From fifteen stories up, Buckhead doesn’t look like my neighborhood. It looks like snaking roads filled with unfamiliar cars driven by people I don’t have a chance of knowing. As I stand on the balcony of my room at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, I feel like an anonymous vacationer, and Buckhead is a faraway city to which I’ve traveled. I can people watch. I can take my time. I can look at the traffic without a hint of frustration. I might be two miles from my home, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.
My husband and I have come here for what we travel-writing types call a “staycation.” We’ve had particularly busy schedules lately, and we’ve decided to take 24 hours to ourselves. Rather than spend a few of those precious hours driving somewhere, we opted to stay put. Our children, ages 3 and 6, are with a sitter. Our agenda is basic: Have a little wine, enjoy the spa, and sleep in before we head back home. If I’m lucky, I’ll get an hour to read the paper uninterrupted. Bliss.
I drive by the Mandarin Oriental nearly every day; standing forty-two stories and designed by the legendary Robert A.M. Stern, the building was an instant landmark after its construction in 2008 (back then, it was The Mansion, owned by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts). I’ve come here for a few functions over the years, and I’ve always admired the formal English gardens in the back. Perfectly manicured and framing a reflection pool, they seem to forget they’re yards away from packed steakhouses and a bustling shopping district.
The spa here spans a jaw-dropping 15,000 square feet, complete with a women’s outdoor terrace and a sixty-foot saline lap pool. I take advantage of the eighty-minute Advanced Skin Radiance Facial, which incorporates a deep brush cleanse and leaves my face feeling soft and bright. The massage portion of the treatment—intended to soothe and cool my skin—is so indulgent it almost lulls me to sleep.
Our visit is quick—people-watching on the balcony, clinking wine glasses to a kid-free getaway, and yes, reading the paper—but it’s just what we need. When we leave the Mandarin Oriental and pull onto Peachtree Road, we are again residents and the traffic is our problem once more. But we don’t see it quite the same way. We are a little different, and so is our perspective.