There will be no argument from me — as a luxury indicator The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas, and Spa in Johannesburg is leading the way to superb suburbian relaxation; the resort has been voted the world's leading boutique hotel every year since 2001, and it is a member of the elite Leading Small Hotels of the World.
The ten acre complex is secured behind a huge metal gate in the rolling hills of Sandhurst, an enclave of the upscale and wealthy suburb of Sandton, in the heart of the South African financial and business district of Johannesburg.
I was awed by the twin curving grandiose staircases leading to the ground level reception table. I half expected Norma Desmond, from the movie “Sunset Boulevard”, to parade down the staircase. Celebrities from around the world have unwound at the Saxon, including President Clinton and Nelson Mandela. The resort is more of a luxury estate, the former home of Mr. Dow, who made his fortune in the insurance business. He now lives just around the corner, as does Mandela.
In the reception area four sandboxes reflect mood lighting like the African sun changing across the veld during different hours of the day. Light streams in from an overhead cupola, highlighting brilliant white flowers by the staircase, daring to be picked. Contemporary Asian and African motif theme art and sculptures are placed unobtrusively throughout the reception hall that is big enough to throw a gala masquerade ball if the furniture was pushed back.
Asian and African motifs.
I was ensconced for three days and three nights and I was pampered and purred over in an Egoli suite overlooking Mr. Dow’s private Koi pond. I even had my own personal butler dressed in impressive tails who assisted with setting up a laptop on a full size business desk right in my suite.
I think the Saxon would make a great magazine editorial office because it can assign a personal business assistant to handle the wired or wireless workplace, including an ipod docking station and in-room printer. The cordless phones seem to be all around the room; the hotel has a cool feature where a cell phone is changeed over within the perimeter of the hotel, or the suites landline can be automatically forwarded to a cell phone.
My spacious digs were decked out with a HD LCD TV with every channel available in South Africa. There is a library of movie titles available for the Blu Ray DVD player, plus a computer gaming interface, and surround sound music. I enjoyed listening to the upbeat alternative African music channels while sipping a flute of the ice cold sparkling wine provided on the dining room table. No matter how fast I made it disappear, another bottle magically appeared nightly. Each night was a different wine from a local winery.
An Egoli Suite.
Better than turn down chocolates!
My Egoli Suites was bedded with white crisp fine linens, a warm comforter, and plentiful pillows that didn’t ever need to be punched up to hold their loft. After the 16 hour nonstop flight from JFK to Joburg on South African Airways I needed glass eyes to keep my eyelids open, so that four poster king bed was looking more inviting all the time.
To beat the jetlag I had an option of the huge tub or the shower. I love showers you don’t have to step into. The tiled bench was welcomed as the hot water splashed over me and snapped me back into the land of the living. The deep and lengthy towels were rolled and tied with cord in a basket and they were as plush as the twin bathrobes hanging nearby. I could have bowled on the polished bamboo hardwood.
The Egoli Suite bath.
Joburg is situated more than 6,000 feet above sea level in north eastern South Africa, on a high veld plateau. Winter was arriving. Summer is normally the rainy season, but any rain is welcome in the semi arid veld. I stepped out on the patio deck and a soft misty rain gave the heated pool a Japanese shoji screen image. Indigenous African plants rose around the pool. Even though the suite was decorated with African art and sculptures and Zulu warrior weaponry it was still a place of serenity.
I could endure no longer. Even though it was still daylight I closed the sun out with the louvered lattice doors, clicked off all the lights with the main switch, and climbed into the Egoli dream bed.
Under the bed and breakfast plan the Saxon Restaurant spread out a morning feast that would have my caloric count bounce up a few notches that would require the Spa and Studio later. The Saxon Restaurant provides both a continental and made-to-order breakfast. There was a vast array of fresh and dried fruits, including mango, passion fruit, figs, dates, and berries. The English breakfast plan saw me ordering the exquisite salmon omelets. The sparkling water provides a tingle for digestion. The restaurant is also open for lunch and fine dining in the evening, and has a new cocktail bar and buffet area.
The unique Saxon Restaurant.
A pianist tinkles the ivories in the evening. I expected a white backed vulture to flap out of the kitchen with my freshly baked crispy sea bass in his beak and then land on the dead marula tree in a huge clay pot in the center of the restaurant.
All the Saxon’s dining venues provide fresh organic and seasonal ingredients with the wine uncorked from local and international estates.
The Dining Library.
For a romantic evening make a reservation to dine outside in the Gazebo as the hotel’s sommelier picks out a wine pairing.
Catch up on the classics in the Dining Library, often used for between meetings by the business guests.
I want to bring back a group of friends for a night of revelry at one of the private dining wine cellars that is flung open for my personal special event with silver settings and vintage wine.
Uncork the Vin de Napoleon please!
For a vulture’s eye view of how all these splendid meals are cooked and coordinated the Chef’s Table in the middle of the kitchen comes with crisp pressed linens, bone china, and crystal ware.
During the day my favorite lunch spot just past the Olive Bar was the Terrace overlooking the main pool that is hidden from the curved drive by foliage and banked and bermed slopes.
The front terrace pool and dining area.
Ibis peck for insects in the lawn around lounging guests catching rays on the grounds around the pool as real hawks hang off dead branches; now I really feel like I am in South Africa.
For the jet lag coup de gras the Saxon Spa and Studio has all the answers because it was voted to the list of Leading Spas of the World and voted best Day Spa in South Africa.
Hundreds of African baskets are tacked to the waiting area wall. The spa is on two levels. A staff member directs me to a small elevator that whisks me one flight up to the spa. I had chosen a self indulgent skin exfoliation in the African Byzantine mosaic Razul Chamber — or in layman terms, a hot mud bath.
The Spa and Studio lounge.
The therapist directs me into a comfortable blue tiled steam room with molded sitting areas. A pot of mud is in a bowl. After the therapist leaves I slather on the lime and ginger salt exfoliating clay mud and it dries for about ten minutes. Then hot Turkish bath steam explodes in vents at my feet. The dry mud becomes slippery again; a rain shower falls from the ceiling and I rinse off with a hand shower and then slap on black pepper lotion. I feel so renewed I could have steer wrestled a Cape Buffalo. The Spa Café delivers me a healthy fruit smoothie, but can also serve organic breakfasts and juice drinks throughout the day anywhere within the hotel.
The Spa and Salon has a vast menu of treatments that are too numerous to list. Here is a highlight of a few: The Signature Sound Therapy uses ancient Tibetan principles using gongs and bells with the treatment on a heated water bed coordinated with color therapy.
The flotation chamber.
Other water treatments include a flotation pool, hydro-capsule, an indoor Jacuzzi, and cold plunge. Plus there are facials, hot stone therapies, massages, body wraps, aromatherapies, and scalp treatments. They also have a nail bar and hair salon.
The gym is located near the Koi pond; the facility is open 24 hours daily and it is equipped with the best state-of-the-art machines. Sign on with a hotel personal trainer for more introspective workouts.
Because the Saxon is located near Africa’s largest financial and business district, it caters extensively to a professional business clientele, but leisure clients are welcome with gusto. For business the Auditorium can seat 30 with tiered seating for visual presentations. The Convention Lounge is a bigger venue for larger groups. Between meetings take a break in the Dining Library, conference board rooms, or the Villa Boardrooms.
Before the three new Villas were completed, Nelson Mandela edited his book, “Long Walk To Freedom” at the hotel. Now the secluded Nelson Mandela suite on the first floor is named in his honor. The suite has huge bay windows that over look the lush gardens, cityscape or pool. The suite has its own private passageway. It is further decked out with balconies, lounge, guest suite, private Jacuzzi, and adjacent steam room.
The heated back pool, lounge,
Koi pond, and gym area.
Two of the new Villas are two story Spa Suites with a terrace, plunge pool, interconnecting suites, satellite kitchen with your own personal chef and butler, and a boardroom that converts into a dining area. Villa one has seven ground floor suites. The other two Villas have seven suites on the ground floor, with four Presidential Suites on the second floor. The Presidential Suites can be converted into two palatial Platinum Suites, with a main deck skywalk leading to the reception area. Private elevators lift guests to underground parking.
My morning paper arrives in a Saxon canvas bag, so excuse me as I sip sparkling wine and then call my Butler up with morning coffee and truffles.
The Saxon Boutique Hotel and Spa is just one of the superb hotels found in the inventory of African Travel Inc. at www.africantravelinc.com African Travel Inc. can plan all aspects of your business or leisure trip or adventure to South Africa and other countries, or contact your professional travel agent that works closely with ATI.
— Feature by Kriss Hammond , Editor, Jetsetters Magazine; photos by author and courtesy of Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas, and Spa.