Monday, September 29, 2014

What will you see in New Orleans?

View from the field in the Superdome
As I write this, our blog got 249 readers today.  Small beer, to be sure, but it almost sets a record for people checking in on what's going on in our small corner of New Orleans.  What drew people to read the wonderful prose your humble narrator offers up once or twice a week?  I don't know.  There's no accounting for taste.  So what do you want to know about?

Let's start out with a disappointment.
Dixie Beer sign
Dixie Beer is a New Orleans original.  The original brewery was on Tulane Avenue, a few blocks uptown from our house.  Since Katrina, it's been abandoned and the property was taken by the VA to build a big new VA hospital.  The good news is that the big brewery building is going to be incorporated into the hospital campus instead of being torn down as originally planned.  The other good news is that you can still buy a six pack of Dixie at most local grocers.  The bad news is that it's brewed in Milwaukee.  At least it's still around.

The Falstaff brewery building is still around, too.  It's apartments now.  I've posted pictures of it before so I won't waste your time doing it again.  You can trawl through the archives if you're so inclined.  That will be good for traffic.  Regal was another big local brew.  That brewery was torn down to build the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street.  The fourth local beer was Jax.  The Jax Brewery is also still standing, a few blocks uptown of Jackson Square in the French Quarter.  It's a shopping mall filled with sad shops and cell phone accessory kiosks.  Have a good time.

Not everything is forlorn in New Orleans, though it sometimes looks that way.  The reverse is true.  It's a vibrant and happy place.  Everyone is friendly.  We find this to be true, but we've lived here long enough to pass as natives.  Our guests tell us the same thing, even if they have a foreign accent, like from the UK or Switzerland or Iowa or Australia or Malaysia or Lebanon or Kenya or Cuba.  Everyone they meet is nice and they swap stories and if our guests are lost the people who live here give them directions and they also often give them something to drink on a hot day, or shelter if its raining.  It's that kind of a city.
La France Suite balcony
I was talking to someone who will remain nameless and she suggested that I email our previous guests to let them know what's going on at the inn and what specials we're offering.  I don't know about you, but I don't like to find a lot of spam email in my inbox trying to sell me things.  YMMV.  She was the kind of person who said LOL instead of laughing.  It wasn't endearing.

I'm toying with the idea of an email newsletter, but I figure that anyone who is really interested in keeping up with La Belle Esplande, or with la dolce vita, will read this blog.  If not, well, they don't know what they're missing and it isn't much anyway.  Ignorance is bliss.  That's always been my usual modus operandi.  

This woman who will remain nameless asked me if we blog about the inn.  Well, sort of, I said.  "Do you post recipes and top ten lists?  They generate a lot of traffic and interest."  Well, no, we don't do that.  I just write about whatever I write about.  It could be anything or nothing.  Mostly it's a smidge more than nothing and a bit less than interesting.  I hope you've read this far... all 249 of you today.
A $250 a night hotel room.  Not La Belle Esplanade
It's the La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast blog (just look at the header) so I feel kind of obligated to talk about La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast fairly frequently.  We're in New Orleans, so I feel obligated to talk about New Orleans.  Everyone is interested in what's happening in New Orleans.  It's like magic here.  If you leave disappointed, you'd better check your pulse to make sure it's still beating.

What other material do we cover?  This.  That.  Whatnot.  The pictures sometimes match up with the words in some way.  I take the pictures with my phone.  I make it all up as I go along.  We do the same thing at breakfast when we're talking with guests.  Like the people who live here, we live here, so we're open to serendipitous twists.  The conversation can go any which way.  It makes things interesting, even during the pregnant pauses.  It's very romantic where we live.  Good memories are made here.

If you're looking for a colorful bed and breakfast, I have a suggestion.  What's this blog about again?  Ah, yes!  It's about the 2nd-most beautiful street in New Orleans: Esplanade Avenue.  Ours is a marvelous neighborhood.  It's missing something, though.  It's missing you.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B (Part IV)

2216 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
Today we reach the conclusion of the series of blog posts that many people have been waiting for us to conclude.  I can't blame them.  We like to save the best for last.  Then, we follow up with something else.  Life is good in New Orleans.

Our Iowa correspondent ended her list with one final comparison of what it is like to stay at the Hyatt in the Central Business District and La Belle Esplanade, what many people call: The most unique B&B in New Orleans (TM).  Who says that?  People.  The same people who are waiting for me to finish this series.

So, what is this last comparison?  Okay, I'll tell you:

Hotel:  Staff doing their job.

B&B:  New friends making you feel welcome!!

Sort of a damp squib of a denouement, don't you think?  I didn't add those two exclamation points.  She did it and she's right.  You have two friends in New Orleans.
Tammie the Housekeeper
We had a consultant visit us recently, a real expert in the hospitality field.  This guy knows his stuff.  He was passing through town and stayed with us for a night.  He was a nice enough chap and he didn't want to bother us, even when the smoke alarm battery was low in his room.  Every minute for a couple of hours:  Beep.....Beep.... Beep.  

I asked him, "Why didn't you call us?  Didn't I say that you aren't bothering us if you need to call?  Frau Schmitt and I are only fifty feet away, even if we can't hear the alarm going off."  He said he didn't want to bother us.  That bothers us. A guest's comfort is our primary concern.  We're professional innkeepers, after all.  The worst part is that I changed that battery last month.  Duracell isn't all it's cracked up to be.  

Anyhow, he pulled me aside on his way out to tell me, "Don't tell Frau Schmitt I told you this, but you two should teach classes on how to be professional innkeepers.  You two are what every innkeeper aspires to be.  You're good.  You're two of the best."  I promised not to tell Frau Schmitt but why he didn't want me to, I have no idea.

I have a pretty good idea why he told me the next thing.

He pulled me further aside and whispered, "Don't tell Tammie the Housekeeper this, but she's a housekeeper's housekeeper.  She's discreet and attentive to details.  She deserves a raise."

Believe me, I'm not telling Tammie the Housekeeper that, especially that last part.  

Tammie the Housekeeper is certainly discreet, though.  Even when she's supposed to be around, I don't know where she is half the time.  She's like a ghost.  I found her this afternoon reading a comic book in the dining room.  "Did you clean Le Pelican Suite yet?" I asked.

She looked up.  "I did it about a half hour ago," she answered before she went back to reading.  "Where do you get this old copy of The Brave & The Bold?" she asked.  It was the issue starring Batman and Wildcat---I know you don't care.
Sticker from Crescent City Comics on Freret Street, New Orleans
There's no point in lying.  I get them at Crescent City Comics on Freret Street.  They have boxes of old comics books, 20 for $10.00.  Most of them aren't worth reading, but the new ones are even less so and those cost three bucks or more for one.  Very, very few of our guests are interested in comic book shops, but when they are, I send them to Freret Street.  Nice guys.  Professionals.  I visit every two months or so just to check in.

No matter what you're looking for in New Orleans, remember, you have two friends here...and then there's Tammie the Housekeeper who you will probably never see.  There's something to be said for that.

Want to know what else that professional innkeeper told me when he pulled me aside?  He said, "This was the most unique breakfast I've eaten in months.  It's tops."  Then, he asked me for the address of the Buttermilk Drop Bakery where I got the donuts that morning.  It's a few blocks away from our house, on North Dorgenois Street.  They have a new website.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B (Part III)

World's Largest Cuckoo Clock
I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking how long can he drag out this "New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B" series?  Probably to a part IV.  Sometimes, it's a long slog to cover all the bases, but it's worth it when you finally reach home.

I know what else you're thinking.  You're thinking why is he using the same pictures from last post?  What do these pictures have to do with anything, anyway?  I could give you the easy answer, tell you I'm lazy, but that isn't it.  I have my reasons.  I'm an artiste.  It doesn't have to make sense.
Does voodoo work?
So, if this your first time reading our blog and you don't know what's going on, here's the skinny: a recent guest from Iowa, of all places, sent me a comparison of what it was like to stay at La Belle Esplanade B&B and what it was like to stay at the Hyatt down in the Central Business District.  She kindly gave her permission to reprint it here.  I'm doing it in installments.  Why installments?  I'm a little light on material at the moment---plus, I'm an artiste.  Timing is everything.
Voodoo works
Hotel:  Free water if you turned on the tap in the bathroom.  Everything else cost money.  They nickel-and-dimed us after we checked in.

B&B:  A small refrigerator stocked with a complementary selection of local beer, some wine, some juice, a bottle of New Orleans own sweet Big Shot soda, a carafe of filtered water, and some whatnot like a praline. 

Hotel:  A large screen TV.

B&B:  A small TV with basic cable.  We never turned it on.  In New Orleans, life is too interesting for TV.

Hotel:  Industrial carpet glued to a cement floor.

B&B:  Refinished original hardwood floors worn smoothly dimpled by uncountable tiptoed footsteps since 1883.  No splinters, either.

Hotel:  Standard furniture designed to pack tightly into a Chinese shipping container.  Furniture store art.

B&B:  Lovely antiques mixed with some comfortable modern pieces.  It wasn't grandma's house, but it wasn't pre-fabricated, either.  Historical prints mixed with original oil paintings by a local artist we got to meet.

Hotel:  No surprises.

B&B:  One delightful discovery after another.  Personality.
Joy Theater, Canal Street, New Orleans
I'll be honest with you, the inside of the Saenger Theater on Canal Street is breathtaking.  The sign outside is a showstopper, too, but I still prefer the Joy Theater.  When those three letters light up over the marquee, I always think, "This is New Orleans."  I even think this during broad daylight.  For me, the Joy marquee sums up the city.

I still prefer the inside of the Saenger, and Frau Schmitt agrees with me.  She is usually right about these things.  They did a bang-up job in there.  If you ever have a chance just to go into the lobby, you should.  The Joy, not so much.

So, there is still one thing left to compare between staying at a New Orleans hotel and staying in a New Orleans B&B (our much anticipated conclusion).  This list doesn't apply to all B&Bs, of course, only the one in which our far-flung correspondent spent her too-short time in this magical city we call home.  To learn what that is, tune back in later this week.

Until then...
A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

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