The newly renovated W New Orleans – French Quarter is the perfect landing spot from which to explore the spirit, spark and sexiness of The Big Easy
The W brand masterfully creates design integrated with the cities it resides in, and in the Big Easy that means celebrating the music, magic, cuisine and cocktails that New Orleans is famous for. Just a hop, skip and a jump from the pulsating heart of the French Quarter, this stylish boutique retreat makes guests feel like they’ve gained access into the VIP section of an exclusive country club taken over by the cool kids. Everything about this haute hotel just oozes hip fun. The semi-secret hideaway has just 97 rooms, and its shot of southern charm will sit well with anyone looking for a touch of funky fun and A-list treatment beyond the frozen Hurricanes of Bourbon Street, just a few blocks away.
Thematically, the focus is on the fluid phrasing of jazz and the intrigue of voodoo, shadow and rhythm, with each floor decked out in a splashy ode conceived by nemaworkshop, a New York City interior design and architecture firm.
The hotel works much of its magic on the ground floor. There’s no lobby to speak of. Instead, guests check in to the sassy but sophisticated Living Room (W’s take on the traditional hotel lobby), a lounge-y room that feels more like a happening Tribeca bar than a guest check in area. The young, hot and engaging staff knows where to find the best late-night venues and restaurants so be sure to ask when planning your New Orleans adventure.
An arched wrought-iron entrance leads to a cozy courtyard and pool and poolside cabanas surrounded by verdant brush, where the scents of magnolia waft in the soft air. Inside the ornate iron gates, you’re transported back to Anne Rice’s magical New Orleans. Partiers can nurse their hangovers away from the frenetic French Quarter bustle and enjoy a swim or nap in the confines of this magical space that feels like a decadent country house.
The floors of the hotel pay tribute to the mysterious mystique of the Crescent City: Jazz ,Voodoo & Tarot. Brave interior design touches include trumpet-inspired lighting on the jazz floors. For the voodoo vibe, the halls are meticulously lit with Tarot cards and voodoo pin lighting. Each room features a palate of streamline symbols and haunting blacks and whites mixed with lively gold tones and rich primary colors. The jazz design features vibrant gold walls, white lacquered furniture and a jumbo floor-to-ceiling brass icon fashioned after a horn.
The Voodoo rooms channel the supernatural spirit of the city with décor inspired by New Orleans’s voodoo queen Marie Laveau. The walls are drenched in a deep blue with an oversized mural representing a mambo reading tarot cards. The minibar features an eerie illuminated top, a contemporary interpretation on a candle-lit altar. A convex mirror covers the TV, which gives a remarkable warped perspective of the room, as if peering into a crystal ball. The infamous Voodoo Queen can be spotted throughout the property, including Marie’s haunting eyes on the guest room number placards or the fabulous overhead lighting in the shape of voodoo doll pins! In addition to the trendy new décor, each room sports cutting-edge technology, new 40” Plasma TVs and a “jackpack,” offering the ability to stream movies, photos, presentations, etc. from portable devices directly onto the TVs.
As a dining destination, international foodies will celebrate the new SoBou—a contraction of “South of Bourbon Street”— a Louisiana street food-inspired restaurant and lounge from the Commander’s Family of Restaurants (run by the Brennan family of New Orleans). SoBou is inspired by the spirit of the Old Absinthe House, which they founded back in 1943. A “drinks-focused restaurant,” SoBou offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the regionally sourced menu, invented by Executive Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez, features inspired small plates to nibble with some of the most memorable drinks in the city—from snazzy cocktails to local craft brews. Gonzalez melds Louisiana street fare along with a Creolized version of his own Puerto Rican street food and the mix is nothing short of superb. He also sources from artisanal producers and longtime area farmers, which means you might find a salad of baby arugula, sweet and spicy beer nuts, Tabasco mango ribbons, gorgonzola dolce, shaved watermelon radishes and brined pickle vinaigrette, or a sticky, molasses lacquered pork belly with dirty rice calas, grilled green onion and ham hock stewed Louisiana red bean purée. Carnivores will also love the andouille-and-tasso meatballs, and the duck “debris” and butternut beignets napped with foie gras fondue and chicory-coffee ganache is beyond inspiring. SoBou’s bar snacks can be just as inimitable such as the Crystal Hot Sauce cotton candy with a Smokin’ Hot Apricot cocktail with tequila, smoky mezcal and apricot liqueur.
SoBou captures the idea of mixology as it relates to not only cocktails, but also to jazz and the dark arts. “It’s a cocktail city to begin with, and you want to be sure you hit that out of the park,”says Carlos Becil, Vice President of W North America Brand Management. The cozy and comfortable bar and front dining space evokes a turn-of-the-century apothecary, which reveals the origins of the cocktail. The walls glow with floor-to-ceiling antique bottles multiplied into infinity and the space is divided by apothecary cases displaying a collection of vintage shakers, and shot glasses from the Museum of the American Cocktail. Visible from all dining spaces is a curving brass and granite bar, which flows out to the chef’s table and becomes an elliptical radiant surface of light. Adjacent is a modern beer garden with beer taps built directly into the tables, not to mention the self-service enomatic wine machines. Hovering above each table hangs a brass light fixture illuminating portraits of feminine eyes. The extensive drink menu encourages sampling by offering flights and half bottles from around the globe; there are plenty of choices for novices and connoisseurs alike. First cousins Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan are the dynamic spirits administrators here and use the stylish bar to sample over 82 enticing cocktail recipes from their book: In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks.
Located in the heart of the Big Easy, the new W New Orleans – French Quarter— intimate, stylish and undeniably adult—sets the standards extremely high. The overall effect radiates highly evolved hedonism. This artistic and playful hotel stands as another example of the pioneering and collaborative spirit that has defined the W brand since its inception. The W French Quarter is a part of a massive effort by Starwood and it’s owners who are investing more than $100 Million in North American renovations. Stay tuned for more cool design, W-style. 316 Chartres Street New Orleans; (504) 581-1200
Halloween N’Awlins Style
There’s nothing quite like Halloween in New Orleans! It’s not just Mardi Gras that’s celebrated with gusto, as this city embraces Halloween like nowhere else on earth. It’s ghoulishly great with countless parties and sinister celebrations throughout the city, cementing New Orleans’ reputation as “the Most Haunted City in America.” Halloween night, October 31, falls on a Wednesday this year, so much of the action will take place the preceding weekend.
Voodoo Music Experience: October 26-28, 2012
Going strong since 1999, The Voodoo Experience returns this year to New Orleans’ City Park with Green Day, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Jack White and countless other musicians and bands. Mind blowing installations, interactive multimedia, local and international artist displays, parades and lustrous light shows flood the beautiful landscape of City Park. Last year, moving sculptures were lit up in bright neon colors, including a giant bird whose flapping wings were powered by one cyclist. It’s like Burning Man without the dust. VIP camping is also now available, with safari-style tents toilets, showers, electricity and security. For a more complete listing of performers click here or follow on Twitter @VoodooNola.
Bourbon Street, the French Quarter Mecca for tourists, trades heavily on the back of costumed ghouls and goblins. Most bars, shops and eateries encourage guests with outlandish outfits on Halloween week. One of the biggest Halloween celebrations occurs every year on Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny. The GLBT community is big on Halloween and you can join the fun at Bourbon and St. Ann streets in the heart of the Quarter. Extravagant costumes and non-stop dancing characterize this merry celebration. Proceeds go to Project Lazarus, a home in New Orleans for people living with AIDS. Check out www.HalloweenNewOrleans.com to find out more.
There’s plenty of mythology and mystery surrounding the origins and practice of Voodoo in New Orleans. Most of the stores and places in New Orleans that advertise voodoo are set up strictly for tourism with tacky, mass produced voodoo dolls and trinkets. For an introduction to authentic voodoo, check out the Island of Salvation Botanica in the New Orleans Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Ave. (in the Marigny), and the Temple Simbi-sen Jak, 835 Piety St. (tel. 504/948-9961). The wonderful Sallie Glassman, an engaging and knowledgeable voodoo priestess and author of an exquisite deck of voodoo tarot cards run it. The botanica offers Voodoo Dolls, Gris Gris Bags, Potion Oils, and Spiritual Art. It is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:30am to 5pm, but call first to make sure they are not closed for readings (or to schedule one).
Voodoo Spiritual Temple
Located right in the French Quarter and featured on PBS, this place is the real deal. Tourists are welcome, but be respectful. Don’t expect something out of “Angel Heart.” The lovely Priestess Miriam belonged to the Spiritual Church in Chicago before setting up this religious temple with a store attached. She is highly intuitive and exudes warmth and charm. The Voodoo Spiritual Temple is usually open but keeps irregular hours, so call ahead. You may also inquire about rituals, potions, tours, and lectures. , 828 N. Rampart St.; 504-522-9627
Spirits of the city’s long and mystical past are believed to still inhabit in the many old buildings and graveyards of the Big Easy, challenging experts in the supernatural to deny their existence. Tales abound in which the ghosts of these “Cities of the Dead” make their presence known, so bring your iPhone and you might record a ghostly presence yourself. If you’re a bit too shy for any paranormal activity on your own, there are plenty of ghost tours.
Explore the “other side” of the Crescent City for walking tours of ghostly haunts and the history behind them as seen on A&E, Discovery, and The History Channel. Established in 1994, Haunted History Tours is New Orleans’ most renowned walking tour company. Buildings that once seemed ordinary will take on eerie new dimensions as you relive their history and that of the ghosts that are said to still reside in these haunts. They offer several different tours that depart from various locations in both the French Quarter and the Garden District. Check out Haunted History Tours. 723 St Peter Street; 888-644-6787
If you take your ghostbusting seriously, Ghost Expeditions is the tour for you. Billed as “the world’s original paranormal/ghost investigation venture,” professional field investigators like Medium Daena Smoller, serve as specter-sleuthing guides for the granddaddy of ghost tours. During this three-hour expedition, they provide you with the opportunity to participate in an actual paranormal field investigation as you tour the haunted city and help uncover the mysteries of the supernatural! GE provides equipment that includes a device that reads atmospheric fluctuations associated with the presence of a ghost (the temperature drops), and something called L-Rods, which you hold in your hand to communicate with one of the house’s “earthbound entities. Who needs a Ouija board? 723 St Peter Street; 504-582-6991
Story by Robert Ellsworth
Photos by Ellsworth, W Hotels, and nemaworkshop.