We like to consider ourselves pretty well-versed in all things New Orleans. We’ve been to the Crescent City so many times, all our vacations there have blurred together in our memories, but we can’t get enough of the place. Even being evacuated for Hurricane Gustav wasn’t enough to keep us from heading back weeks later.
Over the years, we’ve stayed within the French Quarter, outside the French Quarter, in guest houses, in chain hotels or with friends and relatives. Each experience is a little different and has its own positives and negatives. Like that bitch Goldilocks, we can be caught in the too-hard-too-soft-too-hairy merry-go-round of complaints.
This last Southern Decadence, however, we stayed at Bienville House Hotel, a boutique property with just 83 guest rooms. It’s at the southeastern edge of the French Quarter, which is an ideal location. It’s close to the Mississippi River (a trip to NOLA wouldn’t be complete without our traditional Tom Sawyer reenactments), near all the shops and Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street, and just a short walk to the gay bars, strip clubs, hash houses churches, museums and cultural activities the French Quarter has to offer.
We like it because it’s actually quiet at night when we crawl back to our rooms at 4:00 a.m. And we love the intimacy of such a small hotel. They’ve got a great little courtyard with a heated saltwater pool, a complimentary continental breakfast, lush Gilchrest & Soames skincare products in the spacious bathrooms, and 300-thread-count sheets on the beds. Their larger sister property, Hotel Monteleone has a fitness center with a gorgeous view (and a larger pool) all available to guests of Bienville House.
The hotel is a great gay-friendly property (yes, we made sure there was pay-per-view gay porn, our queer litmus test) with traditional décor that’s a nice change of pace from some of the ultra-modern places we often stay. This place feels like authentic New Orleans, from the wrought-iron balconies to the in-room chandeliers and vampires under the beds, it’s like stepping back in time (like when Anne Rice was still an atheist).
Bienville House is also home to one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Iris, which just recently relocated to the hotel. It has a spectacular menu that draws heavily on New Orleans ingredients and influences, without being theme-parky in its execution. It’s a great place for a casual lunch or a satisfying meal before heading out to the decadence of Bourbon Street and beyond.
In all our New Orleans adventures, we’ve never stayed at the same place twice (or brought home the same stripper from the Corner Pocket more than once). But now that we’ve stayed at Bienville House, we think that’s a tradition we’re finally going to break.
320 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of our New Orleans coverage with insights into great places to eat, drink, party and see the sights.