NEW ORLEANS — Here's what the service is like at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans:
You ask a doorman a simple question about the building, and he ushers you across the street so you can get a better view of the entire Monteleone landscape while he delivers a five-minute history.
The grande dame of New Orleans hotels — the Monteleone is 124 years old and has 570 rooms, making it the largest in the French Quarter — specializes in providing a first-class experience for guests, from luxury accommodations to everything-you-could-possibly-need amenities to attentive service.
And in a city that oozes history and character, it has plenty of both. (It even has a hotel historian who gives tours.)
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It traces its roots to the 64-room Commercial Hotel, which shoemaker-turned-entrepreneur Antonio Monteleone bought in 1886. He consolidated it with nearby properties, and five additions later we have today's 16-story Monteleone, which takes up most of the block on Rue Royale.
It has been the setting for two dozen movies and television shows, a favorite hangout of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Gov. Earl Long, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, and is the reputed home to some dozen ghosts.
Antonio Monteleone's original shoemaker's shop is just across Royale, at the end of the block, now occupied by an art gallery. You'll recognize it by the Monteleone family crest done in mosaic tile in the entryway. Or ask the doorman.
Checking in: We arrived more than three hours before the 3 p.m. check-in, which could mean a long, tedious wait if this were some budget motel. But this is the Monteleone (they'll stash your bags), and this is New Orleans (the French Quarter awaits). The staff was friendly, quick with suggestions and most accommodating (remember the doorman?).
Rooms: Our room was average in size and had a comfortable queen-size four-poster along with the usual set pieces — a desk, a chair, lamps and an armoire that concealed the TV and a safe. It was on the 14th floor, affording a nice view of the city and the Mississippi. All in all, a nice, functional room, not the dinky space some reviews have warned about. But here's the clincher: Those who have stayed anywhere near Bourbon Street — just a short block over from the Monteleone — know how late-night revelers can bring the party back to their rooms. Nothing like loud laughter, drunken conversation and slamming doors at 1 a.m. to spoil your rest. But we heard nothing, a nice reflection on the quality of the Monteleone's guests (or perhaps the crews who soundproofed the rooms).
Bathroom: Lots of marble, wall-to-wall mirrors, golden fixtures and plush towels. A shower, two sinks and a Jacuzzi for two. There was also a selection of Gilchrist & Soames shampoos and soaps, plus the all-important hair dryer.
Kid-friendly: Children younger than 17 are free. And there's plenty for them within walking distance, such as streetcar rides, the Audubon Insectarium, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Preservation Hall (every kid should experience it). For those who consider Fido part of the family, pets are welcome at the Monteleone. They get a toy, a mat, water and food bowls, a bag of treats and a list of pet-friendly places around town.
Dining: There's plenty to choose from in the hotel — the Hunt Room Grill, Le Cafe Coffee Shop, the Carousel Bar and Lounge (yes, that's a real carousel, and yes, the bar stools do rotate slowly around it) and the (seasonal) Poolside Snack Bar. But being in the Quarter means you're only a short walk away from a dozen landmark restaurants. Wander.
Perks and peeves: Work out at the fitness center, get worked over at the full-service day spa or visit the heated rooftop pool. For those who insist on bringing their jobs with them, Wi-Fi, high-speed Internet access and a full-service business center are available. But be warned: Internet access is $9.95 a day. Something else to be aware of: It's an old building, so the rooms aren't all the same size and don't always offer splendid views.
Bottom line: Skip the $33 taxi ride from the airport and grab the $20 hotel shuttle. Parking is available for $30 a day for cars or small SUVs and $32 for large SUVs and vans. Rooms start at $169 a night and climb to $3,500 for a suite. But there are specials May 15-Sept. 30 (such as $99 rooms Sundays through Thursdays) and sometimes around the holidays, all based on availability. Watch the Web site or subscribe to the free quarterly newsletter.
214 Rue Royale, New Orleans, LA 70130