The Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The pull to return to Africa was strong. We had been on an unforgettable trip to Kenya and Tanzania almost four years ago, one that still conjures up a string of enchanting memories every time we see the photos from our trip flip through our TV screen. So when the invitation came to visit South Africa it was irresistible.
Once again, we were charmed by the friendliness of the African people along with the incomparable experience of observing wild animals close up from the security of our vehicle as they roam and forage and care for their young in their glorious and expansive personal domain amidst the awesome beauty of the African landscape. Plus, in addition to the traditional African safari, a tradition that we hope will live forever, South Africa now offers a world-class vino-culture, a vibrant gastronomic food scene, innovative ways to travel featuring luxury overnight train tours, and a host of utterly charming hotels and fascinating walking tours.
Our trip began with a direct flight on South African Airways from Washington, D.C. to Johannesburg, continental Africa’s largest metropolitan area and the favorite port of entry for travel to South Africa. After 22 hours of travel door-to-door, with just a one-hour stop in Ghana to refuel, we arrived at our first destination, the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa. A stunning oasis of calm and beauty just a short 10-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown Johannesburg, the Fairlawns is one of those hotel properties that charms and captivates and truly makes departure such sweet sorrow.
Composed of a grouping of buildings notable for their architecturally splendid blend of French Colonial and English countryside manor with magnificent interiors featuring high ceilings, large airy windows allowing natural daylight to illuminate the rooms, and grand winding staircases, the Fairlawns speaks handsomely of stately luxury.
The abundant gardens creatively landscaped and illuminated and immaculately maintained, with bursts of color everywhere to please the eye, are framed by huge trees that surely were planted at least a century ago in which the very social Hadeda Ibis happily nest and entertain the Fairlawns guests with their charming apine conversations.
And then there is the exquisite decor of the public spaces and the recently renovated 40 rooms and suites, each with its own theme and related color scheme, and each responding to the discriminating needs of the well-heeled traveler.
You can truly see how the decorator – and I understand the General Manager lent his impressive eye to the decor – put his heart and soul into collecting the perfect piece for each particular space and selected just the right color tones to pull each room together. I loved how the high resolution TVs were each framed to match the decor of the room and I was simply awestruck by the art throughout the hotel, from the paintings and wall hangings to the sculptures and objets d’art. I so wanted to take home one of those over-sized pillows from the hotel lobby.
Fairlawns also features a fine-dining restaurant, with the lovable name of Amuse-Bouche, where the quality of the service and food are as impressive as the Fairlawns decor and gardens. We enjoyed our first meal there inside the restaurant where floor-to-ceiling glass walls allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the pool and gardens.
The second night we sat outside on the terrace and were occasionally entertained by the Hadedas as we enjoyed our meal by candlelight and looked out upon the expanse of the Fairlawns serene beauty. Our salads reminded me of the gardens — large, lush and tasteful — and our salmon and filet were cooked to perfection and beautifully presented.
The spa at the Fairlawns is a mini tropical paradise decorated with wood-carvings from Bali and lush with tropical vegetation. As my husband and I each had our massages by well-trained masseuses in one of the “couples” cabanas and listened to the soothing sounds of the nearby waterfall and the local birds, the tension from our 22-hour trip dissipated. I dozed off for awhile and dreamed of being in Bali …and so it seemed when I woke up.
The Fairlawns offers many special services for its guests, including very attractive romantic dinners for two in one of their many open-air cabanas. Our request for a car and driver who would also serve as our tour guide for visiting Johannesburg was perfectly fulfilled. Our guide listened carefully to what we wanted to see and accomplish and then impressed us with a fascinating tour that we thoroughly enjoyed. In particular we appreciated visiting some of the city’s important historical and cultural sites, such as Constitution Hill, as well as the many areas of the city which have been undergoing a renaissance and now feature a café culture with creative boutiques, wine shops offering tastings, and people of different backgrounds enjoying life together.
The ideal spot to relax and recharge your batteries after a long flight in from abroad, the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa is more than the gateway into South Africa. It also offers a superb retreat from the 24/7 world in which we live.
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