Come out of the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel, and you cross Wilshire to find yourself, immediately, on Rodeo Drive. Here you are, in the most famous shopping street in the whole wide world (fancy having a luxury hotel so placed!). Rodeo Drive goes back to 1769 when California was part of Mexico. The local people, the Tongva, thought this was a holy area because of its water, and abundant food supply. They called it ‘gathering of the waters’, or El Rodeo de las Aguas. Today it is a gathering of the top retail brands imaginable and unimaginable. The gal found masses of old friends, say Porsche Design.
Some of the windows are frankly boring. Tom Ford’s has lifesize gold ‘figures’ with Medusa-like hair. Peer hard and you can see arrays of eye-glasses, Tom Ford of course, stuck in the hair as decorations on a Christmas tree. Other displays are cleverly functional. Rimowa is flanked by Dior, and has chosen simply to display its superb suitcases, but in a myriad of different colours – funnily enough there do not seem to be any Porsche Design cases in there but perhaps they are in the Porsche Design shop. As I expected, the street itself is spotless, but I had not imagined that the flower beds around the base of the street’s (manicured) palm trees would be perfect white cyclamen, real of course.
The Dior displays are truly creative. They show figures, flying in space and designed to be old-fashioned secretaries using last-century push-button typewriters, the sort you got your finger nails caught in. A flurry of gold-backed sheets of paper appear to fly through space. Clever. Dolce & Gabbana show brightly coloured travel trunks. Jimmy Choo has bright coloured shoes, of course. Van Cleef & Arpels oozes luxury with its goldleaf-decorated wrought-iron filigree panels set outside its store, fortunately too high for passers-by to nick. Question, what will happen to retail addicts when the Beverly Hills marathon takes place on Sunday March 17th, 2013? Do the shops close?
Salvatore Ferragamo shows shoes in a kaleidoscope of colours, while Ermenegildo Zegna goes for day-glo only. There are as many stores for men here as for their ladies, but of course many shoppers head straight for their favourite brand, be it Armani through to Versace. I am glad I am travelling hand-baggage only, and I am glad, too, that the stores do not open until what, to me, is middle of the morning. I make my way to another hotel that is immediately handy for Rodeo Drive, Montage Beverly Hills – younger sibling of the fabulous Montage Laguna Beach.
The luxury hotel world is a network of long-time friends and Frank Bowling is there, at Montage Beverly Hills, as Ambassador. This young man, from Yorkshire in England, was boss of The Carlyle in New York and then transferred to the Hotel Bel-Air here. He became Ambassador at Peninsula Beverly Hills, and now he is greeter here (yes, he says modestly, many of his regular guests have followed him). I am here to see the hotel’s Ten Pound Bar, named because at one time a Scottish bank note featured an engraving of the Macallan Distillery in Craigellachie, Morayshire.
The Macallan Bar, the 2012 best hotel bar in the world according to the Virtuoso travel agent network, is brilliant. You can only get in by punching secret numbers into a pad, which opens a door. Inside there are Lalique lights, and Lalique drinking glasses, and the water is Highland Spring, from Scotland. James Bond drinks 50-year old Macallan in Skyfall. Here, The Macallan single malts on offer range up to 60-year old, at $3,200 per shot. But feel good about it. The Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group, which also has Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse. Edrington Group, in turn, is owned by three Robertson sisters, Elspeth, Agnes and Ethel, whose Robertson Trust in 2012 gave its entire £11.4 million net profit to charity. Enjoy a wee dram in this luxury hotel and your money does good.