New Orleans. Home of Jazz, revelry, voodoo, beignets and hickory coffee – quite simply the stuff of travel legend. Smooth on the surface, ‘Nawlins’ is a historic city reaching back into the turbulent past of the deep South and the more recent devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina (still on the lips of the locals) and further natural disasters, if you delve a little closer New Orleans wears her scars alongside the celebration of Mardi Gras beads.
When we were researching from the comfort of our London couch, we were hesitant about booking a hotel that we would be exploring from. Not so young anymore, we didn’t fancy staying in the tipsy tourist-filled French Quarter but equally we couldn’t bear to be too far away from the fun.
After our rustic Austin cabin we decided a touch of opulence was just what the Doctor ordered. Flickering through pages of OK-enough sounding hotel rooms and apartments, one rainy afternoon I stumbled upon The Whitney Hotel. Promising 4-star luxury full of historic character and close enough to stumble home from the mischievous spirits of Bourbon Street, I booked our room in eager anticipation.
It was like walking into a roaring 1920’s – it could have been a scene of the Great Gatsby.
We were greeted at the check-in desk with a full serving of Southern hospitality that we came to adore in Louisiana. With old-fashioned brass bank teller’s glasses perched on his nose and a Southern drawl we could have listened to for hours, we chatted with our concierge who smoothly took our details, considered his screen and after a moment’s pause looks back to us and says “well, as it’s your first visit to our city I do believe that I am at liberty to upgrade your stay here with us.”
Quietly squealing inside at this unexpected birthday present, we wheeled our cases through the corridors and admired the beautifully restored former bank (actually a real bank still operates handily on the other side of the buildings.) Taking name inspiration from the city’s first Whitney Bank branch built around 1890, the New Orleans Collection group have preserved much of the old bank’s lobby and even restored its vintage vault as a private dining room.
Our four-room suite was just as luxurious. Fitted out with a ridiculously comfortable bed that we sank into each night, the perfect desk for making last-minute arrangements from, a lounge that we settled into the comfortable couches to check on the brewing election results, a coffee machine complete with takeaway cups perfect for dashing into the city with and a Bluetooth-enabled radio/alarm that we set up with our favourite tunes over the great WiFi, we were very happy. Everything that we wanted to explore was within a 10-minute walk – the great Mississippi River, the trolley services to other areas of the city, Cafe du Monde just along the riverbank, a shopping centre along the way where we eventually picked up our rental car and of course the pounding beat of the French Quarter.
With the promise of piping hot beignets and chicory coffee down the road, we didn’t manage to try the breakfast or remember at the end of our long days exploring to try the cocktails in the prohibition-style bar which were my only regrets staying in this slice of New Orleans history.
To book your own hotel stay (we paid for this in full) feel free to use the booking.com affiliate link here for your own magical adventure at the Whitney Hotel.