We finally stayed! This hotel in the French Quarter, has been on the list for a while!
I first fell in love with the idea of a holiday stay, in 2014.
We were in New Orleans visiting family for Thanksgiving. While wandering the day after, we came upon the fabulous Monteleone, already decked out for the holidays. Since my daughter was also decked out in her new hat from a nearby shop, I begged her to pose. The hotel went on my mental list, that day.
Five years later, Don and I found ourselves facing a Christmas without any kids! Instead of pouting, we looked into hotels in New Orleans. Monteleone had special Papa Noel rates! $136 !!
I was giddy as we headed toward the French Quarter, on Christmas Eve-Eve! Our hotel on Royal Street, looked as Royal as I remembered... with its flamboyant, Beaux-Arts style. In fact it looked like it had been plucked from a street in Paris and planted in New Orleans!
Royal Street was bustling when we arrived. Even our Uber driver was surprised by the mini traffic jam.
We were glad not to pay $40. a night for parking, but the parking garage couldn't have been cuter!
In We Go
We headed inside and awkwardly rolled our baggage up a few stairs. There was a ramp from the parking garage, evidently.
The space was not empty, like my photo!
There were lots of people in the lobby. Just off the lobby in the the Carousel Bar, there were even more people. The coveted seats at the rotating bar were all taken, with plenty of hopeful guests lurking nearby.
Looking in the Lobby
Our room wasn't ready, so we lounged in the lobby and took it all in.
First I admired the lovely Christmas decorations. Then I took in all the permanent decor, from chandeliers, painted ceilings, arched windows and ionic columns.
I heard the beautiful clock chiming, before I even spotted it.
The side of the classic antique clock, had a some sweet carved surprises!
The Monteleone Family
There were plaques and portraits to remind us, that the same family has owned the hotel for 133 years.
Antonio, a cobbler from Sicily, switched from shoes to hotels in 1886. Five generations and five major additions later, the hotel is still in the family. That's amazing.
Before long, our room was ready and we headed to elevators.
The elevator took us up in a building, that was one of the 5 additions.
Our Papa Noel rate didn't get us one of the fancy suites in the grand, older section. But we got a 15th floor room, facing Royal Street.
I loved the small lion, greeting us from the door plaque. Our room felt cozy and classy. I appreciate it, when TVs are hidden.
There was a soft, reading chair. Two would have been nice.
The linens were freshly pressed. The gold trim and lion logo, added to the royal feel!
The fridge and Keurig coffee maker came in handy. The bathroom was small and a bit dim, but there was a tub!
However we weren't too high, to be free from the street noise. But that was fine. The distant sounds of street music and occasional honking and voices, just added to the flavor.
After unpacking, we headed down to the Carousel Bar, but it was of course jammed. We wandered back up, to explore the roof deck.
The roof top pool looked inviting, even in December. The poolside, Aqua Bella Bar was closed but would have been fun. We peeked again later and the water was warm and lovely. Bring suits next time!
One of the biggest treats of our stay, was enjoying our location.
We could step out our door and easily walk to all our favorite places. Being so close to Christmas Day, meant we didn't deal with bachelorette parties and crowds of frat boys. The sidewalks were felt busy and friendly. What a nice surprise.
On Christmas Eve, we had reservations for Criollo.
The restaurant looked formal and quiet, when I peeked in earlier.
The lounge was not empty. Later, there was live music. Don and I laughed over our Christmas Eve dinner, when we heard a jazzy version of "Do the Hustle".
Dinner with the Writers
Our reservations weren't until 8:30. I'm sure that would be considered early dining, by the famous writers who used to dine and drink at Monteleone.
We were seated in a small, side room. The space was decorated with curious art and objects, related to authors like Hemingway and Faulkner, who have histories with the hotel. I loved the framed image of Tennessee Williams (with rows of books) looking down from the wall.
Criollo is the Spanish word for Creole. The menu got me excited about tasting all those Creole flavors... Spanish, Italian, French, African and Caribbean!
Here I am, ready to dig into my filet mignon, with scallop and shrimp. Merry Christmas Eve to that!
It was after 10 when we finished dinner. We peeked into the Carousel Bar.
Forget it. We thought the tourists would disappear on Christmas Eve and we'd finally get a seat. We gave up and I posed with the Christmas trees instead.
Morning at Monteleone
I was determined to see the hotel without crowds. On the morning of Christmas Eve I headed down the elevator before 7.
It was fun to see the street without cars and people. I was glad the holiday lights were still glowing.
Then I headed through the quiet lobby and found my way to the fitness room.
All trips to Nola involve consuming lots of calories. I enjoyed a little workout with a view of the Mississippi.
I finished up and returned to the lobby in my grubby state. I peeked into the quiet lounge.
As I snapped a photo of the empty bar, I was greeted by Michael Dupree, the hotel's beverage manager. I asked him for Carousel Bar tips and he laughed. He said there is always a line outside the door, when the bar opens at 11.
Morning at the Carousel!
I couldn't have been more thrilled when Michael invited me into the closed bar to take photos.
It was so much fun to see the cushy couches and the colorful bar, without a single guest.
Michael seemed incredibly relaxed for a manager, ready to face the holiday crowds. He talked about his love of New Orleans and the parades and the people.
I thought about Truman Capote who claimed his mother gave birth to him at the Carousel Bar. Not true, but she did live at the hotel, when she was pregnant with him!
Michael and I shared a few stories about St. Louis and Texas and by the time I headed up for a shower, I was holding tickets for drinks at the bar. What a sweet guy!
Don and I didn't bring presents to the hotel, but we did bring our stockings.
Instead of calorie burning, I focused on calorie partaking. We enjoyed coffee and muffins... and candy for breakfast.
After numerous attempts, we finally had the Carousel Experience! First Don and I lurked, like we learned from others.
Then a zebra seat suddenly opened! I sat and Don awkwardly walked beside me as I traveled on the platform. We learned quickly that people are drinking and no one cares. He squeezed on and rode next to me.
Don eventually got the lion seat, next to me. He had a Sazerac and I tried Carousel Bar's famous, Vieux-Carre. We enjoyed the people watching as much as the drinks.
Catching a Ride
We chatted with a number of carousel travelers. We snapped pictures like tourists. We also jumped up and moved out of the way when there was a shift change. The bartenders have to hop over the bar, to get out of their circle!
It seems ridiculously obvious, what is notable about a stay at Monteleone.
But the travelers and the locals we met, all seemed to be enjoying themselves. The hotel felt festive and the city felt welcoming. The only thing that could have improved our stay... enjoying it with the kids!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!