Where Above and Beyond Matters
The minute we stepped into Hotel Monteleone we knew it was going to be something special. Everyone greeted us with a smile and a “hello”, but not the fake kind, it felt sincere. We felt like we were taken back in time, a time where customer service mattered and going above didn’t cost extra.
The lobby is breathtaking. The chandeliers bounce light across the room and glow over the amazing portraits hung about. The furniture has a look from a different era, but remains classic and chic (and not to forget comfortable). Check in was easy, fast and informative; we were given information about the hotel, our room and the surrounding area.
We stayed in a lovely suite that had a king bed with more pillows than we knew what to do with! We were in love with the high ceiling and the granite and marble bathroom. We had plenty of space with so many extras we weren’t expecting (amazing bathroom products, plush bathrobes, perfect water pressure in the shower and cleanliness that was noticeable). Catching some shut eye was easy to do (a little too easy ?).
A Look Inside
We set a breakfast alarm everyday, something we have NEVER done on vacation before. It was the best meal of our day and something we looked forward to and consistently talked about- HA!
We tried something new everyday and weren’t disappointed once. One of the coolest things on the menu was the “eggs Benedict of the day”. They featured something different each day to spice up the usual Benedict, like short rib or blue crab. The item that stood out the most was the beignets, hands down! Everyone tells you that you HAVE to go to Cafe Du Monde to try theirs, but the Criollo Restaurant in Hotel Monteleone was a hundred times better! Trust us, we never lie about food!
Speaking of food in New Orleans, it is TO – DIE – FOR! Forget what you think you know about cajun dishes and seafood, you will be floored when those incredible flavors hit your palate. We had some of the freshest and tastiest oysters ever and the most delicious and authentic gumbo with shrimp mac n’ cheese on the side (and that was just on Seb’s plate).
You Spin Me Right Round
The Carousel Bar and Lounge was like nothing we had experienced before. We were so fortunate to spend almost two hours with Marvin, the head bartender, getting the ins and outs of not only the bar, but also the hotel. We had a 10 to 15 minute interview scheduled, but Marvin was so full of information we didn’t even realize the hours were flying by. He told us about the founder of the hotel, Antonio Monteleone – how he had moved from Sicily in 1880 in search of the American Dream. He had an extremely successful shoe factory before coming to America and planned to continue that success in New Orleans. Antonio opened a small cobbler’s shop on Royal Street and then six years later bought a hotel down the road. The coolest thing about his story is that Hotel Monteleone is still family owned and run. It has stayed in the family this whole time, something so rare nowadays.
Marvin also told us that Hotel Monteleone is a historic landmark and a member of Historic Hotels of America (hotels that have maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity). We learned about all the famous authors who not only wrote about Hotel Monteleone and The Carousel Bar, but who stayed at the hotel, like Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose and John Grisham. Truman Capote even claims to have been born in Hotel Monteleone, but he actually wasn’t, his mother lived at the hotel during her pregnancy, but she made it to the hospital to give birth. In 1999, the hotel was designated an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association (one of three hotels in the US to hold this honor).
Marvin continued sharing more about the Carousel Bar and Lounge, a place he has worked and called home for almost 20 years. The bar was installed in 1949 and it’s the only revolving bar in New Orleans – and a first for us. The 25-seat carousel bar turns on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a chain powered by a one-quarter horsepower motor. It takes 15 minutes for the bar to complete a full circle (Watch our short video above to see the carousel in full swing).
The original carousel was renovated in 1992 with a new top and fiber optics in the ceiling to create an appearance of stars in the sky. One of our favorite things about the bar (besides the amazing drinks and the impeccable service) are the hand painted seats which the hotel commissioned Disney artists to paint. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting with a lion, tiger, elephant, zebra or monkey on the back, the amazing details and colors are stunning!
Vogue Living has named The Carousel Bar and Lounge one of the top 20 bars in the world (only nine bars in the US made the list). Vogue Living’s list was hand selected to showcase places at the forefront of the drinking scene that are as dynamic and spirited as times past. After hearing Marvin passionately speak of his cocktail recipes and the Carousel’s history, we 100% agree with Vogue’s list.
The drink list is unique and impressive. Of course you can order all your regular favorites, but we encourage you to try one of their tops 5, like the Pimm’s Cup or the French 007 or the famous Sazerac! Our passion for drinks is just as strong as our passion for food, our recommendations won’t let you down! Marvin proudly showed us his latest book – filled with cocktail recipes, anecdotes and history. It has become the perfect companion to our growing collection of spirits – Get your copy here. 😉
We loved watching Marvin in action behind the bar! It isn’t easy keeping track of drink orders while the bar is not only moving, but there are people standing 3-4 rows deep behind the seats. We got a good laugh at watching the bartenders and staff members hopping over the bar to get in and out- there’s no door! Often times guests sitting at the bar are asked to please stand to the side for a minute, and to hold their drink, because someone needs to hop in or out. The quick disturbance doesn’t bother anyone as it brings a smile to their face to watch the staff hopping up and swinging their legs over.
We asked Marvin how he does it without crashing into anything and he replied, with a smile, “Practice makes almost perfect.” His smile may have implied his attempts over weren’t always perfect or without ending in glass shattering.. hahaha!
New Orleans’ Heart
The location of Hotel Monteleone couldn’t be more perfect. It’s in the heart of The French Quarter with valet parking and two garages. It sits at the top of Royal Street with so many shops and restaurants at its doorstep. It’s in walking distance of many New Orleans’s tourist attractions like the popular Bourbon Street, the quieter Jackson Square and French Market, and the Riverwalk (head down there to get on one of the steamboats along the Mississippi River). We couldn’t have asked to be better situated, especially as first timers to New Orleans.
All of the Hotel Monteleone’s staff members, especially Della and Kathy from Criollo, were so kind and always up for a chat about what we had been up to and what we had planned for the day. We are huge believers in taking advice from locals on what to do and where to go, thankfully everyone was always ready with their “must dos” for us first timers. Because of them, we hit as many major spots as possible!
We walked everywhere and never felt like we were somehow walking too much or missing out. The city of New Orleans is a vibrant one with incredible history and warm, welcoming people. Entering the various stores and boutiques, we would systematically hear a friendly “Hello, where y’all from?” which would open the exchange to interesting conversation and give us the feeling of really getting to know the city.
There is so much to do, from the voodoo cemetery and the World War II museum, to swamp airboat tours and plantation visits, you’ll need more than the four days we had to see it all.
We stayed on the 14th floor and had a beautiful view of the city and of the Mississippi catching the first sun rays every morning. Having visited New Orleans during the colder months, the pool was under renovation but we were shown the gorgeous rooftop pool complete with sun chairs and bar. The view, here again, is magnificent.
Whether your trip to New Orleans is your first or your hundredth, Hotel Monteleone is a one of a kind experience. It has the glitz and the glam of the 4 star gem that it is, but it also has the warmth and homey feel as if you were staying with family. We jokingly asked one of the staff members why everyone was so friendly and kind and his reply was, “We are treated well and respected by our employer. It’s easy to love your job, want to come to work everyday and do a good job when you’re treated properly.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Hotel Monteleone, thank you for the unforgettable time. We will be back soon for more #monteleonememories and if you would like to learn more about our stay, please visit our instagram account and watch the entire stay in our highlighted stories on New Orleans.
* We were invited by Hotel Monteleone to experience their accomodations in exchange for our honest review. If you are interested in our services, please check out the “work with us” section.