Soniat House is in the heart of the French Quarter on a quiet stretch of Chartes Street between Governor Nicholls and Ursulines Streets.
From New York, fly with American Airlines (www.aa.com) or United Airlines (www.united.com). International and domestic flights from most major hubs touch down and take-off from Louis Armstrong International Airport (www.flymsy.com), 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Take a taxi to the hotel for US$33.
Amtrak serves New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue (www.amtrak.com), two miles away with routes to Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Take a taxi for about US$20.
If you are here during the major fests and staying local, a car will be more of a hindrance than a help, as the French Quarter gets packed. Valet parking is available for US$39 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
Spend time touring historical landmarks along Chartes Street, just five minutes away on foot: start with the Presbytere, aka New Orleans’ Mardi Gras museum, built in 1791, and the Cabildo, completed in 1799. The St Louis Cathedral is the oldest working one of its kind in the US. Take in Jackson Square, across from the cathedral. Artists line the green recreating the scene on canvas and there are plenty of clothing shops to peruse. Built in 1835, the Old US Mint at 400 Esplanade Avenue is a Greek Revival edifice worthy of a stroll-by. Take little ones to the Audubon Nature Institute to visit the zoo, learn about swamp critters and study creepy-crawlies at the Insectarium. Pick up Mardi Gras-approved eyewear at Maskarade, five minutes from the hotel. Now the hard part: deciding whether to go for a demure or full-tilt feather-lined mask. Celebrate the vampy lore of Nola with a trip to Boutique du Vampyre at 633 Toulouse. Have a ‘haunted’ portrait made, admire the art gallery and pick up some Creole mustard.
Just a two-minute walk away, Palm Court Jazz Café offers local flavour in the form of red beans and rice, flash-fried crawfish tails and the Creole pasta tossed with sausage, chicken, shrimp and oysters. With back-talking bartenders and potent cocktails (try the Sazerac), Coop’s Place on Decatur in the French Quarter is a local favourite. It serves some of the best Cajun food in the city, including rabbit and sausage jambalaya and seafood gumbo. Brigtsen's is a no-brainer for Creole cuisine, with pan-fried catfish jazzed up by jalapeño tartar sauce, rabbit tenderloin with grits, jambalaya and tres leches cake. Restaurant Gabrielle bounced back from Katrina to continue serving their locally loved dishes, such as smoked-quail gumbo with green-anise sausage, duck in an ornage-sherry sauce and chess pie.
Organic, hippie-tinged Satsuma Café at 3218 Dauphine Street in the Bywater neighbourhood, less than 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel, serves freshly squeezed juices, banana-Nutella pancakes and fresh salads. Piping-hot beignets and creamy café au laits are on the menu at Café Du Monde, just two blocks away.
Edging the French Quarter, Bar Tonique takes cocktails seriously. Rare liquors and bitters, freshly squeezed fruit juices and tinctures are employed to create their heady, old-school concoctions. Grab a brew and check out nightly live music at dba a five-minute walk from Soniat House, in Faubourg Marigny. Greats such as Jimmy Buffet and Stevie Wonder have graced the stage. One-Eyed Jacks’ expansive theatre-turned-club in the French Quarter features spicy burlesque shows by resident troupe Fleur de Tease and a roster of rocking musical groups. Less than 10 minutes from the hotel, Preservation Hall at 726 St Peter Street is worth a visit. With a brassy house band and a rousing roster of veteran talent, this 18th-century house gets packed fast. Arrive early to avoid sitting on the floor.