The Pontchartrain Hotel
There are lots of reasons to go to New Orleans: the food, the music, the architecture, the people. But when you’re planning your honeymoon and fantasizing about Waikiki, suddenly it seems like there is no reason to travel anywhere else, even if there’s no way you can afford a week-long trip to Oahu.
But then I came across the Pontchartrain. I don’t remember if it was Vogue or Conde Nast Traveller (“Best Places to Travel in 2017 If Money is No Object Because You’re 26 and Yet Inexplicably Have a High-Ranking Job at an International Magazine and Also Your Mom’s a Famous Actress”), but when I caught sight of the lushly redecorated hotel, I started to think that maybe there were places outside of Hawaii to honeymoon.
The Pontchartrain was opened in 1927 as a luxury apartment building, but was converted to a hotel in 1940. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, actress Rita Hayworth, The Doors, and Tennessee Williams all stayed there during its golden age. In fact, Williams was inspired by his time in the hotel to write A Streetcar Named Desire; a framed copy of the manuscript typed on Pontchartrain stationary hangs in the lobby.
Though St Charles Avenue is one of the city’s major roads, it’s remarkably quiet, with streetcars rumbling by intermittently. It doesn’t matter how many pictures you’ve seen of New Orleans-- seeing the streetcar in person is magical, and the Pontchartrain is directly on the line, on the edge of the Garden District. It’s a perfect location.
New Orleans is known for the French Quarter (which looks exactly like Disneyland-- I can’t believe it’s real), but the Garden District is just as beautiful. Mansions-- big, white, antebellum mansions with columns and balconies-- it’s like stepping back into a different century. The Quarter is presented as the center of the city, but there is so much to see Uptown, that the Pontchartrain actually puts you in the middle of everything you’d want to see, with easy streetcar access and a heavy dose of charm and elegance.
There are four restaurants in the building. The Bayou Bar serves strong cocktails and forgettable food; there’s no reason to eat at your hotel when you’re staying in such an incredible food city. The rooftop bar, The Hot Tin, is always packed in the evenings with try-hard clubby types, but nothing-- nothing-- feels better than when the doorman leads you ahead of roped-off lines of waiting Hot Tin customers and into the elevator because you’re a guest.
There were a couple of hiccups (the shower curtain wasn’t long enough, the hook in the bathroom fell off the wall-- small stuff), but it was a lovely stay, with attentive staff and pink bathrobes.
2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans,
LA 70130, United States