If you're staying in the Westin Hotel in Cape Town, chances are, you're attending a conference in the Cape Town International Convention Center right next door. You can even reach the convention hall from the mezzanine of the hotel, thus maximising your ability to avoid weather-related conference incidents. If you're attending a conference, even more chances are, you've journeyed from a little further afield than Cape Town. We were lucky to be visiting from the UK because, despite the 12-hour flight, South Africa is practically on the same time zone. We fly north to south, rather than east to west, skipping the worst of the time dislocation. Still, 12 hours on a plane is still 12 hours on a plane, so the chance to unknot some of those muscles when you reach the ground, jet-lagged or not, is welcome. And is welcome whether you're at the Westin for a conference or not.
The Arabella Spa is on the nineteenth floor of the hotel, so offers a grand view of the city. The staff at the reception desk issue you with your locker key, a robe, slippers and ONE towel. (Hint for those staying in the hotel: bring a large towel from your room, also conditioner, as there is none in the spa.) The changing rooms have a bank of wooden lockers, showers, moisturiser and a swimsuit-spinner. All very sunny and clean on our visit.
There is a lap pool, a Jacuzzi, a sauna and a steam room, as well as a gym. The pool is narrow, but enough of a length to get a swim in, and is nicely done with blue mosaic tiles and infinity edges. Floor-to-ceiling windows along one side look out over the harbour and Atlantic Ocean. Use of the pool and thermal areas is complimentary for hotel guests, and the pool is open from 6am if you need to clear your head before breakfast. Children under the age of 12 years are not allowed in the pool at all.
There are jugs of iced water all around so it's easy to stay hydrated, which you'll need to: that steam room is hot. (I didn't do more than peek into the sauna, which also, unusually, also has floor-to-ceiling windows for heating up with a view, as bathing suits aren't allowed and I didn't fancy taking my chances with towel-draping, especially as I only had that one towel.)
I'd booked in for the hot-stone treatment, which promised 90 minutes dedicated to relieving stress and tension. The treatment room wasn't huge, but had just enough space for my therapist to work her way around the table. I wasn't sure which products she used, but the hot stones were soothing on my back and shoulders, and eased the strain in my neck. The massage pressure wasn't too hard or too soft, but firm enough to ease some knots and tease out some tension in my lower back. The fact that the treatment went on so long meant that I was able to deeply relax into it, and not wonder if it was just about to come to an end. Very enjoyable, and very good value.
My colleague tried the jet-lag treatment, and found it so good, she went back at the end of the week for some more! You can also try different massage types, facials, manicures and pedicures, and other finishing touches.
After my treatment was over, my therapist took me to the Sea of Dreams sleep room where four heated waterbeds await. You can snuggle down under the blankets, drift gently away on your own private tiny ocean, and watch the city far below. A perfectly relaxing start or end to any conference (or anything else), I can tell you.
3rd April 2014
Warm floors when you put your bare feet upon them; heated treatment beds; soft towels; attention to detail, so that your treatment room looks and smells beautiful when you arrive in it.
Cold floors when you put your bare feet upon them; therapists who use your treatment time to write up a list of product "recommendations" that they hope you will purchase.
Behind the scenes