Truly a charming gem hidden within the confines of the French Quarter, the Place D'Armes is both “tucked away” from the hub-bub - and also centrally located near Jackson Square! How does the property do it, and with no less than 84 rooms? It’s simple; the hotel is split between eight amazing brick townhouses that date from the 18th and 19th centuries! Together, they overlook a most charming and evocative courtyard that we hereby dub as one of the most picturesque settings in all of New Orleans! Bold statement yes, but the Place D'Armes lives up to the challenge!
Entering through the Place D’Armes’ main gate, you may hit up the sumptuously-decorated lobby to the left, or pass right onto the brick patio, where lush foliage and trickling fountains dance under the moonlight! We were so inspired by this backdrop during our November 2009 stay that we actually engaged in an impromptu photoshoot here, bolstered by Mardi Gras costumes we found while thrifting on Decatur (see “goodies” for more information). But even if you’re not feeling as bold as us, this is still a great place to enjoy a cocktail, or two, poolside under the magnolias (albeit in balmier months!)
Staff at the Place D’Armes was overly accommodating, helping us to acquire safety pins when we needed them most! Though the rooms are a little outdated (read: musty), this ultimately lends itself to the overall French Quarter experience. Was the hotel haunted? Perhaps. We can only hope that the current round of renovations do not scare them away!
Amenities include free morning newspapers, 24-hour concierge and bell service and free Wi-Fi in common areas. A simple complimentary breakfast is served daily in the downstairs cafe. Overall, your sore feet will thank you for choosing this hotel, thanks to its great central location - only steps to the St. Louis Cathedral and all of the other major attractions that make this city so special. Set of Drifters video: Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!
Lamothe House Hotel
It’s true. We have fallen in love with New Orleans - and with that, a number of New Orleans digs (see “Place D'Armes” above and “Dauphine Orleans” below). Even so, your Set of Drifters hate getting into a rut, and that’s precisely why we seek out new locations every time we “check into” NOLA.
It all started back in 2003 with a great stay at the now-defunct Hotel Monaco. (The St. Charles property was damaged during Katrina then renovated into a Hilton). On our most recent trip, in October of 2012, we tried out the Lamothe House Hotel, a property over on Esplanade Avenue (see “sights”) that borders both the French Quarter and the Marigny. We surmised that a guest house located smack dab in the middle of our two favorite neighborhoods would make New Orleans that more walkable, and we were right.
Lamothe House Hotel dates back to 1839 (!), when French-born Jean Lamothe constructed the manse as a New Orleans getaway from his sugar cane holdings. And what a getaway it is, decorated in sumptuous 19th century antiques and paintings, and accompanied by a charming courtyard complete with garden pond and swimming pool! (We suspect special event weddings are a mainstay in June.) The spirit of Jean Lamothe’s era endures to this day, despite the property being absorbed into the French Quarter Guest Houses “mini-chain.” (Look for their other quaint hotels on Ursulines, St. Peter and St. Ann).
We checked in on a Saturday, just before heading off to see Madonna’s “MDNA Tour” downtown, and though we were a bit disappointed by our “Deluxe” room’s Lilliputian size, the overall atmosphere - and friendly staff - immediately put us at peace. The smiley gent at the front desk even suggested a pre-concert stop-off at the historic Roosevelt Hotel downtown for tremendous artisan cocktails at their Sazerac Bar (see “sips”). Later in the stay, when Set of Drifter Brady was worried he had lost his wallet somewhere in the Quarter, the Lamothe staff was nice enough to check our hotel room and confirm that the wallet had just been left on the bedside table. We blame another good old fashioned NOLA hangover for the oversight.)
Aside from the 30 guest rooms that overlook the courtyard, Lamothe also features five “Grand Antique Suites” that preserve much of the house’s original 1939 construction. We poked our head in one of these beauties and were impressed by the lush ornamentation and four-poster King-size bed. The red, green and gold detailing carries out into the grand hallway - and continental breakfast “dining area” that abuts a small lobby upstairs. (Set of Drifters tip: For those of you with mobility issues, these steps may be tricky. Try to arrange a room on the first floor.) Since our five-night stay included the Big Easy’s ribald Halloween festivities, the proprietors were even nice enough to let us host an impromptu photo shoot - in costume - amidst their antiques!
And speaking of Halloween... those already familiar with New Orleans’ haunted history will not be surprised to hear the Lamothe is reportedly home to a few ghosts. Though we have no specific memories to share, it is rumored that children’s laughter can often be heard at midnight - only to be quelled by a lass who appears from one of the upstairs rooms dressed in red Victorian-era garb!
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lamothe townhouse experience is a wonderful, and relatively inexpensive, way to further absorb the unique character that is New Orleans. Expect both A/C and ceiling fans, LED TVs in each room and complimentary Wi-Fi that actually works! When making your reservation, or visiting, make sure to say hello to General Manager Nikki Ritzenthaler - and let her know that Doug and Brady from Set of Drifters sent you!
One of our favorite hotels located within the Quarter is the Dauphine Orleans. Feeling slightly removed from the rest of the mayhem but still only steps away from Bourbon (at Conti), management claims allegiance to what was once the infamous red-light district of “Storyville.” (In reality, Storyville was located north of Rampart Street.) But the history does not end there. With some buildings dating back to 1775, the Dauphine Orleans is perhaps best known for its “Audubon Breakfast Room,” where John James Audubon once worked on his classic “Birds of America" series.
Upstairs, the Dauphine Orleans features 111 comfy hotel suites, all with fabulous temperpedic beds that we found it difficult to part with each morning of our stay! Many boast courtyard views, some with pool access dependent on the season. Other hotel amenities include a fitness room, coffee lounge and free Wi-Fi.
But perhaps the best asset of the Dauphine Orleans is its bar, "May Baily's Place," easily our favorite in all of New Orleans! Named after the madam that once hosted one of the more popular bordellos in the district, May Baily’s is awash in sumptuous Victorian decor and vintage portraits of prostitutes by famous lensman E. J. Bellocq. Upstairs, the Bordello Guest Suite offers those inclined the luxury of what many of May’s customers may have experienced back in the day. (There’s even a “red light” that still burns outside each night.)
For years, May Baily's also featured a very entertaining bartender named Geoffrey. Every time we visited from 2003 until 2009, he’d be there, serving up some of the strongest Hurricanes around. A testament to the spot’s enduring charm, Geoff is still a regular patron of May Baily’s even though he quit serving drinks years ago.
Set of Drifters tip: Check at the front desk for current hours and happy hour specials, and don’t forget to ask your friendly bartender to share a ghost story, or three... Clearly dripping with history, May Baily’s bordello, and the rest of the Dauphine Orleans, are reportedly home to a handful of apparitions!The Dauphine Orleans/ May Baily's Place - 415 Dauphine Street, New Orleans, LA 70112, (504) 708-4630 or (888) 711-6619
Hotel Mazarin (formerly the St. Louis Hotel)
We can recommend the Hotel Mazarin if you are looking for accommodations that are bit more sophisticated. While this place certainly offers no excitement or mystery like the Place D'Armes, it does come equipped with well-appointed rooms that feature more modern convenience - even though the setting is still "Old World." (The interior foyer and meeting spaces are especially lovely, though it's the exquisite interior courtyard that really seals the deal! From here, you can enjoy your morning coffee and pastries mostly in peace - assuming no wedding reception is being set-up for later that evening!)
We stayed at the property in December of 2007 when it was still known as the St. Louis Hotel, and while were adequately satisfied with the accommodations and service at that time, we cannot vouch for the current crew. During a recent trip to NOLA in 2012, we poked our head in to ask the Front Desk Manager about the Mazarin. He stated they were still undergoing continued renovation. (In short... a few bangs and thuds here and there, but typically lower room rates to go with them. You might want to book now before it’s too late.)
Hotel amenities at the new Mazarin include wireless internet access, continental breakfast, in-room bottled water and coffee and the daily newspaper. A fitness and business center is also at your beck and call, in addition to Patrick’s Bar Vin Wine Bar. But perhaps the best part about this hotel is that it is easily walkable to many of the Vieux Carré’s top sights. Relax, and enjoy!
Hotel Mazarin, 730 Rue Bienville, New Orleans, LA 70116, (504) 581-7300