There aren't many luxury hotels that have also played such an important part in 20th-century history.
Johannesburg's Saxon was for many years the palatial home of Afrikaner insurance tycoon Douw Steyn. Steyn had been a supporter of apartheid but later changed sides and extended open house to the ANC, who held meetings here during their negotiations with the government of P W Botha. It was here that Nelson Mandela came to live after leaving prison, finishing his autobiography under Douw and Liz Steyn's roof.
From the moment you arrive in the marble lobby, with its African art and twin staircases like something out of an Oscar ceremony, the Saxon overwhelms you with its opulence and dedication to exemplary service. The corridors sport a series of sketches by artist Dean Simon that depict Mandela's stay. The desk at which he worked is also on display. Guests have access to a stylish cocktail bar, cigar library, piano lounge and outdoor heated pool plus the services of a Cape Wine Academy cellar master.
Track it down
Located in the tranquil suburb of Sandhurst, the Saxon is 30 minutes from the city centre by taxi and 30 km (45-60 minutes) from Oliver Tambo International Airport. A taxi from the airport will cost R350 - 500 (£25-£35) depending on traffic. Alternatively guest relations at the hotel will arrange a chauffer-driven Mercedes to pick you up in style at a cost of R670 (£47).
All the guest relations and check-in staff speak fluent French and English. Butlers are available 24 hours a day to assist with any 'in-suite' requirements. They will help you unpack and arrange for any garment pressing that's required. There are no charges for these services.
Room to manoeuvre
There are 24 suites of which 20 are Egoli Deluxe Junior Suites (in Afrikaans Egoli means 'City of Gold'). The remaining suites are three Presidentials and one 'Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite', which tends to be reserved by visiting heads of state.
Egoli Suites are quite luxurious enough for the average person on business. The spacious bedrooms are finished in marble and wood and decorated with African prints and carvings. A four-poster bed dominates the room. Behind it lies the bathroom, screened off from the bedroom, but with shutters that can be opened up in case you want to watch TV while soaking. Toiletries are Molton Brown
Wifi internet access is available in all suites and throughout the hotel at a charge of R30/£2 per half hour or R300/£20 for 24 hours. The hotel's business centre is located off the lobby at the top of the right hand staircase in a room where Nelson Mandela proofed his memoirs.
The 24-hour gym boasts the latest technology in treadmills, power plate and weight training machinery from Genesis Evolution, Life cycle and Vectra. Changing rooms are equipped with showers and steam rooms. A qualified trainer can be available on request.
There are three pools of which two are heated. The main swimming pool can be accessed through the Terrace Bar. It's a decent size (920 square meters) and fitted with underwater speakers.
Raid the minibar
All bedrooms are stocked with spirits, wines, soft drinks and snacks as well as South African and international beers. Prices, starting at R18.50/£1.30 for soft drinks, are not horrendous. You can buy drinks on the Pool Terrace and in the Olive Bar where comfy sofas are the ideal place to enjoy an evening cocktail. Wine by the glass is from R60/£4.
Breakfast is included in the suite tariff, and is served in the Saxon Restaurant between 6.30am and 10.30am every day. As well as the continental selection and pastry basket, full English breakfast is available, as is the specialty breakfast, which centres on an omelette, smoked Scottish salmon or eggs Benedict. A limited room service breakfast is available at no extra charge.
The Saxon's brunch is served on weekends and is very popular so make a reservation in advance. Brunch is available between 11.30am and 2.30pm and costs R295/£20.
Egoli Suites cost R5000/£347 including breakfast. Should you feel like pushing the boat out the Presidential Suites are R9700/£672 and the Mandela Platinum Suite R18700/£1,295.
Saxon Boutique Hotel and Spa, 36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg
(00 27 11 292 6000; www.saxon.co.za)Reuse content