If you will indulge me, please, next week we will bring this column around to our assigned topics and make it worth your while, or at least that’s the plan. But for now, just a brief pause.
Our town is at, below, or just slightly higher than sea level. That makes the historic line-of-sight view of our home area pretty much always at eye-level, at best. Only since the early 1920s have we been able to access an altitude from a tall building that would allow us to look out over an expanse of terrain for miles towards the horizon.
In the French Quarter there is a four-story tall building at Royal and St. Peter streets. It seems humorous, but the Maison LeMonnier, built 1811, has always been known as "The Skyscraper" because, for a good part of our early history, that was about as high as one could get off the ground in New Orleans – except to go up in the spires of the Cathedral, which could only be done by maintenance workers and a few brave priests.
Lately, to our joy, we have been given numerous opportunities to travel high off the ground floor, find a watering hole and survey our domain. New hotels, condominiums and event reception venues have included in their blueprints rooftop destinations perfect for viewing and then, the real cherry on the ice cream sundae, installed a bar. Because it’s New Orleans, the bars are good, reasonable in cost and offer a vibe that encourages imbibing while gazing off to the horizon and at the landscape below.
There are some party spots in town that are more geared to receptions and celebration destinations. Just about every hotel has facilities on the top floor not open to the public, which become party central for big groups. The Marriott, The Wyndham, The Sheraton and The Hilton offer such locations.
In the French Quarter, both the Omni Royal Orleans and the Hotel Monteleone also offer private-event rooms at the top of their respective buildings for entertaining. But both have terrific up-top locations for the public because both have rooftop pools. There are adult beverage-serving bars poolside, but those may not be open at all times. The view from the Royal Orleans’ pool deck is stunning, mostly of the Quarter and the River from the Bridge to the Crescent, Algiers, then on to Chalmette.
What has been most impressive are the new hotels in town, intent on providing to guests and visitors overall views of the city from atop their buildings.
Just last year the Ace Hotel on Carondelet Street, two blocks Uptown from Poydras Street, pulled out all the ginger-breading by installing a rooftop lounge with many different seating areas. More like a garden than a rooftop, Alto has a great pool and views in all directions. The overall effect is not overwhelming but divides the skyline into small bites. Speaking of small bites, the bar’s small-plate food offerings coincide perfectly with the creative cocktail menu.
The newest rooftop opportunity is at the just-opened Troubadour Hotel on Gravier at S. Rampart Street. Several seating areas are at either end of the long patio-like setting. Personally, the name gives pause. Monkey Board offers snacks and small plates prepared by the hotel’s chef, the inimitable Philip Lopez who also oversees Petit Lion, the hotel’s main restaurant.
What I find most intriguing about Monkey Board is that the view to the Mississippi River perfectly shows why New Orleans is the Crescent City. The River’s path is at once both at a right angle and parallel to your position. I stared at the scene for an hour.
I’ve held back with my favorite view of the city from atop a building until now. But then I have always loved this place. The Pontchartrain Hotel has reopened, upgraded and done major renovations. The one thing that will demand your attention is the bar at the penthouse. Imagine for a moment that the penthouse, renamed Hot Tin, really is a penthouse, a private apartment to rival anything most of us regularly enjoy.
The new owners’ group installed a grand bar and re-designed the window scheme – which opened the views dramatically, both towards downtown and the CBD, as well as Uptown and the University District.
What really knocks my socks off is the fact that all of the Central Business District, the Dome and the Connection are the panorama you enjoy from the deck. The entire city is literally laying at your feet. And it’s stunning.
So, here is a suggestion: do a progressive evening. Travel to each of the bars at the top of buildings. In each place order a drink, have a snack and just sit in amazement at views which were not available even a few years ago.
Yet another reason to take pride in our hometown.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at www.wgso.com. Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life" every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcasted episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/