, our luxurious weekend in Beverly Hills was drawing to a close. We decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway back to our home in Orange County. The Bentley, of course, being a dream to drive equally along the PCH as it was on the freeways, made the coastal views to our right absolutely stunning.
We made one last stop at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel for a decadent lunch at Raya. Our Bentley was well taken care of by the valet staff who parked it in a prime position out front for everyone to ogle. “I’ve never seen a Bentley in that amazing color,” a few valet drivers had said to us over the weekend. It was truly eye-catching and a wonderful look for a car of this caliber.
If luxury is what you are after, you simply can’t do better than a Bentley AND the Hotel Bel-Air. Luxury travel at its best for any New Yorker who has a taste for the finer things in life.