Turn off in South Africa
I have been a long-time fan of The Saxon in Johannesburg for many reasons. The fact that Mandela lived for a short time (and wrote part of A long walk to freedom) here and you can stay in the room where he lives; always the refined and incredibly warm service (a by-product, I like to think, from the long-term independent family property of the hotel); lively lunches by the pool at The Terrace restaurant, with its intersecting circles of business power, politics and social influence. And then there’s Saxon Spa, which ranks among the city’s best day spas. Located on its own floor in the vast area of the hotel, it has hot and cold pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam baths, manipulation stations and a hairdressing salon.
But there are also sleep therapies and attention sessions amid a sophisticated range of face and body treatments that use products from partner brands, including Ling, Elemis or the high-tech QMS Medicosmetics. The many outdoor treatment areas and relaxation areas are a bonus, as well as the excellent freshly squeezed juices and herbal dishes in the spa’s café. The perfect antidote, wherever you are, for days of dusty safaris. Just book in advance on weekends when it is extremely popular with locals. Manicure of about £ 13; saxon.co.za
Not just for the fragrant Florentine monks
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is the great mark of Florentine heritage, which has existed since 1221, when Dominican monks arrived in the city and began to produce balms and tinctures from plants cultivated in the gardens of the monastery. In February, The Savoy, the elegant Rocco Forte hotel in Piazza della Repubblica, will open a two-storey spa apartment offering a series of face and body treatments created with Santa Maria Novella experts using their products. (Consider scrubs with iris powder and vitamin-rich oils, or a half-hour purposeful back and neck massage with arnica cream, a world favorite.)
Located on the top floor, the apartment has a large treatment room and a private bathroom with shower and bath, with the prospect of reaching and touching the Duomo; upstairs is a relaxation area with a 180-degree view of the city and the hills. Procedures from € 80; roccofortehotels.com
My favorite hammam in Marrakech
Having been to Morocco about 18 times, I feel comfortable claiming a degree in the country’s hammams, with my experience ranging from mind-boggling condescension (and its inevitable gut-wrenching prices) to public baths that are spartan in both. service and surroundings. La Sultana is definitely not the best hotel in Marrakech (although I really like it, I know some who aren’t). But there is what I would say that in terms of value for money is the best hammam in the city, in practice. Black olive soap is lightly flavored with eucalyptus oil, followed by a hard scrub with non-flaky gloves and buckets and buckets of hot (but never scalding) water – and then a quick but smooth massage.
The small but perfect relaxation area, lined with pink-pink marble with a pool of warm water, is an ideal way to loosen the pre-soaping; or guests are welcome to hang out and use it for up to an hour after treatment. Total price: just over £ 60. Hammams of about £ 39; lasultanahotels.com
Escape from Bangkok by boat
As exciting as navigating its more than 10 million citizens may be for those who love it, Bangkok is a place that sometimes you just really need a break. Enter the Oriental Spa, one of Bangkok’s great oases, located in its own small complex across the Chao Phraya River from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel itself. The three-story house, built of teak and more than a century old, now has a number of healing apartments the size of small apartments; many have pools of vitality, large sun loungers and platforms for Thai massage mats. Extra time is built into each reservation to allow maximum use of all this space and privacy. There are spa packages combining multiple face-to-body services, themed “Jet Lag”, “Digital Wellness Escape” or “Oriental Qi”. There are ancient Thai massages and four-handed massages. There are sessions of Endermologie for face (tightening and density) and body (tightening, cellulite reduction) and nail procedures of Bastion Gonzalez. An impressive fusion of eastern and western wellness – and every place you have to reach by boat has my vote. Face treatments of around £ 25; mandarinoriental.com
Subterranean Shibui cool in Manhattan
Since its opening in 2008, The Greenwich Hotel – like Tribeca, the Manhattan neighborhood in which it is located – has had understated cool things, from the wide plank floors in the apartments to the fire in the living room. In the same way – and this is not a surprise – his underground spa Shibui meets all the right frameworks.
Tatami, paper screens and saturated deep tones predominate everywhere. It offers permutations of the highest caliber of treatments you really want, without anything extraordinary (the whole menu is only longer than two pages – haiku compared to some in its kit). For the body there is a slight emphasis on Japanese traditions (soaking in a bath with ofuro, shiatsu without oil applied on tatami); and for the face, a series of fairly simple treatments that use Natura Bissé, the excellent Spanish line. It is worth booking for a few hours on a cold day, just to relax under the dark ceiling with wooden beams by the pool. $ 230 treatment; thegreenwichhotel.com