The perfect staycation is just a computer click or phone call away
Savory cuisine, a luscious bed, museum exhibitions, shopping and yes, maybe even a workout. Sounds like a vacation, and it is – just because your summer travel plans have been canceled or altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, doesn’t mean you can’t have that same relaxed, dreamy feel at home. Really!
There are, of course, travel websites such as Kayak that can take you on virtual vacations to exotic locales, but sticking closer to home, there’s a lot to see and do.
Plus, it’s June and the heavy, humid heat is here, and living the air-conditioning life is one of the city’s summer traditions.
How long ago did you get your bed sheets? Exactly, you don’t remember. It is time to refresh that place where you spend hours of slumber, lounging and what not with linens reminiscent of that time you stayed at the Windsor Court Hotel. (More from them later!)
At Sotre (SotreCollection.com), you can order bed linens by such brands as Essex, Sakuna and Sferra, which also makes the Sonno Notte Mattress, produced in the U.S.A. and available through the store.
You don’t even have to order a bed or a set of sheets to make a difference – new pillowcases can add a much-needed boost to the room’s look and your sleep.
Want to know what else can make bed linens extraordinary?
A spritz from Mahtilde M.’s Marquise sheet spray from Relish (RelishNewOrleans.com). The scent is a light, spicy and floral fragrance with a hint of vanilla, which can add a touch of Parisian elegance. If you like the scent – or your house has become musty – there’s a room spray, as well as scented liners and sachets for drawers, diffusers, candles and scented ceramics. Soaps are available, too.
You may also want to “pack” a new set of pajamas for your staycation, and both Relish and Sotre offer styles that are fun or fancy.
“It’s all about comfort,” said Relish Owner Beth Harris.
Museums Come to You
Every trip requires a few stops for a dose of culture.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s web site (OgdenMuseum.org) is a visual touchstone to what’s going on at the museum and its programs. Virtual video tours give an insider’s view of “Entwined: Ritual Wrapping and Binding in Contemporary Southern Art”; “Revelations: Recent Photography Acquisitions”; “What Music is Within: Black Abstraction from the Permanent Collection” and “Melvin Edwards: Crossroads,” presented by The Helis Foundation. Online gallery talks and curator Instagram takeovers (@OgdenMuseum) add a better understanding of the art and artists.
Addendum: If you want to get out of the house for even a bit, as of June 15 The Ogden Museum of Southern Art will re-open to limited capacity – so you can see these exhibitions in person or shop in the store. It will continue its online offerings.
Before visiting the museum, visitors need to visit ogdenmuseum.org to purchase tickets and to read more about the museum’s reopening protocols. People who enter the building must wear a face covering, and the museum will provide one for those who do not have their own.
Shopping is always a part of the vacation experience, and the Ogden Museum Store sells an assortment of art and craft by Southern artists. Perhaps some semi-precious stone earrings from the New Orleans-based M.A.D. Bohemian fit the bill?
The Historic New Orleans Collection’s website (HNOC.org) features “History from Home”: a virtual guide to the museums’ exhibitions and the extensive holdings of items documenting New Orleans and Louisiana history. The landing page has a great introduction with a video highlighting landmarks and moments from different eras with a New Orleans jazz soundtrack. You can then choose from three categories: Stories, Videos, Podcasts and More; Activities and Information for Families; and Tools for Researchers. (I guarantee that looking up your family’s history or the house where you live can feel like going down a fascinating rabbit hole!)
As part of “History from Home,” THNOC adapted several exhibitions, including some recent shows: A 60-degree view of the 2019 installation, “New Orleans Medley: Sounds of the City,” explores the myriad influences contributing to New Orleans’ musical history. When the museum re-opens, it will showcase photographs from the book, Cajun Document: Acadiana 1973-1974 by Charles H. Traub and Douglas Baz.
Pinkies Up, it’s Teatime
OK, so we probably gained some “quarantine weight,” but that doesn’t mean you have to eat carrots and yogurt on this staycation!
What you may not know is that there are two types of tea times: afternoon tea is around 4 p.m. and treats include teas such as Earl Grey and herbal with tea sandwiches, scones and cake. High tea is later and is a heavier meal with fish and meat dishes, baked goods and rich foods.
Joey Worley, the Windsor Court Hotel’s (WindsorCourtHotel.com) director of food and beverage put together an afternoon tea based on the hotel’s famed tea that you can do at home and can include children:
Tea: At least two choices of tea for any event is recommended, with the three listed here offering a nice variety: fruit forward, green and a black tea more indicative of the English style. Peach Nectar Rooibos is a blend of cured peach spices with a natural sweetness. This is a delicious warmer weather tea that’s good for the kids because it’s caffeine free. By Harney and Sons’ (Harney.com). Citron Green has a hint of orange and citrus, and is a mellow green tea with caffeine. Regal English Breakfast is a robust, highly caffeinated tea that is often taken with milk and a little honey (RareTeaCellar.com).
Wine: For bubbles, try either Charles Roux or Piper Heidseick, but any sparkling wine will work.
Sandwiches: Curry chicken salad and egg salad (possibly topped with a drizzle of truffle oil) on country bread rounds. Double the portions and have extra for lunch the next day. Purchase from your favorite grocery store or make with a personal recipe. PB&J for the kiddos: cut crusts off and cut into small triangles and garnish with a single blueberry.
Sweets: Strawberry scones with honey-lemon curd and chocolate whipped cream. Macarons – Whole Foods on Magazine Street Uptown has a great selection.
“Extras:” Put on some music to liven up the mood; the hotel recommends Robin Barnes, the headliner at its Polo Club Lounge. Don a comfortable outfit, or dress up and finish your ensemble with a fascinator by Ouiser and Clairee Millinery, available on Instagram @ouiserandclaireemillinery.
A good place to get that egg salad for the afternoon tea, as well as some of the other fixings, is at Langenstein’s (Langensteins.com). The grocery store and caterer is New Orleanians’ go-to spot for every day and any party – have you ever been to a New Orleans soirée that didn’t have Le Popeye Dip, the famous spinach, herbs and sour cream concoction? Call to order, then pick up that and any other items you may need.
For desserts, try La Boulangerie (LaBoulangerieNola.com), which offers a delectable tea time or dessert assortment, including decadent cream puffs.
For the perfect cocktail or wine to have with your tea, contact Prytania Wine & Spirits (Langensteins.com/prytania-wine-spirits), which can deliver.
For a different flavors, bring home Ralph’s on the Park (RalphsOnThePark.com) globally inspired Curbside To-Go Family Meals, available Wednesdays through Sundays. Turtle soup, City Park salad, crawfish pasta and French chocolate trifle are all on the menu. You can also order bottles of red or white wine and champagne.
Dressed for Comfort
Yoga pants, shorts and T-shirts have become the home office attire of choice, unless there’s a Zoom meeting.
But comfort doesn’t have always have to be whatever you just pulled out of the dresser drawer.
Ballin’s New Orleans Knitwear (NewOrleansKnitwear.com) is a natural combination of style, function and fashion. Designed in-house, the line – made of cotton – is comfort-driven and made for the New Orleans climate. Separates and dresses in multiple colors make it easy to mix and match.
The shoe of the moment – it’s the store’s best-selling shoe – are Ilse Jacobsen’s flats, called “The Perfect Summer Shoe” online by Ballin’s.
It is easy to see why. It is lightweight, with the upper shoe made of a laser-cut pattern of recycled microfiber, which makes shoe breathable and the sole made of natural rubber.
It is so popular that Ballin’s says that customers often come back to buy another pair, or two.
Garden Party + Cooking
If you missed going to New Orleans City Park’s Botanical Garden during its peak spring season, no worries as the park will bring it to you. Botanical Garden Director Paul Soniat gives a virtual tour of the garden and all of its beauty, while he serenades you on piano with his original song, “My Garden.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the garden’s Kitchen in the Garden started a Chef’s Cooking Series on its Facebook page (Facebook.com/NewOrleansBotanicalGarden/videos). The first segment featured Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s Restaurant, who cooked up some Thai vegetable curry at home. The idea behind the series, which will also feature video segments from Chef John Currence (City Grocery, Oxford, Miss.) and Chef Ryan Prewitt (Pêche), is that it is a way to encourage people to donate to the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund (UnitedWaySela.org/hospitality-cares-pandemic-response-fund-0).
Staying fit at home can be challenging, but Romney Studios (RomneyStudios.com), makes it easy with 30- or 60-minute classes online. Among the classes are Pilates and Pulse. Try them out with a free seven-day trial, then pay only $19.99 a month for a subscription if you like it.
The summer of staycation is here – and with the stress of the past few months let’s take time to remember that sometimes there’s no place like home.