Ambiance to Ambivalence

New Orleans

New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans is a gorgeous city, but….

New Orleans beckons me to this day, but with doubts. As a Francophile, visiting New Orleans appears on my bucket list with a line through it. Two years ago, I begged the husband to fly to New Orleans. The man is not fond of flying anywhere, much less to a drivable location from Dallas. We drove across the state when we visited Lafayette a few years ago: borrring! I don’t see how people stay awake on Highway 49 before heading east on Highway 10 to New Orleans. The expense for the trip is about the same if you fly and stay fewer days than if you would drive with extra nights in a hotel.

A friend suggests a hotel in New Orleans. She and her sister stayed at a medium-priced hotel between several of the venues we want to visit. I make the flight and hotel reservations. I barely notice the term “suites” and “non-suites” but there was a price differential. I reserve the less expensive room. The location on the map looks perfect since I prefer not to be in the midst of noisy crowds in the French Quarter.

Flight is fine. Trip from airport to hotel is fine. We drag our bags along a dark hotel corridor at the hotel to enter a room which costs more than $150 per night. The price is reasonable for New Orleans. We enter a drab, musty, gray room, which is all wrong. The bedspread has a tear in it. It looks dirty. The room smells worse than a wet dog. I call the reservation desk. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but that’s shur nuff what ya paid far. We can move ya t’a suite in the otha tawar as that’s where the nisa rooms are, but y’all needa pay a little bit more.” Although I’ve lived in the south for over thirty years, I had to listen carefully to understand her lovely, Louisiana accent. Fine. Let’s move.

hotel bath remodel

No Soap Dish and Bathroom Problems

I fail to check out the bathroom, but the suite looks comfortable and clean. We drop our bags and head to dinner, tired but happy with the upgrade. After dinner, I discover the bathroom remodel apparently stopped weeks ago. The window sills are covered with icky, gray-green mold. The shower stall has no lip on it. The water would flood the bathroom floor. Again, I contact the front desk but this time I discover that’s the last room available. Someone would clean the bathroom in the morning.

We discuss our plight and decide we can handle anything after having reared teenagers and stayed in stranger places. We would use the shower gently to “make do,” as we do not want to search for another place to stay.

Cafe du Monde

Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square

Most everyone who visits New Orleans starts the day with beignets at the famous Café du Monde. Maybe not everyone, but it is high on my priority list.  The melodious, fun-loving quartet plays jazz on the corner outside the roofed patio for travelers as we munch the beignets (fried dough with confectioners’ sugar, sometimes filled with fruit). The sun shines on the world.

We find the visitors’ center and buy tickets and board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, a boon for travelers who do not want to drive in the city. After studying the map, we “hop off” the bus for the short walk to the World War II Museum to buy the tickets for the hour-long, in-depth documentary “Beyond the Boundaries.”

C47?

Inside the World II Museum

Both my husband and I love World War II history and stories. The high point of the trip is the museum. Its reputation as a historical gem proves true. We stand in line for the movie, huddled with a group of friendly tourists awaiting an excellent documentary in 4-D technology with commentary by Tom Hanks. Original footage and realistic sound effects astound the crowd. The lunch with a zillion other people in the large, museum café, is tasty and reasonably priced. Two more hours of walking through the displays add the joy of learning while traveling.

When we leave the museum, we shiver, as the weather changed from sunny to dreary. My husband decides he needs a nap. By the time, we reach the hotel, he is not feeling well, but later, we wander to a nearby, excellent restaurant for dinner. I do a happy dance that I packed my lined jacket as I had not expected the bitter cold and rain in early March. The excellent fish dinner at a nearby Cajun restaurant revives us.

Unfortunately, the husband’s recuperation did not last. In the morning, he declines to see more of the town. Disappointment reigns for fifteen minutes before I head out on my own. Maybe he will feel better later. I know where to look for antiques. Research before leaving Dallas helps me decide to shop. I board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, near the hotel, making sure I take the correct route on the breezy, crisp day.

Magazine Street

Cornstalk Fence Hotel on Magazine Street

Magazine Street travels through the Garden District. I feel guilty to have fun while the husband wallows in misery at the hotel.

I meander through the stores: gifts, hardware, clothing-funky and fancy. Magazine Street holds fascinating shops and astounding homes, bed and breakfasts with ornate architecture. I buy lunch at a thriving bar, sitting alone on a stool. The bartender ignores me after serving a splendid po’boy and iced tea.

It is time to locate the last stop on the “Hop on, Hop off” bus to circle to the hotel. The tour guide regales stories about many parades in New Orleans as the tourist industry schedules regular festivals. New Orleans people love to party and entertain. Charles Street has a trolley and wonderful venues to visit. My head bounces back and forth looking at the historic buildings from the bus.

Ted, the husband, feels better. The day before we depart is excellent for photos. Again, we board the bus and ride around town with two excellent guides: one for the north end of the city with a change of guides for the southern half. We eat a quick, flavor-filled lunch in the French Quarter with no time to visit specific sites.

colorful street dancer

Is it a clown? A dancer?

Before we leave, I want to see Bourbon Street. We visit a high-end antique store on our traipse to Bourbon Street. I am not tempted with their high prices. A clown and dancers perform in the street. We hustle to Bourbon Street where the open doors let the stale smells of alcohol and cigarettes waft through the air. As we walk, I see an old, squat, heavy-set woman with no shirt walking along the street. Not a pretty sight. I almost cried to think of her lack of dignity. Was she drunk, on drugs, or what? Did she need food? Did someone take her shirt? No one pays attention to her. I’ll never know her story.

Perhaps I should return to New Orleans. I try to accept surprises when they occur. I took advantage of the chance to see the shops on Magazine Street and enjoyed the time alone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever beg to see the town again. Too much went wrong to want to return. I’ll buy my beignets elsewhere.

Addendum: I contacted the hotel manager upon returning home. After I sent photos of the nasty conditions in the room, I received a discount.