Friday, October 31, 2014

Writing a B&B blog

New Orleans Museum of Art across Big Lake, City Park, New Orleans, LA
Some people ask why I bother to keep our blog so active when, sometimes, it seems like I don't have anything to say.  Can you believe people tell me that?  

Your typical B&B blog will list recipes and things going on the area at the time, and list things, just things.  Blogs that list things are good for SEO traffic (SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization).  Now, regular readers know that I shy away from publishing recipes, schedules and reprinting things that you can find somewhere else.  I don't do this because I want to rank low in Google searches, but more because I don't find blogs that do that very interesting.  I have a confession to make: I don't read a lot of other B&B blogs.  I don't find them very interesting.

How interesting you find our blog is a matter of taste.  I write it, and I'll take my chances whether you find it worth your time.  Some days are better than others.  I admit it.
Sign for the Fair Grounds Race Track, New Orleans, LA
Our inn is located in the middle of Esplanade Avenue.  We measured it yesterday.  We are exactly one mile from Bourbon Street and one mile from City Park.  It's a mile and a half to the very end of Esplanade Avenue at the Mississippi River.  We say it takes 35 minutes to walk to either end of our street, which is an exaggeration unless you are walking slowly.  The first time you walk our street, you'll walk slowly.  There is a lot to see.  After that, it's much faster.

We are a ten minute walk to the Fair Grounds Race Track.  This is important for people who like to play the ponies (opening day is Thanksgiving Day, an important milestone on the New Orleans calendar) and it is important for people who want to go to Jazz Fest.  We are located in an ideal location for people who want to go to Jazz Fest.  We still have a few suites available for the last weekend next year.  We request a four night minimum stay during Jazz Fest.  Why?  Because we like people who are serious about coming to the festival.  Next year we are hosting a couple who got married at Jazz Fest and are coming to celebrate their anniversary.  We're looking forward to it.  We trust they are, too.
Oak trees in City Park, New Orleans, LA
This weekend is Voodoo Fest in City Park, at the lakeside end of our street, about a twenty minute walk away.  Voodoo Fest ends at 11:00 at night and some people are concerned about walking down Esplanade Avenue a little before midnight.  Is it safe at night?  It's as safe as it is during the day, which is to say, yes.  It is safe.

Some B&B blogs will talk about restaurants in the area and specials that are running.  I don't mind talking about restaurants, but Frau Schmitt and I tend to do that in person.  We talk about it over breakfast.  We've been to over 250 restaurants in New Orleans.  That gives us plenty of fodder for conversation, not that there isn't anything else to talk about.  

Regular readers know that I tend to just write about whatever catches my fancy at the moment.  I try to give you an idea of what it is like to live in New Orleans.  It's my perspective, skewed as it may be sometimes. 

Some people expect that Hallowe'en is a big holiday here.  I've never found it to be.  The big holiday in New Orleans is Mardi Gras.  Hallowe'en?  It's up there with Thanksgiving.  It's important and it's celebrated, but it's not that big a fuss.  If you want it to be, it can be, of course.  Like anything, Hallowe'en is what you make of it.
Dis and Dat, Banks Street, New Orleans, LA
A couple weeks ago we went to Dis and Dat on Banks Street.  It's a hamburger and hot dog place in Mid-City.  The guy who owns Dat Dog opened it.  It's alright.  Funky Nola.  I thought Cowbell was better, but Cowbell is even more out of the way.  You can walk to Dis and Dat from our house.

The guy who owns Dat Dog knows what he's doing and the location on Banks Street ensures that it will be busy.  It's a block away from where the new VA and LSU hospitals are being built.  That's prime real estate though the neighborhood looks a little crummy right now.  It will change for the better, the way most things are sprucing up in New Orleans.

So, if you landed on this page for advice on how to write a B&B blog, I hope I haven't disappointed you too, too much.  I haven't included any tips or lists of topics to cover or any how-to advice at all.  We call this showing not telling in the trade.  If you've landed on this page looking for a New Orleans B&B with a little personality, where the hosts do things a little differently, well look at the title of this blog, not at the title of this post.  I can recommend a unique boutique inn where you can stay if you're planning a visit to our fair city.  We live in a wonderful neighborhood as a perusal of our blog's archives will show.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Odds and Ends in New Orleans

Wanna stay here?
That isn't a picture of our lobby.  Ours is more intimate.  It's more quirky.  The ceilings in our lobby are 12 and a half feet, which is much lower than what's pictured above.  It's also less sterile.  It's a kind of museum of knickknacks and curiosities, a dime museum sort of vibe, like something you'd find off the Bowery if the Bowery was lined with beautiful Creole mansions on a beautiful street in New Orleans.  Our lobby is something else altogether.  It's more homey, more humble, more colorful...and we don't provide any pictures of it.

You have to wait to get here.

Mitchell J. Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans
You might think that we bump into the Mayor of New Orleans every other week or so, but that isn't the case.  He's busy, after all, as we are, too.  We're on friendly terms, though.  When we do meet, he always shakes our hands.  We aren't on a first name basis.  We call him Mayor Landrieu.  He calls me Mr. King when he's talking to me, and he calls Frau Schmitt, Frau Schmitt, when he's talking to her.  He's a very likable fellow.
Clouds over City Park Avenue, New Orleans
I'm not going to tell you that the sun always shines in New Orleans, but it's been shining a lot recently.  Every day is a happy day.  
The old Rosenberg's building on Tulane Avenue, New Orleans
Today's post is just a little this and that and what not.  Odds and ends.  It's been a very busy month in New Orleans.  The weather is good.  There is plenty going on.  It's hard to tell this season from any other except that it's rather mild and maybe even a little more congenial than usual.  

Rosenberg's, like many things in New Orleans, "ain't dere no more."  Yet, in a way, it is.  There are plenty of things that have stopped existing physically in this city, but they are still here in spirit.  It's a magical place.

You'll find out when you get here.

Until then,
À vote santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How many restaurants are in New Orleans?

Governor Nicholls Street, New Orleans, LA
Admit it, you were expecting me to open with a picture of a restaurant.  Regular readers, like our guests, know that we don't do things the way we're supposed to.  I'm from Connecticut originally, so I'm a contrarian, besides, New Orleans is all about delightful surprises.  You never know what you'll find when you turn a corner.  I took that picture with my phone the other day while I was walking our dog around the neighborhood.  The dog is not allowed in the inn.

Governor Nicholls Street is two blocks behind Esplanade Avenue in the 6th Ward.  The house in the picture, and the truck, are between North Rocheblave and North Dorgenois Streets.  The house is behind St. Luke's Episcopal Church, which used to be the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the oldest Greek Orthodox church in America.  The Greek Orthodox church is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.  The new Catherdral is located on St. Bernard Avenue, way up in Lakeview on the shores of Bayou St. John.  

Every story is a tangled skein in New Orleans.  Talk to me long enough over breakfast and you might feel hopelessly lost in the thicket of details, but then, all of a sudden, the story will become clear, like an epiphany.  That's what it's like to spend time in New Orleans.  It's like coming out of a corn maze.
St. Roch Market, New Orleans, LA
The St. Roch Market is located in the St. Roch neighborhood, which is home to the St. Roch Cemetery and the St. Roch National Shrine.  I'm sure I've written about the cemetery in an earlier post, so I won't bore with the same information here.  If you want to learn more, you'll have to trawl through our archives.  You can waste a lot of time there.  There is talk of putting a restaurant in the St. Roch Market Building.  It's just been renovated.  The city, which owns it, did a beautiful job.

I recently read that there are 1400 restaurants in New Orleans.  That isn't technically true.  It sounds more impressive that way, but it's more accurate to say that there are 1400 restaurants in the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The NOMSA includes such places as Slidell, Covington, and Mandeville, LA, on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain, as well as all the restaurants in Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish, and St. Charles Parish on this side of the lake (though not necessarily on this side of the Mississippi River).  Didn't I just say that things are complicated here?  

You probably aren't going to go to any of those places.  We don't recommend them.  We rarely go there, either, unless we're forced to by some unpalatable errand that takes us outside of the city.  There's no sprawl like suburban sprawl.  Outside New Orleans, all the dry land is thick with strip malls and chain stores.  We like where we live.

Frau Schmitt likes to say that there are about 800 restaurants in New Orleans proper.  She just started saying this, and she is usually right about these things.  I haven't asked her where she got the 800 number, but, knowing her, it must have been a reliable source.  Otherwise, she wouldn't say it.  She is a stickler for accuracy.  

I prefer to say there are a little more than 600 restaurants, which is what Frau Schmitt used to say.  She hasn't corrected me yet, so I don't know which one of us is right.  It's probably somewhere in the middle.
Sweets of the Southern Wild
Once a week or so, we like to serve buttermilk drops from the Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe on North Dorgenois Street in the 7th Ward, a few blocks from our house.  The owner is Dwight Henry, an Oscar-nominated actor who was a baker before he was an actor.  I read an article about him in the newspaper recently and he said that he can't hand down his film career to his children, but he can hand down his bakery.  That's why he keeps at it.

I was at Rouse's Supermarket the other morning and saw that he's selling his buttermilk drops in the supermarket.  A buttermilk drop is a local kind of donut.  They're delicious.

Sometimes, before arriving, people ask us for a list of restaurant recommendations.  There are about 600 restaurants in New Orleans, a city of about 340,000 people.  It's hard to make recommendations to people we've never met, about whom we know nothing but their names. I tell them, via email, about the restaurants in our neighborhood.  If you're going to stay on Esplanade Avenue, you should sample some of the culture and cuisine in this part of the city.  You're going to go the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street and there are plenty of places to eat there.  It's hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans.  We don't really talk about places Uptown or on Magazine Street unless we already know you're headed in that direction.  If you are, we've eaten at over 250 restaurants so far, as of this writing.  That's a lot of dining rooms to keep straight in our memories, but we manage.

We recently had a couple stay with us for five nights.  They ate at a few of the restaurants they read about in guide books: Lilette, Coquette, Flaming Torch, Herbsaint, Bayona, Emeril's, Commander's Palace... those kind of places.  I asked them where their favorite meal was.  They thought about it awhile and then they replied, "Lola's was probably the best meal we had here.  Everyone was so friendly and the food was delicious."  Lola's is just up the street from us, toward City Park.  It's the only place open on Mondays this time of year.  It's open for a good reason.  It's for the locals.  They are also open for you.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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