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  Refined Opulence, Exceptional Setting:
The Westcliff in Johannesburg

Story by Ken Panton
Photography by David Lewis Taylor

Final preparations are made for breakfast with the sunrises over Johannesburg in the distance

A simply perfect setting for starting the day and enjoying a delightful breakfast
The edgeless pool is spectacular
Refined, yet opulent guests rooms are individually decorated
La Belle Terrasse, at the Westcliff is one of Johannesburg’s most lovely restaurants

An exceptional location overlooking the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens and the forested northern suburbs of this dynamic and sprawling city is the setting for the Westcliff Hotel. The Westcliff, a dazzling facet in the glittering, worldwide Orient Express collection of luxury hotels, trains, and cruises, embodies the superior service and exceptional standards that have earned Orient Express impressive accolades from the most discerning of luxury seekers. A steeply winding road leads to the guestrooms, restaurants, pool, and The Health Spa at the Westcliff, perched like an oasis, built into the cliff-face. The dramatic location affords stunning views from most of the 80 spacious guestrooms and 35 suites as well as dining venues. The edgeless pool is perhaps one of the most picturesque urban hotel pools in the world. Swept up the hill by shuttle bus to their guest rooms, a feeling of privilege and anticipation builds as this luxurious enclave unfolds. South African native Charlize Theron retreated to Westcliff after wining her Oscar, joining a long list of celebrities, diplomats, international executives, world leaders, and jet setters that have visited the Westcliff. Expressing the opinion of many visitors Theron declared “there is simply no finer city resort in the whole of South Africa than the Westcliff.”

Each of the guestrooms and suites are uniquely decorate by the highly regarded South African designer, Graham Viney, with a refrained opulence that prevails throughout the Westcliff. A rich collection of fabric in warm and welcoming tones and textures compliment regal furnishings, comfortable seating areas, and the alluring high beds in the guestrooms. Nearly all rooms feature sunny private balconies perfect for dining, relaxing, and taking in the expansive view is a treat in itself. The bright and airy, fully appointed en-suite bathrooms are spacious and elegantly designed to include storage, closets, and drawers. Also serving as a dressing room this smart, space-efficient design allows guest to fully enjoy their elegant surroundings with personal items discreetly out of view. Some guestrooms and suites have second balconies, hidden balconies, and small private pools. The special setting of the Westcliff finds each room bestowed with characteristics that have been incorporated into the design giving each room a unique charm. Return visitors often request the same guestroom or suite at each visit, and one particular client repeatedly requests one suite when traveling alone and another when traveling with her husband. So posh and comfortable are the guestrooms and suites that it is easy to understand why guests develop personal attachments to them.

The Polo Lounge, Terrace and Bar overlooking the azure pool and view beyond, is a tranquil spot for afternoon tea and later offers a lively and popular scene for drinks that both guests and local residents enjoy. Diner and the bountiful Sunday brunch at La Belle Terrasse also attract local residents who find both the cuisine and setting unparallelled for a romantic evening, family outing, or celebration of a special occasion. As a guest, I found breakfast on The Loggia to be delightful. Dining outside and enjoying delectable choices from the buffet, fresh baked selections, and warm coffee while the city awakens was relaxing and a supreme simple pleasure. During my indulgent breakfast my coffee cup was never empty and that level of attention, indicative of the Westcliff's stealthy-efficient service. Guest needs are anticipated and met with grace – ensuring guest comfort is a guiding principle that’s taken to new heights at the Westcliff.

For guests visiting the Westcliff for business, pleasure, or as a waypoint for further travels into South Africa, there is much to be discovered in Johannesburg. Courtesy shuttle buses take guests to shopping areas, craft markets, business centers, and trendy restaurants in cosmopolitan centers including Sandton and Rosebank, and quaint, very hip neighborhoods of Melville, Parkview, Parkhurst, and Greenside. Museums and attractions are also accessible by the shuttle bus. The knowledgeable concierge staff is an invaluable aide in planning activities around Johannesburg, and they will expedite travel and transfer arrangements for guests continuing onto safaris in Kruger National Park, one of the three Orient Express luxurious safari camps in Botswana, or the famed Mount Nelson Hotel in Capetown. Of the many cultural, historical, commercial, and natural reasons to visit South Africa, a visit to the Westcliff should be considered an attraction in its own right.

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