Oysters and Pearls: Luxury NOLA

New Orleans is set amid a gulf, a river, and a lake. The city has had a sometimes contentious relationship with bodies of water, but it also relies on their generous bounty. Whether served fried on a po' boy or chilled on the half shell, the humble oyster is an unforgettable part of New Orleans cuisine. The creature's byproduct, the precious pearl, appears everywhere from well-appointed antique shops to Mardi Gras museums. One of the most inviting bodies of water may well be your hotel pool, set on a rooftop and ideal for a postprandial rest. 
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Omni Royal Orleans

621 St. Louis Street, New Orleans, LA 70140

I stayed here with a well-heeled friend, and even she was pleased by the amenities. The lobby is golden, airy and inviting. The restaurant is typically decorated for a fine hotel; the breakfasts were lovely and the coffee strong. My favorite part was the rooftop pool. I felt like I had an exclusive view of the city from on high and could observe little moments happening all around. Street parking is difficult to find in the quarter, especially because most of nearby Conti is reserved for police vehicles, but otherwise the location is ideal; it's only steps to Jackson Square, to the galleries on Royal, and only a few more to Bourbon, if that's your thing.

Le Méridien New Orleans

333 Poydras St., New Orleans, LA 70130

There are two W hotels in downtown New Orleans. The French Quarter location is a little more intimate and boutique-feeling. This one, in the Central Business District, is large and sleek. Walk into the gate off bustling Poydras and already you'll feel more serene, surrounded by cool colors and angular everything. The rooftop pool is intimate, surrounded by commodious chaises and serviced by an outdoor cabana bar. The pool deck plays host to events like sunset yoga, fashion shows and pool parties, open to the public on summer Sundays.

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Casamento's Restaurant

4330 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

This place, located on a stretch of Magazine populated by mostly local businesses, doesn't look like much. The front has a classic tiled look, but inside it takes on the appearance of a neglected diner. The only thing that tips you off to what's about to happen is the line of people - from well-dressed business travelers to gaggles of teens - waiting for a table. Casamento's has the best raw oysters I've ever eaten. Period. They're also reasonably priced, about a dollar each when ordered by the dozen. The oyster loaf is great, as are the fried seafood dinners, but they're not what makes this place exceptional. If you don't want to wait, arrive early.

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333 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

The brunch at Luke is spectacular. Eggs in a jar, simple enough in name, sometimes feature an entire fried soft shell crab creeping out of a clear glass dish layered with eggs and grits. The pancakes are perfect and there's always something on the menu for kids. One of the best reasons to come is for the oyster happy hour. The bivalves are 50 cents each from 3-6 PM seven days a week, so there's no shame in ordering a dozen (or two) for yourself.

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Arnaud's French 75 Bar

813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Arnaud's is one of the Grand Dames of the French Quarter, recognized among locals and visitors alike as an authentic source for perfect creole cuisine. The recipe for trout amandine hasn't changed in decades. The menu features five different preparations of oysters; even more interesting is the secret upstairs Mardi Gras museum, featuring spectacular gowns worn by Germaine Cazenave Wells, daughter of the restaurant's founder Count Arnaud. Theyre beautiful and haunting, imbued with history and covered in sequins and pearls.

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The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans

921 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70112

Behind the headboard of my bed at the Ritz-Carlton stood an enormous damask upholstered board in green and gold. I went home wanting to make one because then I could feel like a princess every day. The lobby of this hotel is on the third floor; it's like the elevator ride from the ground transports you to another world. Everything feels gold and crystal. The fitness center is spectacular (it attracted some of the most attractive people I have ever seen) and the resistance pool looks more like the place for a spa soak. Note that children under 16 aren't allowed in the fitness or spa area.

Acme Oyster House

724 Iberville Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Acme has life-changing chargrilled oysters. I took my mother for some on her first-ever visit to New Orleans. She did not stop talking about them for the year between her visits, and when she returned, her greatest delight was introducing them to my father as if she had invented them herself. That's how possessive you get about these oysters. It may be less glamorous, but if you have a car and don't feel like standing in line, there's another location in the suburbs where the food is just as good and the wait comparatively painless.

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M.S. Rau Antiques

630 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130-2116

The French Quarter is packed with antique and vintage stores of all stripes, and M.S. Rau is the most spectacular. They're known the country (and maybe the world) over, and sometimes just walking by is enough to leave you slack-jawed at the beauty displayed in their windows. From diamonds and pearls to historic objects to works of art, it's like a museum that allows you to take things home - for a price.

Last updated at May 01, 2014