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.
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