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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Ditch the French Quarter: Louisiana Charm at the Southern Hotel on The Northshore, Covington.

The Northshore has everything you could want when you imagine visiting New Orleans, but with charm, grace and a slower pace. When you've been a luxury hotel in Louisiana for over 100 years, you've seen a lot of changes in your city but one thing is for sure: you know what your guests are looking for: service, comfort and experiences. We've stayed at many boutique hotels over the years, some of which have bore witness to absolutely amazing events, like the Foundry in Asheville, and The Southern Hotel is another that represents a completely different experience: Southern Charm in a tamer version of The Big Easy. But don't be fooled by the seemingly slow pace, the Southern Hotel has one of the most unique and memorable atmospheres that we have seen around the world!

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

The Southern Hotel’s vaunted history of hospitality began in 1907 as a physical and spiritual retreat where visitors would re-energize amidst the area’s cool breezes, piney woods and mineral springs. Developers have breathed new life into this property. When the Southern Hotel opened in 1907, visitors were greeted with the latest amenities: hot water, electric lights and carpeting. Newspaper reports from the grand opening also noted the property's fine china, linens and attentive service. With its grand reopening in 2014, the Southern Hotel began welcoming guests to relax in beautifully-appointed luxury rooms, delight in fine china and luxury linens, and experience personal service and attention to detail that makes for an unforgettable stay.

This was an exciting trip for LTD! Not only were we able to visit a one of our favorite cities, but we could immerse ourselves in the unique heritage of the Bayou State. This was our third venture away following the COVID-19 pandemic that caused a worldwide shutdown of most travel and our experience was all we hoped for!

1. Location

The Southern Hotel is a boutique hotel on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain in Covington, Louisiana. After the exodus of NOLA residents after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, the population of towns like Covington surged. Downtown Covington with an elevation of about 27 feet above sea level, became one of the refuges. St. Tammany, the parish of Covington, saw a swell in in population and along with it came an many of the qualities that you may love about New Orleans...great food, art, festivals, music and shopping. All of these things made Covington and the surrounding area a new destination but somehow it's been able to maintain its hometown feel. The population of the parish, which was at 191,268 in the official 2000 Census and was estimated to be around 219,000 as Katrina churned through the Gulf of Mexico, skyrocketed in the fall of 2005 as flood victims sought higher ground. Officials estimated that as many as 300,000 people were living within its borders immediately after the storm. On the National Register of Historic Places, the quaint and welcoming Division of St. John in Covington that started as a thoughtfully laid out grid to ease trading of goods hundreds of years ago, now consists of shops, galleries, little museums, nightspots and more than 25 restaurants. It is a very walkable district and the Southern Hotel is directly situated among them.

2. Check-in

We were greeted promptly and checked in without difficulty from a very accommodating employees wearing masks appropriately. The check in desk has an antique chandelier and a quirky original painting called "The Writers" behind the desk. The staff oriented us to the hotel and the surrounding area. Once we were informed about COVID policies, we elected to receive daily room cleaning and received this without any problems whatsoever. A nice touch was that we could request the time of housekeeping service and it was performed exactly as we asked during our stay. 

3. Hotel Decor 

Rebekah Stansbury, Reception-Concierge Manager of the Southern Hotel gave us a tour of the entire hotel, including the Garden House, which opened two years ago. We viewed every one of the seven suites, each of which is distinctly decorated according to a different theme. The Garden House is a spectacular renovation of the 1937 Covington Post Office which includes a restored 1939 mural by renowned artist, Xavier Gonzales. The artist's namesake suite in the Garden House, not only has the mural on display, but also has the original entrance to post office, antiques and flooring incorporated into the decor. 

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

Take a few minutes to look at our live interview with Rebekah Stansbury on YouTube.  We put hyper links in the description, so you can jump to the parts that may interest you personally, but we encourage you to watch the whole thing!  That is the best way to understand more about the hotel, it's history, the thought behind the decor and most of all its people!

Another favorite suite at the Southern Hotel is the Walker Percy Suite with its more masculine tones and balcony that overlooks Boston Street where many of the Mardi Gras parades happen.  With a collection of records and an actual record player in the suite, it is sure to inspire your creative side just like the suite's namesake, Walker Percy who was an American writer whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans. The Moviegoer was winner of the 1962 National Book Award and one of Time magazine’s 100 Best English-Language Novels, his debut  is an American masterpiece and a classic of Southern literature. Insightful, romantic, and humorous, it is the story of a young man’s search for meaning amid a shallow consumerist landscape.  He died in Covington in 1990.  One of our favorite features of this suite was the glass mural over the soaking tub, designed after a local natural scenery.  Another suite in the building, has its own glass mural reflecting another natural scene.  

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

Interested in Walker Percy?  Check out his novel at Amazon by clicking the photo below.  We make a small commission from links like this, but you won't pay anything extra and we give the proceeds to charity! 

Adjacent to the Southern Hotel, The Garden House is situated where the hotel’s tennis courts and rose gardens were originally located in the early 20th century and homage to the garden is present throughout the building as seen in the artwork, "Dorothy Draper" style wallpaper and suite decor, like the "Palm Suite". 

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Unique, Meaningful and Healthy Holiday Travel Gifts for Use at Home and Away: 2020 Pandemic Edition

To say that 2020 has been a unique year is an understatement. Since the pandemic was declared in March, safety precautions and protocols have become the stuff of everyday life — at home and on the road. With the holiday season upon us, many of us are getting itchy feet to hit the road again. For some, vacationing within the strictures of a public health crisis will be worth it; for others it won’t. LTD comprised this list of some of our favorite gifts for this unusual year that will be helpful both at home and on the road to capture memories, inspire and make life healthier and more meaningful! 

The purpose of our blog is to share with you everything we have learned to make Meaningful and Healthy Travel happen! We only recommend products that we use or would buy for friends! Please CLICK THE PHOTOS BELOW TO LEARN MORE, or BUY or SHARE this post to support our blog and keep it going! THANK YOU!

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission. In turn, we donate profits to charity.

1.  OOLER by Chili Technologies - This is our number one recommended product because it has been a "sleep changer" for us!

Give the gift of sleep!!!! Our number one recommended product of 2020.  We first encountered Chili Technologies at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in 2019!  In a matter of no time we became customers ourselves and can't say enough how much the OOLER and chiliBLANKET have contributed to our well-being and healthy travel!  Interrupted sleep is when our sleep is studded with prolonged periods of waking up throughout the night, usually at least four times over the course of eight hours. This condition can be caused by a sudden shift in routine (for example, a new baby in the house), travel, unexpected noises (such as a party at your neighbor’s house or a partner’s snoring), bathroom trips, menopause or other health issues or racing thoughts.  Temperature affects your baseline sleep quality and regulating temperature can help you phase shift your sleep for travel and help prevent jet lag. And do you know what we love best about the company? They stand by their product and you get a 90 day money-back sleep trial. See our full review of OOLER by clicking here! Use our coupon code to take 22% off!

2.  Vuzix Smart Swim

Another product we saw at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in 2020!  We're sure you know that LTD loves swimming for health and this is one of the most innovative products we have ever used!  The Vuzix Smart Swim is a heads-up display for swimmers, providing workout status and information about their swim. This enables users to continue uninterrupted and reach optimum performance. Used for open water and lap (pool) training.  Luxury Travel Doc reviewer, Glenn Paige says, "Vuzix is one of the most unique swim training devices I have ever used. Besides allowing you to view and analyze your swim data real-time, it allows for open water navigation guidance, entertainment and training viewing options during your workouts. Try it to believe it!"

3.  Our Favorite Smart Watch for the Active Traveler just got better with a New Display!

The Garmin Venu has an enormous number of features, a long-lasting battery and an attractive build. The original round version was introduced in 2019 with an amazing response from users and in 2020 Garmin introduced a less expensive square version that has all of the same features at a fraction of the price. For serious outdoor travel or fitness enthusiasts, it's hard to beat.  The GPS features of this watch are unrivaled and work all over the world.  This is a high-performance timepiece that meets big challenges and fits smaller wrists. During the pandemic many Venu users are happy to have their pulse oximetry tracked on their wrist! The new AMOLED vibrant display is perfect for aging eyes and rivals the Apple Watch display! Anyone would love to receive this special gift!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Stay at the Historic Queen of San Antonio, Texas at the Namesake Luxury Collection St. Anthony Hotel

The most beloved of San Antonio hotels, restored to the opulence that made her storied past, has maintained its high quality, chic and elegant status in the River City for over 100 years.  Located steps from the Alamo, this designated National Historic Landmark represents the chiseled resolve of defenders for the Liberty of Texas in 1836. You won't find a more meaningful location to immerse yourself in the history of a city than the St. Antony Hotel!


Texans are known for their toughness, grit, larger-than-life attitudes, and for their perseverance, heart and soul. This is evidenced by the men who founded Texas as a nation, like the men who fought Santa Anna at the Alamo.  From the time it was built, The St. Anthony Hotel displayed her own heart and soul as she took her place as a character in both Texas’ and San Antonio’s history. Like Texans, The St. Anthony has gone through historic greatness and times of despair. Both San Antonio’s and the hotel’s names go back to when the Spanish explorers arrived and named the area.  It was June 13, 1691, the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua.

While still glamorous, The St. Anthony strives to maintain its contemporary reputation as it was in 1909, when it started life as a hospitality treasure. Back then it was dubbed the “Waldorf of the Prairie,” because its grandeur rivaled that of the New York hotel that set the standard for the rest. Its roll-call of guests have included Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson on his honeymoon, humorist Will Rogers and more recently, Hollywood icons Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Chuck Norris, Luke Perry, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Brett Michaels. 

1. Location

For visiting the San Antonio, there can't be a better location. Of course getting to Downtown San Antonio is a quick taxi or Uber from the Airport and will cost you about $20 during off-peak hours. The St. Anthony, A Luxury Collection Hotel, San Antonio is located only three blocks from the Alamo and the vibrant River Walk. Restaurants, museums, and attractions are all within walking distance from the hotel, so you won't need a car for your stay!

The River Walk allows you to visit farther locations via a peaceful walk. We love exploring by walking, cycling and running and The St. Anthony Hotel is perfect for that.  Some things to visit along the River Walk are The Briscoe Museum of Western Art nearby.  Farther out, attractions in the Museum Reach section of the River Walk, include the Witte Museum, the San Antonio Zoo, the DOSeum, San Antonio Museum of Art and Pearl Brewery. This river walk runs through Brackenridge Park, which is also home to a Golf Course and Japanese Tea Garden.

If you’d like to take in a show or performance whilst you’re on the San Antonio River Walk, you might want to head to the Arneson River Theater. What a unique experience! Designed as part of the original River Walk by architect Robert Hugman, the theater is split across the river, with the stage on the north side and the 800 person seating area on the south side. The outdoor theater hosts a variety of performances, from music to plays, dance recitals and opera.  If looking for a more traditionally designed theater, you can attend the Aztec Theater. Built in 1926, this actually predates the River Walk, but it is located right next to it.

In 2011, the San Antonio River Walk was extended again, this time to the south of the city where you will find the San Antonio’s Missions National Historical Park. So many visitors take the time to visit the Alamo, but few head south to the Mission reach stretch of the River Walk. This is a shame, since this stretch has a much more relaxed local vibe, with a more natural feel and the option for cycling and kayaking.

The four missions are worth visiting. All four are free to visit, and by doing so you will get a fuller picture of early life in this part of the world. Be aware that it is quite a long walk from the St. Anthony Hotel. Instead, we would suggest either cycling, jogging or taking an Uber.