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WESTERN TRAVEL | SLEEPOVER

Hip and chic move next to the airport

October 16, 2005|Mary McNamara | Times Staff Writer

THE new Belamar Hotel, on Sepulveda Boulevard a few miles south of LAX, is positioning itself as the new hot spot of L.A.'s hip, chic elite. Subsequently, the lobby is cast in glass and chrome, with strange Barbie-ish portraits on the walls and fey electronic music playing. The rooms are done in that blue-gray favored by movie art directors trying to establish "cool" in an opening shot.

My experience with the hip, chic elite is limited, but I do know one thing: They tend to shy away from hotels on Sepulveda Boulevard a few miles south of LAX.

Bunking down: We got a tranquillity room, so named because it overlooks "the garden" -- actually a very large and nice patio, ideal for a party, which would call into slight question the term "tranquillity." Other options were suites or "skyline views," which overlook Sepulveda or a less-hectic side street. Loved the old-fashioned brushed-nickel telephones and the tall, comfortable bed. The toiletries were tres European -- I had picked up the same Hydro Basics shampoo/body gel in Cannes, France -- and the towels, sheets and bathrobes all had high thread counts as promised. But the 400-square-foot room felt small by American boutique hotel standards -- fine for any activity that actually involved the king-size bed but not much else.

Hanging around: The Belamar sits on an odd triangular lot that used to house the venerable Barnabey's Hotel. The site obviously presented some design issues that architect Bill Burch accommodated as gracefully as possible in the $9-million remodel. The lobby is small, cool and sleek to the point of discomfort; people waiting for their cars didn't sit on the sofas and chairs so much as perch.

The patio, on the other hand, is lovely, with deep, comfy furniture and a good ratio of sun to shade. However, the decision to tuck the pool into its own little glass-topped room, complete with faux fireplace, is downright strange. The setup is too claustrophobic.

Vibe, the bar-restaurant, fares much better, with plenty of room everywhere and a dance floor that actually looks inviting.

Going out: Manhattan Beach in all its glory is just a few miles away, a bit far to walk, a hassle if you're trying to park the car in high season. A jogging trail runs alongside the hotel almost to the beach. We brought bikes to explore the coast from Redondo Beach to Venice.

Peeves and perks: For a hotel that bills itself as a spa, the workout room is underwhelming. It's a hotel room with a few machines and free weights that begin at 20 pounds. Parking costs $18 a day, which they might as well just incorporate into the room rate; that would seem more straightforward. Room service, however, is fairly quick, and breakfast in the restaurant was great (though the poor fellow next to us ordered pancakes only to be told there was no syrup). Everyone was nice and eager to please, if a bit unsure of how to work the computers and find syrup.

The Belamar Hotel, 3501 Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach; (310) 750-0300, www.thebelamar.com. Doubles from $145.

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