New Orleans City Guide | French Quarter
I’m very excited to share my New Orleans City Guide with you guys finally. I visited the French Quarter, specifically, earlier this month and although it was not quite what I was expecting, it was still an experience I’m happy to cross off my bucket list.
The Flight to New Orleans
First off, the flight to New Orleans was fucking awful. I flew over on United Airlines Economy because I’m cheap and I wholeheartedly regretted it! Not only was the flight incredibly uncomfortable, but it was just unpleasant on the whole. I couldn’t put my arms down because I was smashed in between my boyfriend and another passenger. It was just awful.
They charge for food, are incredibly stingy with their free drinks, and charge to watch their TV. It’s really worth the money to upgrade if your flight is more than 2 hours.
Learn from my mistakes and PAY FOR THE UPGRADE!
My flight on the way home was with American Airlines which was arguably worse because on top of the same crap service and uncomfortable seating, they spent the last hour of the flight trying to get passengers to apply for their AA credit card. I personally found that really annoying, but it’s up to you what you want to deal with.
Super tired after our flight – My mom demanded a photo haha…
Sadly, the main pros to these super cheap flights (which I got via Orbitz, by the way) were that, well, they were super cheap. If you have only a relatively short way to go, it’s somewhat worth it to grin and bear it if you want to save money or are on a budget. It cost me $750 (including tax) for our entire roundtrip flights from Ontario Airport (which is more expensive to fly out of than LAX since it’s smaller).
Of course, you could probably get cheaper flights if you are flying out of a major airport with more flight options so keep that in mind.
The only other benefits of AA and UA were that you do get free drinks (non-alcoholic), a small snack for free, and they usually allow you to check your first bag for free. We didn’t check our bag as we wanted our flights to be quick and easy, but the option is there if you want it.
Hotel Le Marais
For the price, I was expecting more out of Hotel Le Marais, to be quite honest. That being said, it was one of the nicer places to stay in the French Quarter. It’s quite ugly from the outside, but most places in the French Quarter are. Additionally, I was really happy that the rooms were fairly clean, but I was slightly grossed out that the shower hadn’t been cleaned when we checked in. I found hair all over the shower floor.
The Pros of Hotel Le Marais:
- Location! And clearly they know it because it’s not super cheap to stay here. We paid $250-$300 each night so the total cost was more than the cost of our flights over. Hotel Le Marais is off Conti Street, which is right around the corner from Bourbon Street, in the heart of the French Quarter.
- Free continental breakfast.
- 1 Complimentary Cocktail for Each Guest at the Hotel’s VIVE! Bar
- Saltwater Pool
- Nice Outdoor Lounge Area
- 24 Hour Gym
- Free Travel Size Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash and Soap Bar.
The Cons of Hotel Le Marais:
- The Price. Like I said, it’s freaking expensive! That said, anywhere you stay in the FQ is likely to be expensive. If it’s cheap, there’s usually a reason. I would check out reviews before going!
- Lack of Service. Even though the staff was mostly friendly, they don’t really go above and beyond to make your stay pleasant. They realize they are in the FQ where people come to party and don’t really offer anything more than directions or tips for local tours.
- No Room Service or Restaurants. My boyfriend and I don’t drink and we mainly hung out in our room after 11 PM (we’re old like that). That said, we had to walk several blocks just to get to the nearest cafe or liquor store for late night snacks because the hotel has neither room service nor any in-hotel restaurants.
- Not that Clean. As I said, I found hair in the shower upon our arrival and our window looking onto the street was so dirty that we could barely see through it. That said, there were no bugs and the beds seemed reasonably clean so I have no major complaints.
Final Thoughts on Hotel Le Marais:
Overall, I’m happy with our stay at Hotel Le Marais. That said, they can work on providing better hospitality to guests by offering room service or even just being more helpful or friendly. Our bartender gave us our complimentary drinks and then proceeded to continue texting on his phone. It just kind of left me thinking the staff phones it in. Again, I’m happy with our stay for the most part, but they can stand to improve in some areas. If you are looking to stay in the FQ, this is a good choice.
Places to See in the French Quarter
There are so many things and places to see in the French Quarter that, unless you have at least a week, you won’t see it all. We only spent 4 days in the FQ and we saw a LOT, but definitely not everything!
St. Louis Cathedral – Jackson Square
One of first places we walked to was Jackson Square. It’s this beautiful square that feels more like a park because it has so many lush trees and plants. St. Louis Cathedral is a very stunning piece of New Orleans history. The church is beautiful and a MUST SEE if you’re in New Orleans and have time! Also, there are tons of street performers, shops, and restaurants to enjoy while you’re walking in the area.
Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
Marie Laveau was New Orleans famous voodoo queen so, of course, you must stop by the family-owned shop! It really is just a simple occult shop carrying all manner of voodoo trinkets, tourist knick knacks, and other occult items. They have a voodoo altar set up that you’re not allowed to touch. You can find some really cool “voodoo” related souvenirs in this shop and also real occult items if you’re into that sort of thing!
The last thing I wanted to mention about places to see is that you should spend some time walking around the French Quarter. There is some really beautiful architecture to see here. Some of the buildings are insanely old and beautiful for their history while others are colorful, bursting with tons of plants on their balconies. It’s a wonderful clashing of cultures, arts, and history. There are street musicians who play on street corners and artists who sell their art out or side street studios. All of these things were my favorite part about my entire trip so I highly recommend checking it out!
The Best Places to Eat
Le Bayou Restaurant
We ate at so many different restaurants while in New Orleans, but Le Bayou was my personal favorite. Their food had both the best price AND the best flavor. Their fried oysters (Ya Ya Char-grilled ! ) were our favorite dish of the entire trip. We also tried other fancier restaurants and more casual places, too, but this was still the best place. They have amazing gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and THE OYSTERS. You have to stop by and try them, at least. I didn’t even know I liked fried oysters until I tried them.
Pat O’s Courtyard Restaurant
Although not the best place for food, Pat O’s is a great place to stop in for brunch and relaxing in a courtyard setting. It was one of the more beautiful restaurants and has a lush history that’s worth the experience.
Antoine’s has great breakfast as well as the usual classics (jamabalaya, gumbo, etc.). It’s not the best, but definitely not the worst. It’s one of the more affordable sit down restaurants in the FQ that still has amazing service and great flavor.
We went to fancier restaurants that had atrocious service and even felt a little racist, but the restaurants I’ve mentioned here all had great service and hospitality!
Sucre happened to be down the street from Hotel Le Marais so, of course, I had to stop in and get some macarons, tea, and check out the pretty pastries!
A Word About Beignets…
As far as I could tell, there are only a few places to get beignets in the French Quarter: Cafe du Monde, Cafe Beignet, and New Orleans Beignet. All 3 are great. Cafe du Monde was the best, though I wasn’t a fan of the chicory coffee. Maybe they were just busy, but it tasted burnt to me. That said, the beignets were amazing and affordable. If you can’t make it all the way down to Cafe du Monde (or nearby New Orleans Beignet), then a closer option to the hotels might be Cafe Beignet (it was around the corner from Hotel Le Marais). It’s cheap, delicious, and they have lovely sandwiches if you get hungry and don’t want to go far. They’re also open fairly late so they’re great for late night munchies. Plus, their staff is super nice and friendly!
Safety Tips When in the French Quarter (or any busy city)
You may have heard that New Orleans is dangerous and filled with crime. This is somewhat true from what locals told us while we were there. That said, they also mentioned that the French Quarter is probably the safest place to be while in New Orleans. This is because they have a massive police presence there.
All of that said, I never carried a purse while there and, instead, opted to carry a few cards and a little cash in my pocket. Purse snatching and pick pocketing is a problem in the French Quarter so just be smart about how you travel. Don’t flaunt your cash if you don’t want to get robbed. Don’t follow strangers anywhere. Stick with friends in large numbers. Don’t go into dark alleys at night. Use your common sense and have fun. New Orleans and the French Quarter is quite the experience.
Final Thoughts on New Orleans
Overall, I am happy to cross this trip off my bucket list. New Orleans and it’s French Quarter are a truly historical place in America and I’m glad I was lucky enough to experience it. That said, it felt super sketch to be out after dark. Bourbon Street smells worse than Mexico, in my opinion. It’s the most offensive thing I’ve ever smelled in my entire life and it’s the kind of smell that literally hits you in the face when you turn onto Bourbon Street. There is a clear problem with drugs and poverty among locals that the city seems to be ignoring which I found really sad to see. Children bang on overturned buckets and pan handle the streets. Drug addicts sleep wherever. People are passed out in the dirty streets. Palm readers are nodding (from heroin or meth, most likely). It’s hard to enjoy such a beautiful place that’s so rife with sadness. I really hope that the city of New Orleans will take better care of their locals and stop funding tourism just for the sake of making money.
If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, you should definitely go, but be smart about it and remember that it’s just like any other city. It’s not perfect and that’s part of what makes it both beautiful and sad.
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