Hoe down in West Hol­ly­wood

A re­vamped mo­tel with ging­ham galore makes a per­fect base for fam­i­lies

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence Up A Fire-breathing Mountain, - CHRISTINE MCCABE

I AM surf­ing the net look­ing for some­where cool and affordable to stay in LA. With teenage sons in tow, their fa­ther and I are told that they are so not into Dis­ney or stu­dio tours or any­thing re­motely touristy, thanks all the same.

They are not thrilled with the re­sult of my ex­haus­tive search, how­ever — it’s the Farmer’s Daugh­ter Ho­tel. I think they have in mind some­thing more along the lines of Brangelina’s Bev­erly Hills com­pound.

But as I am one from way back (a farmer’s daugh­ter, that is), I sense I’m on to a win­ner. And ‘‘the price is right’’. In more ways than one, as it tran­spires.

Time is tight, so from Los An­ge­les air­port we head to the Getty Cen­ter for the af­ter­noon (deemed ‘‘ex­ceed­ingly cool’’, I’m happy to re­port), then cruise Sun­set Boule­vard, rub­ber­neck­ing the glit­ter­ing man­sions and dodg­ing the count­less dozens of Mex­i­can gar­den­ing teams tend­ing the bil­liard ta­ble-svelte, kerb­side lawns.

The Farmer’s Daugh­ter Ho­tel, lo­cated in the rather less groomed West Hol­ly­wood, leaps out at us from busy South Fair­fax Av­enue, the facade painted a fetch­ing blue ging­ham check. Weswing into the garage where a friendly valet springs to at­ten­tion and, with a speed that de­fies the es­tab­lish­ment’s hay­seed over­tones, sets about haul­ing our co­pi­ous lug­gage up to room 300.

Pop­u­lar with cost-con­scious trav­ellers, se­rial shop­pers and would-be game show con­tes­tants vy­ing for a spot at the nearby CBS stu­dios — where The Price is Right is filmed — the Farmer’s Daugh­ter has gar­nered good press across the US, and it’s easy to see why.

At the re­cep­tion we are greeted with po­lite smiles and jugs of fresh juice and home-baked cook­ies. There’s a res­i­dent sheep (stuffed) and a budgie (alive and well). In a clever, price-savvy con­ver­sion, the own­ers have taken what looks to be a typ­i­cal LA mo­tel (the sort seen in hun­dreds of cop shows) and given it a lick of paint, some floor­boards and loads of down­home de­tail­ing.

‘‘Hear­ken­ing back to the com­forts of your grandma’s spare bed­room,’’ prom­ises the brochure.

The three-level facade has been gussied up with mon­tages of old farm im­ple­ments, the creak­ing lift lined in cop­per, the court­yard dec­o­rated with tubs of suc­cu­lents and al­fresco restau­rant ta­bles set with lit­tle vases of fresh chrysan­the­mums. And, im­por­tantly, the rooms are clean; there are even turn-down ser­vice toffees for well-be­haved farmhands.

Our Farmer’s Suite has a sep­a­rate liv­ing area with sofa (which can be pulled apart to cre­ate two floor mat­tresses), a tiny kitch­enette and cof­fee per­co­la­tor. There’s a Bose iPod dock, a flat-screen telly in each room and free Wi-Fi, while the frisky decor stretches to ging­ham cur­tains, perky oil paint­ings of ducks, dogs and don­keys, and a king bed decked in denim ( ev­ery­one in LA wears denim, even lit­tle old ladies in Pasadena).

Our suite over­looks the court­yard restau­rant, Tart, where cool mu­sic plays qui­etly from 7am (when young lovelies rise for their juice and gra­nola); along with the hum of traf­fic waft­ing up to our room, it’s a sound­track that places us firmly in LA.

It goes with­out say­ing the Tart staff are sassy as all get out, and so is the cock­tail list.

We or­der a mar­garita, which is served in a jam jar. The all-day brunch menu runs the farm­yard gamut from the Haystack Hussie (grits with ba­con, green onion, cheese, eggs and bis­cuit) to chicken and waffles.

There’s a small swim­ming pool and sev­eral comfy places to lounge with a cock­tail while await­ing your call up at CBS.

But the best thing about this com­pet­i­tively priced ho­tel is its lo­ca­tion, within an Os­car’s toss of Hol­ly­wood and Bev­erly Hills, and op­po­site LA’s fa­mous Farm­ers Mar­ket, al­low­ing us to walk to din­ner, a rare lux­ury in this free­way-cir­cled town.

Es­tab­lished at the height of the De­pres­sion, when farm­ers parked their pick-ups in a field to hawk pro­duce to LA housewives, this at­mo­spheric mar­ket still sells fruit and veg, but the cov­ered maze of walk­ways is dom­i­nated by small restau­rants, with jaunty pas­tel chairs and ta­bles set al­fresco.

The mod­ern-day house­wife (and vis­it­ing tourist with hol­low­legged sons) is wel­come to stock up on all man­ner of ex­otic con­sum­ables, from fresh rab­bit, Cor­nish game hens and prime rib eye to baguettes, dainty pas­tries and spe­cial­ity teas. But most lo­cals come here to grab a quick bite at the old-fash­ioned burger bars, bistros and food stands. Many haven’t changed a jot in decades.

Bob’s Cof­fee & Dough­nuts is said to serve the best dough­nuts in LA (try the de­li­cious New Or­leans beignets) while Patsy D’Amores Pizza (op­er­at­ing here since 1949) sports black-and-white pho­tos of Patsy (a bloke, ac­tu­ally, and re­spon­si­ble for in­tro­duc­ing pizza to LA in 1939) with fa­mous cus­tomers in­clud­ing Frank Si­na­tra and Nat King Cole.

Gills has been dish­ing up hot fudge sun­daes since 1937 and queues are long at the highly re­garded Gumbo Pot and nearby Lo­te­ria, which serves ex­cel­lent Mex­i­can, in­clud­ing cac­tus salad, tor­tilla soup and Co­chini­tia Pi­bil (slow-roasted pork in ba­nana leaf with chilli ha­banero).

Be­tween 3pm and 7pm, it’s ex­tended happy hour at Mon­sieur Mar­cel. Pull up a stool, or­der a glass of flint-dry rose wine and tuck into the com­pli­men­tary bread and olives while LA life swirls and ed­dies about you.

This site was once home to an oil com­pany and base­ball sta­dium ( team own­ers in­cluded Bing Crosby and Ce­cil B. De Mille). But once the Farm­ers Mar­ket got a foothold in 1934, it was here to stay, with all sorts of in­duce­ments dreamed up to lure shop­pers, in­clud­ing a drive-in theatre and trout-fish­ing pond.

These days the Farm­ers Mar- ket ben­e­fits from the lure of the ad­ja­cent The Grove, ar­guably LA’s smartest mall and a good place to keep an eye out for tele­vi­sion and movie stars.

Fea­tur­ing a broad av­enue of high-end stores (Bar­neys, Nord­strom, Barnes & No­ble, Aber­crom­bie & Fitch, An­thro­polo­gie), the open-air mall has a Ve­gas vibe, with dancing fountain, live mu­sic, trol­ley car and a huge cin­ema com­plex where we queue for the open­ing night of Pi­rates of the Caribbean: OnS­tranger Tides, pos­si­bly the world’s drea­ri­est movie, Johnny Depp not­with­stand­ing. But when in LA . . .

If malls leave you cold, j ust around the cor­ner from the Farmer’s Daugh­ter is ter­mi­nally funky West 3rd Street where my well-thumbed copy of the Luxe Los An­ge­les guide prom­ises, ‘‘If it’s in vogue, or will be, you’ll find it in this belt of nifty bou­tiques.’’

We leave the ’hood ev­ery now and then to ex­plore the likes of Venice Beach. Rec­om­mended here are the Three Square Bak­ery and Cafe for break­fast be­fore fer­ret­ing through the fab stores lin­ing Ab­bot Kin­ney Boule­vard just back from the beach. Don’t miss Strange In­vis­i­ble Per­fumes for be­spoke botan­i­cal fra­grances, the crammed-to-the-rafters Boun­ti­ful home­wares ware­house and the uber-cool Surf­ing Cow­boys.

At the end of each long day we re­turn to the Farmer’s Daugh­ter for some grits and a mar­garita, hav­ing on one oc­ca­sion made a quick de­tour via Macy’s, where there’s valet park­ing, of course, to pur­chase a new suit­case. How­cool is that, pon­der our lads as our grubby SUV is popped next to a brand-new Bent­ley.

You don’t have to do too much to im­press teenagers in LA. And if you’re af­ter a sassy, rea­son­ably priced ho­tel that boasts lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion and then some, call the Farmer’s Daugh­ter. farm­ers­daugh­ter­ho­tel.com farm­ers­mar­ketla.com

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