When I was planning my trip to New Orleans with Michal, I scoured my usual sites for a place we could stay. Airbnb options were either too far away from the French Quarter action or else too expensive, and every hotel within our budget was boring. At a loss, I googled, “Best cheap places to stay in New Orleans” (always Google everything), and Auberge Nouvelle appeared at the top of a list.
I’ve never stayed in a hostel before. I have vague images of hostels as either being the setting of a horror movie or else populated by super cool hipsters. Not wanting to be raped, murdered, or belittled, I avoided hostels when making travel plans. But Auberge Nouvelle offered beds in a women-only room for just $30 a night, so my budget-conscious side won the argument.
Auberge Nouvelle initially seems removed from New Orleans action. Its trendy exterior is sandwiched between older, more decrepit buildings on a street empty of stores or restaurants. I worried I had made a terrible decision when we first taxied to its door. However, the hostel’s location is perfectly situated between two of New Orleans’ hot spots: the French Quarter and the Garden District. Both are an easy half hour or less walk away, and we caught the trolley just two blocks away on St. Charles Avenue.
The adorably kept up house immediately discounted my murderer fears, but it was full of super cool hipsters. We were greeted by a guy from Manchester who is working at the hostel for a couple months before continuing to travel through the United States. Between his accent and the fluffy puppy that hung out in the office, I was quickly charmed by hostel life.
Michal and I were given top bunks in a room for six girls. More careful than me, Michal slept with her bag in the bunk, while I threw my stuff in a corner along with a naive (but validated) trust in humanity. The beds were just shaky enough to make me fear for my safety, though once lying down they were comfortable. We had control of the AC, and there were enough end tables and shelves around to keep six people’s suitcases separated.
More importantly, the bathrooms were excellent. With two toilets, two showers, and two sinks, I never had to wait for anything. It was cleaned every afternoon, fresh towels and full soaps decorating the sinks. Although I didn’t need it, I appreciated a shelf in the back of the bathroom where people left toiletries for future guests. Eager to avoid a bursting bag of liquids on my return flight, I left mousse and lotion behind.
In many ways, I am not an ideal hostel guest. As an introvert, I avoided the common kitchen like the plague. Eat breakfast with strangers? No thank you. There was a room with a gigantic movie screen that I never visited for fear of interacting with other human beings. I just wanted a cheap place to sleep, and I wasn’t in the mood to make new friends.
However! I quickly changed my mind when, on the first night, I ran into a girl from Canada in the bathroom. Emily was finishing a week in New Orleans, and she shared a lot of suggestions of places to visit and places to avoid. She cracked me up with stories of hurling beads back at men on Bourbon Street, and she ordered me to take sunscreen on the kayak tour so that I wouldn’t share her first degree leg burns. I still wasn’t anxious to join the group playing Cards Against Humanity downstairs, but I appreciated the opportunity to meet people from different countries and learn about their experiences in the United States.
Michal and I spent our downtime in a little nook of a room at the back of the second floor. They had stacks of magazines from various countries and a bookshelf full of used novels. While waiting for our Uber to the airport, I fell asleep there. When I awoke from a power nap fifteen minutes later, I was shocked to discover a man sitting at the table nearby and a woman sitting beside me on the loveseat. None of us spoke to each other, and I fell in love with the simple coexistence of strangers quietly living their lives together. Then I left, because it also weirded me out a little.
Although I think hostels are better suited for extroverts who love meeting new people and participating in group activities, I would definitely return to Auberge Nouvelle. It is extremely clean, friendly, and efficient. The guests that I interacted with were kind and helpful. Despite being in a party town, I was never awakened by women returning to the room late at night. It was much more exciting than staying a hotel, and much more convenient than staying with Airbnb, and so cheap. I’m happy to have a new option when traveling to new cities.