New Orleans: Staying & Playing

Frugal traveler Erica likes to think that exploring a new area is primarily about being outside, seeing new sights, and meeting new people. While that is true it doesn't hurt to have a nice place to come back to after a long day of adventure  in a new city. I am extremely grateful to International House Hotel for providing Christina and I with a room while in New Orleans last weekend and would recommend it without hesitation to anyone wishing to indulge in some New Orleans fun. 2014-04-19 15.05.00International House is located in one of the best parts of New Orleans. It was within walking distance of every restaurant, bar, and activity we wanted to do, but it wasn't in the totally chaotic part of the French Quarter. We were within a mile of Cafe Du Monde, Harrahs Casino, the Aquarium, Frenchman Street, and virtually every other popular stop for visitors in the city. The hotel itself was gorgeous. The building was erected in 1906 and first used as a bank, before turning into the first World Trade Center in the world in 1943. In 1998 it was converted into a hotel and was renovated in 2007. 2014-04-19 13.49.51Me and my pimp chair. 2014-04-19 14.00.38-2 2014-04-19 13.52.12

Our room opened up to this terrace and we had the most spectacular view of the city!

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As for the playing we did while in New Orleans I wanted to make a quick stop into Harrahs Casino since Christina had never been into one before (and this was only my second time and both times were at Harrahs.) We pulled out some cash there, thank you $5 convenience fee, and lost it all on the penny slots within 20 minutes. It took us a while how to figure the stupid machines and we left $10 poorer and with smoke filled clothes. It was still a fun experience and I'm glad we were able to stop in. Next time I need to bring some lucky charms or something. 2014-04-19 19.17.22Sunday morning I woke up around 6:30 and decided to kill some time in the hotel gym before breakfast. I was surprised to see the gym was like a mini art museum! There are 8 glass tiles surrounding the fitness center that have each been imprinted with the face of a student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. 2014-04-20 06.38.11

I hopped on the elliptical for a while and listened to a podcast by Rich Roll and followed it up with some upper body strength. I love, love, love being able to keep up healthy habits while traveling and appreciate hotels that make it easy for me to do. 2014-04-20 06.38.59-2We grabbed a small breakfast the hotel provided downstairs on our way out and took a peek around the hotel bar - Loa. The bar's creative director, Alan Walter, is a bit of a local celebrity and renowned mixologist. I read this great piece on him by Southern Living before we got to the city and was blown away by the attention to detail and unique flavors he incorporates into the drinks. 2014-04-20 07.55.25Before leaving town I wanted to stop by Marie Laveau's grave. Last year while I was in the city my friend Elaine tried to take me there but the cemetery was closed. Legend has it that if you draw three "X's" on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, and yell out your wish that it will come true. Elaine, who lived in New Orleans for a few years, didn't do that but did leave her an offering one day and asked for a wish. A short time later her wish was granted so I figured it couldn't hurt to try! I left a shell that I found in the cemetery and a penny. Not the greatest offerings but after 2 years of trying (and about 2 miles of walking that day) I hope my effort will count for something!2014-04-20 09.14.00See those stains on the ground in front of the tomb? That's from chicken blood. We heard the cemetery tour guide telling the group he was with that local voodoo practitioners will often come and sacrifice chickens in front of the tomb still. During Halloween season there are so many sacrifices/offerings left on a daily basis that you can't even walk around the tomb. 2014-04-20 09.17.10Our final stop before heading home was Magazine street to walk around for a bit and grab lunch at Whole Foods. This area of town is, by far, my absolute favorite part of New Orleans. It's filled with boutiques, cute restaurants, and locals. It's devoid of all French Quarter craziness and offers up the charm that New Orleans is famous for. 2014-04-20 10.41.29I had such an incredible time in the city and cannot thank International House Hotel enough for helping making this trip possible! I will definitely be back again soon - perhaps for a Rock N Roll Marathon in January or the Half Ironman in April. Yes, I said it. Half Ironman. 2014-04-19 13.51.00What is your favorite city to visit?