Take off to a na­ture sanc­tu­ary

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - VIR­GINIA JEAL­OUS

AFTER­nav­i­gat­ing the rigours of ar­rival and im­mi­gra­tion at Los An­ge­les air­port, walk­ing into the re­laxed com­fort of Inn at Playa del Rey feels like com­ing home. Some­one else’s well-cared for, low-key lux­ury home, that is, where the weary trav­eller is made wel­come and ev­ery need an­tic­i­pated and met.

Lo­cated in a hand­some grey and white weath­er­board house, this 21-room bou­tique ho­tel has ev­ery­thing go­ing for it. Af­ter just a five-minute cab ride from the air­port, I am­s­tand­ing in the lounge cum­break­fast room look­ing out over Bal­lona Wet­lands (one of the last sig­nif­i­cant wet­lands in the LA basin), its res­i­dent herons and back­drop of boats head­ing to the ma­rina. I sink into a pleas­antly jet-lagged reverie on the bal­cony, with bird books and binoc­u­lars (both pro­vided) to hand. Ar­rive late af­ter­noon and the wel­come in­cludes daily com­pli­men­tary wine and canapes, and a chance to chat to fel­low guests. mari­nas and apart­ments along the fore­shore. Later, and closer to home, I eat de­li­cious no-frills Ital­ian food at Can­talini’s Restau­rant, some­thing of a lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion since the 1960s. It’s a great spot for peo­ple-watch­ing and eaves­drop­ping.

My­favourite name-drop is: ‘‘Well, when I was in Paris with Bob de Niro’’ from a stranger sitting at the next ta­ble.

Back at the ho­tel I check out the eclec­tic se­lec­tion of helpy­our­self DVDs, note the free guest work­sta­tion and in­ter­net ac­cess (there’s also Wi-Fi through­out), browse the book­shelves. I sleep well and am not aware of air­craft noise de­spite the air­port’s prox­im­ity.

Upearly for some dawn bird­watch­ing from the lounge’s bal­cony, I star­tle one of the re­cep­tion­ists. She is aproned-up and busy cook­ing break­fast; a half hour later an ex­quis­ite buf­fet is laid out and she is back be­hind the front desk. Noth­ing seems to be too much trou­ble for the staff and I make a note to plan a two-night stopover here next time. Onenight sim­ply hasn’t been enough.

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