Creole Plantation B&B
The day after Mardi Gras, Don and I continued our Louisiana celebration!
After a few days of parades in New Orleans, we found ourselves relaxing in a totally different Louisiana setting. Our B&B in Lafayette, was a peaceful oasis, in the heart of Cajun Country.
Home from 1820
We arrived late afternoon and found the 200 year old home, tucked into the Sterling Grove Historic District. The peaceful house and grounds, sat just one half mile from downtown.
I crossed fingers, as we pulled into a gravel lot. It looked awfully empty and quiet and I hoped there hadn't been a glitch with reservations.
200 Years of Stories
Don and I have never spent a night in a 200-year-old plantation. I was happy about having another first for the Notable Night list. But I felt a tiny bit anxious, as I allowed myself to wonder about some of the history and stories.
I knew the Moutons built the home in the early 1800's, but who were the people who labored to create this home? Who were the women who cleaned and cooked... the men who worked in the sugar plantations? As we approached the side of the house, I realized we probably would never know those stories.
Finding the Door
We parked and headed towards the walkway. I spotted moss growing on the roof of the carriage house. The grand oaks seemed to dwarf the house and other buildings.
We headed past the carriage house and followed the covered walkway.
The weather was a little chilly, but the brick patio with fireplace, looked inviting. There was a chiminea, loaded with wood and ready to be lit.
We headed towards the red-brown door in the rear of the old house. There was a sign saying "Check-in at 4". My watch said 4:01. Yay!
Our host Eric, met us at the door. He didn't have an Acadian accent like Charles Mouton, who built the house. But Eric had a wonderful French Canadian accent. He was from Quebec.
We entered the bright breakfast room, which was actually an addition. But it could have been added 100 years ago. I'm not sure.
I loved the feel of the area between the breakfast room and kitchen. There was a mysterious curving stairway, beside the white brick wall. I really loved the old pie safe, standing nearby. The gigantic bottle of Tabasco on top, reminded me that we were in Louisiana.
Erik checked us in and gave us a key. The key wasn't for our guest room, since there was no lock on that door. The key was for the exterior kitchen door, if we came in late.
Through the House
Eric led us through the downstairs, towards the front of the house.
The breakfast room opened into another eating area. Then we passed through an interesting, wide door.
That door led us into the parlor. Another set of blue doors took us to the front porch and garden.
We headed up a narrow set of stairs, to the second floor. The wooden steps were comically warped and worn. They didn't look a bit like the grand staircases from movies like Gone With the Wind, and I liked that.
The second floor had a set of doors leading to the balcony and another set of stairs heading to the third floor.
The second staircase looked like it had been added in later years. We took a peek upstairs at the cozy rooms, with slanted ceilings. Who once slept there?
The Voorhies Suite
Our room was one of two second floor guest rooms, on the front of the house. I believe our suite was named for the previous owners, a few years back. Mr. Voorhies was a descendant of the Mouton family.
I loved our tall skinny doors, even if there was no lock and we had to trust our fellow guests. The blue paint was soothing.
Chandelier and Fireplace
I haven't a clue who slept in our cozy rooms, 2 centuries ago. I loved imagining it.
Our front room had the fireplace, chandelier and balcony door. The middle room had a sweet four poster and closet, with coffee maker and fridge. The bathroom in the back had plumbing. Yay for that! Who knows when that was added.
Mr. & Mrs. Mouton
I liked imagining Charles Mouton and his new bride, enjoying this fireplace during the cold winter months.
For most of the year, I'm sure all the windows were open and the balcony got lots of use.
There was lots of sunshine coming through our 5 windows.
But the balcony was a little chilly, with wind and temps in the low 50s.
We had the whole balcony to ourselves, since no one had booked the other room. We should have taken a quilt from the rack in our room and enjoyed the view.
But we did take in the garden view for a bit. The trees were just beginning to flower and I spotted daffodils and some blooming azaleas in the yard.
We took a walk around the property and tried to imagine what it was like when Charles first built the house. It was a nice, reasonable size. I like to think that the Moutons weren't pretentious.
Trees and Land
The home was built on property, that had been part a 300-acre plantation, owned by Charles' father.
I wondered about the age of the grand live oaks. Were they there, 200 years ago?
When Eric checked us in, he let us know there was a social hour around 4:30. It had been so quiet at that time, we wondered what a social hour would be like, with the two of us and Eric. But, I was game. We could ask some questions about the house. Learn about the Moutons...
We headed down at 4:30 and Eric invited us to sit at the large wooden table. He put out some crackers and pate and asked if we'd like wine or the house special. We of course went for Mint Juleps. We sat at the table near a festive display of flowers and Mardi Gras beads.
When Eric went off to prepare our drinks, we introduced ourselves to Bobby, who sat at the end of the table.
Bobby apologized for his raspy voice. It was of course the day after Mardi Gras and he had spent the last few days performing and celebrating. He sang some Cajun tunes while he stomped and fiddled. And he shared stories with about growing up in Lafayette.
Before long, the table was full of guests. Some were staying in the other buildings. A family of 6 from Switzerland, was staying in rooms above us.
Eric greeted most of the guests in French. Bobby spoke Creole French, that he'd learned from his grandparents. As it turns out, Lafayette has become a travel destination for many French speaking tourists. We shared conversations with guests from Montreal, French Basque Country, Leon, Switzerland... and Atlanta. My photo fails to capture the warmth and fun of this group, all trying our best to communicate with one another!
Don and I headed to dinner and found downtown Lafayette a little quiet, on the night of Ash Wednesday. It was only about 9 when we returned, but all was quiet. The table was set for breakfast and the other breakfast room was set as well.
We tiptoed up the stairs and opened our room. No key. I think that might be a first for a hotel or B&B. But we felt totally fine. We had met so many nice people at the social hour. I felt like we were sharing a home, like family.And when the Swiss family returned a while later, we were again glad we had met our "neighbors". The old floors were squeaky. They seemed to be moving chairs around or unpacking and laughing and talking softly. Funny. It just felt homey and quaint. I went to sleep feeling like a mom, "Oh good the kids are home."
The whole gang (and a few more) showed up at the breakfast table at 8:30. We had been asked the night before if we wanted the American breakfast or a Creole.
Don and I chose both. He claimed his crawfish eggs with spicy Cajun sauce was excellent. Normally we would share, but Eric had encouraged us to spread out and our socializing distracted us from plate swapping. All in all, a great breakfast experience!
We were totally surprised with our stay! The website was a bit vague, so we weren't sure what we were in for.
The house and grounds were charming and the people (host and guests) made the stay memorable. What a treat to experience a culture so different than our own (in Texas) just a few hours away!
Don and I spent a few days over Christmas, in New Orleans! We decided Nola would be a festive place to celebrate, since our kids were on the west coast. We couldn't decide between the historic Hotel Monteleone, or the classic Roosevelt. So we booked both.
On Christmas day, we left the Monteleone in the French Quarter and lugged our bags down Canal Street to the Roosevelt. It was not actually dark (like photo) when we arrived. But this is the tall Roosevelt sign we headed towards, when we turned down Baronne Street.
The entrance beneath the glowing tree, didn't match my memory.
I remembered flags and a bold marquee, from 9 years ago. I was a little confused, until I realized there were entrances, at opposite ends of the building.
Years ago we stopped in with our kids, to see the spectacular Christmas decor. Of course, I had to snap a couple photos.
This photo makes me smile and miss the kids. This photo also made me wonder. Where were the crowds that evening, in late November?
Golden Revolving Door
This is the ornate entrance, that took us into the crowded lobby on Christmas Day.
We fumbled and rumbled our bags through the crowds. I didn't pull out a camera until much later!
Hidden Desk Counter
I didn't get any photos of the all the people swarming the lobby, although I wish I had. I've never seen so many decorated trees or so many families posing for pictures.
We must have looked lost. One kind man pointed us in the direction of the desk. It was hidden behind decorations and crowds.
Across from the desk, I spotted a brass mailbox.
In 1950, my grandmother stayed at the Roosevelt with her mother. My mom was in college when she received this letter, written on hotel stationary. It's funny to read my grandmother's description of New Orleans, "America's Most Interesting City! Those are actually the hotel's words on the envelope, not my grandmother's.
We lucked out. Our room (one of 504) was ready early! We headed up to the 9th floor.
The room wasn't huge, but it was a clean and comfy, corner room! I love extra windows!
Just like 1950, there was no fridge or coffee maker in the room. However, recent renovations meant there were plenty of outlets for technology. And there were comfy robes and good lighting in the bathroom. Simple pleasures. When did they start providing robes in nice hotels?
I liked the framed photographs, that took me back in time.
The photo on the left shows the hotel in its earlier days. The Grunewald opened in 1893, then expanded to 14 stories in 1908. It became The Roosevelt in the 1920's.
The view from the 9th floor, was entertaining! We could see the Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church, from one window. From another window we could look down on Canal Street, lined with palms.
And far to the right, we could spot the roof sign, for Hotel Monteleone. We could also see a sign for, "Oriental Sauna Spa Body Rubs". Hmmm. Interesting area!
I've never gone to a bar on Christmas... except when the car broke down in 1981 But, this was a New Orleans Christmas and were staying at the Roosevelt. It's an absolute must to visit the Sazerac Bar, if you're staying at the hotel.
It's highly possible my grandmother and great-grandmother did not enter the bar in 1950. However, they could have. In 1949, the bar opened its doors to women for the first time. Each year they replay this event, with a celebration called, "Storming the Sazerac".
It was 2 p.m. when we entered the crowded Art Deco bar. My eyes were drawn right away to the WPA murals, painted on the curved walls. When Paul Nina created them in 1939, they were meant to focus on the working people of the area.
No one in the crowded bar seemed to be paying any attention to the art, or the plaque that addressed concerns about the stereotyped images.
Celebrating at the Bar
Someday, I would like to come back and study the murals longer and learn more. But on Christmas afternoon, the Sazerac Bar vibe was not about contemplating anything.
We were lucky we got a standing spot, near the rounded, bar. Oddly there seemed to be more locals than tourists enjoying the iconic lounge. We had a fun time getting to know a few... while we nursed a Sazerac and a frothy,
Ramos Gin Fizz.
Eventually, Don and I each got a foot on the foot railing. We were able to admire the impressive 1878 Ascot Cup!
But that was not nearly as awesome as watching the skilled bartenders, juggling, shaking, stirring... and remembering orders! These guys were sharp!
Don and I suddenly realized we needed food. The hotel's Fountain Lounge Restaurant, was packed at 3:00, unlike my 6 am photos.
We didn't attempt to dine there. Instead we searched the internet for nearby restaurants.
We only found a few places open on Christmas day and they looked pretty sketchy.
The wait for a table was long, but we were able to grab 2 stools at the bar. The young staff, in festive floral shirts, was friendly and attentive.
We were served the most delicious pizza, with "Happy Hour" prices! Our check for $13. came with a complimentary, mini chocolate dessert!
Dinner and Back
Later in the evening, Don and I headed back to the French Quarter for dinner.
We could have Ubered, if the streets had looked deserted or eerie. But, there were plenty of people out and about. Walking to dinner added to the fun. We dined at the iconic 162 year old restaurant and meandered back around 10.
The lobby was still lively and loud! A tipsy couple asked if we would use their phone and snap a photo. That meant we got our posed pic, out of the deal. We headed up the elevator after that and our room was a quiet oasis.
We only had one night at the hotel and I was determined to experience the lobby without crowds. On December 26th, I came down the elevator before 6 a.m.
I felt like a kid, sneaking downstairs on Christmas morning. The elevator doors opened and I stepped out and grinned. The tree lights glowed and Christmas music played softly.
Just like a hotel ghost, I floated towards one end of the lobby to the next. I could finally take it all in, without distraction!
From Floor to Ceiling
I stared down at the mosaic tile, which I hadn't noticed, when it was covered with feet. Evidently it had been covered by carpet, until renovations that took place after Hurricane Katrina.
The coffered ceiling above my head, was equally impressive.
Doors and Windows
Without throngs of people, I found doors and windows I had missed earlier. Sadly the doors to the Blue Room were locked. What was room like in the 30's and 40's when Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller played?
I took time to study the display window, of the hotel's gift shop. Did any of the famous guests ever get a chance to browse through the lovely store. I doubt Elvis or JFK ever got to shop anywhere.
Chairs and Stairs
Down one hall, I found a most theatrical looking throne. I later chatted with the gentleman who would have shined my shoes, if I'd worn something worth shining. He was delightful and shared such a genuine enthusiasm for the hotel's history.
I also found a lovely, but modest staircase. I wondered why a grand hotel wouldn't have something larger. Maybe I missed some others stairs. Even though I explored, I missed plenty of things, like 23 ballrooms and the rooftop pool!
Most of all, I just couldn't stop studying the amazing display of lights and trees!
There was a day when I rolled my eyes at flocked trees. But the tradition of decorating the block-long lobby, goes back to 1925. I now love the Royal-Retro look! Looking from one end to the next was like staring into an infinity mirror.
I read that the decorations include, 46 decorated trees, 135,572 lights, 2,200 glass ornaments and 698 hand tied bows.
The trees and branches were dazzling, but I was sort of curious how the lobby looked when the decor was gone. Maybe Mardi Gras colors invade the lobby in February? I'm guessing, the statue on the pedestal, (which is actually a pendulum clock) gets a lot more attention when the decorations are taken down.
Before heading back upstairs, I stepped outside, into a foggy, eerie morning.
This time I felt like the teenager, sneaking out the house. Was it wise to be out, where I'd seen some questionable characters, the night before? But it didn't seem at all daring. Everyone in all of New Orleans seemed to be off sleeping, somewhere far away.
Coffee with Don
By the time Don and I had showered, we could smell coffee from Teddy's Cafe, just off the lobby.
We grabbed two cups and wandered the lobby, in search of the perfect sitting area.
We sat along the wall, sipping and chatting... and peeking out through the lit trees as the lobby came to life.
We couldn't linger long, with a drive ahead. We grabbed our bags and checked out before 10.
Don took a picture of me with the holiday decor. I took a picture of him, just before we headed back to Texas.
We stayed at a hotel with 125 years of history. Our stay felt glamorous and festive. In fact, I don't think we've ever stayed in a hotel, with such spectacular holiday decor!
What will I remember most? The giddy crowds, the entertaining Sazerac Bar... and my quiet morning with the Christmas lobby!
We finally stayed! This hotel in the French Quarter, has been on the list for a while! Don and I arrived at the magical hotel, on December 23rd.
We were ready to absorb all the festive frills the hotel had to offer!
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!
I was sort of amused to realize the 15th floor view was too high, for observing the street below.
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.
Staying 2 nights, meant we were able to enjoy nearby dining AND the hotel's restaurant.
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. We decorated with lights the night before.
And we filled each others stockings in the morning. 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. The location, the Carousel Bar, the history, the decorations... We got so much, without paying big bucks!
Mostly I'm happy that our stay exceeded my expectations. I was worried I might be disappointed. I was worried that we'd be surrounded by a strange crowd of tourists, escaping to New Orleans for the holidays... like us. 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!
Built in Nola's French Quarter in 1816
I've had my eye on this hotel for a number of years. The name of the hotel made me curious.
I'm guessing there are no other hotels in the world, named The Cornstalk Fence Hotel. For that reason alone, I've been anxious to stay!
A Home, Before A Hotel
I spent much of my youth growing up in Iowa, so I can totally appreciate the cornstalk thing.
I love the black iron fence with yellow husks of corn. I love the corn-yellow paint on the fabulous wood and stone house. Most of all, I love knowing that the decorative fence was installed in the 1850's by a caring husband. Dr. Bianmenti and his wife had lived in the home 20 years, but his dear bride was still homesick for Iowa.
A Home on Royal Street
In past years I've walked along Royal Street, peeking through the black and yellow fence, admiring the grand home with garden patio and trickling fountain.
There has never been anything hotel-like about the scene, besides the sign.
I was delighted when I learned the once private home, was indeed a functioning hotel! I was extra excited when we were able to get reservations for a reasonable price. Don and I were guests last week, along with our daughter and her fiancee.
We arrived in the afternoon and squeezed our car through the gate opening. We parked beside the house and headed up the porch. Sharon, our host, helped us with luggage and checked us in at the end of the dramatic hall.Sharon let us pick between available rooms. Don and I chose Room #2, which was directly to the left, when we came in the front door.
It was tempting to pick Room #1, across the hall. We told Elvis was a guest when filming "King Creole" in 1953.
Sharon discouraged us from using that room, since 2 of our 4 were over 6 feet tall. I wonder if Elvis had to duck when he walked through the low door, to the bathroom?
Chandeliers and Cherubs
The hall ceiling was quite decadent.
There were crystal chandeliers and colorful cherubs, frolicking on the surrounding trim.
Our Golden Room
Our room was delightfully rich with the gold ceiling and satin drapes.
There was more gold, in the mirror frame and fireplace screen and wallpaper stitching. Maybe the rich gold was making me feel woozy? Actually it was the odd slant in the floor, which made me stagger a bit!
The king bed was quite lovely and comfy, but the phone (and satin wallpaper) was fit for a princess!
Hotels hardly need to provide phones anymore, so this was a fun surprise. I really should have just made a call for fun.
The room felt bright, with floor to ceiling windows. I loved the light shining through the curved, stained glass windows in the turret.
In fact, morning came very early since we couldn't block some of the light. But I was happy to open my eyes and look directly above, to the chandelier... with more cherub figures!
Evening at the Cornstalk
In the evening, our son and his fiance hopped on the streetcar near their home and joined us at the hotel.
We brought some wine and plastic cups onto the front porch for a little toasting.
Moving to the Umbrella
Sharon our enthused host, insisted we use real wine glasses.
She fetched a boxful and we moved closer to the fountain for our toasting.
We toasted to Scott's Tulane Law graduation, before meeting more family for dinner.
Music and Fountain
Being a Thursday at 6 pm, Royal street was fairly calm.
The sound of the fountain and a nearby street guitarist, was pretty lovely.
On our second evening, we had Sharon join us on the porch for a photo.
She was quite the helpful and amusing host during our stay. She was even very skilled at moving and parking guests cars in the small space beside the house.
On Saturday morning, we walked with the "kids" to get coffee and pastries. We sat on the balcony and laughed about the sounds we'd heard the night before.
With a room on the front, Don and I heard more sidewalk traffic, cars and music, than the others. There was even a little calliope music from a riverboat and train sounds, too! But no complaints from any of us. It was all part of the French Quarter experience.
Sleeping in an elegant home built in 1816, made the stay memorable. But the location was what really made the overnight notable! We were able to walk in the morning to Cafe du Monde and in the evening, it was just a short trip to Tujague's for dinner.
Being on Royal Street during Mardi Gras, would be a little different. But it was a weeknight in May. The Cornstalk Hotel was pretty ideal, set back from the street. We were able to enjoy a little liveliness, without any of the over the top activity, that you get every night on Bourbon Street.
AND... The Cornstalk Fence!
Yes! The fence is most notable!
We've driven by this impressive hotel with the festive porch on St. Charles, many a time!
At last, we stopped... and stayed!
It used to look quite a bit different when it was a private residence.
The grand home was built in 1883, by a wealthy tobacco merchant.
We arrived around 4:30 on a lovely Monday afternoon, last October.
The porch was crowded with tables and afternoon "cocktail-sippers", but we managed to get past them to the grand old doors!
It was easy to imagine we were in someone's home. The hallway was lined with chairs and planters and doorways, leading into other rooms. But the focus went straight down the hall to the mahogany stairwell. When we reached the stairs, we found the lobby desk, tucked neatly to the left.
A very gracious woman checked us in. I had a feeling she'd worked many years and might have good stories. But sadly, I didn't see her again.
A Scary Ride
Don and I were making yet another trip to New Orleans to see family. Our son Scott was eager to join us at check-in and explore a bit. He was also brave enough to take the elevator up with us.
It may not look that ancient in the photo, but I have never in my life, had such a sluggish ride. You could feel the elevator pause and sigh every few moments, as if deciding whether it could make it to the 3rd floor. It did.
We didn't want to press our luck, so we took the stairs the rest of our stay. They were probably just as dangerous as the elevator, though.
There was so much distraction in that extraordinary stairwell! There was the domed skylight to stare up at and the hypnotizing, patterns on wall and floors.
The dim, eerie lighting added to the dreamlike setting. Then there was a blast of bright color in the wall mural!
Reaching the Top
Then when we reached the top, the ceiling became so low that "some of us" almost had to duck.
I wasn't one of those tall people, but I suddenly felt tall when I leaned over the low railing to peer down. That felt oddly, disorienting... like I might tumble over.
Scott's girlfriend Chali, was able to join us after she got off work.
Suddenly we were part of the cocktail-sippers club, seated on the porch. At least one of us had a Sazerak, which is always a must when visiting New Orleans.
The Victorian Lounge
It was too nice outside to be in the dark bar, but what a place! It was hard to believe this room was not aways a cozy lounge.
Before the residence became a hotel in 1915, this was the family dining room, with dark carved mahogany walls and gilded bronze chandeliers.
Above the chandelier we could see the paneled mahogany ceiling that was imported from Honduras.
The Greek design wrapping around the upper room, was evident in some old photographs.
Chali and I had some fun posing in the adjoining room, which got a little more crowded later.
The velvety Victorian seat, looked like something right out of a movie. In fact we were in the midst of an old movie set.
"Pretty Baby" and "Twelve Years a Slave"
At least 2 films have been shot at The Columns. I love being in a place where a movie was filmed and imagining the interaction between actors and crew.
However, Chali and I were having a hard time thinking too much about the filming of Pretty Baby, starring 12 year old Brooke Shields playing the part of a prostitute. The movie was controversial enough in 1978. I'm not even sure they could make that movie today.
This Italianate, or is it pre-Queen Anne style room, was just dripping with rich gold and crystal. My Great Aunt Mary would know the answer. She would have adored this formal room.
It's funny how staying in old hotels often makes my mind wander to past places and even relatives. Seeing the same room in the later evening made me think of my grandmother, Aunt Mary's older sister.
I'm not sure "Daw" would have been a total fan of the the informal acoustic guitar that was performed that night.
But whenever I'm in New Orleans I always recall my sweet and proper Daw raving about visiting the French Quarter and hearing the jazz performance at Preservation Hall. I have always regretted missing that trip in 1978, with my mom, brother and Daw. I wish Daw could have been right there with us, sitting in one of the formal chairs, barely swinging her crossed ankles... feet never reaching the floor.
And More Details!
I couldn't stop snooping around. I loved this cozy little seating nook and the 12-foot door, nearby.
I was busy being impressed by the size of the door, when Don pointed out the massive, brass hinges. It took 8 screws to attach that ornate piece of hardware to the door.
The Upper Porch!
After dinner we wandered out to the porch on the second floor and had it to ourselves.
At least two guest rooms actually have giant windows that open to the porch, so we didn't exactly pull out our ukuleles!
Morning was a treat on the porch, as well. We grabbed a cup of coffee from the little table just outside our door and headed down to the second floor.
The porch was a great place to start the day. We watched the wind blow the flags and listened to the streetcars rattle and clank on the street below.
I should mention that we did sleep before that morning coffee! Our 3rd floor room was comfy and spacious. It was also reasonably priced. Under $150. in NOLA is good.
We could have taken the Pretty Baby Room on the 3rd floor, where scenes were filmed. But that was just too weird. We took this room which faced St. Charles, but really only had a view of the porch roof. The king bed was built high, with shelves below and a set of steps... for short people.
Just getting into the bathroom was entertaining. You got to hoist open the door with a glass knob and climb up a step to get inside. Luckily there were no mishaps in the night.
And if we'd had wrinkled clothes that needed tending, not only did our room provide an iron and board, but we had a handy antique iron holder... or at least a silver radiator that did the job!
The halls sort of cracked me up with their decor. The brownish hall shows the view from our guest room door. The pillars were almost modern. The oil paintings, knight's armor and taxidermy gave the space a... unique vibe.
And the boldly-blue hall that took us to the porch on the second floor was lined with couches, lamps and racks of tourist pamphlets. In other words, there was no snobby perfection here. I felt comfortable in our homey surroundings.
It seems like every place we've stayed in the last few years has had a resident ghost or a few tales of eerie interest. I don't even think about it anymore.
But our "home for the night" did look very creepy as we headed back after dinner. Luckily (or sadly) we had no encounters!
Breakfast in Albertine's Tea Room
A Tea Room makes me think of prim and proper nibbling, but this bright yellow room was the perfect atmosphere to sit and sip coffee or feast. The round part of the room, with its stained glass, made me wish we had a bigger group so we could make use of the round table.
Our full, southern breakfast was complimentary with our stay. Scott was on fall break from Tulane, so he came over and joined us for fruit and omelets. I actually gave him mine, but you can pay for additional non-guests.
By ten, Don and I were ready to hit the road and Scott was ready to hit the books... I'm guessing!
We headed to our car, parked right on the curb. It was as if this was just any neighborhood home. What a fun overnight in the big old white house!
Our Monday night stay was ideal at this historic, cozy hotel. If it had been any quieter, it would have felt awkward. If it had been more bustling we would have had to share the upper porch or wait for tables. I loved feeling relaxed in an atmosphere that could have been snooty or overly grand.
And what fun, to stay in a place that conjures up memories of your grandmother and aunt. Oh they would have loved the place!
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!