Dispatch, L.A. 2: A tale of two luxury hotels

hollywoodREBECCAtopstoryTravel Weekly Managing Editor Rebecca Tobin is spending several days in Los Angeles for business and pleasure in one of her favorite U.S. cities.

After thinking over my one night in the ultra-hidden, sweetly romantic Hotel Bel-Air and my one night in the modern, smart London Hotel on the Sunset Strip, I've discovered how to sum up the difference: the electrical outlets.

The Bel-Air has none to spare. In my room, the outlets were hidden behind a chair, under a table or occupied by a lamp cord.

My room at the London has so many accessible outlets that I dare you to bring enough gadgets to use them all. One bare wall had three sets.

That tells you what you need to know about the London's clientele.

The Bel-Air was built before everyone traveled with phones and computers in need of recharging. Guests here come to unwind and hide -- glamorously, of course -- from the daily blare of life and technology.

LADispatch3-HotelBelAirThe hotel is so hidden from view that my friend, an Angeleno who knows many nooks and crannies of the city (she volunteers at the Los Angeles Conservancy), had to Google-map the place. Even then we got lost.

Once you pull into the entrance, where the name of the hotel is spelled out in gently swooping cursive, it's all deference and hushed tones, gently tinkling fountains, swans in the front pond and gorgeous foliage everywhere -- plus a view of the Orion constellation on the way back to the room and the most delicious passionfruit tea you've had in your life.

The London, on the other hand, is built for the here and now, for the traveler arriving with a BlackBerry and iPod and laptop -- all needing to be charged and used at the same time.

The brand is stamped on the hotel in tall, uppercase letters, and the room is a modern mix of sharply tailored elements and luxurious touches -- marble counters, down duvets (in bright white), deep-blue and grey accents, dark woods.

The lights have dimmer switches and the bathroom light comes on as you approach the door. It is sophisticated. And the view from the guest room's balcony -- the Hollywood Hills stretching to downtown L.A. -- is astounding.

LADispatch3-HotelBelAirAt the Bel-Air I overheard a gentleman at the bar talking about how he planned to stay at the hotel for business. His tone suggested that there was no other alternative. The London has been open only since April, so it hasn't been able to engender the same kind of loyalty as the 60-year-old Bel-Air.

It's definitely not an either-or proposition.

Both properties offer a delicious pool setting for guests who want to relax. The Bel-Air's pool is ringed with palm fronds and bougainvilleas, while the London's is on the 10th floor and affords an amazing view of Los Angeles.

Both properties offer free Internet service. Both have iPod docking stations.

Both properties are centrally located; they're within 15 minutes of each other.

And both properties have super-friendly employees. I was simply charmed by the Bel-Air's staff. And the London's staff was friendly, competent and accommodating. One bellman was so pleasant that I regret giving him only a better-than-average tip.

My favorite thing about the Bel-Air was the private courtyard attached to the room (No. 140, part of a three-unit bungalow). The courtyard had a wrought-iron table and chairs, perfect for breakfast with a copy of the Times (Los Angeles or New York).

The London's most decadent offering turned out to be its bathroom, a dimly-lit, mosaic-tiled grotto with a soaking tub and two showers. It was so big that I was sure I was going to get lost.

Turns out you can relax just about anywhere. As long as you know your computer is charging somewhere nearby.

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