Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Orleans Trip Part 2: The Hotel Modern

The Hotel Modern was my home for the night in New Orleans.

One thing I liked about this hotel is that it's easy to identify from the outside by its unique design and nighttime lighting. Knowing what to look for made finding it much easier! Valet parking at the hotel is $30 per day, but I did some research before leaving and found multiple lots within a couple of blocks where you could park for $20 or less. I feel like I should do a whole other post about parking in New Orleans - it's kind of crazy! I finally ended up in a lot right next to the hotel where I found a $6 for 9 hours option. Score!

Here you can see the back side of the hotel and the lot that I parked in. There are slightly cheaper lots within a few blocks, but I think this one is the best option if you don't want to carry your bags very far or are arriving late at night like I was. 


That artfully drawn blue dot is my way of marking the hotel. (French Quarter is outlined in red.)

The hotel's location is a huge plus! It's situated right on Lee Circle in the Central Business/Warehouse District, which means it's pretty much across the street from the Lower Garden district in one direction and about 3/4 mile from the French Quarter in the other direction. I know that some people like staying right in the Quarter for easy access, but I really liked the quiet of being slightly outside of it. It's pretty much next door to the WWII museum, so if that's big on your list you might appreciate the proximity! If you happen to be a sports fan, it's just over a mile from the Superdome, so you may be able to just walk over and avoid the crazy parking/traffic situation that tends to come with game days.

Looking back at the hotel from the Cardonette Street trolley stop. 

The hotel is located right on the St. Charles Street streetcar line, so depending on which direction you go you can be just across Canal Street from the French Quarter or over in the Garden District within a matter of a few minutes. (I'll be posting about the streetcars later, if you're looking for tips!)

My photo of the front desk area didn't turn out well, so I borrowed this official one because it's awesome and I think it perfectly captures the check-in experience they're aiming for. 

The front desk of the hotel has almost nothing on it beyond a pitcher of water to refresh you after your travels. One of the staff informed me that they're the only hotel in the city that checks guests in on an iPad. Pretty cool, and as a former front desk person I can't help but wonder how it works out!  I thought it was a little odd that I wasn't given any info about the hotel when I checked in. Given that I come from a Disney resort background, I'm used to spending several minutes telling my guests about the basic features (here's where food is, there's the pool, here's where you catch the bus) when they check in. There was a little pamphlet of info attached to the cardboard sleeve that held my room key, but I didn't discover that until the next day. I also remembered seeing a note on their website about welcome cocktails at check-in, but I wasn't offered one. Maybe because I arrived so late? A drink would have been incredibly welcome after the day I'd just had! (If you missed my post about the drive down, I expected to arrive around 7-8 p.m., but didn't make it until after midnight thanks to lots of road construction!)

One handy note - this hotel charges $50 for incidentals to your card upon check-in. When I finally stumbled into the lobby around 12:30 a.m. and the person checking me in said she needed my card, I was entirely too out of it to think much of it. Only as she was off running it did I realize that it might take awhile to have the charge reversed, and I needed that money for my trip since I basically had exactly enough for gas and food and parking with none to spare. This is one thing that I really wish I'd been informed of beforehand - not having access to that money meant no spending money while I was wandering around the city and no spare funds to stay in a hotel on the drive home if I didn't feel up to tackling the whole drive at once. I've worked at a small 100 room hotel and at the 3rd largest resort in the world (almost 6,000 rooms), and at both we let guests put a credit card on file for incidentals but never actually charged it unless they actually ran up a charge. Doing it that way seems much more practical than having to make every guest go through the inconvenience of waiting for their money to be returned. I've stayed at a couple of other hotels over the years that do pre-charge the card like this, but it's so rare that I feel like giving guests a heads-up when they book their reservation could save a lot of trouble.  (To be fair, this might be a standard New Orleans area thing.)

The lobby is an eclectic mix of decor and has several great sitting areas like this one. It would be a great place to meet up with friends to discuss your plans for the day or trade stories of what you've been up to!

The Room
I have to apologize for the less than stellar quality of my room photos! I snapped most of these just after arriving (aka before I messed stuff up) despite being totally ready to collapse and never had the free time to pull them up on my laptop to make sure they came out ok! I really wish that I'd had more time to actually spend in the hotel - there were less than 12 hours between when I checked in and checked out, and I spent most of those either sleeping or getting ready to leave.

I noticed upon entering my room that instead of the purple accent wall I'd seen online, my room had a grey wall. Way less fun! Given the modern lines of the room, I think that pop of purple makes all the difference in keeping things from being too bare. At least I still had the cool red chair!

My grey wall

Cool purple wall I was expecting - Image via Hotel Modern's website

There was a thoughtful note from the general manager and a gift bag in my room when I arrived. I was delighted to find a few New Orleans treats inside such as the Zapp's potato chips (I'm totally addicted now), a tiny bottle of Tobasco sauce and praline you see above. Yum.

One much appreciated feature: Keurig brewers in every room! Mine had two Rio Blend K-Cups, as well as an English Breakfast tea and a decaf coffee. I'd brought my own can of Starbucks espresso for the morning so I didn't end up using this, but I liked having the option. I love that they provide paper cups so that you can take your coffee with you, but having a couple of regular coffee mugs for in-room use would add a very cozy touch.

Embarrassing fact: I just realized as I was adding this photo... *There*'s the light switch for the overhead lights! I looked all over for that thing when I first arrived! (Told you I was out of it from being exhausted!) 

I really wish that I could tell you that bed is as comfortable as it looks. I know that beds are totally a matter of preference and I saw reviews where some people loved them, but I'm not really into a firm mattress. After a long day of traveling or exploring a city, I want a soft, plush bed that I can sink into. The pillows were also a problem for me - they're huge in terms of thickness/height but also super firm, so it put my neck at an odd angle. I woke up with a hurting neck at around 3 a.m. and ended up grabbing a couple of towels from the bathroom to use as a pillow for the rest of the night.

One nice thing about the all white bedding - it's easy to tell if it's clean! My room and bathroom were totally clean (other than the bit of dust you can see in the Keurig above), and I appreciated that the toiletries in the bathroom had been arranged in a neat presentation, rather than just placed on the counter at random.

Lavender and peppermint scented shampoo, conditioner and shower gel are attached to the inside of the shower. I used my own hair products but did try a bit of the shower gel and liked the invigorating minty scent. There were separate toiletries on the counter, including a bottle of body lotion, a shower cap and a bar of soap.

Each room has a selection of books from the hotel's library. Wish I'd had time to flip through them! The live plant was also a nice touch. It made this little corner feel quite homey.

I had a large King bed room, so I can't really comment on the other sizes (you can also select a small, medium, double, or a suite), but mine was pretty much standard hotel room size. I saw some reviews that mentioned tiny bathrooms, but I found it large enough to get ready in comfortably. (Maybe other rooms have smaller bathrooms?)

The sink and mirrors are directly out of frame to the left. I do wish there had been a tub - a nice soak would have felt amazing after 15 hours in the car!

One random thing that amused me: If you look at the image at the very top of this post, you'll notice that the hotel exterior is washed with colorful lights. It changes colors, too! I discovered that this is done via little blocks of multicolored lights on those strips you see below each row of windows. If you don't close your blinds before drifting off to sleep, you end up with this accidental room decoration!

I took several photos trying to capture it, but my poor phone's camera just couldn't deal with the dark that well. It's hard to tell, but the window was basically glowing rainbow colors while clear white stripes were reflected up onto the ceiling!

Check out the amazing view I woke up to! The hotel is right on Lee Circle, so the rooms facing the roundabout have an awesome view!

I was on the 7th floor so most of the general traffic noise wasn't an issue, but nearby construction noise was noticeable. I was woken up around 8 a.m. by a large maintenance truck (the city's, not the hotel's) doing some kind of work (They appeared to be running a big hose down one of the manhole covers? Whatever it was, it was loud!). It was only mildly annoying for me as I needed to be up before 9 anyway, but I can only imagine how not fun the loud noise would have been for someone who had been out drinking on Bourbon Street late into the night! As for the rest of the hotel, it seemed pretty quiet. My room was right by the elevator but I never heard any elevator noise, although I could hear a bit of noise from the room next to me through the wall.

Everyone I encountered was helpful and attentive, but some were warmer and friendlier than others. To be honest, I was always a little confused about what roles the people around the desk were covering since they didn't seem to have any set uniform or name tags. Am I talking to the valet or the concierge?

Thanks to my late arrival, it was almost noon before I was able to actually head out to explore the city.  (The front desk was kind enough to grant me a noon checkout instead of 11 a.m. which I definitely appreciated! That allowed me to go back to bed for a couple of hours after running down to pay for another 9 hours of parking at 9 a.m. I got to sleep until 11 and still had a spare hour to shower, get dressed, and pack everything back up.) Someone at the desk let me know that they could store my bags while I was out, which I really appreciated since I wasn't fond of the idea of leaving my laptop in my car while I was gone. (The parking lot I used is totally unattended, so anyone could walk right in. Like I said, parking in NOLA is nuts.)

Just before I left, I asked the person at the desk if I could get a photo with Miss Scarlet, their resident parrot mascot, since I'd seen quite a few photos online of people holding her. I was told that I could but they never offered to take her out of her cage or take the photo for me or anything, so all I have is a quick shot of her in her cage. Maybe it was her afternoon rest time or something? It was around 4 pm - usually a pretty prime time for check-ins - so I'm surprised she wasn't out in the lobby doing her mascot gig. She was enjoying whistling at me while she posed, though!

I didn't have the opportunity to check out their bar or restaurant ("Bellocq" and "Trivoli and Lee" respectively) but both get great reviews and I appreciate the perk of having food and drinks on-site! You can also order food from the restaurant as room service. 

Overall, I think the Hotel Modern is a good hotel with the possibility of being great if they work out some of the details. The basics are there: Great location, interesting design, fun little details like the in-room books and parrot mascot... but other aspects seem to be hit or miss judging from my experience and the reviews I've read. The room rate is pretty on par for what you get - it's not the cheapest hotel in town, but definitely not the most expensive, either. All of the rooms are non-smoking, but it is a pet friendly property - something that can be hard to find outside of budget hotels! I really wish that I'd had more time to get a better feel for the place - it's so hard to do that on such a short stay! I do think it's a solid choice for those who want something more modern than staying in one of the historic bed and breakfasts, but want something a little more unusual than one of the big chain hotels.

Note: The Hotel Modern was kind enough to hook me up with a complimentary room in exchange for sharing my experience with you guys. As with all reviews here, I've kept it honest and unbiased, and shared both the pros and cons.


Jaime Nicole said...

I LOVE New Orleans - it's my fave place to visit in the states. Looks like a really nice hotel!

Bea Long said...

I lived on the Lake Front in New Orleans so I know where this is. I miss my home for sure and your post made me homesick once again. Thank you for a wonderful post!

Kelly said...

Hello! Stopping by via the Not a Mom blogger group on FB. This hotel looks great. My husband and I have New Orleans on our short list. Now we know where to stay. Thanks so much!


Aimee Beltran said...

Stopping by from the Not a Mom Blogger Group! I have always wanted to visit New Orleans. Thanks for your review!

probablyrachel said...

It looks like a good place to stay! The room has much more personality than I'm used to seeing in a hotel.

Christy@SweetandSavoring said...

This was so great! As someone just dipping into more serious travel blogging it's fun to read how other bloggers review places like this- my first complimentary stay was AMAZING, so I was happy that I didn't have to 'worry' about including any less-than-stellar features. I've never heard of an iPad check-in before! Oh, the future. So crazy.

AJ said...

This looks so fabulous! I added it to my travel wishlist bookmarks. Bonus points for the purple pop in the room - love a bold wall.

Rickee said...

I just stayed there last week and your review mirrors my experience. I will stay here again during my next (non-work related!) visit to New Orleans...lovely photos!

Kira Thompson said...

I love New Orleans. This is near where we stay. I'll have to check it out for our next trip.

Celebrity VIP Lounge said...

New Orleans is so fun! Just went there a few months ago. Amber N

Tracy Iglesias said...

When I visited New Orleans for the Niche Mommy (now Niche Parent) Conference it was held at the Roosevelt Hotel and I greatly enjoyed my stay there, it's nice to read up on another property because it's always great to have an alternate in mind in case your first choice is booked up!

Angie B said...

The location sounds perfect if you don't want to be right in the middle of everything when visiting the French Quarter. I'm with you, I'm not a fan of firm mattresses so I probably wouldn't have cared for it either. Other than that seems like it was pretty clean and updated.

Robert Bradford said...

Great review - and looks like a good hotel with a nice location. I'm curious - was the WiFi up to snuff? I'm a total snob about good Wifi.

Crystal said...

Robert - I only used the wifi for a few minutes to check Google maps before leaving, so I'm sadly not a great judge of it!