The Tropics on our Doorstep

Gas prices are no bother when a staycation is possible.
Jennifer
Illustration by Paddy Mills

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home.


Last month, my husband and I were looking into a weekend getaway. We considered a Gulf Coast beach vacation and researched hotels. Then we weighed the time it would take to drive and gas costing almost $4.50 per gallon, and we canceled our plans. I was disappointed — that is, until I remembered we happen to live in a subtropical climate and have award-winning hotels with pools a few miles from our house.

We booked a room at the Hotel Saint Vincent and made dinner reservations at Palm & Pine and brunch reservations at San Lorenzo. With the money we were saving on gas, we could do a 24-hour staycation splurge instead of crossing state lines.

Hotel Saint Vincent opened in June 2021 and was named one of the “Best New Hotels in North America and the Caribbean” by Esquire for 2022. It is located in the Lower Garden District in the historic building that originally served as the St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum and later operated as the St. Vincent Guesthouse, a run-down but affordable hotel and youth hostel prior to redevelopment.

Upon walking up the porch steps, we were greeted by Michael, a tall man in a crisp uniform whose friendly smile and demeanor were as genuine as the building’s wrought-iron balconies. He took our bags and set the tone for our stay — one that was guided by numerous hospitality professionals who were kind and accommodating.

The hotel’s interior design by Lambert McGuire Design harkens to Italian modern, with mid-century and even Art Deco accents that are all at home in the 150-year-old building, the façade of which is largely untouched. As I stood at the check-in desk, I told my husband I wanted to move in and become one of those fabulous and mysterious hotel residents who glides through the halls in a caftan, and no one quite knows where my money comes from.

We were able to check in early and settle into our room before spending the day at the pool. For guests whose rooms are not ready before 3 p.m., the front desk will hold your bags and give you pool access immediately. Plan on spending at least two hours at the pool. The comfortable chaise lounges shaded by plentiful umbrellas were relaxing, and even later in the day when the pool was bustling with guests, people were happily sitting on steps and ledges, or simply standing in the pool while sipping cocktails from the poolside bar. The landscaping of palm trees and tropical shrubs creates a literal oasis in the courtyard of the hotel.

For dinner, we ventured off property to a restaurant that’s been on my list to try since it opened in 2019, Palm & Pine. Located in the French Quarter in a renovated townhouse on Rampart Street, its exposed brick and open kitchen concept welcome guests looking for a New Orleans interpretation of Mexican, Central American and Caribbean cuisine.

Palm & Pine has weathered the storms of Hard Rock Hotel closures, COVID-19 pandemic closures, and actual storm closures, and I’m so grateful it has. The menu features locally sourced products, produce, seafood and meat treated with a tropical approach. All I can say is my husband almost lost his manners and wanted to lick the bowl.

To cram one more experience into the day, we stopped in at the hotel’s luxe lounge, the Chapel Club, for live jazz presented in partnership with Preservation Hall. The moody interior was enlivened by guests truly enjoying themselves. Even the staff appeared to be having a good time.

For brunch the next day, we ate at the hotel’s main restaurant, San Lorenzo. It features Italian coastal cuisine and serves tasty brunch standards as well.

We were sad to check out of Hotel Saint Vincent and soothed our souls with some shopping at NOLA Mix Records, Miette and Trashy Diva, all walking distance from the hotel on Magazine Street. After 24 hours of staycation, we truly felt rejuvenated and have started saving up for a return trip.

For reservations and to learn more, visit saintvincentnola.com and palmandpinenola.com.