North America, Reviews, Travel Advice

Flying High With The Loews in New Orleans!

May 31, 2011 • By

Full Disclosure: During my stay in New Orleans, I was a guest of the Loews Hotel which was arranged by the very sensational New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.   However, my review is and will always be my honest impression of my time there.


Loews Hotel in New Orleans

Here’s a transformation for you.  Take one Lykes Brothers Steamship building, a cargo shipping company that was located in the central business district of New Orleans, convert it into a four star luxury hotel and rename it the Loews New Orleans Hotel.  The management realized the value of opening one of their flagship hotels in such a premium segment of the city and wasted no time in purchasing it.  In 2003, their efforts resulted in 285 hotel rooms and suites, an upscale restaurant, a chic bar and 13k sf of meeting space, including the elegant Louisiana Ballroom.  Meeting planners will be interested to know that the hotel offers a unique rewards program.  Check out Loews MVP for more information.

Located a mere three blocks from the French Quarter, we were pleasantly surprised to see how lovely the surrounding area was.  It was another three blocks in the opposite direction that you would happen upon the famed River-Walk where we got to see and hear the cruise ships and Steamboats herald their arrival.  I liked the fact that we were so close to the French Quarter but could avoid the reverie of the celebrants who frequented the area.

We arrived four hours before check in where at most we hoped that they could store our luggage until check in time.  To our surprise, we were quickly notified that our room was ready and it took all of three minutes to collect our room’s key card.  The first thing you notice as you enter a Loews’ guest room is how large the space is, not only in square footage, but the 10 foot ceilings made you feel as if you should be hearing your own echo.  The suite was nice and cool which was a blessing given that the outdoor temps were hovering close to the triple digits.  To your right are two queen sized beds dressed with a feather-bed and five comfy pillows to dream on.  Each bed was flanked by an exquisite piece of artwork above it.

It’s immaculately appointed with a large secretarial desk and an ergonomic chair.  Across the room, you will find two well cushioned chairs and an ottoman flanking a small side table with a freestanding lamp providing much needed light in the far corner of the room.  I liked the fact that the light is operated by a button that you must press with your foot, no need to fumble for the switch in the dark.    In short order, you quickly learn that Loews is really committed to energy conservation because:

1) all of the lighting uses CFL bulbs.

2) the bed linens which are refreshed and remade everyday are changed every three days, which helps to promote green friendly sustainability by reducing the amount of water and detergent used.

3) only towels that are not rehung are refreshed.

The bathroom was fresh and clean with granite counter tops that offered stainless steel amenities like a soap dish, tissue and cotton swab holders, hand-held mirror and the usual travel sized personal care items that I’m so very fond of.  The stand alone shower was encased in stone tiles and was almost double the size of ones’ typically found in hotel rooms.  On the opposite end of the room was a spa sized tub where you can feel free to soak away the day’s troubles with ease.

You can expect to find a Keurig coffee machine with various types of coffee, cocoa and teas with condiments available for your enjoyment gratis. In the spacious closet you will find a room safe, two spa robes, a generous number of clothes hangers, an ironing board and iron.  Each room boasts a minimum 40 inch LG television set, a radio with a built-in CD player.

There were other services available for a nominal fee like internet service for $12.95 per day (in room; service is free in the lobby), the honor bar, $34.00 per day valet parking (You can actually walk or catch public transportation to pretty much anywhere you want to go, so a car isn’t really necessary if you plan to stay in the city center), long distance calling, spa services like manicures, facials and massages at the Balance Spa were reasonably priced. However their fitness center with treadmills, cycles, stair steps with three huge television monitors as well as their whirlpool, dry sauna and indoor lap pool are free to all hotel guests.

One of the most special aspects about staying in a Loews Hotel room in New Orleans is their phenomenal skyline views.  New Orleans’ skyline is relatively low in comparison to other cities, therefore, you get to see so much more of the city because your line of vision will not be obscured. From every guestroom, you will enjoy views from either the Mississippi River, the historic French Quarter or the city’s skyline.

My stay at the Loews Hotel was one of the few excursions into pampered elegance that I’ve gotten to experience since I am primarily a budget traveler. Surprisingly, the rack rates begin at $189.00 per night and given the reputation of Loews as being upscale (read: expensive) I might have dismissed it as being too rich for my blood and certainly for my pocketbook.  I enjoy traveling on a budget and spending as little as I can on my stay.  However, I think every now and again, each of us deserve an opportunity to see how the other half lives and luckily, Loews makes it easier to do so.

The hotel’s on-site restaurant is the Cafe Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar which is part of the Commander’s Palace family of restaurants. Led by Executive Chef Chris Lusk, this ground floor restaurant’s tasty Creole cuisine has a distinctly New Orleans flair, but marches to its own drum as well.  We enjoyed the Blue Crab Pound Cake with Port-Salut “icing” & truffled crab claws ($10.00) , Shrimp & Tasso “Corndogs” 5 pepper jelly, pickled okra, chicory greens and Crystal Hot Sauce ($9.00) and Crawfish Sloppy Boudreaux sweet onion pain perdue and pickled okra coleslaw ($10.00).  Don’t forget to check out the bar’s tasty cocktail confections like the French Martini and the Halle Berry!

Periodically, the hotel will offer special packages which adds even more value to their guests.  I’m particularly fond of of “The Crescent City Shopping Connection” where package prices start at $129.00 per night. This package consists of overnight deluxe accommodations, shopping savings at Saks and select boutiques on Magazine Street (a short streetcar ride from Poydras and Canal Street stop), welcome cocktails at the Swizzle Stick bar and complimentary valet parking.  Can we say Girl’s Getaway?!

So, what is my overall opinion of my stay there?  There was only one unpleasant incident. The guests next door were arguing loudly….I mean….really loud.  After waiting for the noise to die down for about 30 minutes, I had to call the front desk to inform them because you never know how things like that can end.  I’m not really sure if security came up as promised because they continued to fight up until the wee hours of the night. My quick remedy was to turn the TV on.  Do I see Loews in a different light as a result?  No, not really. Unless background checks are done (and even then, there’s no guarantee) Loews can’t control who reserves a room at their hotel.  This could have happened anywhere, so it doesn’t tarnish my overall opinion of the hotel.

My daughter and I were treated with the utmost respect from the management, concierges, front desk clerks, doormen, bellmen, wait staff, bartender….everyone was polite, courteous and really made me proud to be a southern girl because they lived up to a long-held and celebrated tradition of southern hospitality.  If you are looking for an elegant getaway, consider a trip down to ‘Nawlins and indulge yourself in a little luxury at the Loews!  Oh, I can’t forget the piece de resistance!  I was lucky enough to tour the Presidential Suite (see the pics below)…..while that suite was too rich for my blood, it was a very nice experience just the same and we can all dream can’t we?


The Loews Hotel – New Orleans
Value is the new luxury: Fortunately, we deliver both.
300 Poydras Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Check out our website to learn more about us!
Fan us on Facebook!
For reservations, call 866-211-6411 or 800-23-LOEWS.

Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler # 14 – Jeremy Branham

May 26, 2011 • By

Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we get to discuss the wonders of travel with Jeremy Branham, who does double duty as the featured budget traveler blogger for the Sacramento Examiner and his own popular travel blog, Budget Travel Adventures.


Jeremy and his wife standing in front of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC

1) What is it about traveling that makes you smile?

The answer to this question varies by age. When I was young, a trip to Disney World or my first baseball game to see the Atlanta Braves. In college, it was that first trip to Estonia as a wide-eyed kid from the South had his eyes opened to the world and his passion stirred.

As an adult, my perspective is different because my life has changed. Now, it’s a beautiful sunset on a deserted beach or a cabin in the mountains surrounded by trees, peace, and quiet. As a dad, it’s seeing things in this world that we often take for granted through my kid’s eyes and words. It’s those simple moments that you realize what a great opportunity we have to see the world and experience it with other people.

2) What is your favorite place in the world?

You want an honest answer or want me to mention some great place that I have visited and loved?

I am going to seriously cheat on this one and name a few. In my travels abroad, I have two places for two very different reasons. The first is Estonia because it was my first trip overseas and it had a huge impact on me. I can honestly say that I am not the same person now because of that trip. While those who have visited Estonia tend to visit Tallinn, my favorite place is Tartu – a college town a few hours from Tallinn in the southeast part of Estonia. My other answer to this is Portugal because I really loved my time in Lisbon. Maybe it was being there at the right place and time but I really enjoyed the city.

However, my honest answer to this question is home. When I am not traveling, there is no place I would rather be than home with my family. My kids are at a great age right now and although being a parent of two kids under 3 can be tough, it is rewarding as well. There aren’t three people on earth I would rather hang out with than my family. I am very much a homebody and just enjoy the simple things in life. It’s ironic that I even say this now – I’ve changed so much.

For me, it’s all about the relationships and quality time with my family. It’s probably the same reason why I value my experiences with people when I travel more than the places or sights that I have seen.READ MORE


Facing The Fear Of Success Head On

May 23, 2011 • By

“Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself.” – Robert Collier

Most people recognize the term fear of failure, where some one might be reticent to attempt a task because somewhere deep down inside they fear that they might fail.  Rather than venture into a hopeless situation, they will rationalize that the smart thing to do is to not bother at all.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained; but no chance of failure either.  Then, there’s another dynamic where some people fear what success may bring to them.  It sounds counter intuitive; don’t we all want to succeed?  Isn’t there always that burning desire to grab the brass ring, to come out on top, to be the best that you can be?  First,  let’s define what is required to become successful:READ MORE

Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler # 13 – Laurel Robbins

May 20, 2011 • By

Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we get to discuss the wonders of travel with Laurel Robbins, who runs the popular travel blog, Ex-pat in Germany.


Laurel after a dive with hundreds of hammerhead sharks at Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos.

1. What is it about traveling that makes you smile?

I love meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and discovering new places and landscapes. I also love seeing wildlife in their natural surroundings and learning where and how to spot local wildlife. All of these aspects of travel make me smile.

2.  What is your favorite place in the world?

This is a tough one, but I love the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. I didn’t know much about them before my volunteer trip and I had no idea that besides the main islands, there are hundreds of small uninhabited islands. Besides the people on our boat we only saw a handful of other people in ten days. I loved the remoteness and peacefulness of it. Laos, Guatemala, Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica, Galapagos and the Canadian Rockies are also some of my favourite places in the world.

3.  What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?READ MORE

North America, Reviews, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

Discovering Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, Georgia

May 16, 2011 • By

This is the first in a series of infrequent articles that will spotlight Hidden Treasures within a city that are usually overlooked by the locals. We will be searching for some of the best little known secrets from every city imaginable. Lean closer and tell me what’s special about yours…….

Life is always full of surprises. Sometimes we can’t see the trees for the forest because we’re so invested in the big picture instead of looking a little closer at what’s in front of us. I’d been making big plans to visit a renowned local botanical garden, Callaway Gardens, which was located roughly 120 miles away. Being a total garden nut, nothing would please me more than to visit a botanical garden that’s a little closer to home for once.  Just by happenstance, I discovered the existence of one that was located a mere 15 miles away in Kennesaw, Georgia. Smith-Gilbert Gardens sits on 16 lush acres of fertile southern soil. Founded in 1970 by Richard Smith and Robert Gilbert, their initial intention was to purchase the historic Hiram Butler House (circa 1882) to settle in, but decided to develop the expansive property to accommodate their new-found avian friends.

Eventually, it became larger than life and over time more varied plant life was added to the landscape. Today, several thousand plant species surround the house along with 30 sculptures that are carefully positioned throughout.  Dr. Gilbert’s horticultural interests was in trees, shrubs and other woody plants while Mr. Smith enjoyed perennials and rock gardens.  Each part of the garden is segmented by plant type and the plants have signs that lists its botanical name as well as the year it was planted which can give the visitor an idea about growth rates in this region.  From its Cedar field, rose, rock, bonsai, camellia, shade and perennial gardens, Smith Gilbert has something special for everyone and is well worth the visit.  What Hometown treasures have you discovered that took you by surprise?


Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler # 12 – Monica Gonzalez

May 13, 2011 • By

Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we get to discuss the wonders of travel with the very busy Monica Gonzalez, who created the Globe Diva Travels blog and runs the booking agency of the same name.

brussels, belgium

These vibrant colors are secondary to none! Way to go, Brussels!

1) What is it about traveling that makes you smile?

This is the question that really took me the longest to answer. I don’t want it to sound like a cop-out answer but EVERYTHING about travel makes me smile! When I get a great deal on a flight, I smile. When I think about the places I’m going to be seeing, I smile. When I think about the food I’m going to be tasting, I smile. When I get home and think about the places I’ve been and the people I’ve been fortunate enough to have met, I smile. It’s hard not to smile when I think about any aspect of travel.

2) What is your favorite place in the world?

Italy. I haven’t done vast traveling all over the world like some people but I know in my heart that no place will ever compare with Italy. I can’t, or maybe I don’t want to, narrow it down to any particular region. I just have a feeling of “home” when I get there that I haven’t found anywhere else I’ve visited.

3) What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?

At this point in my travels, I can honestly say that there isn’t any place that I would not visit again. I will say there are some cities I don’t have to visit again and London would be one of those. Even though I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to see and even though the trip was very enjoyable, there was nothing about London that struck a chord in me.


City Views, North America, Travel Advice

Travel Photo Thursday – Renaissance Faire

May 12, 2011 • By

Renaissance Faire

Today’s photo is from a local Renaissance Faire a few years back.  It shows a musically inclined  Scottish family performing for the crowd.  I have to admit that the music was quite good and the girls’ footwork was impressive…..oh to be young again and be able to move like the wind….so I chose this pic because it brings a smile to my face when I look back on the day that was full of fun and merriment and the humongous turkey legs were quite tasty too!

This photo is part of the Travel Photo Thursday series which was started by Nancie M with Budget Travelers Sandbox.


How We Can Make The World Better For Having Been In It

May 8, 2011 • By

After reading an insightful post from the NVR Guys about volunteerism and giving back, I was so moved by it that I decided to expound on my response to it which was:

“I’ve always liked the old Shirley Chisholm quote: “Service is the rent that we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” To that end, you guys are operating at a surplus. I think one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to give back…it’s actually a selfish endeavor really, because you get back much more than you give. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you’ve made the difference in someone’s life. It really is a beautiful thing.READ MORE

Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler – # 10 – April D. Thompson

May 6, 2011 • By

Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and (hopefully) get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we get to discuss the wonders of travel with April D. Thompson, who is the founding editor of The Absolute Travel Addict website.

1)  What is it about traveling that makes you smile?
One of the best things about travel is meeting new people. Despite language, cultural and geographical differences, making connections with people really makes my heart smile.

2)  What is your favorite place in the world?
I like so many places, but I would have to say South Africa, particularly Durban is my favorite to date.  I’m not really sure what it was, but I really felt at home.  It’s just a laid back and friendly beach town with a unique mix of Indian and African culture.

3)  What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?
Luckily, I don’t really have any place that I wouldn’t go back to, especially if someone paid me.  My only hesitation would be that there are so many places I haven’t seen yet that I would like to see before repeating some of the places I have already visited.