Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why people love New Orleans

A tree in City Park, New Orleans
It looks like there's a mountain in the distance in the lower right corner of that photo.  I don't know what it is, but it certainly isn't a mountain.  There are no mountains, and, really, there aren't any hills to speak of in New Orleans.

Now it's time for my most favorite recurring feature.  Let's open up the old mailbag, shall we?

Today, we received a letter from an avid reader of this blog who was in New Orleans during French Quarter Festival.  We didn't have anything available, unfortunately, so they stayed in a hotel in the city's Central Business District (CBD).  As our correspondent says, it was okay.  She would rather they stayed on picturesque Esplanade Avenue but we only have five suites and we tend to fill up early if something is going on in the city.  Of course, there is always something going on in New Orleans, officially or not.

There's a lesson here: make a reservation with us early.  Unless it's July or August.  We have plenty of room in July and August.  Few people visit New Orleans in the summer but I think it's the best time of the year.  There aren't any lines, the price for everything goes down, and you'll have the run of the city.  It's nice if you can take the humidity.

On to the part of the letter that tickled me:

"...the first thing we did was go to Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House for oysters. (see pic attached).  This advice I got from your blog of course!  You were right!  There was a line at the Acme and a line at Felix's, but not at the Bourbon House and the oysters were huge and delicious!  We went back a second time later in the week."

I did write a blog post about the best oysters in New Orleans in January, but that's not the one she was referring to.  That was the time I ran into the chap from Sedgley, England and I directed him to Casamento's.  That's not the advice our correspondent followed.

She was talking about a more recent entry in the archives, in which your humble narrator dined on oysters with caviar!  That's the blog post about the best oysters in the French Quarter.  There is a difference.  No offense intended to the Bourbon House, but Casamento's really does have the best oysters in town.  'nuff said.

I wasn't going to tell you this, but I've been back to the Bourbon House, myself, a second time.  For the exact same meal.  In five years, I haven't been to Acme or Felix's yet.  There is always too long a line.  I hope nobody learns about the oyster bar at the Bourbon House because there will be a line there, too.

So why do I write about it here?  Because nobody reads this blog.  The secret is safe.

How empty is the Bourbon House oyster bar?  Let's take a look at that attached pic mentioned in the letter:
A man walks into an oyster bar
You might think that guy was pretty lonely sitting all by himself.  I wish I was there that day but I was riding my motor scooter in the Lower 9th Ward investigating a bakery that's opened up down there. Don't worry.  I have it on good authority that he was in very good company, the best kind.  He was with his wife.  

When you order a dozen raw oysters at the Bourbon House, you get a shucker's dozen.  You get thirteen.

Remember, if you are thinking of staying with us, make a reservation early.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sweet dreams come true in New Orleans

A parade went by our house
I know the blog has been a little video clip-intense recently.  I promise this will be last time, until I forget about my promise, of course.  

We are going to see a New Orleans movie this weekend.  No, not Green Lantern and, no, not Planet of the Apes.  We aren't going to see a movie shot at a New Orleans soundstage.  We are going to see a movie about New Orleans.  "The Whole Gritty City."

The film is playing at Indywood, a small theater located at the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue that's in an old laundromat.  It really is a kind of homemade art house affair, with only about 36 comfortably upholstered armchairs in front of the screen and a string of Christmas LEDs to mark out the aisles when the lights go down and the show has started.  The restroom is in the back, behind the curtain.  We don't go often, but we go often enough.  The popcorn is handmade and the person who mans the ticket booth/concession stand (such as it is) is always enthusiastic about having people come in to see a movie.  

Now, I'm going to divert into other, related terrain.  Whenever I'm in one of the neighborhood bars in the Marigny or in the Bywater or on North Carrollton Avenue (are there any bars on South Carrollton Avenue?), somebody inevitably plunks a buck in the jukebox and chooses to hear one song in particular.  What song is it?  Here's the video produced for the original version.  It's a good song, but it gets better when it's pressed through the New Orleans filter.

I don't know how old you are.  Let me tell you something, though, gentle reader.  If you were a high school student in suburban Connecticut lounging around the high school cafeteria with MTV playing in the background while you ate a hamburger made of horse meat and smothered with ketchup that was considered a vegetable under the Reagan administration, that was the video was da bomb.  All eyes were glued to the TV screen.  Yowza!  Welcome to the 80s!  It was followed by Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band.  Click that on link at your peril.  It's pure, painful top 40 goodness.  It does feature Christie Brinkley, or at least a Christie Brinkley lookalike.  Who?  Who cares?  I don't care enough to look it up.  Neither should you.

Being a completist, I'm going to attach another real turd of a video by someone who will be performing in New Orleans later this month.  It will make your parents wonder where they went wrong.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Mr. Marilyn Manson.  You don't need to click play if you don't want to.  You won't be missing much.  Sweet dreams are not made of this version.  If I can be excused for sounding like a grumpy old man, it's like looking at, and listening to, a slophouse trough.

Now that I've established my street cred, I'd like to go on record as saying that that version is a symptom of the decline and fall of Western civilization.  To all of you disgruntled Marilyn Manson fans, keep those angry emails coming!  I read every one.  I don't care how much lipstick you put on that pig, I refuse to kiss it.

So, after sitting through that morass, let's take a listen to this song performed the New Orleans way.  Welcome to New Orleans and it's brass band tradition.  Everything old is new again.  This is the most boring video we offer today.  There's no movement.  It's the best version of this song, though.  Unlock your mind.  Dance like nobody is watching.  Cut loose.  

Turn up the volume and imagine you are in New Orleans.

You are here in spirit.  That's almost as good as being here in person.  Welcome aboard.  New Orleans loves you.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The #1 Rated B&B in New Orleans

Somebody bumped into me when I was taking this picture
We are not ones to boast because we think it brings bad luck.  Nothing lasts forever.  It has been our good fortune to be ranked as the #1 bed and breakfast on Trip Advisor for one solid year as of this month.  To be more explicit, out of 144 B&Bs listed on Trip Advisor in New Orleans, as of this writing (it used to be 146), we have been considered the top of the list for sleep quality, location, rooms, service, value and cleanliness.  YMMV.

It gets better.  Out of 532 lodging options listed on Trip Advisor, we have scored the highest from traveller reviews for one year, month after month.  You won't see that when you filter the results on Trip Advisor.  They tend to steer people toward the bigger hotels, which is fine.  We only have five suites.  We don't want every Tom, Dick and Jane finding us on the front page when they are looking for someplace to stay.  We wouldn't have time to answer the phone.

Our position is unplanned.  It has taken us by surprise just as much as it has everyone else.  As I may have said before, way back in the day when we opened the inn and started this blog, neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator have any background in the hospitality industry.  We've just made it up as we went along.  This isn't to say that just anyone can be Grade A Number One just by opening the door.  It takes some business sense.  It takes the kind of personality that enjoys interacting will all sorts of people.  It takes an encyclopedic knowledge of the city people are visiting.  It takes humility, goodwill and good cheer and attention to detail.  There are angels in the details.  A good innkeeper has to be willing to not have a day off for months at a time.  Thankfully, we love what we do.  It isn't really work when you enjoy your profession.

Being an innkeeper doesn't necessarily require good organizational skills, but it helps if your wife has them (doesn't it always?).  My usual befuddlement about what is going on tends to add to our inn's charm.  I'm quick on my feet when I need to be.
The sign in our foyer

I took the above photo the other night, in the wee still hours of the morning.  The reflection in the glass is our address, 2216, as the moonlight and star shine spill though the transom over our front door.  We live in a magical city.  New Orleans has treated us well.  That is what we try to share with our guests.  Dreams can come true on Esplanade Avenue.

Almost certainly, some young Turks will open a New Orleans B&B, tap into the zeitgeist, and claim the No. 1 position.  Nothing lasts forever.  Almost certainly, one of our fellow innkeepers will again reclaim their rightful place at the top of the list.  You'll notice that I don't call our fellow innkeepers our competition.  There is no competition, or, when there is, it is the most friendliest and convivial sort.  In New Orleans, you only have friends, whether you have met them yet or not.
Mardi Gras flowers in our lobby
We opened La Belle Esplanade in September, 2012.  We would like to thank the many, many guests who have stayed with us and who have shared their experiences with the worldwide web.  

Sometimes, people stay with us and accuse us of having our family or friends plant reviews on various online travel sites.  We've never done that.  Your humble narrator's mother, who is the other person who reads this blog (Hi Mom!) has never written a review on our behalf.  Neither has anyone who hasn't stayed with us.  Nor do we offer discounts or treats to people who do decide to write a review.  Firstly, we are allergic to discounts and, secondly, we believe in honesty.

I learned early on, when I was a wee lad, that honesty is the best policy.  This is one of the few things upon which Frau Schmitt and I both agree, and she is usually right about these things.

We are not young Turks, and we are not New Orleans natives either.  We have only lived in New Orleans five years now, but we call the city home.  The city calls us citizens, and there is no nicer compliment than that, let me tell you.

When you find yourself in the September of your years, we hope you find yourself as happy as your humble narrator.  We hope you meet wonderful, interesting people every day and that you get a chance to share what you know to enrich their time in the wonderful city that you, yourself, call home.

What's that he said?  The title of two Sinatra songs in the same post?  Why, yes, I do believe that's what I said, but I'm not going to share a Sinatra video, or even one of Maurice Chevalier.  I'm sorry to disappoint our regular readers (Hi Carol!) who think they've discovered my method.  Let's end this with The Soul Rebels Brass Band.  The Soul Rebels were at the front of a second line parade that went past our house this afternoon.  Why not?

Sweet dreams are made of this.  Let it roll.  That's jazz.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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