It’s unusual to stay at a hotel in your home city, but I live way out in the South Peninsula, and the thought of spending hours driving to and from the city in peak traffic for a three-day travel expo made me shudder. So I decided to stay in the most conveniently positioned hotel I could find – and I confess, position was my main criterion. (guest post by Jennifer Stern)
I drove in after the traffic for the first day, parked under the hotel and then went straight to World Travel Market (WTM) Africa at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). It’s a great event, and it’s nice to network with people in the industry, but it’s also pretty frenetic and noisy. By the end of the day, I had done way more than my 10 000 steps, talked more than I had the previous few weeks put together, schlepped around marketing material, and generally done the usual trade show meet-greet-pretend-I-haven’t-forgotten-your-name-schmooze-swop-business-cards networking. It’s a bit of a sensory overload, and I was a tad frazzled but, fortunately, I did not have far to commute.
The Westin Cape Town is about 200m from the CTICC so it took me less than a minute to walk there and, when I walked through the door, I felt my blood pressure drop a few points. It was far from silent, but all sounds were muted, and the lighting was gentle. There was also a subliminal sense of calm that I later figured out was the Westin’s signature White Tea fragrance that subtly permeates the property. I didn’t consciously notice it when I walked in, but that’s because it really is subtle – calming without hitting you in the face. And, when I got to reception, it was clear that the only reason any of the staff had even been born was to make sure that I was happy and comfortable. OK, you sort of expect that in a five-star hotel, but I am always amazed at how skilfully they pull it off without seeming creepy. It’s a very special skill.
It was just getting dark when I got to my room, which had all the expected comforts like a super-comfy king-size bed with thousand-thread-count linen, bunny-fluffy robes and towels, and great guest amenities – in that lovely white tea scent. Of course, this was Cape Town so there were polite notices all over asking me to conserve water, and there was no bath plug, but I’m a local so I had that pretty much sorted, and I was wildly impressed with the shower. Designed in conjunction with international bathroom fixture manufacturer Kohler, it’s a double-head, low-flow shower that offers a surprising pressure from either the rain-head or the detachable hand shower.
I stowed my stuff in the walk-in closet with trouser press, ironing board and iron, and then surveyed my home-to-be for the next two days. Fabulous work station – with uncapped WiFi of course – and a lovely lounger next to the window, which inspired me to open the curtains. I could just make out the harbour, and Robben Island was hidden in darkness, but the Cape Wheel in the V&A Waterfront was lit up like a mesmerising hypnotic mandala.
It was the next morning that I realised what the most important aspect of luxury really is – it’s not the décor, the fabulous room, or even the delicious food – it’s the sense of peace. Now there is nothing wrong with the breakfast in Thirty7 Restaurant on the ground floor but, as I was in an Executive Club Room, I had access to breakfast in the smaller, much less crowded ON19 on the 19th floor. When the hostess asked me how I was, and I replied, ‘Not sure, I’ll tell you after I’ve had some coffee,’ she responded, ‘double cappuccino?’ and it arrived pretty darn soon after she’d seated me at a table overlooking the new Cruise Terminal, the Zeits MOCAA and Robben Island. It was a tough call. If I’d been facing the other way, I’d have seen Table Mountain lit up by the rising sun.
I’d enjoyed my breakfast so much that, later that day, when a colleague and I took a client to lunch, I suggested we head back up to ON19. A good call. I expected my Pretoria-based client to be impressed with the views, and he was – getting up to take photos of the mountain and the harbour – but even my Capetonian colleague was blown away. And that was before we’d ordered and eaten. Short version of the story, our client was very, very happy, and when my colleague pulled out the company credit card, he reckoned it was money well spent.
For the other half of the view, the Heavenly Spa – also on the 19th floor – has a vertiginous pool with a view over the harbour and towards Blouberg, and a range of indulgent treatments but I didn’t have time for those. After spending the next day tromping around CTICC, I almost couldn’t wait to get back to my little sanctuary – but first I zipped back up to the 19th floor for complimentary drinks and canapés – and views.
I started packing before breakfast on my last day, and noticed that a screw had come loose and fallen out of the handle of my wheel-on bag, so I left it at reception as I whizzed up to the 19th floor, and the maintenance people magically fixed it while I had breakfast, and a porter took it up to my room.
This just reinforced the first impression I had when I’d walked in two days before – everyone at the Westin has no ambition other than to make my life easy and unstressed. Well, they succeeded – at least for two days. Let’s see how long the effect lasts.
Words by Jennifer Stern, photos supplied.