Cape Grace Spa, Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain and the Victoria and Alfred waterfront are the primo vistas of Cape Town, South Africa. After a treatment at the Cape Grace Spa, guests often linger in the relaxation area to enjoy this killer view. Relaxation is an art at the Cape Grace Hotel spa. Before every treatment, a robe and flip-flops discreetly appear in the guest’s room. Slipping into the robe is an introduction to chill.
The spa’s reception area smacks of tranquility. Vividly colored mosaics scream, no gently whisper, Africa. Guests are whisked away to rooms with names like Paprika, Calendula and Cilantro. The decor of each room matches its spice color. Not quite what you’d expect in a spa. Then again, this place is not the South Africa of lions, elephants and apartheid, either.
Therapies are African in origin. Most simulate tribal dances and healing practices. Chief therapist, Rosalia Cranfield, created these treatments after studying customs, practices and techniques of both the Khoi San and the Khoi Khoi tribes. Endless dancing around the witch doctor is a tribal ritual. Because circular movements put the shaman in a trancelike state, Cranfield concluded these motions must be relaxing. “Khoi San believe that only when you are in a complete state of stillness can you heal,” she says.
The African Cape Massage is the spa’s signature treatment. A combination of shea butter -- the Khoi equivalent of soap -- and snowbush -- the flower from the indigenous fynbos -- is used as a massage lotion. For hundreds of years, snowbush has been utilized as healing oil. Lotion is applied using the clockwise circular strokes of Khoi dances. Until you have experienced it, you can’t imagine how relaxing these motions are. Clients often fall asleep. The treatment ends with a rain shower. After all, tribal dancing is usually the medium used to evoke rain.
It is difficult to be satisfied with such a short trip to nirvana, so sample other treatments. The African Way mimics tribal cleansing methods. Instead of water to scrub, the Khoi sometimes use sand. They then pack themselves in mud and dust their shoulders with crushed roots. So, expect to be rubbed with an exfoliating sand solution, packed in mud and rubbed with a powder body cream. Lastly there is massage. Every treatment includes one.
If by now, you don’t feel the need for a gurney to return to your room, try an Essential Facial. The neck and facial massage is done with beads. “It is the touch that people want but you have to feel different textures. The goal is to bring a message to make you feel well,” says Cranfield.
You do feel well -- so chilled out, you might not ever shed want to your robe. But, you need real clothes to explore the Cape Town you saw from the spa’s relaxation room window.
Cape Town is a lot like San Francisco. What makes it even more beautiful is Table Mountain. It looms over the bay. Hike, if you are extremely ambitious, or ride to the top. The view is spectacular. It goes on forever -- if it is not blanketed in clouds. Granite from the mountain was used in 1666 to build the Castle of Good Hope. The five-point fortress served as way station for ships on the spice route to India.
Robben Island is Cape Town’s Alcatraz. The smashing skyline of Cape Town diminishes on the nearly nine-mile (11k) boat ride to the island. It has served as a whaling station, leper colony and for 500 years, a penitentiary. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years there.
Like San Francisco, the Cape Town area is known for its fine cuisine. Even foods that you’d least expect are here. The sushi tempura at the Tank restaurant is a case in point.
Then there are the winelands. Vines spill down the mountains while Victorian and Dutch architecture enrich quaint villages that brim with boutique shops and fine dining restaurants. Many wineries offer tastings. Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz never tasted better.
While the San Francisco area’s scenic rides are beautiful, Cape Town’s are amazing. On the way to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, the road winds past charming seaside towns and around Chapman’s Peak. Roads dramatically snake up then down to the sea. Waves pound against the rocks against the on rugged shoreline. Near Table Mountain National Park, raucous baboons run across the road and pose on rocks. The Atlantic and Indian oceans meet at Cape Point. High winds, shipwrecks and the legend of the Flying Dutchman have made it legendary. At the Cape of Good Hope, the sound of clicking cameras almost surpasses the sound of the waves beating the shore. It is a tourist thing to have a picture taken behind the sign proclaiming they are at the southern most point of Africa.
There you have it -- awesome scenery, spa, sights, vino sipping and sumptuous suppers. What else is there?
For information on Cape Grace Hotel please go to www.capegrace.com
Roberta Sotonoff is an Illinois-based freelance writer.