How To Be A Great Innkeeper

August 23rd, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

be a great innkeeper

A welcoming smile translates across all languages

We have come back from  a three week trip to Spain and Morocco. There were many fascinating elements of the trip, which I will not focus on here, save to say, after nine years as an innkeeper, it is a useful exercise to put oneself deeply in the role of the traveler, in order to help you remember what the weary guest needs to feel welcome and happy. It is from our experiences in a foreign land, with a different language, new customs, and exotic culture, that we draw these lessons to apply to our work here at the Sully Mansion in New Orleans.

  1. Our initial greeting makes all the difference when you open the door.  A big smile and sincere welcome erases the frustration of getting lost finding the inn, late airplanes, being hot and tired, and generally wondering why you have left the comforts of home.
  2.  Help with suitcases - No matter how well those wheels on the luggage are working, it is nice to have someone else carry your possessions for you, even if for a few feet.
  3. Read their mood - It is easy to tell from your travelers’ faces if they want to get to their room and take off their shoes and use the bathroom,or if they would prefer a glass of water/iced tea and take in their surrounds. Taking cues from the guest makes the arrival go smoother.
  4. Show them how everything in their room works - We know where the switch is to the lamp but the newcomers do not, the air conditioner seems self explanatory but maybe not. Wi-Fi can confuse those who are not used to traveling. If they need to just decompress for a little bit, they would rather know how everything works rather than have to come back downstairs to ask you.
  5. Pace the delivery of information - If your guests have been traveling all day, they may be on overload and cannot take in lots of new information initially. Ask them when they would like to look at a map, get suggestions for shopping or eating or music or whatever. A good host allows the guests to set the pace.
  6. Be available – If the guests disappear into their room and end up taking an unexpected nap, it is important to be available when they wake up and are full of questions.
  7. Share your knowledge - In ways large and small, guests want to take advantage of what you know as a local. They may have read about attractions and restaurants but they always want to know what you suggest, (however refer back to #3, read their mood to gauge if they want to know if their plans make sense).
  8. Keep your hospitality going throughout their stay - Some travelers need a day to get comfortable and get their sea legs.  Those who are shy on day one, can be very interactive after a good night’s sleep. The same level of interest, information and assistance is welcomed through their stay.
  9. Take care of your personal business during your personal time - Waiting for the innkeeper to finish texting, looking on the internet, talking on the phone with a friend (you can tell even if you do not speak the language) is incredibly off-putting.  Most people are pretty patient but it is easy to misunderstand the host’s pre-occupation as not wanting to be available or helpful.
  10. Your interactions influence the guests’ perception of your city - If the guest feels cared for at their accommodations, they see the town as friendly and caring. If they feel ignored at the place where they sleep, they experience the town as callus and uncaring.

As innkeepers, we really have tremendous power to make or break a guest’s vacation, and it is so easy to make their time memorable in a good way.

Follow Your NOLA: Create Your Own Interactive Map and Guide to New Orleans

August 15th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

follow-your-nolaFollow Your NOLA, (created by The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation), is a customized, interactive webspace for you to add all your favorite New Orleans spots to your own personal map. You can select your favorite spots in town to eat, drink, dance, shop and just soak up all that this city has to offer. The more you explore and discover about New Orleans, the more places you can add to “Your NOLA.” Share your account with friends and family, post your account link to your Facebook page, as well as discover the favorite spots of other “Follow Your NOLA” users, including chef Anthony Bourdain and Bryan Batt (Salvatore Romano of Mad Men fame).

follow-your-nola-walking-mapCreate a free account, and start adding your favorite places right away. Incoming Tulane freshmen, seasoned NOLA visitors, as well as long-time locals have created amazing accounts that you can find and follow. The interactive map lets you view a walking guide and neighborhood location of the sopts you’ve added to your account. It’s a great way to discover New Orleans restaurants, music, museums and more!

Satchmo SummerFest 2014: A Celebration of Louis Armstrong

July 23rd, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

satchmo-summerfest 2014

Attending Satchmo Summerfest in style in New Orleans

As one of New Orleans’ most celebrated music events. the 14th annual Satchmo SummerFest takes place in the historic French Quarter. Free to the public, the festival features two main stages, dozens of food vendors, and numerous seminars and other special presentations. The celebration is “dedicated to the life, music and legacy of New Orleans’ native son, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong,” and offers unforgettable fun for all ages.

The four day event kicks off on Thursday, July 31, and runs through Sunday, August 3, where the 2014 Satchmo SummerFest will  offer music and seminars, featuring performances by Wycliffe Gordon, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Glen David Andrews (to name just a few).
happy-birthday-louis-image-derek-bridgesSave Friday at 11am to celebrate the birth of Louis Armstrong with a birthday bash at the old US Mint! Keep up your strength for the next round of events by dining on Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Fish Beignet, Creole Hot Sausage Po-Boy and many other culinary treats.

Satchmo SummerFest is organized by French Quarter Festivals, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting New Orleans’ musical, culinary and social traditions. In line with previous years, over 25,000 attendees are expected over the four day festival, which will be manned by volunteers, as well as funded by generous corporate and independent sponsors.

To view the full line-up of performances and seminars, visit the Satchmo Summerfest website.

When: July 31 – August 3
Where: French Quarter – on the grounds of the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint
Tickets: Admission is free.

New Orleans: The Cost of Being a Hip City

July 16th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

New Orlean's French Quarter

New Orlean’s French Quarter

The changing face of New Orleans has received tons of media attention in the last year. Like the Denver of the 1980’s, Austin of the 1990’s and Portland of the 2000’s, New Orleans seems to be the ‘it’ city of this decade. There is much good which comes from this new energy with idealistic, hard working 20/30 somethings coming here to make their mark. Those who have lived here for years before it was cool, (when it was dysfunctional and devastated) have a love/hate relationship with these new-comers, and the city’s new status as a hip place to be.

With these new folks comes a revitalization of many neglected areas from apartments, more vegan restaurants, expanded options for poetry slams, and live dance performances(a good thing) as well as an explosion of hamburger restaurants, increased rents and this buzz growing a shared economy (not such a good thing).

New Orleans is a tourist town for better or worse, and while the base of its economy is expanding, tourism to sample our architecture, culture food and music has always been a mainstay of how we make a living. These new arrivals to the city know that too, and have been busy buying up property and renting out one side of their shotgun-style homes and spare bedrooms on sites like AirB&B, HomeAway and VBRO, and making a little bit of extra cash on the side and giving folks an alternative (and what they tout as ‘authentic”) place to stay for less money. All of it sounds great, but in New Orleans, short term rentals are illegal, and alas, there is no lodging police to make sure that rules are enforced.

As innkeepers we do not feel threatened by the growth of these alternatives, as we believe we fill a different niche (and are no less authentic), but there are two elements of this shared economy which give us great pause.

Saint Charles Street Car

Saint Charles Street Car

In New Orleans, neither those renting out their accommodations, or the alternative lodging sites charge or pay any type of city tax on their rooms. This does keep their lodging prices low for the guest, but those guests then use the streetcar, walk the sidewalks and expect the police and fire department to be readily accessible. Sadly though, they are not doing their share to pay for those services.

The second, and more troublesome problem is there are neighborhoods in the city (specifically the Bywater and Marigny; our hot hip neighborhoods) which have been so overtaken by short term rentals, that the fabric of those neighborhoods are diminished. The rhythm of seeing your neighbors while walking your dog is replaced by a gaggle of bachelorettes coming for the weekend with little regard for the noise or clamor they make. When whole streets turn into weekend-end getaways, the very uniqueness and close-knit fabric of the neighborhood is reduced to a bohemian resort village.

We want people from around the world to come and visit this fabulous town, we just want them to respect the treasures they find here and in their small way, do their part to ensure those treasures remain. To be honest, we are ready for the next hot city to be discovered, any suggestions?

Southern Decadence 2014: NOLA’s Gay Mardi Gras Festival!

June 25th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

southern-decadence-new-orleansSouthern Decadence is all about the extravagant costumes, rainbows and partying that accompanies the holiday, and one that has been nicknamed the “Gay Mardi Gras.” This year the event will celebrate 43 years in New Orleans with its usual non-stop street party in the French Quarter, with ‘Ground Zero’ for the action at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann streets. The festivities will start on Wednesday, August 27 and pick up steam as the event nears the big street parade on Sunday, August 31, at 2pm.
The theme this year is ‘Under the Big Top,’ and the colors are Canary Yellow, Turquoise Blue, and Pearl White. The 2014 Official Charity is PFLAG, an organization comprised of family, friends, and straight allies of GLBT organizations.
The celebration will then wrap up on Monday, September 1 with the Southern Decadence Closing Party at the Bourbon Pub. For an event that started as a mere costume party, it’s grown into one of the most famous gay celebrations in the world. At the intersection of elaborate costumes and high fashion, we say: ‘Let the partying begin!’
Sully Mansion is a great place to relax after a day at the festival. We offer modern amenities in a classic Garden District location. We welcome your booking or inquiry.

2014 TripAdvisor Excellence Award Winner!

May 31st, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

Sully Mansion honored with Certificate of Excellence 2nd year in a row!For the second year in a row, Sully Mansion Bed & Breakfast is pleased to be awarded  the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. This prestigious award recognizes businesses that consistently earn top ratings from TripAdvisor travelers.
In mid-may, TripAdvisor announced the 2014 Certificate of Excellence award recipients where nearly 58,000 U.S. hospitality businesses were chosen this year. Now in its fourth year, the award celebrates hospitality excellence and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor. Establishments awarded the Certificate of Excellence are located all over the world and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.
When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account reviews ratings. Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five. Volume and recency of reviews, as well as a business’ tenure and popularity ranking are also factored into the algorithm.

If you are planning a stay in New Orleans, we’d love to accommodate you in the beautiful, lively and historic Garden District. We’re close to great shopping on Magazine Street, where you’ll find fun coffee houses, diverse eateries, and lots of local flavor. Come and experience why Sully Mansion has been chosen, the second year in a row, to receive TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence.

2014 New Orleans Jazz Fest Week One Round Up

April 29th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

First weekend of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2014 is behind us with the second weekend sneaking up on us in just a few days. When I wrote the Baby Boomers Tips blog last week I was working from memory and over twenty years of Jazz Fest attendance. Many of my tips were validated over the weekend. In the two days (living here we do not go every day because there is something very restful about being in the city when everyone else is at the fairgrounds) we attended, I had the best and most annoying experiences that Jazz Fest has come to experience. The annoying part: People drinking a beer and leaving the can on the ground when there are trash cans and recycle bins everywhere; Heavy set men with hairy backs shirtless and sweaty in thigh to thigh crowds; Twenty-somethings shouting inanities to each other during the quiet segment of a love ballad; Tie-dyed characters with tambourines hitting off-time to the music; Those who seem to have forgotten the math when a six foot person stands in front of a five foot person, what is the visibility ratio?

2014 NOLA Jazz fest dancing

A little jubilance during the first week of New Orleans Jazz Fest

Minor annoyances for sure, for then there is the moment when the air is fragrant with the future of rain heading up from the Gulf Coast, not here but adding a moisture to the air making everything seems so ripe, the friendly neighbors on the road to the fairground selling homemade sangria and grilling pork chops and all saying hello, the sound of a tuba off in the distance although you are listing to a killer drum solo at the moment, the electric energy of the lead singer, hair whipping in the wind and crowd reinforcing the energy, old blues players with lightening fast fingers up and down the guitar frets, a thirty person gospel choir singing praises so thunderously you have to throw your arms up in surrender, a crowd around you dancing with you to the beat of the music, clutching hands with a women you never saw before because you both just love that song he started to play in a way you don’t think anyone else could understand, the showmanship of an R&B singer who changes his outfit three times in the eighty degree heat and looks so sharp as he sings, not being able to help yourself even though you are headed across the fairgrounds to catch someone else as you stop in your tracks to listen to a voice soaring out to the heavens, the sighting the look of infectious joy when someone hears a brass band for the first time, the traditional jazz band who hands out their own linen pressed handkerchiefs so you can join them in a second line, grabbing two Cochon Du Lait poor boys with no line at all to eat at home with tired feet and a sense of grace for 1) having air conditioning and 2) living in New Orleans. Ready for round two in just four days!

A Brief History of The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

April 25th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

Uncle Lionel Batiste & Jennifer Jones at Jazz Fest NOLA

Uncle Lionel Batiste & Jennifer Jones at Jazz Fest

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is held on the last weekend of April (Friday-Sunday) and the first weekend of May (Thursday-Sunday), between the hours of 11am and 7pm, at the Fair Grounds Race Course, a horse racing track located in historic Mid-City.

The Festival celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. The music encompasses every musical style associated with the city and the state, from blues, R&B, gospel music, Cajun music, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk music, Latin, rock, rap music, to country music, and bluegrass.

A little history:

Mahalia Jackson, often called the greatest gospel singer, returned to her hometown to appear at the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April of 1970. Jackson was not booked, but simply heard about the Festival and showed up to sing)

In 1970, only about 350 people attended the Festival, about half the number of musicians and other participants in the event.

In 1975, the Festival, still just a five-day event with only three days of the Louisiana Heritage Fair, had an anticipated attendance of 80,000.

In the 1980s, Jazz Fest continued to experience a tremendous growth in popularity and began to gain wide acclaim as one of the world’s greatest cultural celebrations. By the end of the decade, more than 300,000 people attended the Heritage Fair, evening concerts, and workshops.

The decade of the 1990s saw the appeal of Jazz Fest and the Festival’s significance as a cultural symbol soar. The Festival added features like the Thursday that kicks off the second weekend (1991); an International Pavilion that celebrates other cultures (Haiti, Mali, Panama, Brazil, Martinique, and in 2004, South Africa); and the Native American stage and area.

In 2001, the Festival celebrated Louis Armstrong’s centennial, and the total attendance eclipsed 650,000, shattering records for virtually every day of the Heritage Fair, including the all-time single-day attendance record of 160,000.

With 12 stages of soul-stirring music—jazz, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk, and much more—the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a truly unique celebration. The event has showcased most of the great artists of New Orleans and Louisiana of the last half century: Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, The Neville Brothers, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., Ellis Marsalis, The Radiators, Irma Thomas, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Better Than Ezra, Ernie K-Doe, Vernel Bagneris, The Zion Harmonizers, Beausoleil and many others.

Tips for attending the 2014 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
If you’re coming to Jazz Fest for the first time this year, no doubt you’ll be bowled over by the choices you have for enjoying the music. But Jazz Fest is far more than a music festival. And in between all that amazing music, you’ll need time to explore the art, and the craft, sample a mind-boggling array of local cuisine, and learn about the indigenous cultures that comprise the diversity of the city and state. Hopefully you’re staying for both weekends so that you can take it all in! Get the APP and the MAP to help you organize and navigate your fun.

Baby Boomer’s Guide to New Orleans Jazz Fest

April 22nd, 2014 by Nancy Fournier


New Orleans Jazz Fest: A Boomer’s Survival Guide:
The newspaper and blogs are all full of advice for all different demographics to navigate the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which starts this Friday and runs for two weeks.  I have read about Jazz Fest with Kids, Jazz Fest for Novices, Jazz Fest for Locals, Jazz Fest for Groups, etc.  Given the average age of the Fest goer steadily increases while the city itself is awash with hip young millennials, I thought it was time to give useful tips for those Baby Boomers, both first timers and veterans alike braving the Fairgrounds for the annual ritual of Jazz Fest.

My top ten survival tips for the over fifty crowd (which applies to Jazz Fest but upon review, is pretty much a good list for life itself.)

  1. Come prepared- take that backpack (yes they will pat it down at the gate but it is the most cursory of fondling, no one working the gates would ever be confused with a TSA agent.) and in addition to the sunscreen, extra set of the schedule (or Cubes as we local call them) you should have a hat, a handkerchief, aspirin and toilet paper.  We really are too old to be caught in a Port-O Potty with no paper.
  2. Wear sturdy shoes, and that does not include Crocs, depending on the weather the Fairgrounds can be a soupy mess or a dustbowl, and you will be walking all day between stages and tents and those cute little sandals will force you to sit down before you are ready to.
  3. Dress appropriately you know those cute little sundresses with teeny straps?  Those flouncy little skirts, those aged muscle t-shirts, all those things which look so good on the twenty year olds will not look good on you, no one wants to see sagging flesh while dancing at the fais do-do stage remember and dress your age.
  4. Eat smart- Pace yourself and try to eat something with some green on it in between the Cochon D Lait poor boy, the Soft Shell Crab poor Boy, the Crawfish Monica , Crawfish Bread and Boudin, try that spinach salad and give your digestive system a little break.
  5. Be patient- Everything happens in its own good time at Jazz Fest, so if you are waiting for food, to use the Porto potties, buying a fest shirt, just wait, talk to the person next to you, make a new friend and take a deep breath, there is room and enough for everything.
  6. Pace yourself- even if you are hot, don’t feel the need to buy a beer every time you walk past a beer stand, alternate with water so you can last the whole day.  You do not want to be one of those beached whales passed out in the way back of the Acura stage area.
  7. Be yourself- Even if everyone is going to hear Santana but you just love this gospel singer playing at the same time, go hear that Gospel singer.  Meet your friend later and follow your own muse instead of following the crowd.
  8. Know yourself- unless you really are a Mardi Gras Indian, do not parade with them and the same goes for belonging to a Pleasure and Social Aide club, you can follow behind but chances are you are a white Midwestern, New Yorker Californian and you don’t know how to buck jump so do not try, you just look silly.
  9. Remember yourself- You may have just had a fabulous moment with a bunch of teens dancing to the Iguanas together but do not be disappointed when the music ends that they turn away from you- you really did not think they were going to ask you to hang with you all day did you?
  10. Enjoy yourself- This is the one time you can just be guided by your own desires for what you want to hear what you want to look at what you want to eat and what you want to drink.  Like New Orleans it is a feast for the sense, revel in it and be grateful you are there.

Bayou Boogaloo Festival: A Local New Orleans Favorite!

April 12th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

Boogaloo-2013-posterWe are on a mission to help our guests get a leg up on planning for local events and come and visit New Orleans when it is not mobbed with visitors.Everyone knows we are deep in Festival Season with the French Quarter Fest starting this weekend and Jazz and Heritage Festival in two weeks after that. Everyone planning to come to the city already has their tickets and rooms, but there is so much more undiscovered magic and plethora of less-well-known events that we want you to enjoy. 

After the crowds have left Jazz Fest, there is a great, local music festival Friday, May 16 – Sunday, May 18, called the Bayou Boogaloo. It is held on the banks of Bayou St. John. – a beautiful part of the city near the art museum and city park. The Bayou meanders through old neighborhoods with gorgeous homes and gracious oak trees.  The bayou runs out to Lake Pontchartrain and you can kayak or canoe your way to the open water. 

Detroit Brooks

Detroit Brooks at the Bayou Boogaloo Festival

The The Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo festival itself is three days long and, in addition to the food offerings of crawfish beignets, shrimp poor boys, smoked oysters and cream snow balls, there is local music. Those folks who have not yet made the big time but are local favorites like the blues guitar of Eric Lindell or the bounce music of Big Freedia or Zyedaco of Rosie Ledet.  What sets this festival apart is the sustainability commitment of its organizers.  The stages are solar powered and in addition to the standard food and craft booths there are information booths from neighborhood groups working on environmental issues.  For a city that loves its Styrofoam take out boxes it is a welcome relief.  We cannot promise it will be the intimate affair of years past, but it is a little off the big festival radar and a candidate for the next big Festival in this festival-crazed city. See you there!