The French Quarter is a master of reinvention. To the casual visitor the homes, hotels and businesses throughout the tourist mecca may appear preserved in time. But take a closer look and step beyond the groomed facades and beckoning storefronts and you’ll discover the Vieux Carr does change.
Two French Quarter hotels are recent examples of the masterful makeover — one parties like a rock star and the other exudes a quiet elegance within a hushed inner sanctum.
THE PARTY ANIMAL
The W New Orleans French Quarter has just completed a $9 million renovation, and it’s ready to celebrate. There’s a new Living Room reception area, a fabulous new restaurant from the venerable Commander’s Palace family, a new fitness facility and a new design that outfits its 97 guest rooms in clever new party frocks.
Two room designs —“Jazz” and “Tarot” — play off the city’s vibrant music heritage and its shadowy relationship with the mysticism. “Jazz” rooms are dominated by a floor-to-ceiling image of the bell of a brass horn while the “Tarot” rooms feature an oversize image from a tarot card. The rooms feature pops of color that play against the clean, modern lines of white lacquered furniture.
SoBou (short for South of Bourbon) is a full-service restaurant that features both imaginative design and menu. Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s creative menu plays off Big Easy flavors: cochon de lait gumbo, muffuletta chopped salad, crispy oyster tacos with mirliton, duck debris beignets, suckling pig Cuban sandwich and andouille and tasso meatballs. SoBou also features a unique staffing position of head bar chef, a title that belongs to mixologist Abigail Gullo. Her original cocktails are helping to make SoBou one of the city’s must-do spots for avid foodies and cocktailians.
W New Orleans French Quarter, 316 Chartres St.; 504-581-1200, wfrenchquarter.com. Rooms begin at $209.
THE QUIET TYPE
There’s only a small plaque set beneath gas lamps on a wall in the 500 block of Dauphine Street to announce the location of the Audubon Cottages. But that unobtrusive, undemonstrative style is precisely the vibe of this handsome collection of French Quarter living spaces.
Behind a private gate, guests will find an immaculately landscaped property featuring seven romantic cottages set around a saltwater pool. Each of the cottages features original antique furnishings intermixed with newer pieces in handsome settings that include former slaves quarters, most with exposed brick walls and original beamed ceilings. Each cottage features a parlor, a full wet bar with refrigerator, coffee maker and ice maker; all have their own patios. Every living room includes a copy of John James Audubon’s Audubon’s Birds of America. The property is named for Audubon, who completed his Birds of America series while occupying one of the cottages from 1821 to 1822.
Unique to the property is a “French Quarter Butler” service — a butler that will provide all manner of concierge services including packing, tours and restaurant reservations. Guests also receive complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, and two welcoming drinks.
The charming cottages, which this summer were treated to a $1.5 million renovation, make guests feel as if they’re actually living in the French Quarter without the predictable sights and routines of a business hotel.
Audubon Cottages, 509 Dauphine, 504-586-1516; auduboncottages.com. Weekday rates begin at $224 for one bedroom; $750 for two bedroom/two bath.