‘Honey, did you remember to pack your bathing suit?” I asked my husband as we stepped out of the house for our overnight at the Gordonia Hotel.
“I forgot!” he replied. “It’s a good thing you reminded me.”
Even though it was a wintry day, I was looking forward to dipping into a private pool featured in one of the pool-patio rooms in this upscale hotel.
The feeling of entering a high-class estate came to mind as we approached the hotel in the hills of Ma’aleh Hahamisha. I tapped the code to open the elaborately designed gates, eager to start unwinding at this boutique “adults only” establishment.
We walked up the path leading to the main building and entered a “lobby” that resembles a Swiss chalet instead of the standard reception area characteristic of most upscale hotels. At the Gordonia, the lobby is designed as a homey-style salon. The concierge desk is positioned inconspicuously in the middle of the dining area (most tables are for two, naturally). The room also features a mini-library and two comfy couches facing an enormous picture window.
No skiing here. Instead, we were captivated by the scenery with a view of the Jerusalem hills and the neighboring Abu Ghosh village. We sunk into the plush couch as we sipped our cappuccinos, which are free throughout the day (as are the wine and tea).
The laid-back vibe extends from the staff to the hotel’s owner and CEO, Gadi Priwer. Clad in a matching faded blue jeans and button-down shirt, it’s clear he takes enormous pride in his private luxury hotel, which has completed a NIS 20 million renovation of its upscale rooms and suites. Of the 40 rooms, 27 come with private pools. He points out that it’s a relatively short drive to reach the hotel from Tel Aviv (approximately 45 minutes) and Jerusalem (for us, about a half hour). No need to spend hours in the car to be immersed in a bucolic, mountain setting.
We tucked into the elaborate buffet lunch – salads galore accompanied by yummy hot dishes, such as a mushroom and cheese offering that went perfectly with my whole grain bread. Sufficiently satiated (with another two cups of cappuccino), we were escorted by Priwer on a tour of the hotel’s various rooms, each with specially tailored amenities.
It was hard to contain my “oohs and aahs” as our press group entered the deluxe rooms with their private pools (some larger than others), patios and hot tubs. A few steps away from the rooms was the outdoor communal infinity pool, with its optical illusion of falling off the mountain ridge, and nearby sauna and hot tub.
Priwer took special pride in the grounds, with their array of foliage, fruit-bearing trees, grapevines and lily pond. The village-like atmosphere made it hard to remember that we were only 16 km. away from the capital’s hustle and bustle. Though the skies became overcast, I was unfazed. After all, if we were lucky enough to have a room with a pool, a few raindrops wouldn’t keep me from doing some laps. If not, there was always the communal infinity pool.
Soon, I was whisked away for my massage session with Tzippi. The petite woman’s confident touch gently but firmly pulled out the kinks and knots from my computer-burdened back, neck and shoulders. The hot towel over my eyes and head added another layer of relaxation to the hour-long massage. I took a mental note that the hotel’s spa is now offering its services to day visitors.
A QUICK call to hubby afterward to see which room we were assigned had me winding the stairs of Gordonia’s chic, newly renovated building, past the gym and conference room. Alas! We were not placed in a room with a private outdoor pool and patio. Our super-sized room, however, exuded an elegant ambiance, with its stone walls and homey wooden floors, and we happily tucked into the lavish fresh-fruit platter, wine and delectable sweets.
Then, as we pulled back the curtains of the picture windows, we were greeted with a natural drama as the red sun began peeking out from the clouds on its daily afternoon descent to meet the horizon. Our disappointment of not being in a room with a private pool was soon forgotten.
In my continued quest for relaxation, I took note of the complimentary bath sea salts – a particularly nice touch. I purposely ignored the scale tucked under the sink of the lavish bathroom. I knew dinner would be another feast.
And it was. We started our meal with soup, salads, antipasti and an assortment of breads. For our hot dish, we choose sea bass and salmon – both delectable – on a bed of creamed corn. Being a pasta lover, I couldn’t resist sampling the mushroom fettuccine. (No way was I going to pull that bathroom scale out when we got back to our room.)
The salon-dining room quickly filled up with couples talking intimately at their tables for two. We marveled at the welcomed hush that permeated the romantic atmosphere, despite the large number of diners. The boutique establishment, which brands itself as a “private hotel” on everything from its entrance sign and floor mats to its umbrellas, was clearly hitting the mark.
The hotel's magic
What’s the Gordonia Hotel’s magic that attracts this mostly local clientele? “No kids,” confides one of the hotel employees. In fact, that message is made clear on the hotel’s website with the unambiguous advisory – “Hotel accommodation is for adults only” – featured in boldface type.
He went on to relay that the hotel’s romantic setting is also an ideal attraction for marriage proposals, with four engagements already secured there in the past week. “Plus they come back here on their anniversary,” he says, hinting at a loyal, built-in clientele.
Although this private hotel might not appeal to first-time overseas tourists who spend the day chaperoned from one site to another, it would be a welcome venue for those who have been to Israel multiple times and want to unwind in nature with their “significant other.”
The private hotel has a variety of packages that reflect its upscale status. To mark its renovation, the Gordonia is offering accommodations that start at NIS 1,800 a night for a junior suite (no pool), going up from there to more than NIS 5,000 a night, depending on the level of the luxury room.
Spa treatments, tours of Mahane Yehuda and visits to local wineries can be part of a package. On Wednesday nights, the hotel features “living room conversations” with notable figures and artists, in its new conference hall. Past personalities have included musician Yali Sobol, culinary journalist Hila Alpert and newscaster Nesli Barda, to name a few. For nature lovers, walks in the nearby lush countryside by foot or rented bicycle add another layer that will revive the soul.
Amid a downpour the next morning, we huddled under our umbrella and scurried to the salon-cum-dining room for breakfast. Clearly, our bathing suits were going to remain in our suitcases on this sojourn. My dream of dipping into the hotel’s communal infinity pool, or a private pool in one of its suites, would have to wait for another visit.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.