My readers know I’m a big proponent of renting homes from AirBnB.com when we travel. But after five days of freezing in an old New Orleans shotgun home and being woken up by the boisterous neighbors coming home from the French Quarter at 2 am (thanks, thin walls), staying a night at the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery was like reaching heaven. And yet, I was skeptical. After all, there was no kitchen for us to store our beer in and pretend we were going to cook. No “bathroom with character” (read: wobbly toilet and shower head that sprays everywhere but in the shower). There was no danger of me falling in love.

But I did. Here are the things I learned on my journey to the light side of travel.

1. “Boutique Hotel” Does Not Equal “Expensive”

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I received the media rate to review this hotel, but its everyday prices were far less than the well-known chain hotels in the area. I kept marveling at all the little touches that made the hotel look expensive, and yet wasn’t. It just goes to show that every boutique hotel that is charging an arm and a leg doesn’t have to.

2. It’s the Details That Matter

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Used to staying in Marriotts or Sheratons where the decor is as bland and commercially-reproducible as possible, finding tiny, thoughtful flourishes really surprised me. Examples:

  • A vintage-looking desk that had a storage hole covered with a leather flap, as well as a cutout to hide the charging station
  • A pocket on the side of the headboard to hold the remote (or glasses, in my case)
  • A hook on the side of the mini bar for my purse
  • The door sign (see above)

3. A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name is a Real Thing

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The gentleman, Justin, who checked us in was accommodating, as any hotel clerk is. But imagine my surprise when later, as we were walking through the lobby, he called out, “Susan?” He had some extra streetcar tickets he thought we might like. I liked being called by name like a friend. None of this “Ms. Payton” crap either. And don’t call me ma’am. But Susan? Now I feel like your BFF.

4. Some Hotel Lounges are Actually Cool to Hang Out In

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You know that space when you enter a hotel that has couches and chairs? Turns out, you’re actually supposed to spend time there. But who wants to sit by the fake fire at a Fairfield Inn? On this trip, Max and I grabbed a drink at the coffee bar and sat and lounged. It was comfortable. Violent Femmes was playing. Why would I want to be in my room when the lobby is this fun?

Oh, and there was the Art-o-Mat, a decommissioned cigarette machine that now sold tiny matchbook-sized art, to keep us busy in the lobby. Good times.

5. Awesome Hotel + Amazing Bar? I’m Never Going Home

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I’ve never been one to hang out in hotel bars, but the bar at the adjoining restaurant, Compere Lapin, nearly kept us from our plans in the French Quarter. The bartenders were well-trained, the ingredients top-notch. And the ambience? Instagram-worthy.

I’ve already decided this is our new place to stay in New Orleans. Its location on the edge of the Quarter makes it close enough to the action (and the 5-minute walk will help you burn off those beignets), but far enough away that you’re not susceptible to drunk folks on Bourbon. The bonus? As Max and I were exploring the neighborhood, we stumbled into part of the next Jack Reacher film being made!