New Orleans Second Line

Jazz grew up in a thousand places, but it was born in New Orleans. — Nick Larocca

On my recent stay at the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans, this second line passed right under my balcony on Conti Street, making its way to Bourbon.

You know, just a Tuesday in the Big Easy…

And yes, I admit it: I was less than steady with the camera work. It may or may not have something to do with a Sazerac.

Royal Sonesta New Orleans

America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland. — Tennessee Williams

I love New Orleans, and since my daughter lives in the area, I have a built in excuse to visit the city. To see her, I mean.

Of course.

Anyway, I’ve been searching for a home base: a hotel that’s in the French Quarter, feels safe, and is also a lovely place.

That search ended when I entered the Royal Sonesta hotel.

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Nestled between Bienville and Conti streets, the hotel faces Bourbon Street, giving it one of the most sought-after addresses in the city.

The Royal Sonesta is nothing like the loud, raucous world right outside the front door, however; it’s elegant, refined, cool and quiet, with a beautiful and spacious lobby and a lush courtyard.

One of the best parts of this hotel is that many rooms open onto balconies. Looking for the all-night party vibe? Get a room overlooking Bourbon Street. Want something a bit more sedate? Try a balcony along one of the side streets or one that looks over the interior courtyard.

I chose a side-street balcony above Conti street and could not have been happier with my choice.

How’s this for classic New Orleans?

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First of all, despite being within eyeshot of Bourbon Street, the side street-facing room and balcony were remarkably quiet and relaxing. 

The balconies are also gorgeous, as you can see, with lots of iron filigree and a white painted roof. There’s not much furniture, just the green plastic chairs you see here, which are comfortable enough for lounging in the Louisiana heat.

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Now one thing about the balconies: You’re likely going to share them with your neighbors. There are some rooms with private balconies, but I believe most balconies are shared every two rooms or so. I was a bit nervous about this, but after a brief hello, I never really even saw my neighbors out there and I didn’t hear them at all.

I also felt very safe, partly because the doors have heavy locks. Still, if this makes you uneasy, you might try a non-balcony room. Which is fine, because…

This is the best hotel room I’ve ever been in. Not even kidding.

The decor, the comfy bed, the quiet…it was just all around perfect. And while I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it was also dark and the air conditioning could go pretty low, which is exactly how I like it. I had the best sleep of my life in this room.

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They also had the nicest coco-mango scented shampoo, conditioner and bath gel. I wanted to eat it. (I didn’t.) You can also buy it on Amazon.

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Now, all of that said, there are a few reasons this might not end up being your ‘best hotel room’ ever, the first of which I mentioned above: It’s pretty dark.

Another reason is that these rooms are small.

See the photo above? That’s pretty much the size of the room. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but not by much. Truth is, this is an older hotel (celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019) and rooms were smaller when it was built.

Now, this was fine by me. I’m used to small hotel rooms in the classic, older San Francisco hotels, and I was alone. If you have a family or expect more space, you should plan accordingly.

However, if you choose another hotel, you won’t get to see sights like this going by right below you:

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A few more things to note…

While I didn’t eat there personally this time, the Royal Sonesta has a very highly-regarded restaurant: Restaurant R’evolution. They not only have classic New Orleans dishes (like their gumbo “three ways” – with roasted quail, andouille and oysters), but classy fare such as high-end steaks, fine cheeses and their “caviar staircase.” They also serve a jazz brunch on weekends.

I’m definitely planning on a reservation for my next trip: They had me at caviar staircase.

In addition to R’evolution, the hotel also boasts Desire Oyster Bar, which opens onto Bourbon. (They serve oysters. FYI.) The Jazz Playhouse is also a great place to knock a few drinks back and listen to some smooth jazz.

I highly recommend the Royal Sonesta. It’s New Orleans at its finest.

Royal Sonesta New Orleans
300 Bourbon Street | 504-586-0300