IT WAS AN EXPERIENCE IN FIRSTS during my recent trip to Bogotá, Colombia: First trip to Colombia, first time in South America, first stay at a Grand Hyatt hotel and first Swedish massage. Not to mention, all at the largest spa facility in Colombia, South America and the Caribbean — the Zaitania Spa in the Grand Hyatt Bogotá.
After already spending a couple of days in the hotel exploring the fitness facility on my own and joining a tour with the general manager, I was familiar with the Zaitania Spa before my appointment. With 11 treatment rooms (three designed for couples) offering a wide variety of therapies, massages and facials; the neighboring near-Olympic-sized pool and several smaller therapy pools inviting guests for a dip before or after a treatment; and high-end makeup and lotions for purchase, it’s no wonder the brand-new spa extends through the entire third floor of the hotel.
The spa is a world of its own — so much so, locals can purchase a membership to the spa and use their own entrance and cubby in the locker room, completely separate from hotel guests.
Most guests enjoying a spa or therapy treatment head to Zaitania early to find a locker, put on a robe and slippers and make their way to the pool area before their appointment. Knowing I would appreciate my spa treatment 100 times more after finishing some work in my hotel room, I skipped the pre-spa pool experience.
Once I made my way to the spa for my massage appointment, I strolled around testing aromatherapy lotions as I waited for my masseur. His name was Oscar, and he greeted me with an impressively firm handshake — what I considered a good sign for my Swedish massage. He escorted me to my room, showed me where everything was, including small shorts and a top to wear during the treatment, before he disappeared so I could change and hop onto the table.
After a few days of walking all over Bogotá, I was looking forward to my 50-minute massage — a nice timeframe for my post-work, pre-dinner schedule. Oscar came back about 10 minutes later and put on some soothing music.
Not knowing what to expect and wondering what made the massage “Swedish,” I knew it was show time as aromatherapy scents of tangerine and vanilla filled the room. I couldn’t tell if it was the oil used for the massage or just a fragrance, but it was incredibly soothing and refreshing at the same time.
As the massage began, I could feel the tension in my shoulders and back beginning to ease. The foot-to-leg massage was a great way to begin. My masseur focused on one side first, then the other, and I thought I was going to fall asleep by the time he worked on my back and arms. Normally, I like a tougher massage with alternating pressure — something along the lines of deep tissue — but this was somewhere in between. The parts that needed deep-tissue attention, like my shoulders, received a tougher touch, but not so much on my legs and arms, where the pressure was lighter.
One unique aspect I’d never experienced before: My masseur pulled my arm behind my back with my elbow at a 90-degree angle and pulled my arm and shoulder side to side, about five times, one arm at a time. I assume it was to further loosen the muscles, but I have to admit I didn’t really feel a difference in tension. I did, however, notice the effect on my neck as he began stretching it back and forth.
Back to my shoulders and behind my neck — I guess I was super-tense — and then a head massage. Signaling the treatment was almost concluded, it was time to roll over and spend the last few minutes with a towel over my face while receiving a light massage on my arms and front of my legs.
Now a bit more alert — I was nearing sleep a few times — I could hear the music winding down and sense the entire experience coming to an end. Oscar grabbed his music, thanked me and left so I could change. I wondered why I said, “You’re welcome!” instead of thanking him, but I’ll blame it on the language barrier and my post-massage brain.
Once ready to change, I noticed one whole wall in the room was a floor-to-ceiling window, covered by blackout curtains. I wondered what the experience would have been like with the curtains open and all the sunlight of Bogotá streaming in.
The bathroom was beautiful in a simple but luxurious way. So beautiful, in fact, the steam shower tempted me before I headed back up to my room to change for dinner. The marble touches and light, subdued colors were equally calming and uplifting. I thought again about the big, beautiful pool and how I would have to find time to get in there the next day.
Grand Hyatt Bogotá
Calle 24A, 57–60
Bogotá, Colombia 111321
tel 57 1 6541300
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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