Monday, August 18, 2014

On Medical Leave

Unfortunately, I sprained my typing finger and now it's in a splint until Labor Day.  Per doctor's orders, your humble narrator will be on medical leave until the splint comes off.  

We are just about full for the month of October.  If you're looking for someplace to stay while visiting New Orleans in September or November, however, we still have plenty of room.  The same is true for most of next year.  We look forward to meeting you.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Everything Looks Crummy in New Orleans

Louisiana maid
"The Spirit of Louisiana" is a painting that hangs in the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) at the end of our street (Esplanade Avenue).  Louisiana used to be a lot bigger.  Think of the Louisiana Purchase, which more than doubled the size of the United States of America.  New Orleans is going to celebrate its 300th birthday in two years.  That's pretty old, depending on where you come from.  If you come from Iowa or Alaska, it's almost incomprehensibly old, like Mesopotamia.

Frau Schmitt chides me when I say it, and she is usually right about these things, but I like to say that things look crummy in New Orleans.  Do they?  Not to us, but we live here.  We're used to it.  If you're used to everything looking new and spiffy, well, New Orleans can look kind of crummy.  It's a city that's been lived in for a long time.  We just got a Panera, but we still don't have a TGIFriday's, an Olive Garden, or a Chipotle Grill.  You have to go to the suburbs or to another kind of city for these things.  We do have Popeye's.  
A dead lizard at Fort Pike, New Orleans
Even the new buildings look old.  That's what happens when you live in the tropics.  It's humid here.  If you walk the sidewalks at night, palmetto bugs, which look exactly like big cockroaches, will scuttle out of your way into the grass.  The condition of the sidewalks are atrocious.  Watch your step.  The views are beautiful.  They'll make your heart ache.  They'll make you wish you were staying longer.  They'll make you wish you live here.  It's a magical place.  It just looks crummy in some (most) places.  That's just the way things are.

New Orleans is beautiful on its own terms.

Be not afraid.  
Snapper turtles for sale
If you find yourself on Japonica Street, next to the Industrial Canal in the Upper 9th Ward, you can buy live snapper turtles.  It takes all day to make good turtle soup.  We made it once and we ate turtle soup for a month.  We eat it at restaurants, now, by the bowl; it's more efficient that way.  Make sure to ask for extra sherry.  Make sure it's made with real turtle meat.  Some places just use chopped up veal, thinking nobody will know the difference.  You know what kind of places those are?  

Places that look crummy are usually crowded.  Tourists don't even realize there's an open restaurant behind the boarded up windows.  Most people like it that way.  I'm agnostic on this matter, but I've made it my mission to find the best turtle soup in the city.  I have a couple places I like.  I like Jack Dempsey's, which is out of the way, in the Bywater.  The walls inside are unpainted particle board. Most people go to Bachannal instead.  To each his or her own.

Frau Schmitt and I tend to agree, except when the discussion turns to Mena's Palace.  Neither of us knows what to make of Mena's Palace.  It's in the French Quarter.  There's better turtle soup in plenty of other places.  We recommend Mena's Palace for other dishes.  The ones we like best at Mena's are dirty dishes.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Creole New Orleans

Three houses on Esplanade Avenue
Frau Scmitt and I know a secret.  It's not about the ziploc bags full of water and pennies.  I covered that a couple days ago.  And it's not that only the orange house in the middle of Esplanade Avenue is a B&B, that the blue house and the green house are just our neighbors.  The secret is that Frau Scmitt is from Germany.  The second half of it is that your humble narrator hails from Connecticut.

Regular readers won't be surprised by this revelation, but people who take the city bus tours will be.  The buses regularly stop in front of our house so that people can take pictures.  Why?  As the tour guides like to say, these three houses are textbook examples of Creole color schemes.  

Frau Scmitt and I picked the colors for La Belle Esplanade, at 2216 Esplanade Avenue.  The person who chose the colors for the blue house at 2212 Esplanade Avenue is Greek.  We run into her at the Greek Festival every spring.  As to who chose the color scheme for the green house at 2222 Esplanade Avenue, we're not at liberty to say.  They're not native New Orleanians; they're successful transplants.    Whenever I run into them, I'm reminded of the motto on the Connecticut State Seal.
Sigillum Reipublicae Connecticutensis
The banner sez: Qui Transtulit Sustinet, "He Who Transplants, Sustains."  I always like the original version of the seal better, where the Hand of God is involved:
Colonial Connecticut Seal
The houses are painted in Creole colors, don't get me wrong.  When I go into some of the more out-of-the-way neighborhoods, these are the kind of colors I see.  Not everything colorful is Creole, however.  I was talking to a historian recently and he told me that, when they were built, all the houses on the block were probably white. 

There is an orange house around the corner from us and I'm pretty sure the colors weren't chosen because of any lingering ancestral Gallic joie-de-vivre.  It's an unsubstantiated hunch somebody told me about.  

I was reading the New Orleans Advocate today when I came across an advertisement for a new exhibit at The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) in the French Quarter.  It features the work of the photographer, Richard Sexton.  I met him once when he was standing at the very tip of Gayarre Place, the park across the street from us.  We introduced each other and I googled him afterward.  He's legit.  

As if having his own website isn't enough, Mr. Sexton also has a new book out, Creole World, a collection of his photographs, some of which are on display at THNOC.  I had forgotten all about our chance meeting until this morning when I saw the advertisement for the show's opening in the newspaper.  The illustration chosen to represent the show was a photo of La Belle Esplanade and her immediate neighbors.
Photo taken by your humble narrator
I had a sense of deja-vu.  It was like that time my mother called to tell us we were in the New York Times.  (We're in the article's last illustration if you don't want to read the whole link.  You should read it.)

That day I met Sexton came flooding back to me.  You know what else came flooding back to me?  A few weeks ago, Frau Schmitt came home with a copy of Creole World.  I went to the shelves in the lobby where we keep all the New Orleans books and I sat on the couch to see if our inn is really in this book.  I started from back to front, which is always bad advice, but I finally found the picture.  We're featured on page xli, in the introduction.  We've got the whole page to ourselves, except for our neighbors.  

This remains my favorite picture of La Belle Esplanade:
A photo from 2012
It was taken by our first guests.

I always say that this is your home while you stay here.  Why?  Because home is where the heart is.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade Bed and Breakfast.
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