The historic Prince Conti Hotel, located just off Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter, turned out to be one of the loveliest hotels I've had the pleasure of staying in. It had atmosphere, charm, and a perfect location - and it didn't cost us a fortune, either.
My mother and I were scheduled to be in New Orleans for a business conference held at the Marriott on Canal Street, but we didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on a hotel room we could probably find in any city. We wanted a taste of the city, something more intimate, something with personality. When we found the Prince Conti Hotel, it seemed like a perfect fit - and it was. The rooms were very well-priced, and its location was perfect - just a couple of blocks from the site of our conference, and an ideal launch point for walking through the Vieux Carre.
Our room was more than adequate - it was comfortable and welcoming after a long day of sightseeing, a little like coming home. The water pressure in the shower was actually surprisingly good, considering the age of the hotel. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful; when we arrived at the Prince Conti at 11:00 PM on a Tuesday night, hungry and weary after a thirteen-hour drive, they eagerly recommended a restaurant just a block down the street and gave us coupons for a 10% discount. The restuarant, Oceana, turned out to be so good that we ate there twice.
As I mentioned above, the location of the hotel is fantastic. We had no problems walking anywhere we wanted in the city. Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde were only ten minutes of walking away, and the beautiful St. Louis #1 Cemetery was only three small blocks straight down the street. And, of course, the hotel is just off of Bourbon Street - a perfect locale for anyone who wants to go out and party without getting lost on their way back to their hotel room.
And yes, the close proximity to the boisterous Bourbon Street did mean that we heard some street noise. At about 4:30 AM during our first night at the hotel, we were woken by a furious argument between two girls on the street below us - yet somehow, it just made us howl with laughter rather than simmer with fury. It was part of the atmosphere, part of the spirit of New Orleans, and I wouldn't trade those whoops and hollers from the balconies lining Bourbon for any silent, frigid chain hotel in the world. Still, I leave a warning for those travelers who just can't abide the "disruptions" - yes, Bourbon is rowdy, and while most of that noise stays in the street, you'll still hear whistles and the thump of a bass. While we ended up loving the mayhem, your mileage may vary.
For those of us who can't leave home without our laptops, the Prince Conti had excellent wireless internet service, which was complementary and easy to access. There were no hoops to jump through or passwords to enter; instead, the Conti's internet was unlocked and had multiple access points via routers fixed to the ceilings on each floor. Very easy to use, and very convenient.
I also want to mention that for fellow smokers, the Prince Conti Hotel had an excellent designated smoking area. The hotel itself is located off a little enclosed alleyway, where there were ashtrays and a bench just across from the lobby (and in clear sight of hotel staff) for those of us with the bad nicotine habit. It was safe, secluded, and sheltered from the elements. Perfection.
New Orleans is a magical city. It has a spirit and character that is utterly unique unto itself, that cannot be found in any other place in America. When I first traveled to New Orleans eight years ago, I fell in love with it instantly. It reminded me strongly of my own beloved hometown of Charleston, with its historic architecture and muggy climate, but while Charleston is a marsh heron, elegant and demure, New Orleans is a peacock, unfurling its brightly-colored feathers with a mischievous wink.
I love New Orleans with all my heart and soul, and I cannot wait to come back. And when I do come back, I know exactly where to rest my head after a long day marching down the old, narrow streets: I'm coming back to the Prince Conti Hotel, a surprising shot of tranquility in the middle of a wild, wonderful landscape.