Piece of Park Heaven in New Orleans!
Staying at the Park View would have been lovely no matter what. But the fact that our overnight came directly after a somewhat questionable stay at another inn, made the visit all the sweeter.
Don and I made a last minute call to Park View after deciding we didn't want to stay a second night at the other NOLA location... which had turned out to be a quirky, clothing optional hotel.
Old, Comfy and Clothing Allowed
This wonderful inn, on St. Charles Avenue across from Audubon Park was out of a storybook.
It was built in 1884 as a hotel for the World International and Cotton Exposition. It felt like we were staying in a gracious old home, but without that B & B feeling that makes you feel like you're intruding and need to whisper.
When in Rome (or New Orleans) you want to experience some of the historic flavor.
We weren't even in the French Quarter, but we still got a feel for the festive history of Mardi Gras. Throughout the inn there were colorful prints of the parade floats going far back.
It was a warm August afternoon when we arrived. We climbed the porch stairs and entered the grand hallway with 12 foot ceilings.
Even before days of air-conditioning I imagine there was a nice flow of air through the windows. Our room turned out to be conveniently located right beside the dining room.
Again, there was a nice mix. Cozy old house meets classy hotel. The lobby desk was located beside the staircase, with a glow of yellow light coming through the stained glass.
We had spoken with our hostess Lorie on the phone earlier and she seemed downright delighted to have us. She showed us our room and the dining area with complimentary wine, snacks and breakfast in the morning. We were starting to relax.
After checking in, we did a little wandering. We could have played a little piano in the parlor.
Or we could have sipped some of the complimentary sherry in the sitting room.
The cozy rooms were filled with marble top tables, crystal chandeliers, bookcases and clocks... but there was no museum feel at all. We were told to feel at home and we did. Especially because no one else was around!
We could have pulled up chairs in the dining room to enjoy some of the complimentary wine, but we were a little too eager to make use of the front porch.
Uke on the Porch
Yes, we did have a ukulele with us. It's not every day that you can stay in a hotel and strum a ukulele tune on a porch... across from Audubon Park!
We had our own bottle of Champagne, too. We helped ourselves to a few snacks from the dining area and moved to the porch for some celebrating.
It was just a tiny bit warm, since it was August. But we popped the cork and started in on some toasts to celebrate the new move of my son and his girlfriend to New Orleans.
It was mighty hard to believe this room was 2 dollars cheaper than the cost of our stay at the place the night before.
We had an antique canopy bed and a lovely mahogany armoire. And even a step up to the bed. Which I used!
A Decent Bathroom
Our bathroom was less comical than the one we'd had the night before. This one had a great shower and spotless black and white tile.
The toilet was new and did not run all night and it was NOT housed inside an antique phone booth.
We had a great night's sleep. I even turned on the very fun "noise machine" to crickets. The evening before, Lorie had insisted we invite Scott and Chali for breakfast, which was beyond nice. We ate a lovely meal with peacock feathers in the vases and soft classical music playing and a view of the park.
A sweet woman named Pam made sure everything was perfect. She said the small pastel colored hardboiled eggs were naturally colored and freshly gathered. There was a sausage and egg dish and stuffed French toast and homemade biscuits. What a way to end our stay!
A piece of the past. There were so many reminders of what this place must have been like 125 years ago.
Hearing the streetcars go by and getting to buy "Roman Candy" from the horse-pulled cart, made the whole stay extra memorable!
"Clothing Optional" in New Orleans
We heard this hotel had an odd history and some kitschy décor.
We also heard it had an unusual indoor ceramic tile pool, that was built by a Mexican Consulate, for his family in 1927. We figured an overnight at Dive Inn would be a great addition to the 90-Nights List!
We learned the property and pool had become a dive school in the '70s. Then we discovered, the now hotel & pool was... clothing optional.
I just laughed. This could be the most curious of all 90 Nights. But was I up for that much adventure?
A Neighborhood Inn
This purple and green building is what we saw when we turned down Dryades from Napoleon.
We parked and fumbled with the buzzer and intercom, while a few neighbors congregated on a porch nearby and waiters took a break at Pascal's Manale across the street. I was sure these folks in the neighborhood were used to having some fun, evaluating the guests who arrived at The Dive.
Diving into The Dive
Monday is a good day to be a guest at the Dive Inn, if you're feeling just a bit creeped out about bumping into naked strangers. The owner, Wayne buzzed us in and we climbed the stairs to a set of colorful doors.
Our host greeted us in a rumpled teeshirt and bare feet. I was relieved about that. He said we were the only guests staying that night. I was also relieved with that news.
The Colorful Pool Paradise
Wayne seemed a little weary. He admitted he usually lets his more sociable wife greet the guests, but then he ended up giving us a 25 minute tour. He showed us the antique bar and the beer stocked fridge that works on the honor system.
He pointed out the domed "lamella" structure over the pool, which was quite a big deal in 1927. He showed Don how to open the cover of the pool and then turned to me with a little chuckle, "Just knock on my door when you're ready to swim. " By this time I had already winced at a few of his joking comments about the perks of owning a "clothing op" hotel. I hated to inform him that I had no intention of nuding up, so I just asked more questions about the history.
Wayne told us how he and the wife rescued the place in 1991 after it became a real "dive" during the Dive School years.
They purchased and created a B & B, filling the place with quirky decorations and curious antiques. They invited starving artists to paint the wall and floor murals in exchange for free rooms.
Drawn to the Pool
Back when they first opened, the guests wore clothes. Folks were probably drawn to the place because it was different than your typical touristy French Quarter getaway.
Some, like actor Dennis Quaid came because it was away from the crowds and nosy fans. After a few years of ownership, an upper level was added. The costly addition was completed just before 9/11. The plunge in tourism that followed caused the owners to search for a gimmick to attract customers. That's when The Dive began catering to the nudist community.
Finding the Room!
I could have had better stories had we come on a busy weekend, when many return guests come to gather. But I was uncomfortable enough just imagining the bare bods, mingling around the bar. Wayne assured me I'd be a pro at it soon. I was just eager to get to the room, thank you.
We headed down a small hall right off the pool area. Wayne pointed to the door at the end. "That's where we live. Just knock if you need anything. Our host struggled a bit with the ancient, sliding pocket door to our room. He joked (I think it was a joke) about how they don't use keys. But he did end up giving us one.
This was the room we chose online. It was one of 4 rooms that were part of the original 1847 Creole Cottage, which was on the property when the Consulate purchased in 1908. I grinned to see that the decor was even more entertaining than I'd expected.
The woodwork and claw footed tub were pink. The toilet was enclosed, in what was once a wooden phone booth. The thick wood floors creaked underneath the carpets and a musty smell hung in the air. But old sounds and smells are part of old hotels, so I was okay with that.
The Sleeping Oasis
Wayne pointed out the tropical mural, surrounding the bed. He motioned to the wobbly bed post and explained, "I think the woman last night thought she was Demi Moore doing a pole dance!" (TMI, Wayne!)
Wayne attempted to screw the post back in, but we found the wobbly thing a little precarious at bedtime and removed it.
A Jungle in Nola
It was nice to see a few Mardi Gras beads strung up here and there, just in case the vines and palms made us forget we were in New Orleans.
And There's More
Our suite actually included a little sitting room with stained glass windows, a tiny kitchen area and a back door to the "garden".
So Much Stuff
I guess $137. is a good price for a suite in New Orleans, but this is no typical hotel suite. Guests need to be reminded that the white glove test would fail here. Not complaining.
You get a little dusty when you're 167 years old and filled with hard to dust knickknacks. I have a feeling the nude crowd is willing to pay a little more for the privilege. I didn't get my money's worth by nuding up, but I did enjoy the figures in the window above the door. And I was entertained by counting the duck figures on the inside of the phone booth toilet. I think there were 39.
A Morning Swim
Don got his money's worth by swimming laps before we checked out in the morning.
Yes, he's wearing a suit, but he didn't have to. I wasn't up for a swim. I headed back to the room and struggled with the tub curtain. I eventually managed to shower, without flooding the room.
So, what was notable?
I guess it's notable that we didn't see a single naked body.
And that's pretty much what I was hoping for. It was unique and will never be forgotten and I'm glad we had the partial experience... once!
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!