Travel makes you vulnerable. Part of what makes travel so rewarding is overcoming that vulnerability. If you want to avoid it altogether, you rent the Presidential Suite at the downtown hotel. That will fairly well insulate you from the town you’re in –wherever that may be. The hired help will speak to you in reassuringly deferential terms. You will leave feeling okay. Perhaps even well cared for. But if you want to know something about where you are, if you have any curiosity whatsoever in people who are a little – or a lot – different from you, then you need to find a place that allows you to interact with a local outside of an elevator, You need to open yourself to the random graciousness of individuals who love introducing visitors to their hometown, who have found a few non-advertised secrets of a good life, and who will generously share that with you if you are willing to take a moment to genuinely engage in some person-to-person interaction with them.
Travel, by definition, requires us to leave our comfort zone. Our environment is no longer familiar to us, nor us to it. It requires us to redefine a niche for ourselves, a new place of comfort in an unfamiliar environment. When we’re able to achieve it, we feel triumphant! When, through our efforts, research or good fortune, we stumble upon a quiet gem that hasn’t made the tour books, we’re invited into a world unknown to us before and we feel a true sense of privilege that money cannot buy. A delicious meal in a neighborhood restaurant. A local guitarist who dazzles the crowd on a random weeknight. A pub where conversation remains an art form. True explorers know the value of these discoveries. And they’re willing to expend the personal effort and risk the possibility of a few missteps to reach a place that’s accessible only with a bit of measured risk.
No one – no matter the income level – wants to be the hapless tourist preyed upon by the resident opportunist. On a recent sunny Sunday while my children played happily in our front yard, we heard the unfamiliar sound of a horse and carriage going by. While a common sight in the French Quarter, these tourist-carrying rides don’t usually make their way so far uptown. We stopped to take note in time to hear the driver, who had paused in front of our house, pointing the tourist couple in the passenger seat to the stained glass windows in the gables of our house: “When these houses were built, they would hold mass up there,” he told them.
We were dumbfounded. Mass? In the attic? The unfinished attic full of beams and no walkboards and no headroom? Mass in the attic, when there are about 5 magnificent churches that have always been within a few blocks walk of this home? Did he really say that to these people? I’m telling you the tourists smiled and nodded as he talked, but somewhere inside I wonder if they knew that they were being had. I didn’t think of them as poor suckers. Instead, I thought about the times I’ve been far away from home and dependent on the trustworthiness of strangers. I had a certain empathy for them. I’m pretty sure I’m the type, for example, who’s love of Ireland might lead me to purchase the deed to a worthless piece of Irish bog just to say I own part of my family’s motherland. Hapless indeed! Fortunately, on my trips to the Emerald Isle I encountered good-willed types who encouraged me only to participate in the buying of my fair share of rounds of Guiness.
The temptation to walk only the tried and true path as a visitor is strong, but not as strong as the rewards for deviating from that path.
While most self-catering accommodations leave you to your own devices in this regard, when you rent a furnished apartment in New Orleans from Key to NOLA Properties, we help you out. Key to NOLA has contracted with the best, most in-the-know, concierge and cultural experience planner in the city: Every Thing Lovely. Every Thing Lovely will provide you with recommendations beyond the top 10 venues in the city. You’ll be privy to what locals learn through years of experience regarding what to do — like where to view Mardi Gras Indians or find great music any night of the week, as well as what not to do – like pay for an exclusive buggy ride uptown where the driver will spin wild tales of fiction passed off as historical knowledge. Your time matters. Your travel is significant – whether you’re here for work or play. We want you to have a genuinely good experience in our favorite town, no matter your price point. We would personally stay in any and every home in our inventory, and we would only refer you to places we would and do enjoy ourselves. We want everything about your stay to be lovely, and have done our homework to bring you the accommodations and services to make it so.