Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Day in New Orleans

Amtrak poster for the train to New Orleans
People always ask us what it's like to live in New Orleans.  Do we ever get tired of it?  Does it ever become routine?  Boring?  Is it all really just made up to trick the tourists into thinking it's better than it really is?  I'll tell you the answer to these questions.  The answer is: Nope.

Here are some pictures to prove it:
Terranova's Super Market, New Orleans
I go to Terranova's to buy sausages that we serve at breakfast.  Four generations of grocers and expert sausage makers.  They make the sausages by hand.  I've seen it with my own eyes.
Buttermilk Drop Bakery, New Orleans
On Sundays, I go to the Buttermilk Drop on the corner of O'Reilly and North Dorgenois Streets to pick up buttermilk drops for breakfast.  If you think O'Reilly is an unlikely street name in a city with French roots, you don't know your history.  He was governor here under the Spanish.  If you think a buttermilk drop is just another variation of donut, well, you're mistaken there, too.  It's more a little fried cake.
The waiting room in my optometrist's office
Over the fireplace in my optometrist's office there is a picture of her predecessor, who founded the optometry practice, standing next to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King was nominated and accepted as the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference right here in New Orleans, in Central City, in 1957.  There is a sign in front of the site where it all happened.  I can tell you how to get there.

My dentist has his office across the street from where my optometrist has hers.  I stopped in to confirm my next appointment and my dentist didn't have any patients.  He and I sat on his front porch discussing the neighborhood until it was time for his lunch hour.  That's what it's like to live in New Orleans.
Prytania Theater lobby, New Orleans
There are pictures of old movie stars hung throughout the lobby of the Prytania Theater, which is a single screen affair and a family operation.  Rene Brunet has operated movie houses in New Orleans his whole life.  He is in his 90s now.  He wrote a book if you are interested.  Naturally, we keep a copy in our lobby.
Hilbert's by Accident, New Orleans
Tulane Avenue used to be one of the busiest streets in New Orleans because it used to be the main way to get into town from Baton Rouge.  It's streetscape is a collection of old motels and shops of curious composition, like Hilbert's by Accident.  It's an auto body shop.  The front window:
Hilbert's by Accident, New Orleans
The sign:
Hilbert's by Accident, New Orleans
When my dentist and I were talking, he said, "Food, music and Mardi Gras.  That is what keeps New Orleanians together.  We hold these in common.  People in other places don't have that."  He has lived here all his life.  Nothing surprises him.  When I told Frau Schmitt what my dentist had told me, she said, "He's right."  Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things.

To wind up this photo show, allow me to present the House of Broel.
House of Broel, New Orelans
What's inside The House of Broel is the subject of another post, another day.  This is what it's like to live in New Orleans.  It is one magical thing after another.

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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mardi Gras is coming

Photo courtesy of a recent guest
In our neighborhood, we know when it's Mardi Gras season because we have two high schools a few blocks away on either side of us.  Joseph Clark is towards the French Quarter and John McDonough (pictured above) is towards City Park.  

Mardi Gras parades are not like 4th of July or Memorial Day parades in other parts of the country, but they do have something in common.  They all include high school marching bands.  

As Mardi Gras day approaches, the bands in our neighborhood are practicing.  They march through the neighborhood most afternoons.  The musicians practice and the cheerleaders practice.  It is nice to hear and nice to see.  You can tell when it's happening because the sound travels.  Listen for the tubas and the drums, they carry the farthest.  

As I'm sure I've written before, living here is like magic.  You never know what you are going to see.  We smile a lot in New Orleans.  It is hard not to, especially during this time of year.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Springtime on Esplanade Avenue

View from La France Suite's balcony
Around this time of year, the ravens return to New Orleans the way the swallows return to Capistrano.  We know spring is just around the corner.  Can't wait for the temps to get into the 60s, then the 70s, then, you get the idea...
The fountain out back
Most mornings as I head out to the bakeries before everyone else in the house is awake, I hear the crows rustling and calling to each other in the oak trees that line our street.  In the afternoon, they move to the oak tree in back.  They like to drink from our fountain.
View from Le Pelican Suite balcony
As the sun sets in the west, we aren't sure where the crows go.  Maybe they wing their way Uptown.  Come morning, they are back again, pleasant company that adds to the neighborhood's charm.

You'll see them when you're here.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exciting Times in New Orleans

Wrestlemania is coming to New Orleans this year.  I'm sure you are excited as we are.  It's April 6 at the Superdome.  Though we won't be going because we have to work, we hope that a few WWE fans will stay with us.  
Wrestlemania XXX (30)
WWE headquarters is located in Stamford, Conn., a few blocks away from where I lived as a child.  I know the neighborhood very well.  I still know people who live a block away from where Vince and Linda McMahon have their offices.  That and two dollars will get me a cup of coffee at the Pagoda Cafe, which is just a few blocks from where I live now.  

I was having a cup of coffee with somebody at the Pagoda Cafe, a stranger who I hadn't met before, and she told me that she was looking forward to Wrestlemania coming to town.  A lot of people who live in the neighborhood are excited.  There aren't any strangers in New Orleans, only friends you haven't yet met.

If you are coming to New Orleans to see Wrestlemania XXX at the Superdome in April 2014, we know a very nice place to stay.  

When I run out of things to say, I like to show pictures of our lobby:
View of the lobby at La Belle Esplanade B&B
Another view of the lobby at La Belle Esplanade bed & breakfast
The ceiling in the lobby of La Belle Esplanade
La Belle Esplanade is a boutique New Orleans bed and breakfast inn where wrestling fans are always welcome. 

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Around the corner in New Orleans

Odyssey House
If you've had breakfast in our dining room, you've probably heard me say that you never know what you'll find around the corner in New Orleans.  I've probably written the same there here more than once.  It's true, even if you walk around the same corner every day.

The other night, I was walking the dog and I was struck by how brightly the Odyssey House is lit.  It's like their shooting a movie there.  This isn't unusual in New Orleans, but they aren't shooting a movie at the Odyssey House.  They just keep it lit that way for some reason, a beacon in the night.

If you walk to the lakeside intersection of the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue, where we are, and turn uptown on North Tonti Street, head two blocks to the intersection of Governor Nicholls Street.  That's the Odyssey House looming up ahead.

It used to be a home for African American widows run by the Sisters of the Holy Family.   I'm not sure when it stopped being a widows' home.  I may have to head out to the convent in the East and ask Sister Agnes or one of the other nuns when that happened.  My guess is the 1990s, but that is only an armchair historian's educated guess.

The sisters' order was founded in our neighborhood by Venerable Mother Henriette Delille, a free woman of color.  They used to operate out of the French Quarter, but they moved out to New Orleans East.  Based on the current convent's architecture, I'm guessing that happened in the 1960s.  Any relation to the timing of Vatican II seems purely coincidental.  The sisters still wear habits.
Corner of N. Tonti and Gov. Nicholls Streets
The sisters sold the widows home, which is an incongruous three story brick building surrounded by shotgun houses that are more typical of the neighborhood.  Willie Mae's Scotch House, which serves the best fried chicken in America according to the Food Network, is about six blocks further uptown on North Tonti.  Lunch only.

So, what's the Odyssey House?  If you are thinking about making a reservation with us, I may as well tell you now because I'll tell you when you are here.  It's a residential treatment facility for people with drug abuse problems.  They are good neighbors.  If this bothers you, you may want to book a room in the French Quarter where the drug-addled blithely roam the streets before they're ready to seek help.  

When the dog and I see people doing group calisthenics in the morning behind Odyssey House, I'm always tempted to join in, but I have to pick up pastries and fresh bread for our guests.

This week, our guests have heard and seen a marching band practicing two blocks up Esplanade Avenue, lakeside, in the afternoon.  They start outside John McDonough High School, where they are headquartered, and they march through the neighborhood making loops up one street and down the next.  They are practicing for Mardi Gras, when they will march in I don't know how many parades. Every day they get better.  There are cheerleaders, too, who get more synchronized.

If you've had breakfast in our dining room, you've probably heard me say that it is like magic to live here.  I sometimes say that it's like a movie.  It is, even when nobody is filming.  You never know what happy surprises you'll find around the corner.  Until you get here, that is.  Don't be a stranger.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When does the Mardi Gras season begin?

The middle of the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue
The Mardi Gras season begins in New Orleans on January 6.  On that day, the Phorty Phunny Phellows ride the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue and the Krewe of Jeanne d'Arc parades through the French Quarter.

Frau Schmitt and I are members of the Krewe of Jeanne d'Arc.  If you were walking down Esplanade Avenue the other evening and saw two people in monk's robes riding scooters to the Quarter, that was us.  Hello.  You never know who you'll bump into in New Orleans.

Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator are in our forties, so we have a soft spot in our hearts for music from the 1980s.  Think Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD).  You can skip the first minute of the video above.  You can skip all of it, really, or keep reading while the soundtrack plays...

What was nice about marching in the Twelfth Night parade were all the people lining the streets to wish the krewe a happy Twelfth Night.  It was Joan of Arc's birthday, and her feast day.  At one point, everyone wished this tradition to carry on for centuries.  

For centuries.  That is how New Orleanians make traditions.  They think about the present, but they make what they do in the present worthwhile for the future while remembering the past.  Good memories are made  in New Orleans, now and forever.
2216 Esplanade Avenue
It is Carnival season in New Orleans.  If you want to come on Mardi Gras Day, you are welcome to do it, but I have a secret to tell you.  The best time to come is the weeks before Mardi Gras Day.  That is when New Orleanians celebrate for themselves.  There are parades every weekend.  Some are more extravagant than others.  Some have block-long floats while others are just a gaggle of people who just want to dress up and celebrate while they walk the streets.  The walking parades are the best.

There is a parade down Esplanade Avenue.  It is made up of elementary school children in little floats pulled by pickup trucks and junior high marching bands.  That's our favorite, even more than 'Tit Rex and Krewe de Vieux.
The welcome mat is out
New Orleans is a place where magic happens every day.  We love living here.  It is an enchanted place.  When you visit New Orleans you won't leave disappointed.  The whole city makes sure of that.  We do our part.  Wherever you stay, we hope you enjoy yourselves.  If you do come to New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, we know a nice boutique inn where you can stay and get the royal treatment.

Follow your NOLA:


A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Garden Party

View from the back garden
This is the view from our back garden.  We live in a very unique space, as you will probably hear me say as I give you the introductory tour at check-in.  It is a colorful compound of three buildings, all built in 1883, sandwiched into New Orleans' street grid.  It is lovely and enchanting.  Just ask the caretakers.

It isn't isn't every property that's a landmark that the tour buses stop in front of.  This is the view from the rear.  New Orleans is a picturesque city.  We happen to live on the 2nd-most beautiful street in New Orleans.  When you tell someone from New Orleans that you are staying on Esplanade Avenue, they'll say to you, "That's one of my favorite streets."

It's our favorite street.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Meanwhile, back in New Orleans

New Year's Day, New Orleans
We've rearranged some furniture in Les Saintes Suite.  It feels a bit more intuitively livable now.  I could spend a week there.  In fact, we have somebody staying a week there now.  According to their report, they couldn't be happier.
View of the sitting room in Les Saintes Suite
I didn't take a picture of the desk, but it's been getting a workout.  It's covered by a computer, brochures, and notebooks stuffed full of impressions and sketches.

I did take a picture of the marlin.
One wall in Les Saintes Suite
The marlin is a reproduction of a very similar fish that was caught in the Mississippi River off the Esplanade Avenue Wharf in 1963.  That fish's name was Merlin the Marlin.  If you take the time to read microfiche copies of the New Orleans Picayune in the library, you can learn the whole story.  It's a whopper.

The framed pictures below the stuffed marlin are:

1.) A portrait of Mother Henriette Delille.  It's a reproduction of a cross stitch portrait made by Sister Agnes who belongs to the Sisters of the Holy Family, the religious order founded by the Ven. Mother Henriette Delille.  I went out to their convent in New Orleans East and had a nice chat with Sister Agnes.

2.) A WWII era handbill extolling the patriotic duty Americans have to eat oysters.  I don't think this bit of propaganda was ever needed in New Orleans.

3.) A portrait of a young lady that many people call "La Belle d'Esplanade."  The caption says, "You meet the most beautiful people in New Orleans."  That's true.

4.) A label from a box of Mark Twain Cigars, c.1897.  The brand's motto: "Known by everyone.  Liked by all."  Every time I read that, I think of Frau Schmitt.
Everybody loves Hubig's pies
Imagine you're in Thailand in a resort hotel.  You're sitting in the lobby waiting for your in-laws to show up for an elephant ride that you've got scheduled for that afternoon.  Who should walk by but some jovial chap wearing a Hubig's Pies tee shirt?  Stranger things have happened.  Naturally, you would ask that guy if you can take his picture for your blog.  Naturally, he's the kind of guy who will agree.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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