Tip of the Week: A virgin in New Orleans

New Orleans advice from road warrior Janet Reitman

Published November 17, 1997 10:01AM (EST)

This week's Tip of the Week comes from road warrior and writer Janet Reitman, who shares some hard-won wisdom from her first venture to New Orleans. Do you have a Tip of the Week for us? Send it to wanderlust@salonmagazine.com.

I travel all the time as a journalist, and have to do a lot of things
relatively cheaply. My latest trip was to Louisiana, which is, in its
own way, a foreign country.

Having never been to New Orleans before, I did what every other
virgin does: I went to the French Quarter. Which was,
well, gross. I'd never seen so
many white-kneed Midwestern retirees wandering around clueless in my
life. That and puking frat boys. Do not think you can go to the
Quarter even in the early morning and wander around free of the
gawking masses. Even at 7 a.m., the camera hordes are out.
And this was September, not March.

Since I was alone and not really into drinking sweet, alcoholic Mr.
Frosties on the sidewalk, I went back to my hotel kind of bummed
that I knew no one in town. And was saved -- SAVED -- by the most
wonderful hotel, the Pontchartrain, which is on St. Charles Avenue in
the Garden District. It's beautiful in a funky New Orleans kind of
way: Each room is completely different and some are named after famous
guests -- the Cole Porter suite, that kind of thing. The staff is
helpful, efficient and young -- everyone seems to be a college
student. They do these little things like deliver message notes under
your door in lieu of having an annoying message light on your
telephone. It also has a great bar for meeting clients (with jazz Thursday through Saturday nights) and an excellent cafe with decent food,
particularly breakfast. The restaurant, which is a four-star French
restaurant, was closed when I was there but was supposed to
reopen in October. Colleagues who have eaten there say it is amazing.

Back to the French Quarter: The one real gem I found was a little
vegetarian place on Exchange Place (a little side street off of Royal)
called "Old Dog, New Trick." It's menu included huge salads, soba noodles
with tofu, tempeh platters, homemade bread and funky waiters who like
to hang out and talk , but not intrusively so. Best of all, the diners all seemed to be natives, and generally young, professional, non-yuppie types.

Otherwise, if you rent a car in Louisiana, make sure you check about insurance with whoever's paying your bill. I usually just go ahead
and buy the extra coverage, which usually costs something like $7 or
$8 per day in other states. Louisiana rates go for about $16.99 per
day -- the highest in the country. I rented a car from Budget for one
month. My insurance cost as much as the actual rental did.

By Janet Reitman

Janet Reitman is a freelance journalist who has covered wars in Haiti, the Sudan and Sierra Leone for the Washington Post, Life magazine and Talk magazine, among other publications.

MORE FROM Janet Reitman

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