When it comes to Los Angeles, Basic Instinct 2 star Sharon Stone knows a thing or two about a thing or two, from which hotel pool has the best setting for a lazy lunch to the best spot for babies to take a nap.

"When I first came to L.A., I took an apartment based on pictures that a real estate agent sent me," says Sharon Stone of her arrival from New York to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, "because she told me that the apartment was going to be 'on the water.' And it had a terrace and a big bedroom and a living room with a fireplace. You could see boats in the picture! You could see out of the windows to boats! And when I got there, it was, like, a bachelor community in Marina del Rey, and the fireplace turned on with an electric switch. It was like a bad Mary Tyler Moore set. It was a nightmare! I was horrified. I was afraid to go out on my fake redwood deck where, of course, I was sunbathing in January, because I didn't understand that that was not de rigueur. But for me, coming from New York, I thought it was plenty warm."

The second of four children born to a Meadville, Pennsylvania, factory worker and a housewife­/Avon rep, whip-smart Sharon went to college with the help of money she won on the beauty-­pageant circuit (she was named Miss Crawford County). She then modeled in New York and finally made her screen debut as a beauty on a train in Woody Allen's 1980 film, Stardust Memories. After moving to L.A., Stone began starring in films like Deadly Blessing, King Solomon's Mines, and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol while moonlighting on many of the era's television series, including T.J. Hooker, Magnum P.I., and Remington Steele. But other than starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, she was not a household name. Then, in 1992, she lit up the screen in Basic Instinct, seducing Michael Douglas and audiences worldwide as the icy, murderous temptress Catherine Tramell. An Oscar nomination (for her starring role in Casino as a Vegas boss's moll, opposite Robert De Niro) followed. Since then, she's spent more time as a mother; she adopted her son Roan in 2000 and his brother Laird in 2005.

Last month, she returned in Basic Instinct 2, a hard-wrought sequel that she shepherded as both producer and star. Here's Sharon Stone on Los Angeles, the one constant in her roller-coaster career.

Let's start with your days in the tiny apartment. Is there a place you went back then that you go now? Well, I made friends with Mimi Craven, who is, you know, my best friend. Her ex-husband, Wes [director of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street], introduced us, because I had done a movie with him, and I was the only person her age that he knew. So he took us out to dinner to a restaurant we ended up returning to often, until it no longer existed. But we still go to places like Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch, which is a great place for soul food, and we love to go to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. That's a big stop for us. And we still bowl at Pico Bowl, which used to be better because they had a restaurant that served beignets, and we're very big on Southern food.

Where would you launch a perfect Los ­Angeles day? I still think the counter downstairs at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Fountain Coffee Shop, is a charming place to have breakfast or lunch. I've been going there for 20 years. You go there and you can see anyone from wonderful rock-and-roll stars to people in the business, strangers passing through, to a mom with her kids. And you can get anything from the McCarthy Salad, which has been their special forever, to really great pancakes, and read any newspaper, because it's a cosmopolitan hotel. So you have everything from the International Herald Tribune to the New York Times to, if you must, the Los Angeles Times.

Then do you go straight to work? Or to the pool? Of course you can sit by the pool, if you like that. But I prefer to go to the Peninsula if I want to sit by the pool and eat lunch, because they have cabana dining. It's really great. They have great cabanas that are in the old style, a little enclave, and if you want to have a semisexy lunch, they pull the curtain and bring white wine in a bucket and make you feel like you're really sophisticated. And it's really cute. There's always someone in the pool who's actually swimming around with their sunglasses still on. It's really funny and very L.A.

Do you have a favorite hotel? It just depends on the season. You don't want to send people to certain hotels during certain awards or seasons. People go to different hotels for different things. The Bel-Air is a very elegant hotel. The Peninsula can be great when it's not full of people going to an awards show. The L'Ermitage is very nice. I lived in the Sunset Tower Hotel when I moved out of my old house and before I moved into the one I live in now. God, what was it called before it was the Sunset Tower? The Argyle, and it was so nice too.

What are some of your favorite personal landmarks in Los Angeles? Well, I love the ocean, and I'm a person who loves to fly kites. I think that's very beautiful. For many years, I carried a kite in the trunk of my car. Just down on the beach in Santa Monica, or sometimes out in Malibu. Or if I would go more south, down by Manhattan Beach, which I think is very beautiful. I would just keep it in the trunk of my car, and that would be a big thing for me to do. Just drive down at the end of the day, if my day ended early or if I had appointments down in that direction.