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.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Good food in New Orleans

Ponce de Leon Street, New Orleans
I'm going to pull the curtain aside for a moment and let you in on a little secret that I let slip this morning to one of our guests.  Most of these blog posts are written a few weeks in advance.  I have a file I pick and choose from when it's time for an update.  Unlike some B&Bs, we don't hire a PR firm or professional writer to handle our image.  For the most part, it's just Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator, and Tammie the Housekeeper, of course.
Tammie the Housekeeper
Today, though, apropos of some recent correspondence, I felt I should break my regular schedule to share something a recent guest sent us about their stay.  This post is fresh.

Before I share that, however, we recently had a guest stay with us who is also named Tammy.  Her name, of course, is a homophone of our Tammie the Housekeeper's name; it sounds the same but it's spelled differently.  Tammy the Guest didn't smoke a pipe, but when people at the next table heard us address her, they couldn't help but ask me in a stage whisper: "Is that Tammie the Housekeeper??!!?"  Nope.  Tammie the Housekeeper showed up later that day, though, to the delight of everyone who met her.

Tammy the Guest said that she went to Orleans Seafood on North Claiborne Avenue, a few blocks from our house.  We didn't recommend it, but we would have if we had known she was thinking about it.  Orleans Seafood only has two reviews on Urban Spoon.  It's that kind of place.  I agree with the first review, it the kind of place that's "not for Cajuns from somewhere else."  I couldn't have said it better myself.

So what did our guest from the Berkshires write to us?  This:

Matthew, thanks again for a wonderful stay. When we awoke at home this morning we were disappointed that we couldn't walk downstairs to share yesterday's adventures, so I thought I'd share this post. As usual, Melanie was right, the hidden gardens were something special. We walked your lovely neighborhood one last time and stumbled into a passing parade. Truly the best send off we could ask for. Our last bites, sinfully delicious fried chicken at Dizzys. Our memories will linger.

I could take some lessons in poetic brevity, don't you think?  That last bit could almost be haiku:

Our last bites,
Sinfully delicious
Fried chicken at Dizzy's.
Our memories will linger

Almost.  I didn't say it was perfect haiku.  I can never remember how many syllables are supposed to be in each line. 

Li'l Dizzy's is also a few blocks away from us, on the corner of North Robertson Street and Esplanade Avenue, one block after crossing North Claiborne Avenue heading toward the French Quarter.  Li'l Dizzy's has 33 reviews on Urban Spoon

What I find most interesting is that neither of these places appears to have their own website.  They don't need one.  People who need to know about them, know about these places.  A person's got to eat, after all.  
Use your melon
I like this painting so much, I'm thinking about asking a local painter we know to make one similar to it to hang in one of our suites.  We're expanding the art collection at our inn.  We're always trying to make our surroundings more interesting.

We're always tickled to get correspondence.  Keep those cards and letters coming.  What will the next post be about?  I can't say I don't know because I told you at the beginning of this one that it's already written.  I'll tell you this much: it will be interesting.  At least one of us will think it is.

Until then,
A votre santé,

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's it like to stay in a B&B?

A small view of our breakfast buffet
People who stay with us sometimes ask beforehand how we compare to other B&Bs in New Orleans, or other B&Bs elsewhere. I've gotta be honest: we don't know.  

The bed and breakfast industry is made up of small owner-occupied-and-managed eccentrically individual inns, each with its own personality.  No two are alike.  I read a lot of reviews in my line of work.  

If you're planning to stay in a B&B, you should read a lot of reviews, too.  Individually, the reviews don't tell you much.  Every place is great!  Read enough of them, and you can discern a pattern of what each place offers, though.  Sometimes, the bed and the sheets set a place apart.  If that's important to you, stay there.  Sometimes, it's the breakfast.  Sometimes, most of the time, it's the hosts.  Good hosts make good company the way good guests make good company.  If a B&B has a dead blog, it's probably running on a chain hotel resting on its reputation or its brand.

As of this writing, we have 132 reviews on Trip Advisor.  That's pretty respectable for being open only two years (October 2014 marks our entry into our third year of being open for business).  I look at other New Orleans B&Bs and see that some have over 300 or 500 or 600 reviews and I think, "Boy, we're still pretty green."  Then I see that those 600 reviews go back more than ten years.  I guess 132 reviews in two years is pretty impressive.  We're still green, but that only means we're still enthusiastic about our profession.  We love what we do.

I'm waiting for somebody to rate us "Terrible."  No stars.  "La Belle Esplanade sucks."  We don't serve dry cereal for breakfast.  No Kellogg's Raisin Bran.  Nobody eats it and we end up throwing it away.  And, we don't offer other things we don't advertise.  No hot tub.  There's no ADA compliant ramp to the front door of our historic district mansion.  The city won't let us install one.  There's no elevator to the second floor.  There aren't any grab bars in the antique claw foot tub.  We don't serve breakfast in bed.  You have to come get breakfast yourself and take it to your suite yourself.  (We don't mind if you do.)  We don't offer in-house dry cleaning, though we do have coin-operated laundry facilities on the premises.  

We have tried to anticipate every need but we can't anticipate every contingency or flight of imaginative fancy.  If you ever have a question about what we offer, please ask in advance.  We sometimes serve sausage for breakfast.  If a guest chooses to tell us they are vegetarian for the first time when they sit down for breakfast as we are putting an artfully arranged sausage plate in front of them, we apologize for not knowing this in advance, but, really, how could we?  Most people aren't vegetarian and most people are happy with what we serve.  We do scramble to serve something different, and special, for that person the next day.

It's going to happen some day.  The 1*, one-star, poor-service, crummy inn, review is coming, like a buzzard that circles a fat calf in a field hoping it trips and can't run away.  Easy pickings.  Somebody is going to complain that we didn't accommodate them in some way, and they won't tell us while they're here, and we won't know how we could make their visit to New Orleans better until we read that dreaded review online, after the fact, posted for all the world to see.  Ha-ha!

I can't say that I stay up at night wondering how I'll respond to that review when it comes, but I know it's coming.  I'm sure it's going to be a doozy.  If you are reading this blog before you stay with us, don't be that person.  We do whatever we can to make you feel at home.  It's our home, too, after all.  Happiness loves fellow company.  If you have a request, make it known.  We'll go out of our way.  I'm going to buy a pint of skim milk tomorrow morning, after all, fully aware that most of that pint will be tossed in the trash come Monday trash day.
Use your melon
We went to Cowbell the other day.  It's a hamburger shack on the outskirts of the Riverbend, in Carrollton, at the farthest boundary of New Orleans proper, where New Orleans ends and Jefferson Parish, suburban sprawl, begins.  We probably won't have many guests who ask us about it.  It's not easy to get to.  It's worth a visit, though.  We went there twice, two days in a row, and your humble narrator isn't even much of a hamburger fan.  We went the second day to sample the vegetarian burger.  It was worth recommending.  In fact, we were talking to somebody yesterday, a vegetarian, and Frau Schmitt said, "You need to try the vegan Cowbell burger at Cowbell."  She's usually right about these things and she was this time, too.  That's the way most conversations go in our house. 

Cowbell is a quirky place.  It's got some nice original artwork in there, like the "Use Ya Melon" painting.  All the food and the cocktails are good.  Yes, cocktails for lunch.  This is New Orleans.

If you're looking for a B&B that has hosts who travel hither and yon throughout their fair city looking for the best that New Orleans has to offer, convenient or not, I have a place to recommend.  Is it like other New Orleans B&Bs?  We don't know.  I suppose they're all good.  That's what most of the reviews on Trip Advisor say, anyway.  It all depends on what you expect.  When you don't plan too much, you'll never be disappointed.  Be careful what you wish might be ready for it, and then you, too, will fall in love with this magical city we call home.
Morning in New Orleans
That's the view I had when I was buying bread yesterday morning before any of our guests were awake.

You make your choice and you take your chances.  

We look forward to meeting you.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What's beautiful about New Orleans?

Motorcycles in our back yard
We recently had a troop of motorcyclists from the United Kingdom (that's England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, to you) who stayed with us for a couple of nights after making the "Music Tour" of Nashville, Memphis, Clarksdale, New Orleans.  We never know who is going to show up on our doorstep, but it's always a pleasant surprise.  They left early after breakfast and I snapped a photo of them suiting up with the sun streaming through the palm tree that's in the back gardens.

Then, I turned around and snapped a photo of the back of our inn:
An arrow points toward Heaven
The clouds have been breathtaking in the morning this autumn.  I've been taking pictures of them so that I can share them on the blog.  I know you have clouds where you come from, but everything is different in New's more magical.  That's the way I feel about it, at least, and I live here and I'm your humble narrator, so it's my opinion against yours.  We love living here.

I was in the gardens yesterday afternoon, and the Parisian couple who have been staying with us were taking the exact same photo.  They left this morning to tour Lafayette and other parts of the great state of Louisiana, but they asked if we have a room available when they come back to the city.  That's the kindest compliment of all.  We are very proud of our profession as innkeepers.  When people want to return, when they can't think of staying anywhere else in our fair city, well, that's the kindest compliment of all.  There is room at the inn.
Gayarre Place, New Orleans
The small triangular park in front of our house is called Gayarre Place.  It's named after the Father of Louisiana History, Charles Etienne Gayarre.  His grandfather was the first mayor.  Over the past couple of months, an anonymous art project has been underway.  An anonymous artist has been hanging identically generic signs that say "LOVE" all over the city.  It's been in the newspaper.  The other day, he or she finally got around to putting one of his or her signs in front of our house.  I like it.  Frau Schmitt thinks a nice addition to our stretch of Esplanade Avenue.  She is usually right about these things.
Crow in City Park, New Orleans
When I was walking the dog in City Park the other day, in the wide lawn in front of the art museum that's at the end of our street, I saw a raven.  I snapped a photo of that, too.
A view of breakfast at La Belle Esplanade B&B
I was walking the dog in City Park early in the morning, before the bakeries open.  We were on our way to Blue Dot Donuts, where we picked up a half dozen fruit-glazed cake donuts for breakfast; blueberry, strawberry and orange.  Then we went down to Alois Binder Baker to pick up a loaf of po' boy bread.  We were home before anyone was up, and Frau Schmitt worked her usual magic in the kitchen.  Good stories were swapped over good food that morning, they way they always are, every day, in our block of Esplanade Avenue.  At least, that's the way the days start in the big orange house with blue shutters.

If you are looking for a place to stay in New Orleans that marries good conversation with delectable eats, I have a place I can recommend.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
A Diamond Collection B&B.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Orleans Diamond Collection Inns

Official badge identifying's Diamond Collection members
We have permission to use that badge.  I wouldn't do it, otherwise.

You'll remember a week or so ago, I mentioned that we'd been personally inspected by a professional B&B inspector.  Well, we just got the news that we passed.  We exceeded the expected standards used to measure outstanding B&Bs in a city famous for its bed and breakfasts.  They aren't just New Orleans standards, they apply worldwide.
A Diamond Collection B&B
We're not ones to boast.  I don't think too, too much of it.  Frau Schmitt either, for that matter.  We're pleased of course, and we enjoy praise as much as the next person.  We also got a dollop of constructive criticism out of our inspection that we're going to put to good use to become better innkeepers.  Not everyone passes 100%.  Very few pass with more than what we scored.  It's affirming, but we're not ones to rest on our laurels.  

I've been reading a lot of articles about B&B entrepreneurs recently.  I'm a glutton for punishment and I'm not going to link to what I've read here.  There aren't many articles out there, truth be told, but they all boil down to the same thing: some people have the personalities to be innkeepers, while other people don't.  We fall in with the former.  We enjoy our profession.

Most B&Bs fail quickly.  We are entering our third year of operation with no sign of flagging interest or dedication.  We enjoy what we do.  We are looking forward to doing better.

This morning, we looked up the route of a second line parade that was going through our neighborhood today, and we shared the route with our guests.  If you want to sample a slice of New Orleans culture that isn't meant for tourists, you want to go to a second line.  If you don't know what a second line is, well, come on a Sunday.  Really, you should come on a Saturday, so that you are fresh to join in the parade on Sunday.  Then, stay the following Monday and Tuesday, leaving Wednesday.  You can stay longer, of course, and you should, but four nights should be your minimum stay.  Timing is everything.  

Whatever you choose to do, of course, is your own business.  We provide lodging and breakfast and recommendations.  What finally unfolds is due to your own decisions.  All of them will be right.  It is very hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans and it is well nigh impossible to be bored.
Right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue
It's nice to be recognized for being exemplary hosts.  If you read the reviews of our inn online, which I won't link to here, you'll read that we are personable innkeepers full of spot-on recommendations, and that our house is a jewel of a place in a wonderful neighborhood.  We ask that you don't believe everything you read, and that you do your due diligence before making a reservation with us.

I'm not going to lie.  Frau Schmitt is the nicest person you will ever meet.  We will take care of you to the best of our ability.  We offer good value at an honest price so that we can keep the place running and we won't nickel-and-dime with add-on charges, or try to sell you souvenirs.  We want you to enjoy our city the way we enjoy it, at a relaxed pace, never knowing what is going to happen next.  That's what it's like to live in New Orleans.

Remember, we don't know anything about you before you arrive.  Since we don't know you, it is impossible for us to recommend anything that you might enjoy beyond the generic.  We don't know you yet.  When you leave, we'll be friends.  Before you arrive, we are all only friends who haven't yet met.  Timing is everything.

We can't plan your itinerary cold every morning.  It's a collaborative effort.  You need to show up having done some homework, otherwise, we are going to do what the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau does: we're going to send you to the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street.  We're members of the NOCVB, so we're familiar with their methods though we often disagree over the particulars.  There's nothing wrong with this modus operandi.  You should go to the Quarter and the Marigny Triangle, but we aren't going to tell you that the best best turtle soup is at Mandina's until we find out you aren't allergic to turtle meat and you're willing to go out of the way.

Yesterday evening, we recommended Chickie Wah-Wah to two of our guests.  They went.  At breakfast, they said, "That was the most fun we've had all year.  Thanks!"  We only recommended it after learning they had been to New Orleans twice before, recently, and they were ripe for something more like the locals do, something outside the tourism bubble.  Chickie Wah-Wah, voila.
A postcard view of New Orleans
We live in a real neighborhood that doesn't have many tourists wandering around.  People live here, whether they are visiting for a long weekend, or they are making their livelihoods here.  Everyone makes New Orleans better through their presence, their witness and their participation.  It's magical where we live, but we do not live in the French Quarter.  

If you want to spend all your time in the French Quarter, you should reserve a hotel room down there.  We're an intimate boutique inn that offers something else.  You get a taste of the real city when you stay with us.  We'll tell you all about it.

Over breakfast, we hope you'll tell us all about your adventures in our fair city.

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Golf in New Orleans

An accidental movie
 I wanted to take a picture with my phone but it switched to video.  I hate when that happens.  Above, that's a video of the grass at my feet.  Fascinating, isn't it?  Welcome to New Orleans.
Abandoned snack bar in City Park, New Orleans
There used to be two golf courses in City Park.  Then there was Katrina, and you know what that did to most of the city.  Nowadays, one golf course has been restored and is open for business.  It has a driving range, too.

The abandoned golf course is in the middle of City Park, between Mirabeau Street and Fillmore Street, I think.  It's hard to tell what the landmarks are when you're in there.  It's a ghost course, filled with winding sidewalks that lead nowhere, past abandoned little buildings and alongside overgrown lagoons.  People say there are alligators up there, though I've never seen one.  People also say there are coyotes, but I haven't seen any of those either.  It's a fascinating place.
An abandoned rest room in City Park, New Orleans
If you are only going to stay for two or three nights in New Orleans, we're probably not going to recommend visiting the abandoned golf course in City Park.  Why?  Because there is just so much else to see.  When you get home, people aren't going to ask you if you went to the abandoned golf course.  They're going to ask if you went to Cafe du Monde or to Bourbon Street.  You should see these things, but please be aware that New Orleans is more than the tourist attractions in the French Quarter.  It's a living city.

Sometimes I like to say it's a living museum.  Everything is old here, even when it's new.  Everything is unique.  There is no place in America like New Orleans.  Dare I say there is no place in the world like this wonderful city we call home?  Okay.  I'll say it.

Both Frau Schmitt and I have visited many places all over the globe.  We've lived in a few of them, too.  New Orleans is like nowhere else.  We love it here.  If we didn't, we wouldn't live here. We'd be somewhere more romantic.  Unfortunately, there isn't any other city more romantic.  Not Paris.  Not Venice.  Not Rio de Janeiro.  Not New Haven, Conn.  Not Des Moines, Iowa.  Take your pick of places.  New Orleans beats them with unfettered and infectious and resilient sheer joie de vivre.   
A dog in City Park, New Orleans
Some people walk their dogs in the abandoned golf course in City Park because hardly anyone goes there.  When you have to go to Cafe du Monde or Bourbon Street, who wants to wander around an abandoned golf course?  Some people do.  Mostly it's people who live here.  It's peaceful up there.

I recently got an email that half of the abandoned golf course is going to be restored, retrofitted, and returned to commerce so that people can putt and score birdies in the "West Golf Course."  I have an idea of where they mean because nobody refers to the compass in New Orleans, so I'm only guessing.  I'm guessing that the repair work is going to be done on the Uptown side of the abandoned golf course.  We usually stick to the Downtown side when we walk the dog or just want to stroll around alone with our thoughts.  

I mentioned the restoration plans to Frau Schmitt, and also to Dorothy, who is the weekday bartender at the Parkview Tavern, and to Marsha, who is very involved in the tour guide business.  They all expressed regret that the abandoned golf course is going to join the list of things in New Orleans that ain't dere no more.  Of course, avid golfers have been thinking that the original links ain't dere no more, so it's the circle of life in a big vibrant city.   

If you want to stay for a longish while in New Orleans, in a real neighborhood out of the tourist bubble, and you want to learn what it's like to live here...I have an idea where you might want to stay.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

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