Sunday, November 13, 2016

If you are heading to New Orleans!

Hi all!  Rog and I were able to get away for a a couple of nights to New Orleans last weekend. It seems crazy that this French antiques lover had never been to this unique "all things French" destination. I wanted to share some things in case you go!  

We planned a bit late and all the affordable rooms of the recommended hotels in the French Quarter were booked and I didn't want to go crazy on a nightly room rate. Without a lot of thought I booked the Pontchartrain Hotel which is on the edge of the garden district. When we first arrived outside I said "rut ro" ...the surrounding area seemed a bit sketchy but just to the left of the hotel was the beautiful garden district full of historical grand old southern homes with wide porches, giant live oak trees and gas lanterns.  The hotel had just undergone a renovation and was a standout. 
The legendary Pontchartrain Hotel honored its 1920's roots by creating a luxurious modern hotel but maintaining its clubby and sophisticated elegance. At first I thought it was too dark but realized it was the perfect choice as we were swept into the bayou mood of our home base. The rooftop bar (a must visit) seemed like a party and the atmosphere was fun and friendly. The first floor Bayou Bar was a lively piano bar and hotel staff were proud to mention the spot where Tennessee Williams spent many hours writing Streetcar Named Desire. The SilverWhistle was a retro cafe...perfect! 

The video above is of the Caribbean Room at the hotel, beautifully designed to recreate nostalgic New Orleans. When I stepped in this beautiful restaurant with its rattan chairs, white cloths, original murals and period velvets, I could immediately bring to mind it's glamorous visitors from the past including Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth.
The hostess told me the designer drove from Chicago and stopped at all the antique centers along the way to purchase those vintage floral oil paintings. Hung they really make a statement!

We immediately dropped our bags and walked a few blocks for happy hour to The Blind Pelican for 25 cent oysters....the grilled oysters were a bit more and deeeelightful! (Pictured below) 
FOOD! FOOD FOOD! New Orleans main source of income is tourism and they certainly make it worth your while with fantastic restaurants! We dined at Seaworthy which was very good and had a hip feel but LUKE New Orleans was our favorite for a new spin on classic New Orleans fare and friendly attentive service. SHAYA is the new hot reservation in town with an inspiring Israeli menu. We throughly enjoyed The Red Gravy for breakfast....must go! The staff was so happy and gracious you could tell they loved their restaurant! I opened the menu and figured out quickly this was an Italian girl from northern New Jersey. Roe chased her dream of opening a restaurant in her favorite vacation spot and enjoys great success. Serving up Gagootz and grits, "jersey Taylor ham", cannoli pancakes and "down the shore" omelettes. A funny coincidence. Red Gravy has a warm friendly atmosphere with live mellow jazz music.
The beignets at Cafe Du Monde deserve their own post! HEAVENLY! Don't be discouraged by the line in the middle of the touristy French Quarter. It's a must do and they get you in quickly!      
The first day we hopped on the double decker bus to get an overview and a bit of history. We love starting our visits wherever we go with the local bus tour. This one was a hop on hop off at the many hot spots of interest. You can get tickets right on the bus when you get on with stops marked with a red sign.     
Above is a familiar scene in the French Quarter along with the expected touristy souvenir shops and walk up food delicacies....see below. We hopped off the bus here, snapped a pic of us on the bank of the Mississippi, had beignets, walked through the farmers market and watched them make pralines all while listening to the many local musicians. A "must do"!

 The first night I thought we should have stayed in the warehouse district because of its current lively vibe. The Ace Hotel was hopping but after one night in NOLA I loved getting back to our grand dame iconic hotel.    
  As always on our trips it's the fun friendly people that make such a big difference. We enjoyed UBER not just for fast and convenient rides but the local drivers were outgoing with their favorites and happy to share their Big Easy experiences.    
Fun shops on Magazine Street.      
Coffee and antique cars....Rog's obsession!    
Gator on a stick anyone?
We were told by a local that Bourbon Street was not the place for hearing local jazz so we headed to Frenchman Street.
 Frenchmans Street wasn't very touristy....the jazz was prevalent and, of course, I enjoyed the crafters set up in a courtyard.  It seemed city neighborhoody which was great. We also saw a tarot card reader set up in a doorway....everyone was friendly.    
Not kidding! Stopped in to get a quick pedicure and these guys from Tulane had all the chairs! I asked them if this is a current college trend. One guy said "we just like to take care of ourselves" when I was in college we were lucky if the guys knew they had toenails! 

A must visit is the World War ll Museum voted one of the top 4 museums of any kind in the US. With the interactive exhibits, staff of veterans and the Tom Hanks narrated movie you can't help but be moved. An amazing place to experience this part of our history that changed the world.      Outside the museum was a replica of a Victory Garden. During World War II patriotism was surging and everyone wanted to help win the war. "Growing Victory Gardens gave  Americans on the home front a feeling they were doing something helpful to win the war. People young and old worked together to grow gardens. By the end of the war, 40 percent of Americans' vegetables came from their Victory Gardens".    
 Mardi Gras is a crazy time in New Orleans. A time where everyone celebrates their vices before the Christian season of Lent when they are supposed to be on their best behavior.  Josephine, our uber driver,  was such a sweetie! She had long eyelashes attached to her headlights! She said every Mardi Gras she and her family have a big party and call it "the Mardi Gras Ball" They decorate the whole house, wear gowns, have her brothers band and party it up! All her friends who have moved away come back for Mardi Gras! Instead of dreading the swell of drunken unruly tourists they embrace it in the best way! LOVE that! Love travel because of the people you meet!        

My stomach hurt from laughing! My husband, who always enjoys partaking in the local food, took one bite of his messy muffuletta sandwich and was wearing it. He disappeared and came back with his idea of spot cleaning!! He thought that look  improved you all still see the oil spots in the middle of his "cleaning".... So silly!    

I hoped this post helped if you are thinking of taking the trip...
email me
with any questions.      

At GreatHouse I continue to be inspired by our team of happy, dedicated  friends.  XOXO  If you want a shot of positive, stop by! I am so grateful to have my store in the hands of these wonderful creative people and to share my days with them.  This Thanskgiving I am grateful for many things and especially thankful for your support of GreatHouse. Your kindness, your stories and your sharing your homes with us means so much to us. We are so proud to be a part of your lives and will continue to work to bring you unique, quality merchandise and experiences and workshops to enrich your lives.       

Happy Thanksgiving!! 
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