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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




4. Rooms


The decor of the rooms is tasteful, reflecting the history of the area and hotel. One of the most influential designers in the early 20th century was Dorothy Draper, who is best remembered for her use of bold prints, painted wood and bright colors. The basic rooms reflect that with painted wood furniture, headboards designed by the owner, and bright lamps. The exposed brick with plantation shutters reminds you of the history of this building.



Courtesy of the Southern Hotel

Artwork is unique to every room and for our room we delighted in the Audubon Great White Heron. John James Audubon (1785-1851) was a naturalist, ornithologist and painter who traveled widely, cataloging and painting birds in their natural habitat. He's best known for "Birds of America," a book that's considered one of the best ornithological collections ever published.  New Orleans remembers him in more ways than any other city: a major metropolitan park, zoo, aquarium, streets and other institutions bear his name.  Between 1821-1837, Audubon spent most of his time in Louisiana and developed a deep affection for the state and for the city of New Orleans, saying that, "The state of Louisiana has always been my favorite portion of the union." 



Rebekah provided us with a description of the artwork in the hotel and room decor, which is available to all guests, including if and where the items can be purchased from local small businesses. The information provided is detailed even down to the paint colors used! This is a great touch and we love seeing the promotion of small business unlike you will find from large hotel chains.

The bed was extremely comfortable with outstanding pillows and a pillow top mattress to match the size of the bed. We found the room temperature to be exceptionally comfortable.

The televisions were fine with satellite channels, and average sized screens. We have come to expect streaming or casting services at most luxury establishments to cast your own programs from personal subscriptions like YouTube TV or Netflix for example but the Southern Hotel does not have that available.

In room coffee was not provided in all rooms but delicious complimentary coffee was available in the lobby in the morning by local Abita Roasting Co. A large in-room safe is available.


5. Bathrooms


The bathrooms are one of the positives of the room. When it comes to restoring the tile in a period bathroom, we love to see style appropriate for the original era of the hotel. Of course, the Southern Hotel does this perfectly. The turn-of-the-century fad for all-white bathrooms was borne out of the Victorian notion that dirt harbored germs. White tiles made the dirt easier to see, and thus eradicate. White 3x6 subway tiles matched with a white wall-mounted sink are period appropriate to establishments built between 1900 and 1930. There is adequate vanity space for travelers, and there is a large bright walk-in shower with excellent cleanliness, comfort and water pressure.

Courtesy of the Southern Hotel


Toiletries are by the stylish BeeKind Collection, a famous line by Gilchrist & Soames' that combines honey with certified organic extracts of red clover, calendula, lemongrass and chamomile. Using these products supports honey bee and sustainable pollination research. Regardless, the scent of these products is wonderful in our opinion. As you may know, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that bans hotels from supplying such bottles in an effort to reduce the number of plastic containers being thrown away by hotels and guests. The bill, set to take effect in 2023, and for environmental reasons, we like seeing large bottles of toiletries in the shower like at the Southern Hotel and Kimpton hotels.

 

6. Fitness


The hotel itself does not have a fitness room but the Southern Hotel has a relationship with a large gym next door to the hotel, available 24 hours per day with key fob access. The gym is adequately stocked with diverse equipment, classes and movement studios, but some cardio equipment is a little dated! We truly enjoyed seeing the retro Greg Lamond Lifecycle! Don't get us wrong though, we LOVE having a full-service gym at our disposal day and night. You won't find this at most hotels! The fitness room was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the equipment and size appeared good to us. The St. Anthony offers free yoga classes to guests on Saturday and Sunday mornings on the pool deck, but unfortunately we did not stay at the hotel on the weekend.

Courtesy of Bogue Falaya Fitness

Courtesy of Bogue Falaya Fitness

Courtesy of Bogue Falaya Fitness



Certainly the area surrounding the hotel is safe for walking, cycling or jogging. Covington is a great place to get outside. You can rent bikes, paddle boards or kayaks nearby. The 31-mile Tammany Trace, a rails to trail fitness route is located just a 5 minute walk away. Covington is nestled at the convergence of three scenic rivers, the Bogue Falaya, the Abita and the Tchecfuncte, so sandy banks, cedar trees and waterways abound in the area.

  

7. Dining

Dining, even during the pandemic is where The Southern Hotel shines! Named after the Covington's Historic District ox-lots, Oxlot 9 is an upscale southern bistro with a simple yet sophisticated approach to seasonal ingredients found in the region served in a lively and comfortable setting. 

Courtesy of Oxlot 9/Facebook

For lunch we enjoyed a Cuban sandwich but with a twist! The most unique part of the Cuban was the addition of pimento cheese: delicious! At dinner a wonderful selection of wines from around the world are sure to please any palate and the French wine we chose paired well with our meal. Note the small plates may be enough for the light eater and we recommend saving room for dessert. Our suggestion for dessert is the Campfire. Which is a mixture of graham cracker, chocolate and ice cream sequestered in a shell of toasted meringue. It is definitely something to try and more than enough for two people or a table to share.  



  




Before heading to dinner, start at The Cypress bar for a cocktail. You will be drawn into this bar like we were by the decor, but you won't want to leave because of the quality of the drinks served by staff that you feel you have known for a lifetime. Now when we say drinks, that is merely vocabulary. In reality, these are not drinks or cocktails, but culinary and artistic experiences just like the Southern Hotel is peppered with at every turn. We asked Shannon Stansbury, Beverage Director of the Southern Hotel, about the art of mixology, and compared it to what we learned from our friend who is a prodigy in the world of pottery: chemistry is important! (Remember this kids!) What is the best way to prepare an infused spirit or how do you barrel age an infused spirit? Believe it or not, this is rather complicated, but the results are so very tasty and unique! Stay tuned for our live interview with Shannon Stansbury!





Other restaurants that we recommend nearby:

  • LOLA. Fine, made-from-scratch fare from two Johnson & Wales' chefs. Gourmet soups, salad, sandwiches and daily specials for lunch weekdays and an upscale Louisiana-inspired menu for dinner.  What's really cool is that it is located in the historic Covington depot and you can dine in an original 1940's caboose.
  • Coffee Rani.  This place is one of our favorite in downtown Covington but if you are looking for a place with greasy fried food then go somewhere else. The menu offers a wide variety of fresh healthier options with the BEST salads in town. Tip: get the poppy seed chicken sandwich.
  • Meribo.  Meribo is a modern Italian restaurant specializing in wood fired pizzas and is a local favorite with indoor and outside seating.   
  • English Tearoom & Eatery. As eclectic as the antique shops surrounding it, the English tea shop is tucked away in a cozy area of Covington.  One of the largest selections of premium teas in the south, treat yourself to a full service breakfast, lunch or high tea.  We loved it!
  • New Orleans Food and Spirits. New Orleans Food and Spirits is a family owned restaurant that was established in the 1960's by Floyd and Peggy Waller when they opened a restaurant in the heart of Cajun country, Houma, LA. Today, the third generation, the Bergeron's, have brought this "simple-casual" style of cooking to a new era and is especially good for seafood dishes.
  • The Chimes. The Chimes Restaurant & Tap Room has been a Baton Rouge and LSU tradition serving fine patrons for over 25 years. This is the third location in Covington and it is good for large parties and families.  Tip: Take a walk down to the Bogue Falaya River and look for the goats along the way (yes, we said goats).
  • Abita Roasting, Co.  Of the many areas to which breakfast joints are located on the Northshore, this is one of the tops and number one on terms of coffee. When you walk in it will just look like a coffee bar, do not let that fool you! It has both continental treats (bagels, croissants, pastries, etc.) and a full service breakfast and lunch menu.

Bottom line:



We recommend the Southern Hotel for any visit to the New Orleans, Louisiana area. One of the best features of the hotel though is the location, full of tranquility, history and southern hospitality.  It is by far, a stark contrast to the French Quarter in New Orleans, full of partying, traffic, noise and overwhelming crowds. Now don't get us wrong, NOLA is one of our favorite cities, but it was a treat to enjoy the dining, natural beauty, music, libations and most of all people that you will find in and around NOLA in one surprising hidden gem.  Take a couple of days to visit this great location and stay at the Southern Hotel! When you do, say hi to Rebekah and ask questions about the meaning behind anything that catches your eye, and there will be things that catch your eye!
 




1 comment:

  1. what a lovely hotel to stay at! Everything looks elegant in there!

    Liz
    www.piecesofliz.com

    ReplyDelete