IF WALLS could speak, then the Chateau Marmont should be perpetually gossiping. But in time-honoured Hollywood tradition, they're keeping silent. Originally built in 1929 and whimsically modelled on the Chateau Amboise in the Loire valley, the hotel started life as an apartment block. In its latest role as hotel, it is the epitome of bohemian chic to the fickle world of Hollywood.

Never mind trendy designer hotels, this one remains hip regardless. And as such, celebrity visitors have come and gone in profusion (some never leave, like John Belushi, who died from a drug overdose in bungalow No 3). Here Paul Newman met Joanne Woodward; Jean Harlow and Clark Gable holed up for a steamy affair; Jim Morrison allegedly fell from the balcony of his suite; and Greta Garbo and Grace Kelly slipped between the sheets.

Today, the quirky charms of the hotel still attract the likes of Keanu Reeves, Madonna, Chloe Sevigny, Ethan Hawke and Julia Roberts, who all choose to use the hotel as their "home away from home" while in LA. In fact, there seems little point in owning a house in this town when you can stay at the Marmont.

But, given its reputation, the hotel remains almost ghostly quiet. You can easily walk back to your room from a midnight tryst by the lozenge- shaped swimming-pool (which is heated to a constant 80 degrees, day and night) and into the lift without bumping into a soul.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

8221 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90046

(tel: 001 323 656 1010; fax: 001 323 655 5311).

Towering in serene Neo-Gothic splendour at the foot of the Hollywood hills, the Chateau looks down panoramically over the shenanigans taking place on the infamous Sunset Strip below.

TRANSPORT

This is a city where the car is definitely king and most people drive. But, naturally, any self-respecting Chateau resident will sit behind the driver. For those who want to fit right in, the international airport is about a 40-minute limo ride away. A standard taxi will cost at least $50.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

The bedrooms, suites, penthouses and cottages are all furnished with an eclectic mix of Thirties, Forties and Fifties furniture. Beds are sheathed in white, with "Chateau Marmont" embroidered on the sheets, in case you're having such a good time that you forget where you are.

All rooms other than bedrooms have kitchens and dining areas so you can easily rustle yourself up a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich without needing to call room service. There are also several poolside bungalows with two or three bedrooms set within the gardens. But the best are the two hillside bungalows that were built in 1956 by the popular LA architect Craig Ellwood, and which epitomise Hollywood moderne living.

There is no restaurant at the hotel, but there is an extensive room-service menu which can also be ordered in the cloistered courtyard and lobby area. Dinner parties in your room can be arranged but, if you feel inclined to do a bit of mingling, try the hip, oriental-styled Bar Marmont.

FREEBIES

You don't check in here in order to raid the bathroom cupboard - most of the residents are probably adhering to specially devised skincare routines anyway - but there are fashionable FACE Stockholm soaps, shampoo and condoms in the bathroom cabinet, and stylish waffle-cotton bathrobes to wear while you're staying.

There is also a gym on the seventh floor. Or you can rent some equipment for your room; if you need even more encouragement, a personal trainer can be arranged.

KEEPING IN TOUCH

All the rooms have a television with more channels than you could wish for, a stereo and a CD library. Mobile phones are available at reception, as are fax machines

THE BOTTOM LINE

Bedrooms cost from $210 (pounds 135), junior suites from $280 (pounds 180), garden cottages $350 (pounds 225) and poolside bungalows $650-$950 (pounds 415-pounds 610). Alternatively, sod the expense, darling, and go for the two-bedroomed penthouse with panoramic views of Hollywood for $1,900 (pounds 1,215).

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