The last time I landed in New Orleans was September 9, 2001. Though I was only scheduled to be there 3 days and 2 nights, I did not actually leave until September 14th on the first flight allowed to leave the New Orleans air space. Because I was trapped in New Orleans on 9/11, it has a very special place in my heart. And really, if you’re going to be trapped anywhere, this was not a bad place to be. I drank the city in. Yes, I did Bourbon Street, but I also did a swamp tour, walked the River Walk, took the St. Charles Streetcar, had chickory coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, and even was able to offer walking directions (in French!!!) to a couple I encountered who looked rather lost.
So, nearly 10 years later, I found myself back in The Big Easy it was kind of trippy. Driving in from the airport, I got a lump in my throat when I saw the Superdome before my eyes and tried to imagine the terror, grief and near inhumane condition so many residents had to endure there while awaiting help during Katrina.
The French Quarter seemed like its same celebratory self. Folks drinking Hurricanes and wearing beads. Everyone I ran into was helpful and hospitable. I only wish I had time to revisit more of this iconic city. But I was there for work. It was the National Apartment Association Education Conference and Exposition – the largest conference for the apartment (or multi-family housing, if you want to know the lingo) industry. My company was exhibiting, and my boss and I were panelists for one of the education sessions. Here’s a link to an interview that took place right after my session with a reporter from MultiHousing News:
So after a day of travel, 2 days straight of being on my feet for the trade show or education sessions, and 3 evenings of networking events, by the time I reached Saturday you could stick a fork in me because I was DONE. Unfortunately (and inexplicably), trying to get from New Orleans to Los Angeles is not as easy as it sounds. You can fly out at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. Well, 6 a.m. just wasn’t going to happen, so I had a full day to revisit all New Orleans had to offer. Only, I had nothing left to offer it. After bidding adieu to work colleagues and industry pals, I poured myself into a cab and asked to be delivered to the place that is known for taking customer care to the highest level: The Ritz-Carlton. I have never done anything like this before, but I marched into their spa and asked for the first massage they had available. The staff was lovely. Simply lovely. And they welcomed me with the equivalent of a spa’s open arms: a sinfully soft white robe and the most comfortable spa slippers I’ve ever worn. (Those of you who know my love of all things white terrycloth can understand how happy I was in this moment.)
I had the best of intentions to go to afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton. It was truly the only real activity on my personal agenda. And yet, I absolutely could not summon the energy or appetite to indulge in their magical, culinary wonderland. You know for sure that I was at the end of the line when not even Tea at the Ritz-Carlton can tempt. However, I did need something for fuel, and the idea of a pot of tea and a little scone was appealing.
One day I will experience the full tea service at the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton myself, because what I observed was truly lovely. A bridal shower with a table full of tiered trays, pots of tea, and attentive servers. The table was lovely, the obvious bride even lovelier. A mother, father and two young girls out for a mini celebration of their own. The dad putting on an extraordinary game face and making his daughters feel like princesses. A couple of old friends laughing together. A couple who could have been my grandparents seated together in amicable silence, absorbing the scene and the music. Because you can’t dismiss the music. A live harpist (is that the correct term?) playing light classical music. She even whipped up a little, “Here Comes the Bride,” as gifts were being opened.
I requested a small pot of tea and asked if it was possible to just have a scone. The server looked at my run down face, smiled, and said of course. A few minutes later, tea and a small plate of 3 tiny scones and the accompanying toppings of preserves, Devonshire cream and lemon curd arrived. Although the food was delicious, the feast I truly enjoyed was the surrounding scene before my eyes. Beautiful, relaxing, and no one wanted anything from me. And then I requested the check. The server placed it on my table and said, “We had extra scones today, so there’s no charge for those. I hope you enjoyed your time here.” I was speechless. It’s the unexpected and unnecessary small acts of kindness that stop you in your tracks, especially from business establishments that you would normally expect additional service charges and included tips when it came time to pay. It was the perfect end to my hectic week that drained me of all I had. I’ll be back, Ritz-Carlton. And I’m bringing friends.