Speak to any world traveller and they’ll quickly admit that the best vacations are those where everyday life at home becomes a blur and travelling has a refreshing and revitalizing effect. And although far, there are few better places to go than Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. Great service, occasional viewing of an international rich and famous and even the occasional rock or movie star and room amenities that can’t be beat. After all, a few years ago, Cape Grace won the best hotel award in the world awarded by Conde Nast Traveller, the hip bible for the savvy tourist. Recently Cape Grace Hotel won the coveted Travel & Leisure best “city” hotel in South Africa and the Middle East. And now keeping up to expectedr standards, they’ve opened a spa… a genuine spa not the type that feathers oil and your body and calls it a massage.
The spa researchers have done yeoman’s work incorporating African ingredients and rituals and fused them with modern day techniques and all this on the roof top floor with a panoramic view of the magnificent Table Mountain while being pummeled and kneaded to background music of soft Zen-zone African melodies.
Even with my Business Class accommodations and unexpected good food on South African Airways, with this marathon voyage from New York City, I still looked forward to a few days of pampering and ridding myself of jet lag in this newly opened spa.
As early as the 15th century, Cape Town was the midway point of the spice trade between Europe and the West making exotic spices part of the lifestyle in this part of the world.
My first hint that this was no ordinary pampering centre was a neatly packaged terry robe and slippers and a note confirming the time, type of treatment, esthetician’s name and designated room. Also, the suggestion that a bathing costume (bathing suit to us) be worn underneath. Gratefully there is no need to have to parade through public areas in your fluffy whites. This spa is on the top floor, the 4th, and the experience of the layout and pre treatment rooms is a prelude to the existential procedures.
Immediately, the entrance’s mosaic wall, a conversation work of art, calls for a discussion about the local artist Lovell Friedman. Then there are the various colours of each room, all named after a spice and painted as close to the tint as possible. The rest- area with a choice of sitting outside on the patio or indoors, where I wait with a cool glass of orange juice, has comfortable white canvas covered wicker chaise longues, a steam and sauna room and a tub over to one side (that placement is still remains a mystery) all overlooking the monumental Table Mountain.
Right on the dot of 10 AM, I’m introduced to Shahida who shows me to the treatment room-Calendula for an African Cape Massage. Her handshake is a good indication that there is strength in those arms, which I soon discover is not just a premonition.
For l hr 30 minutes, I have a treatment starting with a relaxing head massage. Treatment starts on the stomach with traditional circular movements in a clockwise direction. Khoi San people believed all illnesses and diseases could be eliminated through the stomach area. Shahida applies Snowbush oil, one of the first recorded essential oils in Africa taken found that bush, only found in the Western Cape province. Along with that she mixes, Shea body butter the nuts of the African Shea trees indigenous to West Africa. It resembles animal fat. These creams are vigorously rubbed into my body.
“ Snowbush, “ Shahida tells me, “is used for stress related ailments”. The Khoi San people also used this for cleansing.
The strokes became harder as Shahida tries to loosen up the tight muscles in my neck with the semi-circular movements. After a rain shower in the glassed-off area, I get back on the massage bed for the finale moisture application.
Most travellers find the dehydration of the plane plays havoc on the face. Since I had an extra long booking Shahida peers at my skin and decides that an oxygenating, de-stressing-repair facial with Academie, a French skin care line is what I need. It fights pollutants and sun. There’s a foaming peeling cleanser left on for about 5 minutes. After scanning my skin again, she decides that too much steam isn’t good for my delicate skin type and forgoes that segment but uses a de-stress ampoule. Along with this facial is a lash tint and a 15 minute massage, which includes the neck and chest done with coloured beads which the Xhosa people used daily to symbolize various stages of their lives. This symphony of creams ends with the application of a moisture cream containing SPF 10, so important in this sunny country.
The temptation of trying as many treatments as possible is too hard to resist and within a few days I book for The African Way with Irena in the Saffron treatment room. Before we start, I must tell Irena whether I want a relaxing or energizing treatment since the ingredients are different. Knowing that I need all the energy on this hectic trip, I opt for the latter. My body is exfoliated with an African-influenced dry scrub sand mixture again a ritual of the Khoi San people. It’s rich in minerals and vitamins and resembles the Khoi San mud used to cool, cleanse and act as a sun protector. After I shower off the thin mud mask, a powdered cream is applied. Very soon the powder turns into a refreshing and revitalizing cream which surely nourished my skin.
Finally, with my visit coming to an end, I opt for a foot reflexology session. The first stop is soaking my feet in warm peppermint infused water, and Shahida exfoliates my feet with poppy seed scrub. These small but coarse black seeds are found in warm tropical and subtropical areas and my skin suddenly takes on a glow. Who would have guessed that each pinch of a toe it would echo through my body and suddenly my back would ache.. But soon the hour is up and I want more.
After a great shampoo, head massage and great hair styling, I’m ready to face the very chic clients at One. Waterfront restaurant at the Cape Grace Hotel for a healthy and photo perfect presented lunch.