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Raffles L?Ermitage: Quiet Elegance in a Sea of Hype
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

Raffles L?Ermitage front
Raffles L?Ermitage is only one of three luxury hotels in America known as "Favorite Place to Stay" in a recent Travel & Leisure Magazine survey.
Beverly Hills, CA - Beverly Hills 90210 with an over-abundance of sunshine, a parade of movie stars with dark glasses and outrageous hats pulled down just enough to conceal identities, Rolls Royces and Bentleys in significantly more numbers than Mustangs and Maximas, shopping for the outrageously extravagant on Rodeo Drive, lots of converstion laden with "love you baby, love you," "lets do lunch some time soon," "expecting a call from Spielberg any minute" and a plethora of cell phone mania with unknown people at the other end. Movie producer wannabes with their "nieces," "cousins," "granddaughters" and/or paramours parading about at the Beverly Hills Hotel with paid for pages on cue. The real and the imagined pranced about in my mind as I checked into the Raffles L?Ermitage for my one-day Beverly Hills energizer tour.

Actually, it all began when I met, and befriended, the mayor of Beverly Hills, Thomas Levyn (in New York, Philadelphia or Chicago that would be Levine or Levin), representatives of most of the luxury hotels and the public relations agency that handles the Beverly Hills account some months ago at a press luncheon. Conversation concerning a forthcoming trip to California (northern and southern) for two weeks starting on Christmas day was the precursor to the hospitality then accorded me, starting with accommodations at the Raffles L?Ermitage. OK, you do not frequent the same parties I do (do you?) but there has to be a beginning to every story and this is mine. You now have to work on your own or learn from mine as you plan your next trip to the west coast.

Beverly Hills is a 5.7 square mile city with 33,000 residents and 200,000 daytime visitors, over 900 retailers (more than 100 on Rodeo Drive alone) and, of course, is the Mecca for the world of entertainment, from movies to music, radio and TV.

Having been awarded the AAA 5-Diamond and Mobil Travel Guide 5- Star rating for 2004, Raffles L?Ermitage is only one of three luxury hotels in America known as "Favorite Place to Stay" in the 2002 Travel & Leisure Magazine survey. Conde Nast Traveler Gold List calls the hotel a "Top 25 North American Hotel" and it is worth pointing out that Raffles International spent $60 million to transform the old L?Ermitage into its present caste and setting. They provide personal stationary, business cards and a private, direct telephone number for every room (to bypass the hotel operator). three pre-set climate and lighting contrasts for each guest while one button at your bed will simply turn everything on and off except, naturally, yourself. Put your key into the lock and everything is re-set to your preference.

Every room features English sycamore paneling and maple wood furnishings with a silk sham on the platform bed. There is a Mitsubishi 40- inch screen TV, DSL & wireless internet access, Bose speakers, audio/video DVD/CD player, a copier/printer/fax machine; 4 multi-line (3) telephones; Aveda bathroom amenities and more. If you plan ahead you can ask for a room (one of 111 plus 13 suites) with French doors and a private balcony overlooking the street below...700 square feet with a living room, work area, sitting area, walk-in closet and vanity area. OK, how much? Try $450 a night. Not the Holiday Inn or Motel Six prices but you have to step out every now and then.

Raffles L?Ermitage pool
Raffles L?Ermitage offers a heated roof-top pool with a view.
Although only a few blocks from Rodeo Drive, the surroundings were quiet and you never feel like you are in the midst of the turmoil and the hubbub that accompanies the usual atmosphere of a "city hotel." There was a limo available to take guests to any part of Beverly Hills - very nice and in accord with lifestyles of the rich and famous for however long you are able to enjoy it. And, when the skies opened a bit bringing some rain upon us. there was the instant offering of a Raffles "golf size" umbrella which I would not suggest accompanying you home unless you are prepared to see the cost of same on your bill. In a style to which one would easily like to become accustomed, it was nice to note that the doorman had a sufficient memory bank and year of experience as he called me by name each time I entered or left the hotel. It was, of course, always the case with the operator and front desk but the former had the advantage of the computer screen with each contact, as is the case with most major resorts and hotels in this age of high-technology.

For pleasure or business, as the moment demands, there is the roof top fitness center, spa and heated outdoor rooftop pool and complimentary DSL computer next to the concierge desk available on a 24-hour basis. Nicely, there is no charge for high speed Internet access throughout the hotel nor is there one for 800 calls. to your office or colleagues.. Contrary to other places I have visited on recent trips, it was pleasant to see that the soft drinks and water in the mini-bar were also complimentary. Additionally, there is a 24-hour flexible check in/check out policy so you can check in at 8:00 PM and you have until p.m. the next day (24 hours) to check out with some elasticity afforded you if you need it.

If you have the time, and the pocketbook, it is probably worth making a reservation at the Jaan Restaurant (Sanskrit word for dish or bowl) to see what Chef Lopez has prepared for that evening. The cuisine is French- inspired with a blending of what can best be described as modern California flavors.

There is a very thorough dedication to quality service at Raffles L?Ermitage and a great deal of attention to the "little things" that rank it among my top five of those I have visited over the years in 141 countries.

Time permitting, it is worth stopping in to see Dennis Overstreet at the Wine Merchant of Beverly Hills (310-278-7322). I have known Dennis for more years than either of us care to remember and, over that period of time, and beyond, he has come to be known as the "wine merchant to the stars." He does have a new wine shop and restaurant in Newport Beach and The Wine Spectator named him one of the top 100 most influential people in the wine industry.

It is also worth considering BOX - the Beverly Hills Ambassadors, who are the official docents for the Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau. Ask about the four-hour walking tour showcasing the culture and history of Beverly Hills. Visitors pay $80 for the four hours that will likely take you to the Regent Beverly Wilshire discussing and seeing, as you stroll, shopping, history and architecture of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. After that, I suggest you continue with the 40-minute narrated trolley tour that departs from Rodeo & Dayton ($5 adults, $1 children under 12) - just make sure it is not raining that afternoon.


Ron Kapon is seeking wine tasters for the New York Tasters Guild. Please go to www.tastersguildny.com or email him at Ron@tastersguildny.com.