Monday, December 9, 2013

New Orleans B&B Blog 70119

Our back yard
It is the middle of December, almost, the Advent season.  We'll be taking a brief hiatus from the blog, to resume soon after Christmas Day.  There is no particular reason, aside from the fact that this seems to be the right time to take a pause from writing.  
Redbeard Cycles, Orleans Avenue, New Orleans
One of the empty storefronts on Orleans Avenue has recently been refurbished and put back into commerce.  You can't walk around our neighborhood without seeing renovations and reconstruction going on.  The streets are being repaved and a new Whole Foods Market is opening up a few blocks away, on North Broad Avenue, where the old Schwegman's Supermarket used to be.  There will be parking on the roof, the way it should be.  

The newest place on Orleans Avenue is Redbeard Cycles, a shop that is keeping a low internet profile for the time being.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Watch out for motorcycles.  Motor scooters, too.  And bicyclists.  And pedestrians.  And little stray dogs.

I was telling Frau Schmitt that I am starting to feel embarrassed by the reviews we keep getting on Trip Advisor.  I don't mind exceeding people's expectations when they don't expect much.  The reviews we've been getting are making me blush.  She told me not to worry about it.  She is usually right about these things, but I prefer to take the same strategy that the Tic Toc Cafe does:
Painted on the side of the Tic-Toc Cafe, Metarie, LA
We run a little boutique inn.  If you don't include a lifetime of being nice to our fellow human beings and being friendly and providing reasonable advice and being able to carry on a convivial conversation, and just being plain folks who love living in the city we call our adopted home, neither of us has a background in hospitality.  That is to say, neither of us has a background in the hospitality industry.  

If you stay in our inn, we treat you the way we would like to be treated.    When you check in, you aren't a customer.  You are a friend we haven't yet met.  That's why you're welcome.  The money that changes hands counts for something, of course, but the fact that we are proud of our inn and we want you to enjoy our little part of New Orleans counts for more.  Fond memories are made on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, LA 70119.
Morning on Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
We will resume our usual schedule of twice-weekly blog posts after Christmas.  There are plenty more stories to tell and pictures to share.  Until then, Frau Schmitt just raised a glass of Cajun wine to the health of you and yours, with best wishes for today, tomorrow, and all the days to follow.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Orleans is full of surprises

Sunset New Orleans
You can't see it in a photo this size, but that's the Superdome in the background, about 2 and a half miles away as the pelican flies.  It takes about an hour to walk there, if you are so inclined.  We never have tickets for a game but we like to tailgate with everybody else outside the stadium.  We love when the Saints are playing a home game.  It's the best time to run errands, and the play-by-play commentary is on every radio so we always know what's happening, even if we are just picking up fresh pralines at Loretta's.  Go Saints!

I was standing on the balcony of La France Suite, overlooking the back gardens and the pecan tree in back of our shared property.
Fresh pecans make good pralines
I always tell Frau Schmitt, who is the better half of this pair, that we live in a beautiful neighborhood.  She agrees, and she is usually right about these things.  There is something to be said about a smart woman's point of view.

I was making the introduction of the neighborhood to two guests from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and I mentioned that things look very different in New Orleans.  Nothing is as it appears.  I mentioned that there are some abandoned buildings, some blight, some empty lots.  Two days later, Stephen, the male of the pair, said, "I was expecting the worst, the way you described it.  It's really the best."  He is right, of course, the way Frau Schmitt usually is.  We live in a lovely part of town.  It is pure New Orleans.  There can never be anything wrong with that.
The fountain in the garden
As I write this, I can hear some crows cawing in the palm tree a block away on Governor Nicholls Street.  The past few weeks have brought crows to our neighborhood, almost as many as come by in springtime.  Who knows why anything happens in New Orleans? Some people chalk it up to magic.  We do.  Some people claim that New Orleans is a magical city.  You'll have to visit it yourself to decide if this is true.

It is.
Orleans Parish Prison
The sheriff is building a new prison on Gravier Street, or maybe it's Girod.  Wherever it is, it is in Mid-City, hard by the interstate highway.  The old prison building looks just like the LSU dental school, or the new LSU Medical Center that is being built on Canal Street.  I took the picture above of the old prison after having a lunch of fried catfish on Tulane Avenue.  Ours is a wonderful city.

After I snapped the picture above, I ran into Claire DuBois.  "Did you get that picture I sent you?" she asked.  I had.  The picture was of her grandmother, Clarissette DuBois (nee Etoile) who worked as the secretary of the American Frog Canning Company in 1939 when she posed for the photo.
She is holding the female in one hand and the male in the other
You never know what you will encounter in New Orleans.  It is a magical place.  We know a few restaurants that specialize in frog legs.  Boy-o-boy!  Are they ever tasty!  Especially on Tuesdays when the fresh catch is auctioned in the Frog Market in Broadmoor.  If you want to know New Orleans' secrets, you have to live here.  That's what we do.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Abbott & Costello in New Orleans

A sunny day in New Orleans
The best part about running a bed and breakfast in New Orleans is the chance to sit with people at breakfast.  We have lived in our adopted city for three and a half years, but we aren't jaded.  1.) It is pretty impossible to become jaded when every corner is an invitation to witness fresh surprises, and 2.) we get to hear about the adventures of people who are new to the city, what they like, what they don't like, and what unsettles them.  Every morning, we get to vicariously see the city with fresh eyes.

Visitors to New Orleans like a lot of what they encounter.  It is a friendly city.  They don't dislike much, and we can't blame them.  We love living here.  It isn't the cleanest place on earth and the recent weather leaves something to be desired, but that what it's like at the end of November.  Sometimes, it's a cold rain on a cold night, though not as cold as it is in Milwaukee, from what we've been told.  

A lot of things unsettle a traveler.  The water is safe to drink.  It isn't that.  It's the fact that everyone is so danged nice.  This is a very friendly city. Everyone is happy that you've chosen to visit.  Everyone thanks you.
A table set for breakfast in our dining room
Frau Schmitt and I have different roles in the dining room.  We make a good team.  She takes care of the food.  I take care of explaining the city.  We both make recommendations.  As a gourmand, she usually handles the restaurant side of things.  Out of the 600 restaurants in town, she can keep them all straight.  As a licensed tour guide, I tend to handle the historic anecdote side.  The odd and unexpected details fascinate me.  Sometimes, we swap jobs in order to surprise each other.

I don't like to talk about the French Quarter.  It may seem counterintuitive for an innkeeper in a city where the French Quarter is the main attraction, but I figure everyone has already read about it, seen it on TV, and has an idea of what to expect.  I'm happy to discuss it, but New Orleans is a big city.  There are plenty of other things to talk about, and I don't mean just the Garden District or Frenchman Street, either.

In the 1953 film, "Abbott and Costello Go To Mars," the comedic duo never actually reach Mars.  Their rocket lands in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  There are laughs a'plenty as Bud and Lou encounter alien life forms, but the joke is on them: they are still in America, albeit in a place like no other in the solar system.

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but colorful characters of both genders live, laugh, and love in New Orleans, Louisiana.  You can get here by plane, by train, or by automobile.  You'll be happy you got here.  You'll be happier still if you stay on Esplanade Avenue, one of the most beautiful streets in this beautiful city.

In one scene, Abbott, who is the short pudgy guy, runs into a lady he mistakes for the Queen of Venus at a banquet.  He toasts her by saying, "Here's mud in your eye."  She toasts him, saying, "To your health."

That's something a lot of people say around here.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Great Hotel Deals in New Orleans

Great hotel deals in New Orleans
I crossed over the parish line the other day into Metarie, the unincorporated metropolitan census district just outside of New Orleans.  In the parking lot of a nondescript office building facing Interstate 10, the sign next door caught my eye.  

If you are coming to New Orleans and don't want to stay in the city proper, but would rather enjoy the whole greater metro area, there are plenty of hotels and motels to choose from.  I happened to be in the parking lot next to the Day's Inn (or Day's Hotel as they call themselves nowadays).  Price for a room: $169.00 a night.
$169.00 a night (plus tax)
It's not a bad price.  It includes a view of the interstate highway about 50 yards away.  There is also a water tower.  The "hotel" is attached to an IHOP that is open 24 hours and all the entertainment value that entails.  If you don't want to eat at IHOP, there's another restaurant a few blocks away, a scenic stroll between the interstate on one side and nondescript office buildings on the other.  It's right off the exit ramp to the romantically named Causeway Boulevard.  The motto proudly painted on the side of their building says it all:
24 hour diner in Jefferson Parish, LA
You can get a two-room suite with a private bath and balcony for the same price as a room in the Day's Inn in Metarie.  The view is better, overlooking Esplanade Avenue.  The neighborhood is quieter, without the truck traffic and with a barely noticeable rush hour.  The walk around the neighborhood is lined with century-old live oaks that shade some of the most beautiful streets in New Orleans.  You can walk to the French Quarter or to the New Orleans Museum of Art.  
Le Pelican Suite, La Belle Esplanade
You know where I'm talking about.  

I looked up Jefferson Parish, Louisiana to see if they have a motto on their parish seal.  They don't.  P.T. Barnum did, though.  I'm not going to quote him here.

If you are coming to New Orleans, think about staying in a bed and breakfast inside the city.  Click on the signature line below to check our rates and availability.  We'll meet you at the door when you arrive.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Orleans Illegal Rentals in the News

Entrance to New Orleans City Hall
Once in a while we get an inquiry about our rates.  We've set our rates in accordance with industry standards around our neighborhood and with an eye to paying our bills.  We are a legally licensed bed and breakfast.  This means we have to adhere to certain standards.  We are professional innkeepers.  We are not doing this on a lark, renting out a spare room to make a little walking around money.

The reason we became innkeepers is because we love our adopted city.  We love the opportunity our pleasant profession allows us to introduce people to New Orleans, and to our neighborhood in particular.  I'm sitting on our front porch as I write this and I can eyeball three other New Orleans B&Bs from where I am.  There are two more just a little further down Esplanade Avenue.  It's a lovely part of the city.
I'm sitting where the shutters are open
We also enjoy restoring a landmark home on one of the most beautiful streets in the city.  How much of a landmark is it?  Ask anyone in the tour buses that pause as they pass on the other side of the street.

Sometimes, we get an inquiry about our rates and the enquirer will point out that they can get a room cheaper on airbandb or on vrbo (vacation rental by owner).  I understand that.  If I were inclined to let a stranger sleep on my couch for money, I wouldn't charge much  either.  To each his own.  We maintain five spacious two-room suites furnished with antiques and original artwork.  Each suite has a private bath and balcony.  We also maintain immaculate gardens in the back.

The rentals on airbandb and vrbo are predominantly illegal rentals. They are unlicensed.  They don't pay taxes.  They are not inspected for safety or cleanliness.  People who rent these places, like the people who stay in them, are breaking the law.  We can't stop you from staying there aside from providing a little moral suasion.  We can point to an oft-repeated maxim: You get what you pay for.  

Here's another:  Let the buyer beware.

There was an item on the local news recently about this very subject.  I tried to embed the video to save you some clicking and advertisements, but that seems impossible.  Here is the link instead.

There was a story in the paper recently about an illegal rental on airbandb that was the home where a woman had been murdered.  The blood had been cleaned up, but do you want to sleep on that mattress?  The choice is yours, of course.

We are a professional and spotlessly clean New Orleans B&B in which no one has been murdered.  Our website address is  We may not be the best fit for everyone visiting New Orleans for a romantic getaway or an adventurous long weekend, or even for a week and a half.  We are pleased to report that very, very, very, very, very few people leave us unhappy.  It is our job to make sure that they don't.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Eating Frog Legs in New Orleans

Ad for the American Frog Canning Co, New Orleans, LA
I'm reading a book published in 1950 by the founder of the now-defunct American Frog Canning Company of New Orleans, LA.  A brief excerpt caught my eye:

"In New Orleans (the frog market of the world) delicious 'frog sandwiches' have made their appearance.  The whole frog is fried to a golden brown in rich butter.  Then the meat is picked off the bones.  The meat is then properly seasoned and spread on a bun or toasted bread.  This kind of sandwich usually sells for 50 cents..."

That's 50 cents in 1950.  I'm no economist, as Frau Schmitt will tell you, and she is usually right about these things, but I've seen a menu from Parkway Tavern from 1970 where a ham and cheese po'boy went for 50 cents.  Nowadays, at Parkway, a ham and cheese po'boy will set you back about 7 bucks.  A fried oyster po'boy goes for about 14 dollars, plus or minus.

As close as I can figure it, at today's rates, a "frog sandwich" as described above is worth about 38 dollars.  That's good eating.  It also explains why it's not on the menu.

Not that you can't get good frog legs in New Orleans.  You can.  They're not on every menu, but they are good Creole eating if you can find the right place.  Some of the wing shops also offer frog legs.  They are especially popular during tail gate parties around the Superdome when the Saints are playing.  

We recommend them at Herbsaint, on Magazine, when they are in season, which is most of the time.  

It is easier to find turtle soup in New Orleans than it is to find good frog legs.  Yes, they taste like chicken...the most succulent chicken you've ever sunk your teeth into.  Better than the fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House, if you can believe that.  

I was standing in line looking at the menu board at the Popeye's Chicken on North Broad Street the other day.  While Popeye's was founded in Arabi, just downtown of the Lower 9th Ward, and they boast of their roots by saying that everything is cooked Louisiana Fast, which means slowly and with patience, there were no frog legs to order.  I opted for the Bonafide Chicken Combo.  I don't know why they make a big deal out of assuring us that the chicken is bonafide.  At these prices, it couldn't possibly be frog.

If you are interested in learning more about the frog leg market in New Orleans, you know where to stay.  We have an expert on the premises.
Another ad from the American Frog Canning Company, New Orleans, LA
A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Something's always happening in New Orleans

It's cold this week
It is unseasonably cold in New Orleans this week.  It is so cold that when I was in the Blue Dot Donut Shop the other morning the TV news was warning people that temperatures would approach freezing, so everyone had better bundle up!  The approaching cold front made the front page of the newspaper.  They were right.  The mercury hit 39 degrees Fahrenheit the other night.  It's so cold that our dog is wearing a sweater when we walk him.  It's so cold that he's happy to wear a sweater.  That's saying something.  He doesn't like to wear even a collar.
A beautiful orange house in New Orleans
We don't have the only orange house in New Orleans.  It isn't the most popular paint choice, but it isn't uncommon either.  If you are Uptown, most of the houses are shades of white and beige.  Downtown, where we live, there is more variety.  I was walking our dog around Faubourg Saint John, the neighborhood immediately lakeside of ours, and I noticed some orange paint.
Another orange house in New Olreans
During Mardi Gras, most of the parade routes run Uptown.  The rest of the year, laissez faire and joie de vivre are more the usual rule Downtown.  Uptown is the American side of New Orleans.  Downtown is the Creole side.  We like where we live.
Orange shutters in Fauboug St. John
As a rule, people don't pick up after their dogs Uptown.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's because they think they don't stink.  Downtown, just about everybody is a thoughtfully considerate citizen.  That's what I've noticed, anyway.
Liuzza's By The Track
Tucked away on Grand Route St. John (that's a street name hereabouts) there is a local lounge and grill call Liuzza's.  Don't confuse it with the Liuzza's on the corner of North Telemachus Street and Bienville Street in Mid-City.  This Liuzza's is Liuzza's By The Track, because the Fairgrounds Racetrack is just a few blocks away.  They are famous for their barbecue shrimp po'-boy sandwich.  The kitchen is open between 11:00 and 7:00, Monday through Saturday.
Window at Liuzza's By The Track
Despite what the sign in the window says, the bar is open whenever the Saints are playing.  Barbecue shrimp in New Orleans has nothing to do with barbecue anywhere else in the world.  Like they say: "You don't go to Memphis for seafood and you don't go to New Orleans for barbecue."  Unless you go to New Orleans for barbecue shrimp, that is.

A barbecue shrimp po'-boy is a loaf of french bread split in half longways.  It is overstuffed with boiled shrimp smothered in a sauce of butter and pepper, and the whole thing is dressed with lettuce, tomato, sweet pickles and mayonnaise.  If you are watching your cholesterol, don't forget your Lipitor (TM).  If you are watching the Saints game, dig in.
The latest addition to our lobby
I've been working on redecorating our lobby.  The postman arrived the other day with a big box.  You'll never guess what was inside.  It was a stuffed pheasant.  It's not the kind that you eat.  

I hadn't told Frau Schmitt what I had ordered.  She caught me hanging it on the wall, next to one of the tall windows.  "A stuffed bird?" she asked.  "You know you still have a giraffe's head that you have to hang up," she added.

I do have a giraffe's head.  I got it at an estate sale in Central City.  You never know what you'll come across when you turn a corner in New Orleans.  One day, it might be a dog wearing a sweater.  Another day, it could a giraffe's head on a table next to a dead person's wardrobe and a collection of heirloom spoons.  We already have a dog.

The stuffed pheasant makes the place look extra classy.  A professional photographer is coming by soon to take new pictures of the inn for our website.  "I think it's time you showed some pictures that you didn't take on your phone," Frau Schmitt says.  The current website is working fine, but she is usually right about these things.  That's why we always agree.

Stay tuned.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Orleans memories.

Good morning, Matthew and Melanie!
One of the nice things about our job is that we never know who we're going to meet.  It is always somebody nice, somebody with a story to tell, somebody who shares a smidgeon of happiness that only they can share.  Sometimes, it's an novelist.  Sometimes, it's a teacher.  Sometimes, it's a salesman.  Sometimes it's a retired gardener.  Someday, it might be you.  That will be nice, too.

From an innkeeper's point of view, the best part of staying in a bed and breakfast is the breakfast.  That's the part when we really get to know our guests, and we get to share what we know about New Orleans.

At La Belle Esplanade, breakfast is usually between 8:30AM and 9:30AM.  As I always say, we don't kick anyone out at 9:30, but we ask everyone to come down by then.  We don't kick anyone out until there is nothing left to discuss.  That can take awhile and we aren't usually in any kind of a rush.
Shotgun Temple, New Orleans
A lot of people want to know more about our neighborhood.  We're happy to tell them about it.  Shotgun Temple is a sculpture in a little triangular park between Bayou Road and Bell Street, between North Dorgenois and North Rocheblave, about two blocks from our house.  It was built by Robert Tannen, an artist and urban planner who lives close by.
There are enough interesting things in our neighborhood to keep someone occupied for a lifetime.  Ask anyone who lives here.
An anonymous stranger
Frau Schmitt was talking with a dapper anonymous stranger in Audubon Park the other day.  He said that while he liked Audubon Park, he prefers City Park, at the end of Esplanade Avenue.  "New Orleans is nice Uptown," he said, "but it's even nicer Downtown."  He's right.  Smart man.

We never know who is visiting us, but we do know who will fall in love with New Orleans.  That's everybody who visits.  Good memories are made on Esplanade Avenue.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

House of Broel

Take the train to New Orleans
Say what you want about Amtrak, and I'm from the Northeast so I have very little bad to say about it, but they have excellent taste in graphic design.  Their full line of posters is available here.  I was in the train station today admiring the Amtrak artwork.

I was taking pictures and the conductor behind the ticket desk asked if he could help me.  "The last place I lived was Boston," I told him.  "It was much busier in North Station and South Station than it is here."  He smiled.  "It depends on the time of day," he told me.  I suppose it does.  The Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans only serves six trains a day.  Imagine that.  The signs don't have to change as the trains come and go.
A sleepy lobby most of the time
I stopped into the train station after visiting the House of Broel on St. Charles Avenue, which is really what this article is about.
House of Broel, New Orleans, LA
The House of Broel is a wedding venue and custom wedding dress shop with a dollhouse museum on the second floor.  I didn't visit for any of those reasons.  I'm already married and dollhouses aren't really my cup of tea, though I did help make one for my sister one Christmas, many, many years ago.  It was the 70's when making things from leftover pantyhose eggs and spray paint can lids was in vogue.  My brother and I made miniature ottomans out of the lids.

If you are too young to know what I mean by the term "pantyhose eggs," here is a peek at the past:

As long as we're going down Memory Lane about my family, I'll tell you that my grandfather always said he preferred Joyce Dewitt over Suzanne Somers in Three's Company.  He also preferred Kate Jackson out of all of Charlie's Angels.  He had good taste.  He married my grandmother, after all.  Connect the dots long enough and you'll be able to figure out why every room in our inn is a different color.  And yes, there was a time when shuffleboard was considered the attraction of a cruise that took place on a ship that was just like the Love Boat.  You'll notice how Joyce Dewitt dances a twirl with the yeoman purser.  I'm thinking of having a shuffleboard court installed in the back garden.  That or bocce.

Anyhow, I went to the House of Broel.  Here is what it looks like on the inside:
Inside the House of Broel
Inside the House of Broel
Ceiling in the House of Broel
It's a beautiful place and Bonnie Broel is a wealth of information, a gem of a lady who was gracious and patient with me as we talked about what I came to discuss.  She seemed a bit surprised when I rang her bell and told her my mission, but she adapted to the situation admirably and told me everything I wanted to know, and then some.  She is full of fascinating stories and she certainly doesn't look like someone who's father fought in WWI.

Why did I go to the House of Broel?  Because I was curious about an advertisement I had seen in the back pages of the November 1952 issue of Popular Mechanix that I was reading while waiting for our guests from Dallas, TX to arrive the other day:
American Frog Canning Company advertisement
What does this have to do with anything?  Regular readers of this blog know that I tell as much as I keep under my hat.  The people who stay with us know that I spill the rest of the story over breakfast, if they are interested.  If you want to know the answer, you will have to make a reservation.

By the way, we have recently received some kind and thorough reviews on Trip Advisor.  We are still mired in the #15 and #16 slot out of 150 bed and breakfasts in New Orleans according to the rankings, but it isn't a bad place to be.  We are not competitive people so we haven't checked out the competition.  Thinking about it, I'm tempted to read the reviews of #149, but it's really none of my business.  I'm too busy trying to be the best innkeeper I can be. It's a pleasant profession.

We don't serve frog legs for breakfast.  I mentioned it to Frau Schmitt and she didn't quite cotton to the idea.  She is usually right about these things.  We offer plenty of tasty surprises without serving frog legs.

Next time, I'll have to remember to post the photos I took of the murals in the train station.  They'll knock your socks off.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jazz in New Orleans

Statue of St. Jude in the Mortuary Chapel on N. Rampart St., New Orleans
The difference between street music and classical music is a difference of degree.  Franz Liszt composed Hungarian rhapsodies based on folk tunes he heard as a lad before he received his training as a composer.  George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue, an American masterpiece that combined jazz sensibilities with classical aspirations.  Paul Whiteman was known, for awhile at least, as the King of Jazz.  He made a film in the 1920s called "King of Jazz."  It featured a sequence called Rhapsody in Blue.  Paul Whiteman commissioned Gershwin to compose it. 

Today, we feature a clip below, found courtesy of James Lileks, that made me remember why I love the Rhapsody in Blue so much, and why I love New Orleans jazz so much.  Play this video as we go along, at least for the soundtrack.  Scroll back up to see what's happening on the screen as you read.  You just might be mesmerized and watch the whole thing.

What does Rhapsody in Blue, which we often have playing on the hi-fi around the house while Tammie the housekeeper tidies up when nobody is around, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Hot 5 Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, and The Nowhere Boys Brass Band have in common?  What does Rhapsody in Blue, first played at Aeolian Hall in New York City have to do with the nightclubs that line Frenchman Street in New Orleans?  What does Louis Armstrong have to do with Kermit Ruffins?  What does Irving Mayfield have to do with King Oliver?  What does Trombone Shorty have to do with the Marsalis Brothers?

It boils down to jazz, my friend.  It all boils down to New Orleans, the place where jazz started, the place where America's music was born.  If you want to make gumbo, first you have to make a roux.  If you want flavor, you have to put everything in the pot.

I was in the Mortuary Chapel on North Rampart Street the other day and I noticed that not only is the chapel a shrine dedicated to Saint Jude, it is the official chapel of the NOPD and the NOFD.  Opposite the St. Jude shrine is a shrine dedicated to St. Michael, patron of law enforcement officers, and also to St. Florian, patron of firefighters.
Sts. Michael and Florian flanking St. Mary, Mortuary Chapel, N. Rampart St., New Orleans
I can't claim to know what makes New Orleans tick.  All I can say is that, when you visit, you never know what you will find around the next corner.  Some things don't make sense, even though they are perfectly perfect in their place.  If you can make sense of the definition of the word 'rhapsody' on wikipedia, you are a more intelligent person than your humble narrator.  I don't have the patience to wade through it all.  All I can say is that the word seems to fit how it feels to live in New Orleans.  If you visit, you will know what I mean.  It's magic.

Old Tyme Breakfast Shop, N. Claiborne Ave., New Orleans
We have lived in New Orleans three and a half years and we often pass the Old Tyme Breakfast Shop near the intersection of Orleans Avenue and North Claiborne.  It's a popular place in the neighborhood.  There is often a shoeshine stand set up in the morning.  It's right down the block from the Brown Derby No.2, a wing shack, and a snowball stand, and this is a sentence that only makes sense if you live in New Orleans.

I noticed a new sign hanging on the other side of the Old Tyme Breakfast Shop building.
Roosevelt's Black Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant, N. Claiborne Ave., New Orleans
Apparently, according to the new sign, this is also the site of Roosevelt's Black Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant.  The small print on the sign says that they have been serving New Orleans for over 40 years.  I had no idea.  I have no idea why they've just decided to put up a sign.

When you live in New Orleans, you don't ask too many questions.  It's not worth the migraine you'll get trying to figure everything out.  You just take things as they come.  Good things come to those who wait.  Patience is a virtue.  That is why nothing ever starts on time here.

Every day is an adventure in New Orleans.  Every day is interesting.  Every day is full of surprises.  Just ask Tammie, our housekeeper.
Tammie the housekeeper

Tammie the housekeeper just punched me in the arm.  She said, "You know I hate it when you put that picture of me smoking a pipe up on the internet!"

I do know that much, and I know other things, too.  So does Frau Schmitt.  Ask us about them over breakfast.  We'll be happy to tell you.

A votre santé,

Monday, October 21, 2013

The B&B for people who love films

We went to the Prytania Theater today, on Prytania Street, just before Jefferson Avenue.  It's in a nice neighborhood.  Near the St. James Cheesery, Crepes Nanou, and LA Thai, as well as the Creole Creamery, and a very nice restaurant with a name I don't remember, but Frau Schmitt does.  

Someone will say the name of that restaurant and I'll say I've never heard of it.  Then Frau Schmitt will say, "You remember it.  It's the place where we talked with that nice couple at the next table because you were admiring his seersucker suit and he told you he got it someplace uptown."  She is usually right about these things.  In fact, the gentleman recommended his haberdasher on Tchoupitoulas Street, just uptown of Napoleon Avenue, on the lakeside of the block.  The food was very good, as good as the atmosphere.  If you are looking for a seersucker suit, I know where to send you.

Anyhow, the New Orleans French Film Festival is just winding down. We happened to have some rare free time this afternoon, so we went to see "Populaire."  Do you know who was in the audience with us?  The guy who owns the Chalmette Cinema.  He has impeccable taste in film.  We chatted outside afterward and he was staying for the next show, "Haute Cuisine."

Populaire was a wonderful movie, which is much better than its trailer, above.  It is rated R, but compared to most of the trash that we see on the screen, both large and small, there are worse things that families can see together.  It is almost chaste.  It is tame and inspiring.  It is lovely.  

As for Haute Cuisine, here is the trailer for that:
Maybe we should have stayed for the next show.  That movie is probably better than it's trailer, too.  We don't get that feeling from the many, many, many overloud trailers we interminably sit through before most movies playing at the AMC Palace Cinema in Elmwood (12 screens! plus IMAX in 3-D!).

One thing that is nice about going to Chalmette Cinema is that when they play a movie, at least the ones we go to see, they don't play any trailers.  One at most, and that is a trailer that whets our appetite instead of turning to each other to say, "No way."

We saw "Captain Phillips" last week in Elmwood and I thought Tom Hanks' Vermont accent was over the top, a caricature of how New Englanders speak.  Frau Schmitt didn't notice.  "I thought he talked like you do," she said to me.  She is usually right about these things, too.

The last line in the movie Populaire is spoken by an American who has taken a French wife.  He says, "America for business.  France for love."  I would substitute 'France' with 'la Nouvelle Orleans."  It's easy if you try.

If either of these films are screened where you live, check them out.  If not, you can always come to New Orleans.  The French Film Festival is brought to us courtesy of the New Orleans Film Society.  

Maurice Chevallier sang, "Thank Heaven for little girls." When he say's "Gigi," I would substitute it with 'New Orleans."

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Living in New Orleans

Louisiana's most famous governor is Huey P. Long, the Kingfish.  If you visit the Old State Capitol Museum in Baton Rouge, which is really the only thing we can recommend in Baton Rouge, it is like a shrine to the Kingfish.  The other governors are given their due mention, but most of the exhibits center around the life and works of the honorable Huey P. Long.  He was no Bobby Jindal, who is our current governor, that's for sure.

Though there is a website dedicated to the preservation of the Kingfish's memory, you won't find any memorials to Louisiana's most inspiring politician in the city of New Orleans.  Though Huey Long loved his sazaracs and he was a regular patron of the Roosevelt Hotel, he had no real love for New Orleans.  The political machine that ran the city never cottoned to Governor Long, and vice versa.  

Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose.  The politics of New Orleans today have no relationship to the politics at play in the rest of the state.  The city is an oasis in an unforgiving swampy sea.  The mood changes as soon as you cross the parish line.
Elmwood, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
A recent guest asked me what Louisiana looks like outside New Orleans, so I decided to take a picture in the parking lot in front of the Elmwood 12-screen AMC multiplex movie theater in suburban Jefferson Parish.  Not all of Louisiana looks like this, just Jefferson Parish, which is right over the Orleans Parish line.  Feast your eyes.

The intersection of Bayou Road, DeSoto, Bell, and Dorgenois Streets, New Orleans, Louisiana
I took a picture this morning of the intersection of Bayou Road where it meets DeSoto Street, Bell Street, and North Dorgenois Street, two blocks from our house.  The green building is the old Indian Market.  The yellow building is home to the Cajun Buffet, which serves a very popular and inexpensive lunch with all the fixings; it is all you can eat.  This is what New Orleans looks like.  Part of it, at least.

Big Easy Scooters
We were at Big Easy Scooters on Magazine Street yesterday afternoon and I noticed a recently painted mural celebrating the Amerivespa scooter rally taking place in New Orleans June 12-15, 2014.  That's going to be a good time.  If you are a vesperado, no matter what kind of bike you drive, you know where you can stay, next June or any time.  

You meet the most interesting people when you are in New Orleans.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Honeymooning in New Orleans

The view from our garden
The trumpet flower tree is in full bloom in our back garden.  It blooms a couple of times a year, whenever it feels like it is time.  It is a beautiful plant.  Everyone comments on it.  It usually blooms when good things happen at our inn, like now.

This week, we had a lovely couple from merrye olde Englande visit us.  They were on their honeymoon.  They arrived in the States last week and drove around the storied South visiting cities known for their music.  Before they reached New Orleans, they had stayed in Nashville, Memphis, and Clarksdale, MS.  "What's in Clarksdale?" I asked.  "There was a festival," they told me.  "If it weren't for the festival, there would be very little."

They stayed for three days and when they left they wished they could have stayed longer.  There next stop was Birmingham, AL, which isn't known for its music, but it is halfway to the airport they need to reach to fly home.  Happy trails.

As we were saying our goodbyes, they told me, "This is the nicest place we've stayed at."  They didn't just mean New Orleans, though the city itself is a wonderful place.  I am sure I have mentioned this before, but New Orleans really is magic, especially our part of town.  "We want to come back for our anniversary," they told me.

That will be nice.
From the Basin Street Visitors Center
There are a couple of good ways to see New Orleans and none of them involve spending all your time in the French Quarter.  The city is much bigger than that.  We are about a 20-25 minute walk from the Quarter and we recommend people see it.  We do not recommend people spend all their time there.  Some do, but most of the people who stay with us do not.  

We live right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue, between the Quarter and City Park.  When people ask us to recommend a restaurant, we suggest walking up our street toward City Park.  There are six restaurants in that direction and none of them are a dud.  It is very hard to get a bad meal in the French Quarter, but it is really very hard to get a bad meal anywhere in the city, including the hot plate counters located in almost every corner grocery store.  Two of our guests just gave us a tip on some succulent turkey necks at a joint uptown.  
Basel, Switzerland Polizei
When policemen travel from Basel, Switzerland, they like to exchange tokens with their hosts.  We happen to have had a policeman and his lovely partner stay with us.  He gifted us with an official fob on a lanyard so that if I'm ever in Basel I'll know to dial 112 in case of emergency instead of 911.  It is hanging off the mirror in our lobby.  We meet the nicest people from all over the world.  Good guests make good company.  

Being an innkeeper is a pleasant profession.  We haven't had a day off since the middle of September, but we aren't complaining.  As I say, good guests make good company, whether they are from New York, Denver, Quebec, Istanbul, Tennessee or Wakefield.  The more the merrier.
Menu at Club Carribean
I was walking the dog the other night and Club Caribbean, on Bayou Road, was just gearing up for the night.  They weren't featuring a band, only a DJ.  Imagine: jerk fish with seafood pasta for only $10.00, and there's a DJ, and it is a happy night in New Orleans.  I don't know where you live, but I would rather be here.

There was a wedding at the Degas House.
Wedding at the Degas House
We don't host weddings at La Belle Esplanade, but we'll be happy to rent you a room is you are attending a wedding at the Degas House.  It is just a block away.  Club Caribbean is two blocks.

As I mentioned last post, we went to see Prairie Home Companion at the Saenger Theater.
Lobby at the Saenger Theater
It's been a busy week on our stretch of Esplanade Avenue, thankfully so.  Good guests make good company.  We hosted a number of academics here for a Middle East studies conference, honeymooners, business travelers, a couple visiting their daughter for her first semester at Tulane University, a couple out on a last pleasure jaunt while they await the latest addition to their family, a film director, a Swiss policeman, a marketing researcher, a banker, a baker, and a plumber and his wife, and two vegetarians.  The conversation around the breakfast table has been robust and enlightening, and that's not counting my contributions.

When in New Orleans, do as the New Orleanians do.
The Basin Street Vistors Center
Spending time of Bourbon Street is like a stag party.  Spending time in the rest of the city is like a honeymoon.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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