Miami might be a steamy address, but the spa at the Gansevoort provides a cool city sanctuary.
I’m not really a warm-weather sort of person. Friends who hear me complain about the long Rocky Mountain winters know that I secretly adore the climate, which gives me a permanent excuse for buying another pair of boots or adorable sweater, and a reason to stoke up the fireplace for lots of cozy evenings at home. But, the relentless explorer in me isn’t at all averse to discovering how the other half live (people who actually own more than one swimsuit, that is). So, when I got a chance to make an excursion with my husband to check out the Gansevoort in Miami Beach, I immediately said yes.
Once there, we learned that back in the 1920s, Miami was the playground of choice for the tanned and glittery crowd. South Beach’s famous Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture—curves, chrome, and glass block features—eventually earned it inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places; while its antics, parties, and escapades resulted in a not-so-glimmering reputation for corruption. During the 1980s, a number of fashion designers and artists relocated to South Beach, upping its credentials as a trendy destination. The area’s ongoing evolution has included the addition of a number of great restaurants and swish hotels, including the oceanfront Gansevoort.
After a long walk around the hotel’s immediate neighborhood to take in the sights (and a glass of wine at a nearby café), we headed back to the hotel for my spa visit. The first of two check-ins take place at the desk in the busy and very high-tech gym that was opened in tandem with the spa by David Barton, who’s something of a national fitness icon. It takes considerable effort to get the attention from any of the receptionists, who seems bored and uninterested in the fact that I have a spa appointment, but I ignore the discourtesy and focus my attention on the surrounding activity in the weight area, where a group of men try to simultaneously act aloof while attempting to out-lift and out-squat the guy closest to them. I manage to not laugh out loud, and head upstairs for my treatments.
The whole space occupies 45,000-square-feet, with an escalator leading to the spa space upstairs. Walking down the corridor to the second check-in point at the spa desk, where the receptionist is every bit as slack as her downstairs colleagues, I’m mentally transported to India. Beautiful lamps are suspended from the ceiling at staggered heights, and plush, sparkly pillows cover much of the surfaces below. The muted music effectively masks any residual gym noise, and there are numerous charming touches, such as the fabulous wood benches in the locker room.
I’m escorted to a treatment room—one of ten—with views of the ocean. My skilled therapist, unlike the girls at the desks, has her game firmly on, and both my peppermint foot massage and Barton Detox massage are fabulous. She uses a blend of techniques from Shiatsu and Swedish massage, while rubbing me with invigorating—and slightly tingly—oil that also contains mint. Later, I participate in a yoga class that’s actually led by a certified instructor with a grasp of breathing techniques, something that’s not always a given in a hotel settings.
Once I’ve showered and changed, I find my husband and head out for dinner at an area restaurant—where the food is good, but the service is appalling. We chalk it up to being part of the experience, and toast South Beach’s misplaced sense of self-importance. Instead of dessert, we return to the hotel to check out the rest of the property, heading to the resort’s acclaimed rooftop beach club. The roof has its own collection of palm trees, plus a beautiful infinity pool and a number of curtained cabanas. But again, it’s the people who provide the most entertainment. Posing is apparently an art form in South Beach, and we’re surrounded by people who seem to place an extraordinary amount of importance on how they look in profile.
It’s exhausting just to watch, and we finish our drinks, admire the moon one more time, and retire to our gorgeous, spacious room, grateful that here, the drama is limited to the outstanding design features rather than other people. The walls are a soothing shade of deep gray suede, with scattered color touches in the furnishings that range from banana yellow to deep magenta. Artistic lighting adds to the soothing atmosphere and sense of luxury, and I fall asleep contented and relaxed. The hotel is lovely, and the spa was top-notch, but I’m looking forward to going home where the friendly locals actually smile and say hello, and I don’t have to rely on air conditioning to keep my cool. The Gansevoort is a beautiful property with a great spa, but before you go, be sure your sense of humor is in top-notch condition, and prepare yourself spiritually and mentally for the haughtiness of South Beach.
Editor's Note: The Gansevoort has been renamed The Perry South Beach
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