Follow:
Browsing Category:

Louisiana

    The Whitney Hotel, New Orleans – Luxury hotel review

    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.

    The Whitney Hotel Review Four Star Luxury New Orleans Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    Where to stay in New Orleans The Whitney Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was like walking into a roaring 1920’s – it could have been a scene of the Great Gatsby.

    The Whitney Hotel Review Four Star Luxury New Orleans Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We were greeted at the Whitney Hotel 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.”

    Where to stay in New Orleans The Whitney Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    Where to stay in New Orleans The Whitney Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    The Whitney Hotel Review Four Star Luxury New Orleans Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    < Pin for later >

    Where to stay in New Orleans Louisiana Adventures of a London Kiwi.

    Share:

    How to drive in America (a Kiwi perspective from the wrong side of the road)

    Covering 800 miles of American freeways in less than 10 days is something I never thought I’d do to be honest – an inexperienced driver at best I’ve driven short distances (and through a Florida tropical storm from Cape Canaveral back to our Orlando apartment) – but somehow we survived unscathed driving diagonally the length of Louisiana from New Orleans to Shreveport, through the crazy traffic of Dallas and along the long, undulating motorways of Texas.

    How to drive in the US on holiday Adventures of a London Kiwi

    How to drive in the US on holiday Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was amazing. We saw places that we never would have been able to explore, it gave us a freedom to nip into cute restaurants we spotted from the road and stay in a couple of really quirky hotels off the beaten track.

    We intentionally hired a small car, ending up with a Scarlet Nissan which I christened Bonnie (both named for our lovely waitress one morning and after the infamous Bonnie & Clyde). She was automatic and had a sweet spot around 75miles/hr (or 120km/hr, I’m so glad I hadn’t converted that over whilst in the US) but best of all (I think) the colour and size marked us out as tourists amidst the white 4-wheel drives that all the locals drove.

    Tips for driving in America on holiday Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We flew (hopped really, on the American Airways buses of the sky) from Austin to New Orleans to avoid the chaotic traffic jams of Houston and taxied around Dallas (mostly to give me a break from concentrating – we got some of the best recommendations from our drivers though, one restaurant we visited two nights in a row) but our hours on the road were definitely some of our favourite.

    Louisiana has one of the highest speed limits in the continental US and some beautiful camber, whilst Texas seemed a little slower but had more 18-wheeler trucks sharing the tarmac with my admittedly Nana driving.

    Tips for driving in America on holiday Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The driving is super quick, but I simply kept in the right-hand lane to 5 miles under the speed limit which was comfortable
    for my confidence – and helped us avoid the $175 Louisiana speeding fines. At the start of the trip I was a nervous wreck, that night almost falling asleep in the hot tub in our hotel from exhaustion after clenching the steering wheel all day. By the end of our mammoth road trip I was changing lanes with ease, occasionally floating in the middle lane before tucking back in behind trucks and sauntering out of the car with keys jangling on my fingers.

    I’ll be honest, and admit that did we encounter a couple of scary situations – a truck driver changing lanes not allowing me enough time to enter a motorway (I luckily just popped into a shoulder lane), getting lost in the middle of Dallas skyscrapers (we jammed every device we had onto navigation), accidentally assuming a road was much narrower than it really was (luckily the road was relatively quiet so I just guided her nimbly over to the correct lane) and dodging some of the twits who pulled out in front of us – one with a trailer full of wood – but overall it really was fine.

    Tips for driving in America on holiday Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I doubt much of this is helpful, but a few things/tips to bear in mind when planning an American roadtrip are;

    CHECK YOUR CAR INSURANCE BEFORE YOU START DRIVING.

    Photograph the dents in your car when you pick it up, just in case.

    Rest. We stopped every hour or so, just to grab a drink and stretch our legs, my Dad’s voice echoing in my head every day.

    It’s totally OK to call your family in England to check if you can put tap water in the window washing reservoir. (As a student and before smartphones invented, I once call my Dad to check how long to boil potatoes for. They’ll still love you, they’ll just laugh a little at you.)

    DON’T PANIC.

    We planned to mostly drive in the middle of the day to miss the city rush hours and allow loads of time to stop and do random things.

    Buck-ees have nice restrooms and are all along the highways BUT hopping out at a small town gas station can be quite an eye opener.

    There weren’t as many signs to stop and see random things as we were hoping, but luckily a touch of Google research provided ample sufficiency. 

    Tips for driving in America on holiday Adventures of a London Kiw

    ‘scuse the blurry photo…

    DO NOT PASS STOPPED SCHOOL BUSES OR POLICE CARS (OR AT LEAST SLOW RIGHT DOWN PAST THE POLICE CARS)

    We downloaded an app that was perfect when we drove around Florida (NavFree I think?) but the best app we found en route was still Google Maps as it assisted with picking lanes in the busy city junctions but it can be a data vacuum and unhelpful when there is patchy data signals.

    DON’T SPEND ALL THE TIME DRIVING – we probably needed an extra day really – with traffic etc most 60 minute distances were really around 75 minutes which adds up over a few days and there was an additional place we fancied visiting (but we demurred as it would have meant 5hours+ driving one day).

    MOST IMPORTANTLY KIDS: DON’T EAT SERVICE STATION SANDWICHES, GO DEEP-FRIED.

    Driving again has given me a real confidence boost oh how I miss the convenience of four wheels. Whilst planning our next road trip away, I think I’m gonna start working on my next bumper sticker that says “My Other Car Is A Boat.”

    Tips for driving in America on holiday Adventures of a London Kiw

     Have you ever driven on the wrong side of the road? Would you?

     <Pin Me!>

    Tips for driving in America on holiday Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Share:

    Austin, Texas: the city where music pours from doorways

    2 US states, 3 cities, 800 miles of driving + 1 internal flight, a
    serious amount of Texan BBQ, a swamp tour on a Louisiana bayou with
    gators and raccoons, music pouring from doorways, a small red car
    christened Bonnie (just because we could), 7 hotels (definitely a record
    for us, we like to make a single central base) and a few gallons of craft ale. That was our two week roadtrip through Texas and Louisiana.

    Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Drawn in by lure of classic blues, we began in the city where guitar players wander off the stage and into the road, the pavements where students snapchat alongside families and blocks upon blocks of bars showcase local talent. Austin, Texas, the self-proclaimed ‘live music capital of the world’.

    Death metal with screaming soloists, big band blues with grooving horn players who feel the rythym through their whole being, classical guitarists who sit in a spotlit room playing their hearts. Groups wandering through the streets improvising a groove on a plastic bucket, guitar soloists who hand their instrument over to a grinning member of the crowd before wandering back on stage to finish his cigarette and ripping out Jimi Hendrix gold.

    This is Austin.

    Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This is the Austin we found. This is the Austin we had hoped for.

     Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Architecturally it’s a very industrial city, combining and an unusual mix of gleaming skyscrapers trying to keep up with demand, extensive green parks and further out suburban family homes that keep pygmy goats the tethered in the yard.

     Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Evenings are when the city begins to jive, no matter the weather. 6th Street is the best know
    for a stretch of bars that spill out into the cordoned off roads (to
    keep bar hopping drinkers safe) but there seemed to be music on every
    single corner not to mention in the perpendicular roads.

    Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And it wasn’t even the time of Austin City Limits or South by SouthWest, the big music festivals that put this city on the international music map.

    Skynyrd is played as often as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Monday nights are busier that Picadilly Circus – wandering along on a Sunday night feels like a rave and ginormous pizza slices are nibbled by everyone. We wandered into bars drawn to the amazing music and stayed for the chatty bar staff.

    Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And this was only just the beginning…

     Austin Texas Live Music Capital of the World Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Share:

    Gumbo Tales – Reading Recommendation

    I heart this book. It makes me want to dash to the airport, get on the next
    plane for America, and sit on a veranda with a Sazerac in one hand and an
    Oyster Po-Boy in the other.

    You really feel the love the author has for her adopted home. She charts the
    necessary settling in period, almost marking each milestone by developing her
    journey through each main dish she feels is special to New Orleans. She takes
    us on a journey through a variety of dishes including Gumbo, Turduken, Crawfish catching and the ubiquitous Red
    Beans and Rice, with many stops and amusing diversions. The only one I know
    that she missed was Jumbalaya which is a shame.

    “By eating in New Orleans, continually asking questions about eating in New Orleans, obsessively reading about eating in New Orleans, and writing a weekly column about eating in New Orleans, I had created a comfortable world in which it looked and felt as though I were really doing it—becoming one of them, a New Orleanian. But my rusty cast-iron skillet told a different truth. I was like those expats who eat France out of Camembert and croissants but continue to read Satre in English. In Louisiana, cooking is a foreign language. It was time to step up.”

    Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table Sara Roahen

    It’s not a recipe book, more of a book about “food porn”. It does contain some good tips though, tried and trialled by the author. I’ve started to plant the seed with hubby for a holiday, one day.

    (I also had a giggle – my Sister-in-Law and I’s favourite restaurant game is
    spot the typo – they got the authors name wrong on the back cover of the book.
    I’m petty, and not proud, but it did make me giggle. I know I’m terrible for it
    too – spot the spelling mistakes in blog posts make me cringe. Sorry for the
    wandering Segway.)

    If you like food, travel, escapist reading, America, music, or any and all
    of the above, this is a wonderful read. She extensively researched original recipies,
    modifications, and controversies which provide a really interesting
    counterpoint to her own journeys and experiences. It’s also heartbreaking as
    she updates the book following Hurricane Katrina’s devestation to the
    city.

    I want to try a Snowball, King cake & Ya-ka-Mein.

    Anyone know of a good New Orleans flavoured restaurant in London?
    If not, dinner might be quite expensive one night.

    (Please note any links to Amazon are through
    my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%)
    from any purchases made after clicking through these links and it doesn’t add any cost to your purchase. This helps support
    my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click
    through the top link)

    Share: