Jun222016

Dispatch from New Orleans-Huge Ass Beers, NOLA Gay Pride, June Mardi Gras

This is Day 7 since I have been in New Orleans and I have not written anything about the city. My super traveler writing bug has been overshadowed by a California cold superbug that hit me on the same day I arrived in the ‘Crescent City’ last Thursday. Watching the NBA Finals with a California contingent in the Superdome Sunday night made me aware that this superbug is a two week ordeal. Lovely. I can expect another week of clearing snot out of my face.

In seven days I have explored about as much ground in New Orleans as I would normally have explored on my first full day spent in any city I had not traveled through before. Still, I have snapped a couple hundred photos and seen some stuff to share about life in the ‘Big Easy’.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans is Home Sweet ‘Temporary’ Home

I can count my blessings in the fact that I booked seven nights at Hyatt Regency New Orleans. This is the first time in more than a decade I have stayed 7 consecutive nights in the same hotel.

There are 27 floors of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and I am up top. The Regency lounge and Stay Fit Center is Floor 32 with 360-degree view from those two rooms.

My view looks east to the Mississippi River about 1.2 miles away.

Hyatt floor 27 view

I arrived in New Orleans June 16 when it was 97 degrees at 7:00pm. Everyone told me it would be hot in New Orleans. June 16-17 were record breaking heat for those dates in the city. I did not leave my hotel room for 48 hours. My objective was to be well enough to attend the opening event for U.S. Travel Association IPW trade show convention on Sunday night at the Superdome.

IPW is a 5 day travel tradeshow with the purpose of selling the USA as a travel destination to international tourists. The conference has over 6,000 attendees from more than 70 countries. The opening night event Sunday was a Mardi Gras Parade held at the Superdome.

Mardi Gras Floats

The floats are brilliantly colored and pulled by tractors. There are spaces on both sides where float riders can toss out beads and other goodies to spectators. Something that was pointed out to me by a local are all the beads hanging from tree limbs, utility wires and balconies across the city accumulated from years of parades.

Mardi Gras float 3   Mardi Gras float-1

Mardi Gras float 4   Mardi Gras float-2

Parade walkers wore elaborate, colorful costumes too. There were numerous high school marching bands.

Mardi Gras-6   Mardi Gras performer

Save Some for Charity

I ventured out Saturday night after feeling a bit stir-crazy from 48 hours in my hotel room. There was an immense building visible from the Hyatt Regency lounge that raised my curiosity due to it looking sort of occupied, but sort of abandoned. I asked and was told this building is the former Charity Hospital, the second largest hospital in the U.S. when it was built in 1939. The building was the 6th Charity Hospital, a New Orleans institution founded in 1736.

Charity Hyatt view

Until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Charity Hospital was also the second longest continuously operating hospital in the U.S. behind Bellevue in New York City, also founded in 1736, a month earlier than Charity Hospital.

I was one of the millions of Americans glued to the TV during those days of August-September 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Charity Hospital was a headline story. Ten years after, some locals have said they are tired of talking about Katrina. Still, having never toured New Orleans before this past week, those indelible images of post-Katrina are the New Orleans I was most familiar with and Charity Hospital was the first place I visited upon leaving the Hyatt Regency.

Charity-1

The hospital building was evaluated after the hurricane and the report by an architectural engineering firm said restoring Charity Hospital would be the least expensive and most expedient way to bring back high quality medical care to the city. That idea was abandoned by Louisiana in favor of a $1.1 billion new build hospital University Medical Center New Orleans, which opened August 2015.

Charity-2

Tape on windows still remains from Hurricane Katrina.

There were plans to turn the art- deco style building into city government offices, but lack of state funding commitments quashed those plans. Last year there were solicitations for bids in the hopes a private company would restore the building. It’s proximity to the Superdome would seem to make the site a good location for a hotel.

Charity Entrance

Charity Hospital former Main Entrance.

The hospital is guarded, gated and surrounded by barbed wire and fences these days. I spoke with a guard who told me they make sweeps of the building each month.

Canal Street, New Orleans

Canal Street is the main commercial thoroughfare in downtown New Orleans. The street is wide and lined with shops, hotels and restaurants.

Canal Street NOLA

Canal Street view looking toward Mississippi River shows Astor Hotel (Crowne Plaza), Wyndham and Marriott New Orleans. DoubleTree, Hilton and Harrah’s are located on opposite side of street. During my walks from Hyatt Regency to the river, I have come to the conclusion that New Orleans probably has more different chain brand hotels in one square mile that any other place. That is not necessarily a fact, just my observation based on seeing hotel brands like Marriott Moxy and AC, along with JW Marriott, Renaissance, Marriott, Courtyard, Staybridge Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton, DoubleTree, Waldorf-Astoria, Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, Le Meridien, Aloft, Hyatt Place and more – all within blocks of each other.

Bourbon Street

I was glad I dragged myself outside on Saturday night to experience Bourbon Street in full party mode. I thought Las Vegas got wild on Saturday night, but these southerners seem to take it a step further in a more laid back way than the Vegas experience.

Bourbon Street

I walked by numerous bars with live music, until Jimi Hendrix sounds coming from inside a bar called Prohibition enticed me inside.

Big Ass Beers

I also adored their outside sign with the words “Huge Ass Beers”.

Prohibition beer prices

The persistent coughing I had experienced for three days meant that my hearing only functioned at about 20%. No problem for me to take the empty bar seat next to the live band’s loudspeakers and work on a 32 oz. Stella Artois in a two hands plastic cup. Once I had the beer down to half full, enough time to hear Beatles, Steve Miller and Stevie Ray Vaughan song covers, I was able to walk back outside and continue walking Bourbon Street with my beer in one hand.

I made a right turn hoping to reach the Mississippi River. For several blocks cars were at a standstill and I wondered why nobody was moving? I passed dozens of stopped cars as I continued down the street. Turns out Saturday June 18 was the New Orleans Gay Pride Parade.

NOLA Gay Pride

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral

The Mighty Mississippi

Across Decatur Street from Jackson Square I walked into Washington Artillery Park and crossed the railroad tracks to the Mississippi River pathway where I saw the Steamboat Natchez and felt a little Mark Twain spirit on a balmy June night.

Natchez Riverboat

I was scheduled to have taken a riverboat cruise earlier in the day, but had to cancel in favor of rest and sleep.

I was feeling on Sunday that this trip was a big waste of money due to my illness. Fortunately I have had time to adjust and an article I read today in the IPW Daily by celebrity travel writer and TV personality Samantha Brown kind of hit at the heart of my feelings after a week of being sick in New Orleans.

Reflection

To test my theory, you only need to look back to a vacation that turned out less than ideal. You went and something happened and – for whatever reason – it wasn’t perfect.

But, when you got home and talked about it with others you found that the experience improved…and was somehow worthwhile.

According to research, even a “bad” vacation is measured more positively than a material purchase. So there you go! – Samantha Brown.

We may have to wait a little longer to buy the bedroom furniture we need to replace. But at least now, when my family members and friends tell me how they adore New Orleans, I’ll have some memories and stories of my own to share about good times found in NOLA.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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