Finally decided to "do" the Big Easy and went for six days, five nights on the weekend in BETWEEN the two big April festivals (The French Quarter Festival and the Jazz and Heritage Festival).
There is so much to do and see in New Orleans that a TripIt! itinerary was more than necessary. As you can probably tell from my previous reviews, I have a pretty consistent set of "asks" in a hotel: fridge and micro, wifi, pool and Jacuzzi. GOOD LUCK finding a pool and Jacuzzi in New Orleans in a hotel that is less than $200 a night! Well, after days of searching and getting frustrated, a friend told me about the Quarter House...and that friend is going to be getting flowers next week!
Until my friend suggested it, I would never have thought to look at a timeshare property for this trip. In general, I am easily amused and am a raving fan of the LaQuinta hotel chain--but for this vacation, I wanted a deeper sense of PLACE. I wanted to look around and know I was in the French Quarter. The Quarter House fit the bill to a "T."
Located at the very edge of the Quarter at Canal St. and Chartres, the hotel is still close enough to see pretty much anything you want and most everything is within about a ten block radius in any direction. It's situated about a block from the famous Hotel Monteleone (the most haunted hotel in New Orleans and perhaps America). Quarter House is located in an old structure built in the 1830s and they have managed to retain so much of the original charm, with exposed brick walls...but they have updated in a way that you have access to every modern convenience. Full kitchen, flat screen TVs, even an elevator (which is great if you can't handle a lot of stairs) and they do offer wifi, although I have to say that one of only three complaints I have about the place is that the WiFi was VERY spotty...thank the gods for my Android phone!. My second nit about the stay was our checkout time: a ridiculously-early 10am, which I begged and got extended to 10:30. Third, the drain in our shower didn't go down fast enough--I HATE standing in backed-up water!--but the double adjustable showerhead was a real treat.
All the rooms here are a little different. We stayed in room 101, which meant we gave up having a washer and dryer in the room and a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom...but in exchange, we got lovely dark wood French doors that opened RIGHT out onto the courtyard. The pool and Jacuzzi were literally three steps from our door! Another surprise was the daily maid service, which you really don't see at most timeshare properties.
As much as I love ghost stories, I didn't want to become part of one, and it's very difficult finding a hotel in Nola without SOME activity that has been reported. The closest we came to hearing disembodied voices was having to get a little snitty with the couple who decided the courtyard table RIGHT NEXT to our back door was the ideal place for a rendezvous at 3am! (The hotel says the pool are closes at 10pm, but this doesn't seem to be rigidly enforced, if at all.)
The neighborhood around the hotel was a little sketch, but then again so is most of the Quarter. We packed pepper spray in our checked bag and a couple of times I was glad I had it, though luckily I never had to actually whip it out! There are a lot of "gentlemen's clubs" in the Quarter that no true gentleman would ever set foot in, and there was an adult novelty store just a couple doors down (though we did visit it and not only was it clean and well-stocked, but the girl at the counter was wholesome and friendly).
There are quite a few good restaurants in the area. Best of all was Daisy Duke's, an authentic Nola eatery with pretty good fare and rock-bottom prices (breakfast before 9am runs just $2.99-$3.99; $8 will get you a VERY spicy Bloody Mary with free refills; be sure to check restaurant.com for their certificates!). We also checked out Evelyn's Place on the same block, a tony little bar with cheap drinks and good basic grub. The best restaurant by far during our trip was the Star Steak and Lobster House (another restaurant.com find), where our waiter was Johnny-on-the-spot and there are murals from Streetcar Named Desire and a cool brass and keyboard section to entertain.
There was so much good food that we didn't end up cooking much in the room other than nuking leftovers, but I have to say it's really hard to find a grocery store in this town if you don't have a car. We went to a little store on Canal Street (I think it was called the Everything Market). It had more like 7-11 prices for staples like milk and Vitamin Water. That was where I bought the cheapest bottle of wine during the trip--$10 and definitely not the best quality, more like the big bottle with the screw on top!--but in a town where you can drink walking down the street, you've got to have a stash in the fridge if you don't want to spend $10 per GLASS!
There were a lot of freebies connected with staying at the Quarter House. We had a wine and cheese hour from 5-6pm one evening in the courtyard; on Sunday morning, they had a champagne breakfast out there. We didn't avail ourselves of it as we had other tours booked, but they do offer a free French Quarter walking tour. There is also a Creole/Cajun cooking class at Cafe Giovanni round the corner which we did attend. Unfortunately, we were rather disappointed when it turned out the "class" was more like a demonstration and the chef spent the entire time talking about himself instead of about food. We ended up leaving and going elsewhere to eat, forfeiting the $5 fee that was supposed to include lunch (which, halfway through the class, we'd only gotten a small bowl of shrimp and grits which was "just OK," nothing to write home about). One other note is that the concierge desk at the hotel was very helpful and willing to help you book activities. As far as tours went, we had already pre-planned and prepaid all of ours, so we didn't really need their services, but it was nice to know that was a possibility, and they were most efficient in helping us get pedicabs or taxis to pick us up.
I do have to point out that there were absolutely NO high-pressure sales tactics associated with the QH's identity as a timeshare; no ninety-minute presentation, no pitch during the wine and cheese social. There was a very chatty but polite gal named Betty that gave us some basic information, but we didn't feel like we were in thumbscrews or anything.
Another item to note is that this hotel DOES allow smoking pretty much everywhere on the property except the lobby and indoor common areas, so if this offends you, look elsewhere. Our room upon entry did NOT reek and they do a pretty good job of controlling any associated smells, but just pointing out that this is night and day if you're used to, say, California customs about lighting up.
By far the crowning jewel of the hotel was the courtyard. After checking out, we left our luggage with the QH baggage department and wandered around a bit until time to head to the airport...and the folks at QH were nice enough to let us wait in the courtyard for the taxi that was coming to pick us up. I feel like they had to drag me kicking and screaming and clawing to the edge of that Jacuzzi!! The photos don't begin to do it justice. If I ever strike it rich, I'll be replicating that courtyard in my back yard!!
A couple of last general tips: the Quarter in general is NOT very disabled-friendly. The sidewalks are in terrible repair (we laughed at a plaque commemorating an improvement project that had taken place in 1984, 'cause I think that was the last time it was done!), not many curb cuts, missing chunks of brick loom everywhere and I can't imagine how many high-heel-plus-huge-gaping-hole-equals-twisted-ankle accidents there must be every NIGHT on Crazy Bourbon. Be sure you have a tolerance for the seamier side of things and are not easily offended by the smell of human waste wafting up from the gutter. Also, be aware that smoking is allowed in bars (but not restaurants that don't also have a bar) and most outdoor cafes.
Lastly, a couple of words about New Orleans activities: I highly recommend taking one of the city tours in the first day or two you're in Nola; we took a combo tour with Louisiana Tour Company, which, for $89 per person, included a plantation tour and a combo City/Katrina damage tour. The plantation was fabulous, the Katrina portion somber and moving; an all-day tour and well worth the ticket price. It gave us a great overview of the area and helped us decide what we wanted to spend time exploring further. The FQ Ghost tour from Haunted History was fun, although it moved a bit fast for those with challenges to walking fast and was not quite as "historical" as I'd hoped. The can't-miss attractions for us were the visit to Jackson Square and the Cabildo and Presbytere Museums (deeply discounted if you buy a ticket to both, and easy to see both in three or four hours), the cruise on the steamboat Natchez, and a horse-and-buggy ride through the Quarter on a small buggy dubbed the Pink Cadillac, pulled by trusty steed Elvis and hosted by a charming Englishwoman who lives in Tennessee Williams's old apartment!
Next to last autumn's trip to Mackinac Island, this is one of my favorite trips I have ever taken, and by staying at the Quarter House, I really felt like we got it right on the first try as far as accommodations went. I will be back someday...I have to see my courtyard again!
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- Also Known As:
- Quarter House Hotel New Orleans