A recent visit to New Orleans confirmed that the city is ready for tourism, and—more than that—the industry needs to come back to galvanize the city's revitalization.
Visitors seeking a true French Quarter experience should consider the Hotel Provincial. Comprised of five historic buildings, some dating from the 18th century, the hotel is tucked into the narrow, quiet Chartres Street, two blocks from Bourbon Street. It's owned and operated by the Dupepe family, long-time New Orleans residents who began restoring the buildings in 1961.
A landscaped courtyard, encircled by the charming, two-story 300 Building, was originally a medicinal herb garden for an 18th century military hospital. The 1830s-era 400 Building was a retail store at street level with living quarters upstairs. The plot upon which the 500 Building stands once housed a pre-Revolutionary-War military hospital. It is here that a benevolent ghost—a young nurse dressed in white—has been spotted descending the narrow staircase.
Of the 115 rooms, no two are alike; all have antiques and reproductions of New Orleans' mansion furniture; some have marble bathrooms and chandeliers, while others have balconies. The bathrooms differ in size and style (some have double sinks, for instance), but all come with thick, white towels and Gilcrest and Soames amenities.
There are 14 connecting rooms in total. The 100-200 Building has views of an enclosed pool and lush courtyard with tropical plants. The Bridal suite (room 223) has a private balcony facing the street. Set apart from the main area, courtyard rooms in the 300 Building are often used for families and wedding parties. Room 314 has its own patio, a large, high-ceilinged bedroom with two queen-sized beds, a separate sitting area with a couch that opens to a double bed and a step-down bathroom grand enough to hold a couch and armoire.
In the recently renovated 400 Building, all rooms overlook the Ursuline Convent and have marble bathroom countertops and crystal chandeliers. Room 520 sports a huge shared balcony that spans the width of the building and fronts the Mississippi River and the streets below. Connecting rooms 550 and 551 feel like an attic escape with a sloping roof and separate living room and bedroom areas. Larger families can go for one of the six privately owned condos on property, which have a bedroom, separate living room and full kitchen. These sleep up to six with use of the sofa bed.
Hotel Provincial, discreet enough to have hosted luminaries such as Kevin Spacey and Sam Shepard, has on-site parking and two year-round (unheated) swimming pools.
The hotel will help with add-ons, activities, tickets and reservations. "The entire front desk is the concierge," says Trudy Pattison, the Provincial's general manager, explaining that her staff is well versed in all matters, from restaurants to local jazz spots.
A Destination Restaurant
Stella! (504-587-0091), the on-site restaurant with a cozy brick walled interior, beamed ceiling, stone fireplace and chandeliers, is popular with locals. For a weekend dinner, it is advisable to make reservations two weeks in advance. Chef Scott Boswell, voted 2005's number one New Orleans Chef by New Orleans magazine, trained in Italy with the Iron Chef. He is known for his Louisiana cuisine with Asian flair, using unique ingredients such as a rare grade of Japanese tuna. Notably, when Stella! re-opened its doors after a $1 million renovation last spring, the staff produced a TV show with French Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai, with proceeds donated to support Katrina victims. Stanley, the other on-site restaurant, is scheduled to re-open this year. Its signature Stanley burger has a strong following.
Shopping options within blocks of the hotel include Royal Street for antiques, jewelry and boutiques, Saks Fifth Avenue at Canal Place, the French Market, Decatur Street and Rue Royale.
Another side of New Orleans—the ghoulish one—can add to a trip. Hotel Provincial has partnered with Haunted History Tours (504-861-2727, www.hauntedhistorytours.com) to provide Vampire, Ghost, Cemetery and Voodoo walking tours of the French Quarter's storied scary spots. We suggest this as a first night folly. Lurking around the French Quarter after dark and hearing spooky tales is a wonderful way to get in tune with the mood of the city.
Travel agents receive a 10 percent commission and can book the Hotel Provincial over the GDS. Reservations can be made right up until the day of arrival; however, if it's a very busy time (Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, for example), booking is recommended at least 90 days in advance.
The airport is about a 20-minute drive and cabs are easy to find everywhere. The property has an affiliation with the New Orleans Athletic Club for a minimal daily rate. Pets are not allowed.
The hotel's travel agent liaisons are Margie Mack, director of sales and marketing (504-717-0659, [email protected]), and Trudy Pattison, general manager (504-581-4995 ext. 120).
Hotel Provincial 1024 Chartres Street Phone: 504-581-4995 or 800-535-7922 Fax: 504-581-1018 www.hotelprovincial.com