The great thing that I love about New Orleans, it is the one city whenever you visit; you know you are going to have a good time and experience some unexpected pleasant surprises. During my visit that is exactly what I experienced a fantastic time with some grand surprises.
I was told about the Annual 5K Red Dress Run but had no idea of its magnitude. Pictured this, there were at least 5,000 guys and girls decked out in their fancy crimson dresses and running shoes in the early daylight starting out in downtown New Orleans and making their way throughout the assigned running route as they raced toward the narrow historical streets of the French Quarters.
It was a spectacular sight to see all of these people in red gowns, minis, maxis and even tutus running for a worthy cause. Many appeared to be season runners while others like in any other marathon mark their own time as they made their way to the finish line. As for me, I fitted right in as I just happened to have on my red dress although I didn’t donned any running shoes.
Once in the Quarters, the red dress runners did what most people in the Quarters do feast on libations and scrumptious food. It sounds so licentious. And yes it was, all for a good cause with proceeds going to various charities.
One of the loveliest surprises was my hotel, Hotel le Marais, part of the New Orleans Hotel Collection. It’s an upscale hide-a-way in the midst of the Quarters located on Conti Street just around the curve from Bourbon Street. This lavish French Quarter boutique gives no clue of its extravagance from the outside, but wow when you stepped through the front door you are engulfed into an opulent sanctuary.
Hotel le Marais prides itself on casual elegance and that theme is repeated throughout the picturesque property that boasts a fashionable lobby that leads to the lively sophisticated and stylish Bar Vive where I met Marc Becker director of sales development for the New Orleans Hotel Collection, and some of the locals who gather there monthly to socialize and talk shop.
Adjacent to the Bar Vive are French doors that open to a relaxing salt water pool centered in the middle of an intimate French style courtyard that is decorated with high-end designer outdoor sofa chaise loungers and dining sets.
I really relished sitting in the courtyard each morning enjoying the scrumptious continental breakfast. It was so tranquil. This was a nice way to start your day before stepping outside into the festive French Quarter.
Well there is an interesting aura about the breakfast. When I thought of continental breakfast I was thinking more along the lines of juice, coffee and pastries. That is not the case with Hotel le Marais complimentary morning cuisine. It’s more on the lines of a marvelous traditional breakfast selection of sausage links, bacon, scramble eggs, boiled eggs, variety of cereals, milk, pastries coffee, tea, orange juice, cranberry juice and apple juice, yogurt, biscuits , toast, bagel, bananas and apples.
This is just a classy hotel all around. My room was the double bed deluxe. It came with all of the amenities one expects from a first class establishment: Wi-Fi and high speed internet access, flat-screen television with multiple cable channels, plush pillow-top comfortable beds; and my favorite was the soothing grey wall porcelain walk-in shower complete with all of the deluxe bath amenities. Love it.
Being in New Orleans one has to dine at some of it fabulous restaurant and I did. I had lunch at the Red Fish Grill. It was so delicious and the manager, chef and staff were gracious and on point. The Red Fish Grill located at 115 Bourbon Street and is owned by Ralph Brennan the family name that is synonymously with fine Cajun cuisine.
Executive chef, Austin Kizner prepared me a super delicious meal starting with flash fried BBQ Oysters with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce. You have to try this appetizer. It is so delicious and if you have to share you probably should order two portions. This was one of my favorite dishes along with my entrée the award winning Wood Fired Grilled Gulf Red Fish and crabmeat with Tasso fritters.
What do you do after a good lunch in the French Quarters; well you walk it off by taking in the talents of the street performers, people watching and stopping by the specialty and antique shops and making a purchase or two.
Then when you need to retire for a while, you can walk right down the street to your sanctuary, Hotel le Marais and enjoy the lobby for a while and visit Bar Vive and get a cool refreshing beverage and relax.
Dinner that evening was over in the business district at Vitascope Hall located inside the Hyatt Regency. This is a great place to take a break from the French Quarters and see another side of New Orleans. It is a sophisticated lively huge bar that offers a selection of craft beers and custom-made cocktails where you can enjoy sports on the big flat screens. What better food to order when in a sports bar then beef ribs and fries. This is a cool hangout to watch sports and the atmosphere was very lively.
The following day, I was in for a treat. I had dinner at the remarkable Arnaud’s restaurant. This is a very enchanting and historical establishment that offers numerous dining options under one roof. There is the Jazz Bistro, Main Dining Room, The renown French Bar 75, Remoulade known as the casual side of dining at Arnaud’s, and a collection of private dining rooms.
Upstairs houses the Germaine Cazenane Wells Mardi Museum. It honors the daughter of the restaurant founder, Count Arnaud. Germaine was a diva in the true sense of the word. She reigned as queen over 22 Mardi Gras Balls from 1937 to 1968. The museum displays 13 of her elaborate Mardi Gras gowns in huge glass showcases. It is a phenomenal sight to see and quite spectacular. It just leaves you in total awe one being the intricate details of the gowns resonates pure royalty.
Lisa Sins of Arnaud’s showed me the many wonders of the restaurant. She introduced me to a beverage name after the French 75 Bar. It is a mixture of fine Courvoisier, lemon juice, Moet and Chandon champagne. It was superb and smooth.
The dining experience was equally impeccable. It began with Arnaud’s famous Puff Soufflé potatoes. These delicious crispy potato puffs are beloved for their tastes and texture. Next on the menu were the turtle soup and the seafood gumbo. This was the best gumbo I have ever eaten. The roux wax cook to perfection. The deep thick dark base could have stood on its own without the shrimp, chicken or sausage. It was divine. For my entrée, I chose, Pompano Duarte, a sautéed fillet topped with gulf shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs and crush chili peppers. The entire dining experience at Arnaud’s was splendid.
The evening was capped off with a sensational jazz trio at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, a very warm and upscale setting.
On your next visit to New Orleans, Hotel le Marais is a must. You will be talking about it for days.