This past NOLA trip was another awesome experience, different from all the others and even better for it! This was the first trip since my husband and I have made a real goal of moving to New Orleans in the next few years and we brought our middle daughter with us, who is seven and a half. This was her second time in the city and she doesn’t remember much from her first visit so it was very exciting for her. It was also a great trip because we got to meet our very own Rodent from here on TA, as well as her awesome husband. They’ve recently moved to the city and we had a great time not only getting to know them but also totally picking their brains about everything since they’re what we like to call “on the level.” We can’t thank them enough for everything they showed and taught us, and just for generally being cool!
So anyway, starting info: Besides our 7 year old, travelers included my husband and myself—both of us are 30 and interested in history, art, music and getting to know the city from a local’s perspective. We left our home in Georgia at midnight on Thursday morning, July 11th and arrived in New Orleans a little after 8:00am their time, a little later than planned due to stops and fog. We stayed at Villa Convento, which was the second time, and it cemented itself as our very favorite place to stay in the city, although we do still love The Biscuit Palace—it is our definite backup. Villa Convento’s location is perfect though, and the staff makes all of the difference! Everything about it has so much character, from the two-person floral-fabric-padded elevator that is named Sophia to the adorable courtyard to the wrought iron balconies and the exposed brick walls…I can’t say enough good things. Supposedly it used to be a brothel and is one of the places in NOLA that claims to be The House of the Rising Sun. We stayed in 400, which is a suite with two small balconies, one private and one shared. The bedroom is very large, comfortable and nicely decorated and the bathroom is absolutely gorgeous (it has a claw foot tub!) The living area is very nice too and the antique daybed was perfect for our daughter. The views from all windows and balconies are wonderful and include downtown, St Louis Cathedral’s spire, the bridge across the Mississippi, the walled garden of the Beauregard-Keyes House and the oldest building in the city, which is a convent on Chartres St. Everyone who helped us at the hotel was ridiculously cool and nice, from the person who booked the reservation to the people who manned the desk and answered our every question, especially the wonderful Vincenzo! I’m sure I’ll rave more about him in every day of this trip report but…you know when you meet someone and you automatically love, trust and admire them?...This guy. Seriously. Anne of Green Gables called them “kindred spirits” and I usually only meet a few of them a year, and that’s if I’m lucky. Vincenzo is now on the list of reasons why I want to move to New Orleans, as is our lovely Rodent, and her super-cool husband Mr. Rodent…hope that doesn’t sound too creeper-ish! Seriously though, this city seems to draw the best people in the world…
Back to the TR though! We parked around the corner from Villa Convento and my husband went to get the key to the parking garage, which is a few blocks away. We realized we didn’t want to lug our bags back with us though, so we circled the block and Warren, the owner of the hotel, was very cool about us leaving our bags in the lobby—actually, he was cool about everything and also very personable. We’ve never had a staff somewhere so greatly impact our stay before and now I’m totally spoiled!!
Parking the car in the garage was easy and when we got back to the hotel the room was already ready so we were able to go ahead and check in, which was great. We spent some time unpacking and getting settled and then walked around Jackson Square and over to The Old Coffee Pot, which we loved on our last trip. This time, it was so terrible that I can’t imagine ever going back. They were not busy and no one was sitting outside but they had the “please wait to be seated” podium out front, so we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, my husband just went and stood right outside the door’s glass window and the hostess finally came out. She seated us and our server came over with menus. We ordered Calla Cakes and grits for our daughter, Eggs Creole for me and Eggs Sardou for my husband. The server really rushed us after staying away from the table a really long time so we forgot to say we wanted pecans in the Calla Cakes and she didn’t bother to ask. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a server that was so bordering-on-rude before; it really soured the meal. My husband was served the wrong dish and I was given the wrong side. There was not even an apology, just more time added to our long wait. The Calla Cakes were fine but the pecans really do make them better (we were charged $8.75, a higher price than the online menu). The Eggs Creole was also fine ($12.25) as was the Eggs Sardou dish, which is a version of Eggs Benedict with spinach ($13.50), but neither was amazing. Another downer was the fact that Ms. Shirley, the server who sings wonderfully while she works, was not there. The building is gorgeous, especially the chandelier, and the bathroom is funky (up a flight of curving stairs with the sink outside the bathroom and two toilets with no divider in the actual bathroom) but after that service and the gratuity they automatically added onto a check for a party of THREE without saying anything we will never be going back, or “never ever ever” as Taylor Swift would say. Worst meal of the trip by far, which was too bad. The name on the ticket is Menia and quite honestly I feel that she needs to be fired and replaced with someone who actually wants to work in the service industry. We had to flag her down to get her to pick up the check, and again they weren’t even busy. I’m getting heated just thinking about it! That was basically the only low point of the trip though, so…shake it off!
After finally paying the server from hell we walked down Royal St and came upon a band (of course!) A couple and a few small children were dancing and my husband had one of those “THIS is where I want my kids to grow up,” moments. Our daughter tipped them and we continued on, visiting our old pal Touchdown Jesus and also the Blue Dog.
Then it was time to finally meet Rodent, and her hubby Mr. Rodent, who are both lucky new residents of the Bywater…ugh, so jealous!! We were a little nervous because we’re both fairly shy but of course they are the coolest, super easy to talk to, and our first friends in New Orleans—yay! They were total sweethearts and gifted us with a “Be Nice Or Leave” sign from Dr. Bob, an awesome NOLA artist. We met at the Cake Café, which is on Chartres only three blocks from Elysian Fields Avenue. We really enjoyed it there, and not just because of the company—the cupcakes look amazing, as did a lot of the items in the case up front. As far as I know they’re only open for breakfast and lunch, and they’re definitely on the list for a return trip. If you get an entrée you get a cupcake for $1 but I had the French toast with orange pecan syrup and might have gone into a sugar coma had I had a cupcake! Rodent and Mr. Rodent both got German Chocolate ones that looked amazing though…My French toast was great, couldn’t finish it even with my husband’s help. He was still full from The Old Coffee Pot (boo) but managed to eat part of my breakfast as well as part of my daughter’s, which was a crab omelet that they both declared to be very good. I also had the fried potato salad, which I just couldn’t pass up! I love the vibe in Cake Café, as well as the patrons. The art on the walls is also super awesome—definitely a place worth checking out. Service was also good and our total for the French toast, crab omelet and two drinks was $26.89. They have a number of vegetarian items, including several tofu ones that we tried to get my daughter to try since at the age of 5 she decided that she didn’t want to eat meat anymore. She’s skeptical of tofu but we were able to sneak it in later on in the trip ☺
After our second breakfast (only in New Orleans!!) we walked around the area, taking great pics of street art and getting to know each other more. They took us to the studio of Dr. Bob, and if you haven’t been you really should go—what an awesome character! Super talented too, and really nice. He was especially great with our daughter, who is pretty artsy-fartsy herself and had definitely found a kindred spirit in Dr. Bob. His work is great, and as soon as we move to NOLA I’ll want to start saving for one of his bigger pieces for our living room. We also met his dog, whose name I forget, but he/she will be in an upcoming episode of Pitbulls & Parolees, I think episode 1 of season 4. We had a great time at the studio but the sky was looking super dark and rain was eminent. We started to make our way towards the hotel but we had to keep stopping for pics of great street art and funny tags on buildings. I had to take a picture of a phrase that said “Andrea I <3 you” with an X through the heart because that is the name of my mother-in-law! (Hopefully everyone now has the song by Ernie K Doe in their heads…if you don’t know it, look it up, it’s too much fun.) Also had to take pics of the phrases “I Shall Be Brave” and “Monkey Wid A Fez.”
We got back to Villa Convento and the Vincenzo you’ve already heard so much about was behind the desk. It’s strange talking about meeting a friend for the first time because once you’ve met them it feels like you’ve known them forver and it’s weird to think about NOT knowing them—this is especially true for Mr. Rodent and Vincenzo since I’d been talking to Rodent quite a while here on TA, but even meeting and knowing her was much more comfortable than I’d imagined it would be, even already being aware of her coolness factor. Yay for technology making it easier when we eventually move because we’ll already have buddies there!
Before we went out again the sky opened up and it rained for maybe an hour. We decided to hang out and have some drinks while getting to know each other and have terrible pictures of us taken by my seven year old (no one looks good from below!) At one point I went up to our room to grab a few things and encountered a woman on the phone who was telling someone how great the hotel was. She sounded like a likeminded person so I apologized for interrupting her but told her I had to share what I had just learned from Vincenzo—that Jimmy Buffett lost his virginity in the hotel! The girl freaked out, saying she was a huge Parrothead and thanked me for the info! I love New Orleans because it seems so much more ok to just randomly talk to strangers!
When the rain stopped and we were warmly filled with rum we ventured back out and Rodent and Mr. Rodent showed us some more of the cool places they’ve discovered since they’ve been in the city. We checked out a piece by the street artist Banksy, a girl holding an umbrella. There’s also a boy painted right around the corner that is also really well done. Unfortunately a lot of Banksy’s work has been painted over but there are still a few left. This was the only one we got to see on the trip but hopefully we’ll check out more next time (and The List grows longer…!) We stopped by an area with a huge, neat sculpture made of driftwood, metal and who knows what else in a lot marked with an arched wooden sign reading “Universal Garden.” How can that NOT be awesome, I ask you? The sculpture reminded me of what would result if a praying mantis and a dragon had a baby. We took some pics and then moved on to the New Orleans Healing Center, which is really cool. They have a ton of businesses inside, like a co-op grocery store, a yoga studio, a café/juice bar, a co-op bank and Café Istanbul, a gorgeous performance hall. What a neat thing for the community to have!
We tried to have dinner at Mimi’s in the Marigny but unfortunately they’re 21+ so we went over to Schiro’s Café about a block away, also on Royal. My husband and I had breakfast there years ago and liked it—it was part of staying in the upstairs Balcony Guesthouse. Schiro’s also has a grocery store and laundromat—very fun, funky New Orleans place. I had cheese fries and samosas, our daughter had Desi Daal lentil soup ($5.95) and my husband ordered the lamb curry ($11.95.) We grabbed some sodas from the convenience store section and had a great meal with Rodent and Mr. Rodent. The five of us left and walked a few blocks, finding more awesome street art—the tag “Jazz for Sale” was my favorite. We made plans to meet again the next day and my husband, daughter and I wandered over to Frenchmen St, saw some more great street art as well as a brass band and then made our way to the hotel. The ever-accommodating Vincenzo allowed our daughter to vacuum the rug a bit and totally made her night.