Here’s a story about a luxury hotel with six storeys. Like a mythical building in a novel by Haruki Murakami, this sprawling hotel has a storey in six different locations in and around Cape Town.
In order to sample a taste of the Mother City, the adventurous traveller needs time to explore all the floors. There is a floor in Constantia, a floor in Bishopscourt, a floor on Long Beach, Kommetjie, a floor in Camps Bay, a floor in Franchhoek and the penthouse is an 85-foot yacht charter, the Princess Emma , moored at the V&A, the celebrated Capetonian playground.
Not to be tied down, she cruises the Cape Town waters from Clifton Beach to False Bay or Langebaan lagoon, at 27 knots, in bespoke luxury.
Each floor has four to nine suites and its own unique style, atmosphere and soul, depending on the personality of the local hosts and the dictates of the (often historic) building’s architecture. This hotel is called The Last Word. We’ve have only sampled two storeys to date and we are ready to say that it certainly is the last word in luxury boutique hotels.
The dictionary defines boutique as a small shop, so boutique is not strictly speaking the right word. There are huge hotels that call themselves boutique. The word has about it something of the flavour of last month, anyway. The Last Word prefers to call itself an intimate hotel.
The dictionary definition of intimate is: closely acquainted, familiar, private and personal. This description fits these five storeys like a glove. After intimate, the word that springs to mind is charming. The Oxford definition of charm is: the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration.
What is the concept, the secret ingredient behind the success of The Last Word? Unlike the grinning Chicken Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices, there is no hidden ingredient here: it is called hospitality, something that is allegedly integral to the South African culture. Hospitality is defined as: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests or strangers.
Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar named Desire depended on the kindness of strangers. At The Last Word, your hosts don’t remain strangers for very long, though. To give you an example of the kind of service that sets them apart: before arrival, guests are sent a questionnaire to list their preferences. Upon arrival, you are greeted by name and your likes and dislikes are known and catered for. This eliminates the kind of embarrassing situation gay women often encounter at reception desks, especially if they both happen to be fairly ‘feminine’ in appearance – “Oh, sorry, there must have been a misunderstanding, I thought you were a couple, let me see if I can move you to a twin room!” At The Last Word, you and your partner are expected and welcomed and greeted by name.
Which raises the next question: are they gay friendly? Isn’t everybody trying to be, chasing the pink rand and all? I tend to feel that as soon as hotels and guesthouses advertise this, they are trying too hard, bending over backwards to show that they are unprejudiced, mostly in order to cash in on affluent, childless couples who like to travel in style. The Last Word makes no such distinction: if you were of a greenish hue and sported two heads, you would be welcome; it’s as simple as that. It is personalized hospitality.
Luxury is a word that is freely bandied about by all and sundry in the hospitality industry. I would say most decent guesthouses are luxurious, as are the homes of most people who can afford to travel in style. Luxury is more than comfort and beauty, woven sheets and scrumptious cuisine. Luxury, by definition, implies being pampered, being allowed and encouraged to luxuriate. The Last Word takes it a step further by offering (inclusive in the rates) two commodities money can’t buy: space and time. I read this on their website and thought: yeah sure, pixels on a screen are patient, this is copywriterspeak. How do you offer space and time outside of science fiction?
The Last Word offers space – because each floor (read location, branch, hotel) has only a handful of suites, each is huge. There are few things in this life as calming as space. To recline on a generous bed facing a lounge opening onto a private patio with pool and garden bordered by mountains or overlooking the Atlantic certainly tends to space one out into total tranquility. In the corporate world you have to be quite a few cuts above middle management to have an office with anything approximating floor space. With real estate prices in Cape Town being what they are, even upmarket accommodation tends to be a very stylish, very cramped hole in the wall. And then, of course, there’s The Last Word.
Guests are not limited to the generous dimensions of their suites, either. The intimate hotel as a whole is their playground, including decks with mountain and sea views on which to sip sundowners and warmly stylish sitting rooms to lounge in.
Our next question: how do you offer TIME? The late great Jim Croce couldn’t manage to save it in a bottle before he plummeted in a plane to his untimely death. Intangibles tend to evade retail, but at The Last Word, they do offer you time on a silver plate. If certain humdrum red-tape pursuits are taken off the hands of the weary traveller, he or she is certainly left with … time!
At The Last Word they will book your restaurant, massage, cruise, tour, transport and take care of all the little tasks that eat up our day. Freedom equals time. Luxury’s twin sister, Leisure, implies time on hands. Time to waste; beautiful, expensive, precious time to play around with. So we would say the helpful, attentive, personable hosts at The Last Word certainly manage to buy you time.
The Last Word is an experience to savour and sample again and again, floor by floor. From Bishopscourt to Long Beach, time and space in a beautiful setting with equal luxury.
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