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The Honeymooners from London have returned, having had a marvellous time in Washington D.C., Louisiana/NO, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, San Francisco & Sonoma (CA), and Chicago IL. Thanks for all the advice we received at short notice - here's a shor

The Honeymooners from London have returned, having had a marvellous time in Washington D.C., Louisiana/NO, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, San Francisco & Sonoma (CA), and Chicago IL. Thanks for all the advice we received at short notice - here's a shor

Old May 16th, 2000, 10:56 AM
  #1  
sabrina nugara
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The Honeymooners from London have returned, having had a marvellous time in Washington D.C., Louisiana/NO, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, San Francisco & Sonoma (CA), and Chicago IL. Thanks for all the advice we received at short notice - here's a shor

To all who gave us such useful hints, tips, advice and recommendations - and anyone who would like to pick up some helpful info.

Washington DC - ABSOLUTE MUST SEEs/DOs:
1) Old Tram Trolley Tour - thanks to the advice from this forum, we did this first which was a great help in getting our bearings, choosing which specific places/monuments to visit especially if you only have a short time (we only had 2 days), and also in seeing some other areas you might not have the time to visit.

2) Holocaust Museum - a profoundly moving experience. Be aware that you need a 'timed' ticket to enter the main exhibition. Our advice would be to let everyone else rush there for 8am, and instead take a leisurely stroll towards the museum via some of the main monuments (ie. we strolled from The White House [skipping the tour], Washington, Lincoln and Vietnam War memorials and The Malland). Get there by mid-day instead and pick up a ticket for a late pm slot. This might give you the time to stroll back to the Smithsonian Institute of your choice (and you'll probably only have time for one).
The advantage is the Museum will probably be less crowded and you'll have the time you need to yourself within the exhibition. Allow 2 hrs.

I should also add we did not have a particularly pleasant stay at the Renaissance Mayflower. On arrival (after 8 hr flight) we found we had been allocated the wrong room (despite our room reservation and allocation having been booked and confirmed 6mths in advance). When this was politely pointed out at the Front Desk we received a rather impolite response whilst it was corrected. Got to the room to find the bathroom unclean, and a ripped sheet on the bed - on our 1st day on honeymoon!!! Won't be staying there again.

NEW ORLEANS:
1) A horse carriage tour in French Quarter. OK, it costs $50, but worth every penny for the great banter and an interesting way to view this unique area. Good for getting one's bearings (as with Trolley Tour).

2) Walk around French Quarter. There's no other way to experience it, I think we were so lucky to have good weather and 4 days to take our time and walk the length and breadth of it.

3) Cafe du Monde - absolute must for beignets, cafe au lait and people-watching - as we were lucky to do during the Easter parade! In fact we loved this place so much we were there every day.

4) French Market - anyone who loves food, markets and shopping should go. When you've had enough / bought enough, cross over to Nora's Bar for some dirty rice, jambalaya or just a nice cold glass of ice tea.

5) Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse - loved this place SO much we went twice; we couldn't get into the Commander's Palace (quel surprise) but I don't think we missed it in the end.

6) Felix's Cafe - the best crawfish, oysters and PO'BOYS - well, just the best lunch ever

7) Royal Street - stroll down, take in the beauty of the antique shops, and inevitably you'll make your way to a street performer. The music (as you'd expect) was great, cheaper than most concerts I've been to, and much more atmospheric.

8) Riverwalk - a bit further off the beaten track, but this made a relaxing and pleasant change (esp. from the sun) to stroll by the river bank. Take steps up from Cafe du Monde.

We stayed at the Chateau Sonesta, and got upgraded to junior suites as honeymooners. However, I would willingly pay the standard rate for any room in this hotel for the high level of service, comfort and food quality. We will be coming back here again!

PLANTATION COUNTRY:
1) Laura Plantation - if you are really interested in this historical period, this is the one place to go above all others. Excellent tour given by guides of Creole descent (adding to the authenticity of information and historial background). We stayed in a cottage on the grounds at Oak Alley Plantation, and did this tour also, but felt it lacked the resonance of Laura.

2) B & C Seafood - a small, unassuming sort of place but forget the decor and go for the food - fresh, spicy with a home-cooked feel. Get there early - they close at 7pm!

CAJUN COUNTRY:
1) Jean Lafitte Museum - go and see the orientation film, but spend some time in the exhibit hall. In particular, check out the reel of stand-up comedians- highly entertaining.

2) Vermillionville - do this after the Museum(it's just down the road), and allow 2 hours to really enjoy this re-enactment of life in a Cajun village, complete with extremely knowledgeable guides in costume. Or join in with the cookery or dance/Cajun music lessons (held at different times during the day).

3) Prejean's - Cajun in a nutshell: food, music, atmosphere; just fantastic. Get there early (6.30pm) to enjoy the live music.

4) Bois des Chenes/Swamp Tour - Bois des Chenes is a plantation house revamped by the current owners, who also run one of the best swamp tours in this area. The Voorhies family are extremely gracious people, and Coorte and Kim Voorhies (father & son)run a very intelligent tour of the various swamps in the area. The rooms in the plantation are 'themed' (we stayed in the beautiful Victorian style room with four poster)and filling breakfasts are served in a communal room in the main house.

SAN FRANCISCO:
1)Ride the cable car from Powell & Mason to Fisherman's Wharf - but be prepared for a 20-30 min wait to go back down again!! Don't think I spotted this piece of info on the forum so be aware of it. Most visitors tend to stay around Union Square, so come up to the Wharf in the morning - of course, everyone tends to return around the same time, and hence the loooonnng waiting time.
But do it anyway - it's definitely worth it.

2) Alcatraz - yes, you have to do this, but book your tickets as early in advance as possible. This way, you'll only pay 12.25 instead of the $35 we paid that was a combined tour of Angel Island and Alcatraz. This turned out to be quite a fun half day, but I would still have preferred to have done Alcatraz only. I believe they have a website so you could even book tickets that way, and pick them up at the pre-paid booth.

3) Boudin Sourdough chilli bowl - you have to have one, they're wonderful. Located on the Wharf, close to Pier 43 1/2.

4) World Market - if you have time, pop in here for some unusual foodie/other gifts to take back.

5) Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum - fun for kids (and adults!) - an eclectic collection of the bizarre, unusual and plain weird and wonderful. At Fisherman's Wharf.

We stayed at the Maxwell, formerly the Rafael. It was OK, I wouldn't shout home about it.

SANTA ROSA, SONOMA:
1) Hotel La Rose - wonderful colonial style hotel, but try and get a room in the courtyard section across the road - they are elegant, spacious and luxuriant in feel. Breakfast is served in the main hotel. Across from the hotel is A'Roma - pop in here for a great choice of tea and coffee.

2) Winery visits - we tried some both in Sonoma and Napa, and we're biased towards Sonoma - probably because there was less of a crowd, particularly at the smaller ones (eg. Bartholomew Park) We would also recommend Edgewood - across from which is a Dean & Deluca! Visit the bigger wineries (eg. Sutter Home) either very early or towards the end of the day.

We'd also recommend stopping at the visitor centres FIRST to pick up some useful guides that will advise you where the various wineries are and they're opening hours.

3) Vella Cheese Factory / Sonoma Cheese Factory - Vella is lesser known of the two (for visitors) but we had an insider tip to buy our cheeses there. Either are great.

4) Ristorante Capri - a jewel of a restaurant, whose owner personally welcomes everyone to their table. The food was exceptional, at reasonable prices.

CHICAGO:
1) Stayed at the Regal Knickerbocker. A great place, and an excellent location as someone confirmed for me in answer to a query for shopping on Michigan Avenue.

2) John Hancock Tower - yes, you have to do this. We went early morning (ie. 10am) when it wasn't crowded, though the ticket was a bit steep ($17.90 for 2 adults).

3) Cheesecake Factory/Gino's Pizzeria - both of these places were recommended to us, and lived up to the expectation. Though we find it daunting to wait 1 hr 20 mins from getting a tag to receiving our first course, it was an experience not to have been missed. Gino's was recommended to me once by a colleague 2 years ago, so we were delighted to find it still there. It may not look much on the outside, but the pizzas are the real thing and we could have eaten our meal all over again if we'd had room.

I hope this is of interest to anyone, and I would certainly be happy to answer any questions while the knowledge is still fresh!
Sabrina
 
Old May 16th, 2000, 11:46 AM
  #2  
Frank
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Great trip report. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip/honeymoon! All the best to you!
 
Old May 16th, 2000, 12:03 PM
  #3  
charles
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Thank you for letting us know how it went. COngratulations.
 
Old May 16th, 2000, 02:27 PM
  #4  
CMcDaniel
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sabrina...what a fantastic honeymoon!! Thanks for taking the time to write the review. It was interesting, as always, to see what folks have liked and disliked! Enjoyed especially your NO review--my husband started with hotels there 30 years ago and Felix's was one of our lunch spots even in those days.

Best wishes. You are surely off to a grand start!
 
Old May 16th, 2000, 02:45 PM
  #5  
lisa
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Thanks for the detailed report! You hit some wonderful places. Sorry the Mayflower left so much to be desired, but hope you'll come back to Washington another time for a longer stay so you can see more. Congratulations & best wishes!
 
Old May 16th, 2000, 03:50 PM
  #6  
Debbie
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Sabrina - wonderful reading your trip report. Didn't know you could have a 'heading' that lengthy !! Congrats on the wedding.
 
Old May 17th, 2000, 07:41 AM
  #7  
martha python
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Thanks for the report. Have you written to Marriott to complain about your experience at the Mayflower? They might try to buy back your affections with a free stay or something.
 
Old May 17th, 2000, 06:43 PM
  #8  
Tim
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Glad you had good time. My wife and I (from Memphis) will take our first trip to London next week. Any wisdom for two first timers?
 
Old May 18th, 2000, 06:33 AM
  #9  
sabrina
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Hi Martha,
Actually, I was so steamed up (and of course the reverse jet lag didn't help as neither of us slept particularly well that first night) that I was up at 6.30am writing a 3 page letter to the manager that we delivered later that morning.

When we returned, we found a bottle of champagne and some chocolate-dipped strawberries waiting for us, with a note of apology.

I'm not saying we weren't grateful, but we did feel it was a little too late. Reason being, our travel broker bent backwards for us to ensure all the hotels we stayed in (4 & 5 star) knew without doubt we were on honeymoon, with faxes being sent to them all 1 week before we arrived. We were quite disappointed, therefore, that a hotel of this calibre couldn't even get the right room allocated, never mind anything else!

But then, everyone has different experiences in the same hotels, and in response to an earlier note we would certainly love to go back to Washington again to see the areas we missed. I just think we'll probably try another of the fine hotels that have been recommended in other postings...


Sabrina
 
Old May 18th, 2000, 10:23 AM
  #10  
Sabrina
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Message for Tim:

Tim,

Rather than you wading through all the above (!), I've e-mailed you direct using the address in your posting. Hope you get it! - Sabrina
 
Old May 18th, 2000, 10:53 AM
  #11  
Beth
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I suggest you write to the manager of the Mayflower. It really has an excellent reputation, and your experience is not the norm. We have very high level clients who stay there and are always satisfied. It may not get you any satisfaction other than venting, but management really needs to know this. Corrections can't be made if complaints aren't voiced (to the right level, that is). Otherwise, congratulations!!
 
Old May 18th, 2000, 02:30 PM
  #12  
J.M.
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COngrats to two adventurous and obviously romantic people on your wedding!

Thanks also for the excellent review of your trip. Some really good info in there.
 
Old May 18th, 2000, 02:36 PM
  #13  
sabrina
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From one Sabrina to another, congrats on the nuptials and thanks for sharing your honeymoon adventure with us. Especially glad that you had a great time in my hometown, Chicago. Next time we'll have to get you out to a Cubs game and a blues joint!
 
Old May 19th, 2000, 08:24 AM
  #14  
Gina
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Sabrina, glad you had such a great time! Just one quick note on the Holocaust Museum--it depends on the time of year, but sometimes waiting until midday to stop at the Museum and pick up timed tickets is not advisable. Tour groups, particularly school groups, can often fill up the day's worth of bookings very early. I once decided to stroll to the Holocaust Museum on a Wednesday in mid-March, and was amazed to find that by noon all the tickets for the day were gone.

It's hard to predict which days will be most crowded, unfortunately. If you really want to make sure of a time and date to visit, you can get tickets from Ticketmaster (local number 202-432-SEAT); no fee for the tickets but Ticketmaster charges "processing fees."
 
Old May 20th, 2000, 07:30 PM
  #15  
Samantha
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Sabrina - I was one that gave a small bit of advice to you (I think it was about Chicago AND San Francisco) and I had been wondering how your honeymoon went. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and am glad you enjoyed Boudin's in S.F. - just reading about it brought back yummy memories. Many happy years of marriage to you and your husband and I hope another vacation to the States is in your future.
 

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