Spa Review: The Spa @ Sheraton Porto Hotel, Portugal

Stepping off the elevator, we’re greeted by the minimalistic lobby of The Spa (aptly named). In case we’ve forgotten which floor you’re on, the words are engraved onto a bronze plaque on the floor.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaA friendly face at the reception desk takes our room number and then shows us the dressing rooms (separate male and female).

The spa at the Sheraton Porto Hotel is a sprawling level, consisting of various water and heat therapies. The dressing room was elegantly appointed with wonderfully lit vanities and digital lockers. I slipped into a soft, creamy toweling robe and donned the rather strange looking rubber slippers. The main room, also the largest relaxation area, contains a wonderful heated vitality pool, big enough to still feel spacious when at capacity. In front of the ample pool are arranged several ergonomic loungers covered in bright orange towels.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

We choose two loungers at the far end and settle into them, adjusting the backrest to our perfect specifications via the handy remote.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaBut it isn’t long before the lure of the tranquil swimming pool calls out. Slipping into the warm waters is heaven. The pool is virtually deserted, and perfect for lap swimming, if you’re so inclined.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

I much rather preferred to try the hot tub. The hot tub was very popular, and several people lazed inside; some applying the traditional jet therapy to their backs and necks, whilst others preferred the more efficient hydromassage from the gushing showerheads at the center of the jacuzzi.

As the crowds in the jacuzzi swelled, we decided to try some of the heat therapies. We made our way to the herbal sauna. The room was dimmed to perfection and eerily quiet. The only sounds appeared, like clockwork, when the wooden bucket tilted to release a burst of water onto the hot stones below creating a hiss of herbal steam.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

There is also the option to enjoy a more traditional steam room, but much preferring dry saunas to steam rooms; we quickly showered and opted to try the salt inhalation laconium next. This was by far my favorite heat experience at The Spa.

Much cooler than the other saunas, the room gave off an oriental feel, and the dim lighting and red mosaic tiled couches welcomed us. Breathing deeply into the salty air, I felt myself totally relax. When too hot, we hosed off with cool water and continued in our meditative state. After 20 minutes in the laconium, I felt completely rejuvenated, and the niggling muscle aches I’d been carrying around that week evaporated.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

Apart from these wonderful water and heat experience The Spa at the Sheraton Porto Hotel also features a fully functional gym with state of the art workout machines. Our time at the hotel did not permit us to try the gym, but I would have loved to have tried one of their Fitness by Core Performance classes.

There is also a yoga room, and a small but beautiful Zen Garden – complete with soft wicker couches and a trickling waterfall to totally relax your mind and soul.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe spa treatments at the Sheraton Porto Hotel are reasonably and wonderfully priced, so we booked massages for the next day. Being a huge fan of the ESPA range we opted to try their ESPA body treatment – an hour long aromatherapy massage.

We arrived at the spa the next afternoon after a very long day of sightseeing around Porto, and we were really looking forward to a relaxing afternoon at The Spa. My legs were sore from walking endlessly around the city, and I felt in desperate need of a good massage. My therapist was simply fantastic. Welcoming and extremely friendly, she led me to the treatment room where I prepared for my massage.

The next hour went by in a blur, but to be honest, as a person who has had her fair share of massages in her lifetime – I can truthfully say this was by far the best massage I had ever experienced. From the perfect pressure to the quick responsiveness of my therapist, I felt complete and utter bliss for a full hour as she worked on my tired muscles. Afterwards I felt like a new person, deeply relaxed and completely peaceful as I sipped on green cinnamon tea. We were shown to the relaxation room were we spent a good half hour, eyes closed, reveling in the wonder of The Spa.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

Modern Luxury in the Heart of Porto

Hotel Review : Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa, Porto – Portugal

The Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa is a 5-star oasis of tranquility in Porto, a short metro/taxi ride from the city’s attractions. The modern steel and glass structure sits in the heart of Porto’s business district, and from the moment you set foot onto the red carpet, you know you’re on to something special.

SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

We arrived earlier than anticipated, and of course, check in was not for hours yet, but the very accommodating reception staff ensured that our luggage was whisked away, we were given temporary room cards and shown to the club lounge on the 12th floor. Here we enjoyed a drink and caught up on emails thanks to the high-speed, complimentary wi-fi.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The club lounge is an access-limited feature of the Sheraton hotels, giving club member (or guests staying at the club floors) some additional perks such as complimentary internet access, and the privilege of using the club lounge.  In the lounge, you find a little relaxation space, with comfy couches, a computer with printing facilities, and a large screen TV. There are complimentary snacks throughout the day, and we enjoyed an aperitif each evening before dinner of Porto’s signature drink; Port wine.  The club rooms are also typically positioned on higher floors, ensuring sweeping views over the city.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

Club members can also choose to have breakfast in the lounge, although I wouldn’t recommend it if your stay already includes breakfast, as the Porto Novo restaurant, in my opinion is a far superior option. But more on that later.

After spending about an hour and a half in the lounge, I went back to the reception to enquire about the availability of our room. I must add at this point, the elevators in this hotel are truly amazing. So speedy, and so silent, I often got the buoyant feeling of being on a Disneyworld ride each time I went up to the room. By this time, our room was ready, and we headed up to the 10th floor, to find our luggage had already been placed inside. The room was large, airy and bright. Faultlessly clean with white linens, and plenty of soft towels. I found delicious smelling toiletries, the same ones we’ve had at previous stays at Sheraton. However, there was no little bottle of mouthwash this time – I am not sure if they have decided not to leave these in the rooms anymore?

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

There was plenty of closet space, and we quickly unpacked the essentials, getting the suitcases out of the way. It had been a long week, and seeing as the weather was grey and dull, we headed to The Spa to enjoy the heated pools and saunas.  (I’ll be writing a post on our amazing spa experiences soon).

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the comfy day beds in the spa, before heading into the historic city centre (UNESCO World Heritage site) for dinner.

The Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa is not a small hotel – with 12 floors and over 260 rooms, but the level of service we experienced at the hotel was second to none.  I loved the décor, from the use of modern glass and steel that merges effortlessly with the more traditional wood and marble.

Our room was quite large and the king size bed was super comfy. We found enough plug sockets for 2 iPads, both our phones, and a camera, all conveniently located – without having to move a couch or unplug a lamp.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The bathroom was big and wonderfully lit – not the type of hotel where you needed to squint around in a dimly lit space to apply your makeup. His and hers sinks was convenient, and the ample-sized bathtub was a draw card which faced the room via a glass wall. But if you’re not travelling as a couple, fear not, there are blinds that can section off the bathroom to ensure privacy. There is also a separate shower and a separate toilet –which I appreciate.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The next morning we enjoyed a spectacular breakfast at the Porto Novo restaurant on the lobby level. I loved the breakfast at this restaurant because the food choices were so vast (both hot and cold options) with everything from fresh fruit to made-to-order eggs and omelets. I enjoyed pancakes one morning topped with fresh berries and drizzled in maple syrup. A mimosa added to the relaxing feeling of being on holiday.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The reception staff were ever-willing to hand out maps and point us in the right direction for all the city’s major sights. And after a long day of sightseeing, battling the famous Porto winds a little bit, we welcomed the opportunity to return to our luxurious room ach afternoon, slip into our swimsuits and decompress in the Jacuzzi.

The New Yorker bar located in the lobby is the ideal spot to enjoy a cocktail or three, as the soothing sounds of the grand piano envelopes the room. Plush carpeting, richly textured couches and expertly mixed drinks all add to the feeling of glamour.

SONY DSC SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

All in all, I found the Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa to be the perfect hotel in Porto, whether you’re travelling for business or leisure. The location may not suit everyone, particularly those wishing to stay in the historical centre itself, but I found the location perfect for sightseeing, and enough removed from the city hub to give a sense of calm.

SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The level of service is what one would come to expect from a 5 star establishment: courteous and highly efficient.

The design of the hotel itself is impressive, and the imposing all glass façade is a feast on the eyes.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

I would not certainly hesitate, for a second, to stay the Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa when in Porto again.

SONY DSCRates from 90€ for a deluxe room, to 2000€ for the presidential suite. Club rooms rates begin at 156€. 1 Night spa packages from 190€ pp sharing. For more information and specials, please go to the hotel’s official website.

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary upgrade to club level at the Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

Old World Charm

Afternoon Tea at Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Berlin – Germany

What do Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson all have in common? Well, they were all guests of the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. Not at the same time, of course – although that would have sure been something!

The Hotel Adlon is one of the most famous hotels in Germany, if not Europe itself. The hotel survived both the first and second World Wars, only to be gutted by a fire mere days after WW2 had ended. But like a phoenix rising from ashes of the old, the Adlon was rebuilt shortly after the reunification of Germany, and now operates as part of the luxury Kempinksi Hotel chain.

Hotel Adlon Berlin

The Adlon’s history is vast, rich and somewhat chequered; yet in modern-day culture, it is primarily known as the hotel from which Michael Jackson notoriously dangled his then-infant son Blanket from the hotel’s balcony, in a somewhat misguided attempt to debut the baby to the hordes of screaming fans outside.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I do love a good Afternoon High Tea (proof here, and here). There is just something about the elegant British tradition that I absolutely adore.

So, on a warm summer’s day in Berlin, I made my way over to Pariser Platz to enjoy afternoon high tea at this iconic institution.

Brandenberg gate Berlin

When I arrived at Berlin’s most famous square, the Brandenburg Gate took center stage, poised about a 100m from the hotel itself. Greeted courteously by the smartly dressed porters outside, I made my way along the same path that I presume Brad and Angelina strolled when they stayed at the Adlon, and into the hotel’s stunning lobby.

Afternoon tea is served in both the Lobby Lounge bar, and the Bel Etage (first floor lounge). Sophisticated clientele were seated around the Lobby Lounge, amidst thick conversations in German, Italian and French (from what I could decipher).  There were young clusters of women enjoying the tradition of afternoon tea, businessmen in suits and colorful ties, and groups of families having a late lunch.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

I settled into a plush velvet chair and immediately succumbed to a friendly waiter proffering a chilled glass of Moët and Chandon – how could I resist?

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinafternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

Having skipped lunch to fully appreciate the tea experience, I got to work on my three-tiered cake stand filled with delicious treats, as I took in the ambience of the hotel.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

The style and décor can only be described as old-world charm. From heavy fabrics to imposing chandeliers, the impression of old-fashioned luxury in the lobby expands like the film set for the Great Gatsby. Again my mind drifted back to the Adlon’s illustrious guest book – Nelson Mandela, Franklin Roosevelt, Greta Garbo, and the Queen herself, have all enjoyed the hotel’s impeccable hospitality.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

Feeling rather special amidst the history and grandeur, I delved into the savory portion of my cake stand…several finger sandwiches displayed ever so elegantly . The quail egg and cucumber sandwich went down effortlessly well with the glass of champagne.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinThen, as I smothered my scones in clotted cream and strawberry jam, I was somewhat disappointed in the rock-hard texture of the scones. Perhaps left a little too long in the oven, the scones were slightly harder than I prefer.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinHaving chosen a delightful summer tea bouquet (named Granny’s Garden – a fruity rhubarb concoction with a hint of bourbon-vanilla), I sipped the delicious tea, poured from a real silver teapot. The hotel thinks of everything, even going as far as supplying a soft, monogrammed teapot holder to avoid guests burning their hands on the teapot, as silver can get smoldering-hot.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

By the time I arrived at the third and final layer of my tea stand, I was actually quite content to sit back, cup in hand and listen to the soothing sounds coming from the grand piano on the Bel Etage.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

If I closed my eyes, right at that moment, with the backdrop of hushed conversations and the tinkling of fine china floating around, it would have been easy to forget the present day and time, and simply slip into a bygone era where flapper dresses, wingtip shoes and fedoras were all the rage.

But a white chocolate truffle with my name on it kept calling out, and soon the delicious burst of café-crème filled my tastebuds as the truffle was washed down with the last of the champagne.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinThe sound of the central fountain in the courtyard of the Lobby Lounge was ever-present, adding a serene and calming ambience to the experience. And with one final peek at the luminescent stained-glass dome high above, I shook off the ghost of Daisy Buchanan and I said goodbye to the Adlon Hotel.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinafternoon tea adlon hotel berlinafternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

Tapping in to Lux 11

Hotel Review : Lux 11 Design Hotel, Berlin – Germany

Imagine the scene, under communist rule, the phone lines of normal East Berlin citizens are tapped, and conversations recorded. The KGB officers in charge listen attentively, trained to discern any signs of ‘unorthodox political and religious ideas’; basically, any signs of free-thinking.

As I relax, cocooned in a luxurious room in one of Berlin’s hottest new boutique hotels, with its candy-cane bedthrow, and amply stocked minibar catering to my every whim, I find it hard to believe the Lux 11 Hotel was once the headquarters for such operations.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLocated a mere 5 minutes from Alexanderplatz in the vibrant Mitte neighborhood, the hotel is perfectly poised for a night on the town; be it club hopping or bar crawling. If that’s not your thing, then the location is also ideal for visiting the city’s museums and galleries, and there is no shortage of restaurant choices; whether you’re craving Berlin’s famous currywurst, authentic Italian pizzas or spicy Mexican burritos.

Lux 11 is a boutique hotel, housed in a sprawling whitewashed building. The alabaster backdrop is a designer’s dream, and as such, the minimalistic design elements of the hotel come to life. The furniture, in muted earthy tones allow for the deep contract of hot pink splashes that seem to jump out at you, aiming to surprise.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

I check in to an executive suite on the 3rd floor. The room is huge – by any standard. Large windows run along one wall, letting in masses of daylight. There is a living area, with beautiful monochrome couches and a contemporary low-lying coffee table.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinI find a long table on one end, which can be used for dining or working depending on your need. Sectioned off from the living area is the huge king sized bed in clean white linen, and the stylish bathroom with rain shower. The enormous walk in closet is any woman’s dream come true.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLux 11 Hotel Berlin

It’s cozy, relaxed; with an ‘at-home’ feel that can be sorely missed after spending too many days on the road. There is a fully functional kitchenette stocked with crockery and cutlery for 6 place settings and the bar fridge is well-appointed.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

I find a toaster and a coffeemaker, which I use frequently. I think I love the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the room almost as much as the coffee itself. In the cupboard I find several long-stemmed wine glasses, and they seem to be issuing a siren call to the bottle of red sitting on the counter. To my amazement I find there is even a dishwasher!

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinI love the luxurious full-size bath amenities and like its sister hotel, The Weinmeister, I find  a range of essential toiletries in a gift box by the vanity –including minty dental floss.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLux 11 Hotel Berlin

Lux 11 is exploring the concept of the ‘apart-hotel’, which provides all the comforts and luxury of a traditional hotel but with a coziness that allows guests to make the room their own – even if only for a short while.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

From the candy gifts to the iPod docking station, it seems no detail is too small at Lux 11.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinWith its prime location and the contemporary minimalistic design, Lux 11 is the embodiment of Berlin itself: classic yet ever trendy; stately, but with a hint of a wild side.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLux 11 Hotel Berlin

For the latest pricing and special offers visit the Lux 11 website.

Rates from 119€ to 299€ per night (depending on various factors such as room category, season, events in Berlin and the number of people), excluding continental breakfast.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the Lux 11 Design Hotel, staying in an Executive Suite. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

 

Punk Rock Design

Hotel Review : Weinmeister Hotel, Berlin – Germany

‘Hip’ and ‘happening’ are two words that can be used to describe Germany’s capital city. From the street food vibe to café culture, Berliners seem to be in-the-know on the latest trends, remaining ever so edgy, yet ever in style.

In keeping, the Weinmeister Hotel located in one of Berlin’s coolest and most dynamic neighborhoods, Mitte, is a shining example of what transpires when design-luxury combines with all things ‘in vogue’. Referred to as the ‘Golden Cage’- in reference to the golden façade the six floor building exudes when lit up at night, it’s certainly a ‘cage’ you wouldn’t mind being stuck in.

Arriving at the hotel one shouldn’t be fooled by the seemingly haphazard graffiti scrawled across the front entrance. Graffiti is, after all, synonymous with Berlin, and the scribbling gives an opening taste of the provocative and daring design the Weinmeister hotel has perfected. Drawing a crowd of artistic clientele from the film, art and music industry, the hotel is known to be frequented by celebrities.

Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

Exterior of Hotel

Paying homage to ‘monochrome’ with soft, earthy undertones the hotel oozes a luxurious modernity. None more so, than in the Lobby Lounge; defined by oversized chairs in plush fabrics that invite you to sink in with a coffee and a book. The space doubles as the hotel’s restaurant serving continental breakfasts and a selection of light dishes throughout the day.

Lobby Lounge Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

Lobby Lounge Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

The Schwarz Bar is the draw card for the trendy population that breezes through the door of the Weinmeister Hotel on a seemingly endless loop. The bar is believed to be named after the German actress Jessica Schwarz, whose family brews a popular liqueur especially for the hotel.

I check into room 501 – the Hurts Chamber; a rather special room at the Weinmeister Hotel. The room was designed by members of the British electro-pop duo, the Hurts, who have won a string of recognized music awards and have recently released their 2nd studio album. Alongside the generous bath in dark bold lettering: “I don’t mind the lullabies from the machines”; a quote from their song “Evelyn”.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinGiant black and white images of band’s members Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson adorn the space, and their original gold record for the song ‘Wonderful Life’ hangs on the far wall – a gift to the hotel.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

The influence of these two artists can be felt throughout the room: from the framed signed poster, to the concert backstage pass; from the books in the drawer to the music uploaded on the iMac computer.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinHurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinDid I mention there is an iMac computer?! Traditional television sets being obviously too lackluster for the Weinmeister hotel, all rooms are fully equipped with a large screen version of cutting-edge Apple technology. Internet access is quick and more importantly, free; whether you prefer using the computer or connecting to the Wifi on your own device.

Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin iMac

The room is huge. There is a couch lining one wall, a walk in shower, a work desk, and the aforementioned bathtub. There is no closet but rather, exposed clothes-hangers suspended above a storage chest that doubles as a bench. It’s certainly unorthodox, but that’s just the style of the Weinmeister.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinThe room has a dynamic flow to it: the large floor-to-ceiling windows letting in an abundance of light. But it’s the bed – in its ‘pod’ design – that dominates the room. Oversized, and slightly imposing, it’s perfectly made up with crisp white linens. There is sufficient space between the pillows to fit another single bed – such is the enormity!

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinThe vanity is stocked with outrageously decadent toiletries – full-sized bottles no less, so you’re not fumbling about with tiny lotions and shampoos like in typical hotels. There’s a collection for men with spicy masculine notes, and a female collection with softer, floral undertones created in collaboration with two leading perfumers. In keeping with the ethos of the hotel, the range is cheekily called “Love it or Leave it”.

Love it or leave it Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinLove it or leave it Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

 

It seems the management has thought of everything, from the black cotton pyjamas that lay on the bed (in my right size!), right down to the dental floss and hairband I find discreetly presented in the amenities box tied with a black satin ribbon. Even the slippers and bathrobe are nontraditional! My feet are cushioned in fluffy flip-flops with hot pink soles, while the bathrobe is plush and soft.

Weinmeister Hotel berlinI run a bath and enjoy a decadent soak. I contemplate booking a session at the hotel’s spa on the 6th floor, but I make my way back down to the lobby for a little sightseeing instead. A little tip: when at all possible, take the stairs. The walls and corridors of the stairwell come alive as an urban art gallery. Berlin based artists have gotten together to create the colorful cartoons and perplexing drawings that jump out at you, making you glad you skipped the elevator.

Weinmeister Hotel berlin paint clubWeinmeister Hotel berlin paint clubWeinmeister Hotel berlin paint clubI know that once I step outside the hotel I will find myself right in the center of the lively Mitte district; an array of restaurants, bars and cafes at my fancy. Finally, squinting into the elusive German sunlight, I reluctantly ‘escape’ the cage – granting, only for a short while – as I begin my exploration of this fascinating city.

What I loved:
  • The stylish feel of the hotel: The edgy designs, the color choices and the flamboyant, oversized furniture choices create a space that doesn’t sacrifice function to form. I truly loved the modern feel of the rooms and common areas.
  • The rooftop terrace: with amazing views over Berlin, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner.
weinmesiter hotel rooftop terrace

View from the rooftop terrace

  • Location: There is not much more than can be said about the location of the Weinmeister hotel, except that it is the perfect base to explore the city.
  • Concept Rooms: From the Hurts Chamber, to the Peppermint Jam room, there are some special concept rooms available at the hotel that is sure to add a little something extra to your stay.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

What I didn’t love:

• The one small gripe I have would be that the hotel serves only continental breakfast. If you’re looking to start your day off with a full, hot breakfast you’d have to find a restaurant in the nearby area. However, it’s worth noting that there is the opportunity to make your own waffles and boil your own eggs…if you’re seriously craving some hot breakfast options.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the The Weinmeister Hotel, which provided a fresh dose of contemporary luxury in the heart of Berlin.

For the latest pricing and special offers visit the Weinmeister’s official site.

In keeping with the über-cool nature of the Weinmeister, room categories are standard, medium and large, with rates from 119€ to 299€ per night (depending on various factors such as room category, season, events in Berlin and the number of people), excluding continental breakfast.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the Weinmeister Hotel, staying in the Hurts Chamber   (large room category) including continental breakfast. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

Giveaway: A Luxurious L’Occitane Summer Essentials Kit

L’Occitane en Provence, the renowned French cosmetics brand, has been producing luxurious products since it was founded in 1976.

My travel bag is never without one of their sumptuous hand creams, and one lucky reader could soon know why!

I’m giving away L’Occitane’s Summer Essential kit, which is absolutely PERFECT for travelers!

GiveAway

In it, you’ll find:
- 1 Verbena Shower Gel 30ml
- 1 Verbena Body Lotion 30ml
- 1 Shea Hand Cream 10ml
- 1 Shea Foot Cream 10ml
- 1 Shampoo 35ml Aromachology
- 1 Shea Butter Soap 25g

All this comes packed in a nifty travel purse designed by Julia Wauters.

To stand a chance of winning these delectable treats, you will have to follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. Easy peasy!
If you’re already a fan on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll merely need to click to confirm.

TO GET STARTED CLICK ON THE RED LINK BELOW:

L’Occitane giveaway

Competition closes on 26/08/13!
* Ts & Cs apply

Let Them Eat Cake

Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons Georges V, Paris– France

Walking along the Avenue Georges V is an experience in itself. Having just passed the colossal Louis Vuitton flagship store, with its ornate gold dinosaur window displays, we rounded the corner and strolled along the relatively tranquil street in wonder. The Avenue Georges V, together with the Champs Élysée and Avenue Montaigne, form what it called the ‘Triangle D’Or’ – the Golden Triangle. Apt, seeing as the net worth on these 3 streets alone probably rival the GDP of some small countries.

We knew we had arrived at the Four Season’s Hotel Georges V, when our feet sank into a super plush carpet on the street entrance – a telling sign of the luxury that was about to come. Owned by a Saudi Prince, no extravagance was spared in the hotel’s renovations in 1997, and the hotel proudly claims a spot amongst the six establishments in Paris to have been awarded the honor of ‘Palace’ classification.

Having recently become accustomed to the decadent tradition of Afternoon High Tea, my friend Sam and I took the opportunity to investigate the High Tea offerings at this renowned Parisian Hotel.

Upon entering through the ornate revolving door, my breath was instantly taken away! In front of me stood the most theatrical, the most extravagant – by far – flower display I had ever seen.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Don’t get me wrong, I was well aware that the hotel’s florist extraordinaire; Jeff Leatham has a long standing reputation at the Georges V, but nothing prepared me for the sight which greeted us in the hotel’s lobby. Coral-tinged peonies (hundreds and hundreds of them) elegantly collided with deep purple hydrangeas to create a summer wonderland. Indeed, feeling like two Alices who had just sashayed down the rabbit hole, Sam and I crossed the foyer and into the Mad Hatter’s dreamland.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

To the left there was a giant installation (not arrangement, as Mr. Leatham likes to call it) of red posies – again a dazzling marriage of peonies and hydrangeas. En masse, and shaped into several perfectly round, individual bouquets, they took their daring places in tall flute vases of varying height to create what can only be described as a Jeff Leatham work of art.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

In fact, so esteemed are the rock-star of florist’s creations, that his celebrity clientele include the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue. When he’s not creating floral installations for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or putting together daring designs for celebrity weddings (he was commissioned for Eva Longoria’s wedding to Tony Parker), he serves as the in-resident flower guru for the Hotel Georges V.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

We stepped out into the grand central courtyard of the hotel, and again uttered astonished ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at the overhead floral designs. Strings of purple Vanda orchids were suspended in the air, fashioning a stunning canopy over the courtyard as rays of sunshine streamed in, creating an ethereal atmosphere.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Making our way pass yet more impressive floral designs we headed to La Galerie where afternoon tea was served.

La Galerie’s décor can only be described as opulent. Priceless historical antiques adorned the space, along with fine Flemish tapestries dating back to the 17th century. Murano-glass chandeliers hung aristocratically from the high ceilings, and a 500 square-foot Savonnerie carpet graced the floors. No Dorothy, we were certainly not in Kansas anymore.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

We were shown to our table which was set with fine Limoges porcelain. Before we even sat down, the maître d’ brought over two little stools for which to lay our handbags -no handbags on the floor at the Georges V!

We browsed the menu and settled on “Thé complet a la Française”: The French twist on an elegant British tradition.

Our waiter took our order, and promptly arrived with 2 champagne glasses (monogrammed, no less!) that were ceremoniously filled with Moet & Chandon bubbly. We toasted to our auspicious surroundings as we sipped on the liquid gold.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

Taking in the atmosphere of La Galerie, I noted it is the most perfect spot in the hotel to people-watch. From the families outside in the courtyard enjoying lunch, to the well-heeled couples appreciating a sundowner before sundown; I kept one eye on the entrance half expecting a celebrity sighting (not uncommon at the Georges V).

Our waiter magically appeared with our three-tiered trays laden with epicurean treats. On the first tier; an assortment of finger sandwiches prepared with an array of different breads (tomato, rye and spinach). The sandwiches can be ordered to your preference, as I chose a vegetarian option.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

The second tier comprised of an assortment of French delicacies that included a creamy, cinnamon-dusted macaroon, mille-feuille (‘thousand sheets’ – referring to the layered pastry) with piped custard, a strawberry tartlet, and apricot panna cotta topped with roasted almonds. The macaroon was by far the best I had ever tasted – Ladureé be warned!

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

As if that wasn’t enough, the top tier, and perhaps my favorite, comprised of a warm scone, a madeleine (soft French cake immortalized by Marcel Proust’s memories), a caramelized canelé from Bordeaux and a petite raspberry financier.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

I covered my scone in clotted cream and generously smothered strawberry jam, while Sam simply drenched hers in honey. Our tastebuds went to heaven!

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

SONY DSC

For our hot beverages, my companion chose a white tea from the extensive selection, while I was eager to sample the hotel’s famous hot chocolate. Served in an authentic hot chocolate pot (‘chocolatière’) complete with frother, the hot chocolate is unbelievably decadent, thick and creamy. It is served with warm milk in the event you needed to dilute the chocolaty goodness. The beverages are poured for you (bien sûr!), and the waiter flitted by every now and then to see if we were in the mood for a refill.

A pair of musicians serenaded the guests, and we sat relaxed – chatting, laughing, and of course, eating. We only realized that 2 hours had gone by when the staff began lighting the evening candles, signaling that dusk was upon us.

I smirked at how discretely the bill was presented to us (ironic that talking about money in rich circles is considered philistine!) and picking our bags from their pedestals, we left the plush confines of the Four Seasons Georges V to join alas, the real world.

Afternoon Tea georges V

Thé  complet a la Française at the Four Seasons Georges V costs 58euro (approx 760 ZAR)
per person. For more: http://www.fourseasons.com/paris

Color P.O.P

Hotel Review : Hotel Luxe, Split – Croatia

A leisurely stroll away from Split’s ancient Old City and a stone’s throw from its bustling harbor stands the Hotel Luxe – taking the concept of ‘boutique hotel’ to whole new level.

The hotel is ideally situated for those wishing to tick off all Split’s tourist hotspots, yet still enough removed to give guests the opportunity to experience authentic everyday life in Dalmatia’s largest city.

We arrived at dusk, having made the drive from Zagreb, but I took immediate fascination with the white-on-white lobby and attached bar.

Hotel Luxe Split

Lobby (Source: hotelluxesplit.com)

Splashes of color jumped out at every turn, but it was the undercurrent of deep purples against the alabaster backdrop that made the reception area ‘pop’ – so to speak.

Our check-in was seamless, and soon we were eagerly riding the elevator to our superior room on the top floor. Throwing open the door, we were completely taken aback! The photos we’d seen prior to our arrival did not do justice to the psychedelic look of the room!

Hotel Luxe Split

Source: hotelluxesplit.com

The flamboyant use of color stopped just short of being overwhelming. From the multi-striped carpet, to the silver scatter cushions; from the tasselled lamp shades to the flashy art on the walls – the effect was reined-in to perfection by the use of glass and chrome finishes, and again, the all-white furniture. The resulting overall look was ultramodern.

Hotel Luxe Split

Source: hotelluxesplit.com

Tossing our suitcases in the corner, we flung open the glass doors to catch a glimpse of the view from our balcony. The ferries and cruise ships moored in the nearby harbor, their twinkling lights like glow worms on the horizon.

Hotel Luxe Split

Hotel Luxe Split

Bathroom (Source: hotelluxesplit.com)

After a quick shower (it’s worth noting the bathroom has a glass wall facing into the room, but it can be closed with a curtain) we made our way into the Old City for dinner along the Riva. The Riva, standing proud for hundreds of years in front of the Diocletian palace, is the bustling strip of waterfront with numerous restaurants, cafés and bars.

After having our full on of the best pizzas we’d ever eaten, we made our way back to the hotel for a restful sleep.

Our next morning commenced with buffet breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. ‘Restaurant’ may be a bit of stretch, due to the size; but the breakfast spread was delicious, and more than adequate. Comprising of the usual –and some unusual – hot and cold dishes, there was also the option of made to order eggs or omelets.

Hotel Luxe Split

Restaurant (Source: hotelluxesplit.com)

We spent our day exploring the history and charm of the Diocletian Palace, as well as making the uphill trek to Marjan for unrivalled views over the city.

We ensured sufficient time in the afternoon to make use of the hotel’s spa facilities. Albeit small, the wellness area, like the rest of the hotel, was ultra-modern. There was a fully equipped gym and a sauna, but the showcase of the wellness area was the jacuzzi room, with its starry skylight. Darkened and exuding privacy, the whirlpool gave off an eerie glow against the white, space-age loungers. The entire effect was sheer modernistic luxury.

Hotel Luxe Split

Source: hotelluxesplit.com

Hotel Luxe Split

Source: hotelluxesplit.com

I had booked an aromatherapy massage which I enjoyed immensely. I was left feeling rejuvenated and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

spa hotel luxe split

What I Loved:
  • Location: The hotel’s location makes it a perfect base to explore the city
  • Boutique Hotel: I enjoyed the boutique feel of the property. Although smaller than other hotels we’ve stayed at, instead of feeling cramped, the hotel felt more intimate.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi: Unlimited and quick – always wins me over!
What I Didn’t love:
  • In-hotel dining options: Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed going out to the Riva for dinner and lunches, I would have liked to have the option of a hotel restaurant when feeling lazy.
  • Parking: Although free for hotel guests, parking is available in a lot off a street behind the hotel. The street is EXTREMELY narrow, and due to the fact that traffic flows in one direction, if you miss the poor signage, you’ll be forced to circle around the block once more.

I will certainly consider returning to Split, and when I do, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay at the Hotel Luxe again.

Prices: The price of a superior room (with balcony and sea views) ranges dramatically from 130€ to 300€ per room, per night, depending on the season. Rate includes breakfast. For more: http://www.hotelluxesplit.com/

This post was featured in iAfrica Travel on 17 August 2013.

Disclaimer: No part of this vacation (travel, accommodation or otherwise) was paid for by Hotel Luxe, Split. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.

R&R at Riverside

Spa Review: Riverside Day Spa – Durban, South Africa

The best spas in the world all have something in common: They succeed in effortlessly making time stand still.

I was looking for such an experience when I stepped through the softly-swishing glass doors of the Riverside Spa in Durban. Nestled on a hill overlooking the Umgeni River, the spa is coupled to the well-known Riverside Hotel, belonging to the notable Three Cities Hotel Group.

My senses were immediately invoked by the calming sounds of soft music, and the clean open spaces of the reception area.

Having dreamed of visiting the islands of French Polynesia ever since…well…ever since I could dream; I had made sure to book the spa’s “Polynesian Experience” from their spa journeys menu.

After a brief check-in at the reception, I was escorted to the spa’s common room. I absolutely loved the décor of this space – rich royal blues and stately greys in plush velvets. The room was adorned with white orchids in large silver pots, which drew to attention the white of the wall decorations against the pale blue paint.

Riverside Day SpaRiverside Day Spa  Riverside Day Spa

Large windows let in an abundance of light and paid due justice to the sweeping views over the city’s famed greenery, the commanding Umgeni river, and the majestic image of the new stadium that has forever changed Durban’s skyline.

After quickly trading my ‘street’ clothes for the velour (yes, it was winter!) bathrobe in the small but beautifully appointed change room (decorated with calla lilies); I was ushered to the lower floor to enjoy the spa facilities.

  Riverside Day Spa

I leapt almost immediately from the shower into the ‘heated’ pool, expecting to indulge in the warm water –but alas; it was simply not heated enough. In fact, it was actually cold! Very disappointing. I thawed out in the sauna, before enjoying a quick session in the steam room (for the sake of a complete review, of course!)

Riverside Day Spa

Riverside Day Spa

I found the spa’s facilities basic, but adequate. It’s worthwhile noting that the scheduling of reservations is attempted in such a manner to ensure that guests may enjoy private time in the facilities area. As the space is quite small, this was highly appreciated.

Upon returning to the serene common room, I finally met my therapist. I took an instant liking to her bubbly personality as we proceeded to the treatment room. It was much larger than expected, with not one, but two beds, and a grand jet spa bath in the corner.

Riverside Day Spa

Riverside Day Spa

As I got comfortable, she talked me through the list of treatments in my Polynesian Experience package, and the exceptional Thalgo products she’d be employing.

The first stop on the incredible journey was the island of Taha’a. Producing 80% of French Polynesia’s vanilla, the island is aptly known as ‘Vanilla Island’. My day spa experience began with a luxurious marine salt and vanilla full-body scrub. The room filled with these delicious aromas as my skin was buffed and exfoliated to perfection. Completely attuned to my silent preferences, she lingered over the foot scrub, adding a marvelous, impromptu foot massage to the mix.

I was eager for the next stop on my journey – a visit to the tiny island of Manihi. The coral atoll, famous for its pearl farms, inspired the soothing aromatherapy spa bath with essential oils and luxurious bath pearls. My lovely therapist set up the bath exactly as I liked – piping hot. She lit a scented candle, and with a scattering of rose petals, she was gone.

Riverside Day Spa

Riverside Day Spa

As I lay soaking in the fragrant hot water, I was able to enjoy the panoramic vistas over the city.

Riverside Day Spa

View from the bath

Time lost all meaning and the rushed pace of everyday life ground to a complete halt.

Riverside Day Spa

I emerged, rejuvenated from the bath, and enjoyed a wonderfully-presented cup of green tea before being carried off to the next idyllic destination on my Polynesian journey; the incredible island of Bora Bora.

Famed for its beauty the world over, the island is surrounded by stunning turquoise waters and powdery soft, white sand. Accordingly, the massage that followed was a slow, powerful massage using warm sand pouches and Monoi oil to deeply relax and loosen the muscles.

I had never encountered a massage that employed sand pouches before, and I quite enjoyed the experience. My therapist hit all the right spots, saving the best for last: a brief, but deeply gratifying scalp massage. I dozed off at various times during the hour long full-body massage – such was its excellence.

The fourth, and sadly final, stop on my journey was the island of Raiatea. Regarded by the Polynesian people as a sacred marae of their ancestors, my concluding treatment entailed a radiant rub in sacred oil. Sweet-scented, with a glowing shine, the rich oil left my skin pampered and deeply nourished. The word ‘Raiatea’ loosely translates to ‘Bright Sky’… apt to describe the mega shine of my skin as I left the secluded confines of my treatment room.

I dined in the common room, and lunch consisted of a crumbed hake fillet served with veggies. It went down exceptionally well with a glass of chilled champagne.

Riverside Day SpaRiverside Day Spa

What I loved:

  • The décor – extremely serene and luxurious, it invoked a sense of calm, and made me feel relaxed and pampered… exactly as a spa should!
  • Orchids and Calla lilies (my absolute favorite flower) adorned each room, and added to the glamorous feel of the spa.
  • The massage: heavenly!

What I didn’t love: 

  • Apart from the cold ‘heated’ pool, I really have no complaints.

I will most certainly be heading back to Riverside spa for a day of pampering when I’m back in Durban!

Riverside Day Spa

This post was featured in iAfrica Travel on 19 July 2013

Disclaimer: No part of this spa experience was paid for by Riverside Day Spa. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.

Riga-rous Design

Spa Review: Espa Riga – Riga, Latvia

The Espa brand has cemented its image as one of the world’s leading spa creators, and Espa Riga is no exception to that standard. Condé Nast Traveller awarded Espa Riga the prestigious first place in the Condé Nast Traveller Reader’s Spa Awards for Favorite Overseas Day Spa in 2012.

So when an opportunity for a business trip to the Latvian capital arrived, my hand was frantically waving in the air. (I’m a very diligent employee).

I am not a fan of the Radisson Hotel group, having had some dodgy experiences in the past, but chose to stay at the Radisson Blu Latvija for convenient access to the spa (Espa Riga is situated on the hotel’s premises, but also has a separate street entrance for non-hotel guests).

I had booked a day spa package that included full use of all the heat and water experiences (vitality pool, saunas, steam rooms), a back massage, a facial, a scalp massage and hand treatment with paraffin gloves. The package also included a 2 course meal at the Spa Café.

I had booked my treatments to commence at 10am, so promptly at 8am; I arrived to enjoy 2 pre-treatment hours in the spa’s renowned facilities. Upon checking in, I was offered a tour of the 6 floors. I had read that spa’s décor had been inspired by the opposing elements “Fire and Water”, and this theme surely came through in the details. No detail was spared on the exquisite interior.

Extravagant Spiral Staircase, Espa Riga

Extravagant Spiral Staircase (photo source: http://www.espariga.com)

The entire 6 floors were focused around an eye-popping spiral staircase of black mosaic. The experience showers were painted in flamboyant, deep, shimmering greens and purples. The lavish water wall and opposing fireplace added even more drama. I must say, the art nouveau concept, and the extravagant design aspects were breathtaking.

Experience showers, Espa Riga

Experience showers

After the tour, I was given a luxurious cream bathrobe and a pair of Espa slippers, and was shown to the changing rooms on the 3rd floor.

I was happy to note that the sleek designs and lavish nature extended to the changing areas. I quickly showered (using the luscious Espa bath products provided) and headed for the indoor swimming pool. The water was so warm! I enjoyed a few laps before I tried the 1st floor steam room. For the next hour or so I alternated between the saunas, steam rooms and lap pool.

Indoor Vitalty Pool, Espa Riga

Indoor Pool (photo source: http://www.espariga.com)

I was advised to wait for my therapist in the relaxation area on the 6th floor five minutes before my treatments were to begin, so I made my way up there with enough time to enjoy the outdoor vitality pool. I must admit, this was my favorite of all the ‘heat and water’ experiences. It was a very cold morning, and the incredibly warm water condensed into the icy air generating puffs of steam clouds that created an eerie, yet mysterious setting. At this point, I couldn’t see how it could get any better; I was loving every moment of luxury in these stunning surroundings.

Outdoor Vitality Pool, espa Riga

Outdoor Vitality Pool (photo source: http://www.espariga.com)

After my swim I helped myself to a serving of green tea whilst I gazed at the impressive granite fireplace. I still had plenty of time so I knew I had to check out the Rondello sauna. To be fair, the sauna was incredibly beautiful and featured an amber glass skylight, but really, it was just a sauna.

1st Floor steam room, espa Riga

1st Floor steam room (photo source: http://www.espariga.com)

I took a walk around the 6th floor and noticed the individual steam ‘pods’ – what a perfect idea for those seeking some solitude. At that point, since I had finished my ‘touring’ I made my way to the female relaxation room to await my therapist. I reclined into one of the incredibly comfortable loungers plugged in my iPod, and almost dozed off!

Individual steam 'pods' Espa Riga

Individual steam ‘pods’

My therapist arrived promptly at 5 minutes to ten. I was escorted to the therapy room, which was decorated in opulent deep purple. She asked me some standard questions, and gave me the privacy to undress and get comfortable. We began by choosing the scents and oils I preferred, and commenced with the back massage.

I was expecting a heavenly experience, just by observing the standards I’d already become accustomed to at Espa Riga. But in the interest of being totally honest, it was not the best massage I’d ever received. Not by far. I asked for more pressure several times, but eventually gave up.

It was over pretty quickly, thankfully, and we then moved on to the head massage. Now, this, I loved. Just the right amount of pressure, and she hit all the right spots. I closed my eyes and enjoyed every moment. Before I knew it, she was waking me up from a relaxed sleep.

Espa Riga Shop

Products (photo source: http://www.espariga.com)

We paused a little after the head massage as the therapist undertook a basic skin analysis in order to determine which products to employ for my facial. Cool cotton swabs were placed on my eyes, and before she started, she placed each of my hands inside a hot paraffin glove. The gloves were heated to perfection and my hands loved the treat. With both hands snuggled inside their piping hot cocoons, she commenced my facial. The products were very luxurious, and felt rich and velvety against my skin. I enjoyed the rhythmic strokes she utilized at each step of the cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing process. The effects were immediately noticeable, and my skin felt smooth and polished.

After the facial, she removed the paraffin gloves and gave me a brief but gratifying hand massage. Before I knew it, my session had come to an end. I was given some time to slip back into my robe before the therapist returned with a product card. She ticked all the products that she used during my treatment session, and a few others that she thought would suit my needs. Of course, I was advised that each of these products were available for purchase at the Espa Riga shop. It was an obvious sales pitch, but it was not executed in a way that made me feel pressured to purchase anything.

Fireplace, 6th Floor Espa Riga

Fireplace, 6th Floor

When I was ready to leave the lush purple treatment room, I was escorted to the 5th floor relaxation area. This area is off-limits to general spa users, and only accessible to people actually receiving spa treatments. The room was darkened and lined with the same ergonomic recliners as the one before. Before I got comfortable, I helped myself to another green tea, and plate of nuts and dried fruit.

Relaxation Room Espa Riga

Relaxation Room on 6th Floor

It was perfectly quiet and I lay there totally relaxed for a few minutes before in barged 2 very loud women, badgering on about the massages they had just received. My solitude being broken, I retreated to the change room where I took a lengthy shower, washed and dried my hair, and even styled it using the ceramic straighteners available in the changing area. I returned the slippers and bathrobe, asking the attendant if the robes were for sale. I was interested in purchasing one, as they were extremely soft and comfortable. Unfortunately the robes are not available for purchase, which I found strange, as the shop sold every Espa product you could dream of, and more.

I made my way to the 2nd floor where the Espa Café is located. This floor also houses a fitness studio and the nail bars. The design feel of the spa extended even to the café, and the avant-garde décor included rich black tables and purple leather booths.

My two-course meal commenced with the pumpkin and sweetcorn soup, served with hunks of fresh, warm bread. I love pumpkin soup, and wouldn’t have thought I would have had the best pumpkin soup at a spa café! I chose fish for my main course, which consisted of a cod fillet served on a bed of shaved potato slices and tomato purée. I enjoyed both courses immensely. While the portions were on the tiny side (think minimalistic i.e. large white spaces on the plate with creative brush strokes of sauce), the presentation of the dishes was immaculate and the food was very tasty. I can deal with tiny portions if at least it’s not pretentious. I rounded off the satisfying meal with a strawberry smoothie.

Spa cafe Espa Riga

Delicous pumkin soup

And so concluded my day at the Espa Riga. What did I think of it? Well, I loved the feeling of luxury that enveloped me as soon as I stepped through the glass entrance doors. I felt like royalty as I enjoyed the various heat and water experiences. I will never forget that feeling of being surrounding by condensing clouds on that freezing morning in the outdoor rooftop pool while I floated, cocooned in the warm water.

While my massage, the focal point of my days’ treatments left a lot to be desired, the feeling of opulence that Espa Riga provided transcended that disappointment.

Would I go back? Most definitely!

NB: Due to the low level of lighting inside Espa Riga, the picture quality may be affected. For this reason, and due the fact that I enjoy providing images for all my reviews, I have supplemented my own photos with a few official photographs from http://www.espa.com.
Disclaimer: No part of this spa experience (travel, accommodation or otherwise) was paid for by Espa Riga. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.