TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE CHATEAU HOTEL AND THE FRENCH QUARTER
It’s 1974. I’m about to start my second year of college, Nixon just resigned and we’re in the French Quarter. Come along and join the fun.
The Chateau Hotel
As I’ve told you before, Holiday Inn tended to be our usual accommodations, but for New Orleans we stayed right in the French Quarter at The Chateau Hotel. I’m happy to report that you can stay there today if you want to. I confess I was thrilled, just by the mere fact that it wasn’t our usual roadside motel. It was an honest to goodness hotel right in the middle of everything.
I remember entering our room and walking right to the windows to look out at the French Quarter. It was exhilarating to see something besides a freeway. Our first night in town we had to grab a quick bite and get back to the hotel in time for my parents to see the infamous news conference featuring Richard Nixon’s resignation.
In addition to being right in the middle of the French Quarter, The Chateau Hotel also had an amazing courtyard where breakfast was served each morning. Those morning meals are among my favorite memories of the trip. I am devoted to al fresco dining and for all I know, this is where my passion for it originated.
The French Quarter
Once breakfast was over, Mom had our itinerary all planned out. We set out on foot to see the sights. The tour started at Jackson Square to visit St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo. Beignets at Cafe du Monde were de rigueur, but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had better.
I can’t remember all the places Mom dragged us to over the next few days, but I can tell you that we ate dinner at Brennan’s, another treat you can still enjoy. Supposedly, according to tradition, breakfast is the meal you are really supposed to eat at Brennan’s, but for my mom, having dinner there was just the bomb. Dad had to put on a suit and tie. Mom and Aunt Edie wore maxi-skirts, all the rage at the time. There is no pictorial record of what Susan and I wore, but I do remember the meal.
I chose Chicken Madeira as my entree. I was very impressed with myself, because it had a wine sauce. Being a Baptist, my mom didn’t cook with wine, so at the time I didn’t realize the alcohol always cooked out. I thought I was being a bit naughty. Mom and Dad were afraid I wouldn’t like it and to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that crazy about it, but there was no way I was going to admit it.
For dessert, I had their famous pecan pie. I’ll confess something else. I’d take my little sister’s pecan pie over their’s any day of the week, but at the time, she wasn’t baking any pies. Still, I remember being under-impressed. Brennan’s hadn’t been a big hit with me.
With my dessert, I had coffee and I’d never had coffee before. I’d been away at school and could have had coffee with every meal, even though my parents had never offered me any. I just wasn’t interested. At Brennan’s the waiter convinced me I couldn’t leave their restaurant without having some of their famous chicory coffee. So, my first taste of coffee was a baptism by bitterness. I still don’t drink coffee.
So that was my family vacation to New Orleans. I’ve been several times since. My favorite New Orleans cuisine is a toss up between a big ole bowl of BBQ Shrimp or a Muffalatta sandwich from a storefront my friend Michael took me to. I know I’d rather eat BBQ Shrimp than anything Brennan’s has on the menu. And speaking of Brennan’s, if you have to choose between Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace, I’d vote for Commander’s Palace. New Orleans really is a culinary treat, but I wouldn’t have known it from that 1974 visit.
The next page in my scrapbook says I am Biloxi Bound, so I hope you’ll join me next week for a little Gulf Shore fun.