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My four years of reviewing NOLA haunts: toasting the best of the best (part 1)

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Whether it's an Eclectus parrot or a ginger mint julep, New Orleans hotels offer something the run o' the mill cities do not. (And hey, we won't call any of them out here -- after all, some of those notorious NOLA good manners have rubbed off on us.)

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July 12, this examiner celebrated four years with the publication, and throughout my tenure I've not only enjoyed reviewing hotels in the Big Easy, but have made many friends including one Miss Scarlett the Parrot along the way.

To honor my time with the Ex I fete the finest of the finest and a few funky finds along the way.

  • Best Cocktail Lounge: tie between the Windsor Court's Polo Club Lounge and Hotel Le Marais' Vivo. I tried a ginger mint julep at the former and a Southern Peach Tea at the latter, and both were equally delicious, or what I can remember of them. And a special shout out to SoBou at the W.
  • Best Hotel Brunch in the City: I haven't tried them all, and certainly I would recommend the Court of Two Sisters for brunches in general (love that outdoor jazz!), but indoors I give it to the Hyatt Regency. Not only are the eggs, biscuits, grits, et al delicious, but they are served by some sweet Creole waitresses, or at least one. Service is top-notch and you won't feel like you have to scurry out any time soon.
  • Best Downviews: another tie - this time between the Maison Dupuy to its pool/French courtyard area and the aforementioned Hyatt's larger pool-with-cabana area.
  • Best Place to Fall in Love with a Parrot: The Hotel Modern. I never knew I was brave enough to hold any bird, let alone one who had allegedly nibbled a bit on one of the clerks. But "Miss Scarlett" was pure sweetness and light with me, and I attribute a lot of that to Kirk, the clerk who handed her over and told me I could do it.
  • Best Place for Shrimp Corn Dogs: Café Adelaide at Loews' Swizzle Stick Bar. Okay, I'm not really sure if it's possible to get these anywhere else, but I loved them so much I would say they should be a city staple, sort of like the red-beans-and-rice for the fairground-goes-uptown crowd. These aren't your summer vacation corndogs, y'all.
  • Best Place to Stay Up all Night and Get Lucky: The Hyatt's downstairs club, where on a recent visit this examiner spied several twentysomethings getting their Daft Punk on till the wee hours. Okay, I was asleep by 12, but I imagine they did. Close second: Astor Crowne, where a fabulous bar awaits you before you head out for another hurricane on Bourbon, just around the corner.
  • Best Place for a Massage: Tie between Loews and the Windsor Court, where, by the way, the music-and-lighting and cushy robes are worth the price of admission in themselves.
  • Best Rooftop Pool: This is an impossible category. Bless you, New Orleans, for having so many rooftop pools, one of this examiner's favorite city treats. The pool at the aforementioned Astor Crowne at night is enchanting, what with its romantic neon lighting melding so beautifully with those melodic barks from Bourbon. Truly, it's the perfect spot to watch the action on New Orleans' most famous block without getting a string of beads thrown around your neck. Runner-up: the Windsor Court is a beautiful swim, and exiting onto the fourth floor you're high up but not so high as to experience vertigo.

That's it for today: Tomorrow, where to take your pooch and where to most easily hop on the streetcar.

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