Thursday, August 27, 2015

President Obama in New Orleans

A shadow on our house
I think I can safely speak for Frau Schmitt when I say that neither of us would mind if President Obama stopped by our house, even if he didn't spend the night.  As I write this, he's behind our house right now.  He's not in our back yard holding a beer summit.  He's five or six blocks behind us.  

I was running an errand and all the streets were blocked---policemen everywhere.  I figured it was the president so when I got home, I looked it up.  Sure enough, President Obama is in Tremé.

We have some guests from England who were very interested in seeing the president.  They were planning on having lunch at Dooky Chase's today so they may have gotten their wish.  The president ate there the last time he was in town.  No one called to ask me, of course, but I would have suggested he have lunch at Cafe Dauphine in the Lower 9th Ward, where he's going to be anyway later in the day.  

Now, to get on with what I wanted to write about today.

While I am interested in New Orleans transportation system, something caught my eye just after 1:56 in the video above, something very familiar.

That's Kathleen's el Camino parked on the street.

I always say, I wish I'd get a nickel for every time somebody takes a picture of our house.  I don't know how many times images of our house have been used, I only know the times I've seen it or what people forward to us.  Nothing I can do about and I don't begrudge anyone.  It's a compliment for a paint job well done.  Not that we painted the house ourselves.  It was this guy, who is the nicest contractor you'll ever meet.

As long as we're sitting around watching Convention and Visitors Bureau videos:

City Park, of course, is at one end of our street.  The English couple I just mentioned walked up there this morning.  The weather the past couple of days has been unseasonably mild.  It's been a real joy to walk around.  

Crescent Park is at the other end of our street.  It's very new so it doesn't have as much shade as I would like.  Give it a few years to grow into itself and I'm sure I'll enjoy it more than I do now.  Unlike the narrator, I can't get all excited about seeing the Mississippi River close up.

Armstrong Park is probably about the same distance from our house as the other two.  Walk down to Rampart Street and hook a right, in the uptown (upriver) direction.  Armstrong Park is a very interesting urban space.  This is another place that we don't visit often because there usually isn't much going on.  That said, when Jazz in the Park is going on, which is weekly in season, it's a good time.  

La Belle Esplanade
So, what did I want to write about again?  Who cares?  We've covered enough ground for today.  If you haven't stayed with us before, we look forward to meeting you.  If you have stayed with us before, we're looking forward to seeing you again.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

P.S.  I just looked at the "Most Popular Posts" in the sidebar to your right.  For the first time since I can remember, "How Much Do Cigarettes Cost in New Orleans?" isn't listed there.  That, by far, is our most popular article.  

I think it's going to be knocked down in the rankings by "Ode to Golden Flake Potato Chips."  Everyday people are tweeting and retweeting links to it.  If you haven't read that one, check it out to see what all the excitement is about.  It's solid gold, I promise. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Les Pêches Suite

Bedroom in Les Pêches Suite
I haven't mentioned it, but we've made some changes to Les Saintes Suite---so many changes that it's got a new name.  It's now called Les Pêches.  That's French for fish.  It's pretty fishy in there now.  If you're patient, maybe you'll find Nemo.

We didn't repaint the bedroom.  I've always been partial to the orange in that room and I think it makes a nice contrast with the sitting room's new color.  Wanna know what color that is?  You can either be patient or look through the door in the picture above.
Another bedroom view, Les Pêches Suite
I don't appear in the mirrors on that wardrobe because I'm standing right in the middle, where the doors meet.  I'm not a vampire.  Here's the proof:
Your humble narrator
We've put a new bed in Les Pêches Suite.  The old antique bed (all antiques are old by definition), we moved into La France Suite.  The new bed in Les Pêches is a queen bed.  We get a lot of requests for a queen bed.  The antique plantation sized beds we have in La France and Le Pelican are beautiful, but some people don't like to sleep close to each other.  In my line of work, I don't ask too many questions.
Bed in Les Pêches Suite
You'd think I could straighten out that picture over the bed before I took the picture, eh?  Just before writing this, I hung a new painting under the marlin.  I didn't hang the picture to cover up the spot you see in this photo.  That circle is a water spot on my camera lens.  I noticed it and wiped the lens with my shirt tail, just the way the pros do.  The new painting is a beauty.  It's by our favorite artist, Whalehead King.  You'll have to make a reservation to see it.

So, all of this is pretty mundane.  What about the sitting room?  Fasten your seatbelts, folks:
Sitting room, Les Pêches Suite
Sitting room, Les Pêches Suite
Sitting room, Les Pêches Suite
We've hung paper lanterns from the ceiling.  Yes, the ceilings are green in this suite.  I'm fancying the idea of making the decor more three dimensional and immersive, the way we did in Les Fleurs earlier this month (go back a couple of posts).  It works really well in Les Pêches.  When you turn the ceiling fan on, the lanterns spin.  I hope they stay up.
Sitting room, Les Pêches Suite
Of course, there are fish all over the walls in the sitting room, even more so than in the bedroom.  I'm very pleased with the results.  So is Frau Schmitt, who is usually right about these things.  This article gives you the slightest hint of what the suite looks like.  It doesn't smell like fish, of course.  We keep everything German-tidy; it smells like April freshness, the same as the rest of our inn.

You know what Ben Franklin said.  If you don't, he said that guests and fish stink after three days.  We don't think that about our guests.  We like people who stay for four, five, seven nights.  They really get a better idea of what it is like to live in New Orleans that way.  We know you have lives to get back to at home, but you won't regret staying for a longer time rather than a shorter.  Nobody is bored in New Orleans.

I should point out that Les Pêches Suite has it's own private bath with an antique clawfoot tub equipped with a shower head.  It has a balcony of its own that overlooks Esplanade Avenue.  The cast iron railing around the balcony is strung with white fairy lights you can plug in if you choose.  It's very romantic.

Les Saintes suite was always a favorite suite of mine, now that it's Les Pêches, it remains a favorite.  With only five to choose from, though, they are really all my favorite.  We are very proud of what we've created here at La Belle Esplanade.  I think justly so.  Frau Schmitt agrees, and she is usually right about these things.

If you are thinking of visiting New Orleans, you can do worse than staying with us.  We aren't the least expensive, but we try to provide good value for the dollar.  We're all about lagniappe and what hotel can you stay in and jawbone with the owner for an hour every morning?  None.  

If you want to see what the suite looked like before the renovations, here's the link to that.  

We look forward to meeting you.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Some updates to Les Fleurs Suite

The sitting room in Les Fleurs
I take pictures with my phone so they aren't usually very good.  They're good enough so that you get an idea of what the inn looks like, but it looks much better in person.  I happen to like this strategy, though a lot of professionals tell me I should have better pictures on our website.  I'm starting to think they're right.

One thing I don't like about my phone pictures is that it's very hard to get the color right.  The house is so saturated with color that it tends to dominate, or it just doesn't come out the way it really looks.  That's one argument to get somebody in here with a good camera.

Our opening photo is what the sitting room in Les Fleurs Suite looked like when we opened for business.  That antique couch hasn't been there for awhile.  Also, I've been making some additions to the décor this month, particularly to Les Fleurs Suite, but more extensively to Les Saintes.  Let's just discuss Les Fleurs today.

We like to name everything in the house in French.  Why?  Because visitors think that people in New Orleans still speak French.  Surprise!  Nobody speaks French here any more, but we can pretend, can't we?
Sitting room in Les Fleurs
I'm sure a professional can frame these shots better than I can.  I took this sitting in the leather arm chair in the opposite corner.  I'm trying to remember as I write this, are the walls pink or purple in that room---it's a combination of the two.  The ceiling is blue.  I know that much.

The original theme of Les Fleurs Suite was, if you don't speak French, flowers.  It still is, but we've added a bit more Mardi Gras to the mix.  We've hung some branches from the ceiling and festooned them with Mardi Gras beads.
One view
Another closeup

You see what I mean about the colors in these photos?  The walls aren't peach.  I know that because the bedroom is peach, or coral if you prefer.  

Anyhow, it's a very interesting suite and a very interesting experience.  I'm rather pleased with the effect.  Frau Schmitt isn't entirely convinced, and she is usually right about these things.  We're going to let things be for awhile and see what our guests have to say about it.  The first ones will check in this afternoon.

We have a few days when the inn will be empty (so far) in September.  I'm going to have a professional photographer come over and see what she can do.

We hired a professional photographer once, before we opened, and we couldn't use any of the pictures he took.  His pictures were all details, like this:
A detail shot

He was very proud of that picture.  It's an apple snail shell that's part of the driftwood sculpture in our dining room and it caught his eye.  Jiminy Cricket, man!  I want people to know what our inn looks like!  Leave those artsy compositions at the door!  He and I didn't get along so I started taking pictures with my phone.  That's how it began.  That's why all our online photos lack imagination---I don't have any.

I suppose the best way to see what we're up to is to make a reservation with us if you're thinking of visiting New Orleans.  We'll be happy to meet you.

In the very near future, don't hold your breath, I'll be giving you a glimpse of our newest addition.  Les Saintes Suite is no more.  It's been totally renovated.  It's now called Les Pêches.  If you don't speak French, that means fish.  It's gonna be a real ringer dinger!!

Until then,
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast

Monday, August 17, 2015

Poems, Prayers & Promises: New Orleans

Say it 3 times fast
The title of today's entry is swiped from the title of John Denver's breakout album from 1971.  That's the only John Denver reference I'm going to use today because, frankly, I don't think Mr. Denver had much to do with New Orleans.  Over the course of my research, however, I did find this college football clip that interested me, if only because I'm from Connecticut (UCONN stand for University of Connecticut):

What would the Connecticut fans be singing if UCONN had won?  Connecticut's state song is 'Yankee Doodle,' a tune that gets a Nutmegger's blood boiling with pride whenever we hear it.  Try singing it at breakfast sometime.  I'll stand up and salute you.  It's a reflex.

Enough of this foolishness, though, eh?  You're here to read about what's going on in New Orleans right now.  Here's your answer: not much.

It's the slow season in our fair city.  It's hot.  It's humid.  People from out of town wilt within the first half hour outside of air conditioning.  You have to live here awhile to enjoy New Orleans in August, like a frog in a pan of water on the stove.

That said, several dozen restaurants in town are participating in Coolinary New Orleans, a city-wide lunch or dinner special that runs throughout the month and costs $39 or less per three-course meal.  Not bad.  There are plenty of good meals to sample.  It's all a part of the "Be a Tourist in Your Home Town" movement.  Of course, as innkeepers, we try to be tourists all the time---all the better to make recommendations to our guests.

This is the time of year when we go to the French Quarter.  It's much less crowded.  If you are coming during Mardi Gras, you don't have a choice.  You have to go to the Quarter at its most hedonistically congested.  We live here. We can wait until August to have dinner at Antoine's.  We do go during the year, but August is our favorite time of the year.
Our back yard
The oleander tree in our back yard is in bloom again.  A lot of the trees bloom several times a year.  If it weren't for the fluctuating heat, you'd never know there are seasons here.  The trees don't really lose their leaves the way they do in New England.  

Apropos of nothing, I'd like to change the subject.  

Did you know that the people who rent rooms on Airbnb are just simple folk, amateurs who are just renting a spare bedroom to help pay their mortgage?

I have to admit, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about Airbnb, nor do I enjoy the company of innkeepers who harp on how unfair it is that they have to comply with the law while plenty of people rent rooms illegally, convert whole buildings into small hotels, essentially, and rent them out on Airbnb.  This will all shake itself out eventually.  In my mind, you can't replace an honest professional innkeeper who is invested in doing things the right way, obeying the laws, respecting the neighbors and the neighborhood's integrity as a valued corporate citizen.  

It sounds nice when I put it that way, doesn't it.  That's because I'm from Connecticut, the Land of Steady Habits.  Frau Schmitt is from Germany, a country well known for citizens who obey the rules.

I was reading some online commentary about the Airbnb brouhaha (New Orleans is inundated with illegal short term rentals via Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner)).  One comment said, "I moved to New Orleans because it's a pirate city!  It has a history of breaking the laws!"
A pirate city
I don't know where that joker lives but I'm sure his neighbors less-than adore him.  Unless, of course, all his neighbors are only here for the weekend because they got rooms through Airbnb.  Large swathes of the Marigny and the Bywater are nothing else.  No full time citizens; just people in town to experience the real New Orleans surrounded by other strangers.

Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator are not pirates.  We are dowdy sticks-in-the-mud who believe in being responsible members of our community, sharing our city with visitors, sure, but not hollowing out our neighborhood or creating a nuisance at our settled neighbors' expense.  In the middle of the night, when the tenants at the illegal rental on the corner are getting loud, it's me who goes outside and asks them to quiet down.  "People live here.  Do you sit on your front porch and swear loudly at 2:00AM where you live?"  A: "Sorry sir."  They usually go to bed after that.

We hope you'll consider staying with us when you come to New Orleans.  We aren't in the French Quarter.  We live in a real neighborhood, a neighborhood that is mostly made up of people who live here.  It's really quite pleasant.  We love where we live.  We hope you will, too.  

New Orleans is an alliterative poem, one verse building off the last, leading to the next.  New Orleans is a fervent prayer in the dark night of the soul that gets repeated every daybreak.  New Orleans is a kept promise.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Good, Good Times in New Orleans

Your humble narrator
Some people want to know what Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator look like before they check in.  We include pictures of ourselves on our website, but I was in the lobby snapping pics the other day and decided to take a picture of myself in the mirror.  You can't really read it well in the picture above, but the mirror says, "Saint or Sinner?"  It's a more probing question when you look in the mirror yourself, gentle reader, and answer it honestly.

We have bright green geckos scurrying around New Orleans during all the warm months.  They are cheerful little lizards.  We've had geckos this year, too, but not as many as I remember during last year.  Instead, this year seems to be The Year of the Skink.  There are tiny skinks scuttling around everywhere I look, not just around our gardens in the back, but in City Park and in the neutral ground, too.  It's The Year of the Skink.

We usually have ample on-street parking in front of our inn for people who choose to drive to New Orleans.  We had some guests this week though that needed a lot of room.  They had some very interesting tales about how they got here:

The song came first and it hit #1 in 1975 and 1976 on both the country and pop charts.  Then, a movie was written around it, to flesh out the details of the story.  For our younger readers, if you could have been alive in 1975, you would have heard this song every twenty minutes on the radio.  It was during the CB radio craze.  Truckers were blue collar heroes.  They are still heroes, of course, but they are unsung ones.  Few people own CB radios anymore, that's what our phones are for.

Our recent guests were recreating the highlights of this classic film.  We live in a quiet residential neighborhood so there isn't a lot of space to park a convoy of big rigs.  They made do, parking at a truckstop on Elysian Fields Avenue and then taking taxis to our house.  Nice folks, all, as one would expect.  Hearty appetites, too.  
Shadow of a lady
There was a shadow cast on our front shutter the other morning.  It wasn't a mysterious shadow.  Some people ask if our inn is haunted.  Our answer: No.  Not that we've ever been able to ascertain, at least.  We've had no reports.  It was a beautiful shadow, however, as most things about our house are.  It's source:
La Belle d'Esplanade
The light in August is beautiful, if I can quote William Faulkner, who used to live in the French Quarter.  Faulkner wrote his first novel while he lived in New Orleans.  This tidbit isn't germaine to what I'm going to tell you next, but I thought I would throw it into the mix.

The novel was called, "Soldier's Pay."

We love New Orleans in August because it's the slow season here.  The lines are shorter or nonexistent.  The price for most things goes down.  You can get a three course lunch for $20.15.  Not a bad deal.  You can enjoy the city like a New Orleanian without the distractions of festivals and conventions and cruise ships disgorging their passengers.  You can see what it is like to love the city on it's own terms, at its worst, when the temperature is in the mid-90s and the humidity is high enough that you'll never feel dry.  It's a paradise.

We love August also because this is the month during which we open the next year's calendar.  I just opened the calendar for next year today.  If you are thinking about visiting New Orleans next year, for Mardi Gras, for French Quarter Fest, for Jazz Fest, for Labor Day, for Voodoo Fest, or for Thanksgiving, this is the time to make a reservation.  Everything is wide open as I write this except for the reservation Alan just made for the last week in January.  He's going to get a firm and hearty handshake when next we meet.  Welcome back.

We're doing some renovations on one of our suites this month.  Les Saintes Suite will soon be Les Pêches Suite.  We're going with a fish theme in the future.  I haven't said anything so far and haven't posted any pictures because it isn't done yet.  There aren't any pictures to take.  Les Pêches will have a queen bed, though, as all the front suites will now have.  The front suites (Les Fleurs, Clio, and Les Pêches) are larger, they have queen beds, they have luxury sheets and soaps, and they have balconies that overlook picturesque Esplanade Avenue.  They cost a tad more than the smaller suites in the back of the house but we try to make them worth it.  We are not the least expensive lodging option, but we are not the most expensive either.  We offer plenty of lagniappe.

As of this writing, we have been ranked the #1 B&B on Trip Advisor for 16 months and counting.  As I've said before, we don't like to boast about it.  We try to avoid bad juju.  We just try to offer honest value and a memorable experience while you stay with us.  Our guests seem to agree that we are doing what we set out to do.  We would like to thank all of our guests who have written reviews, not only on Trip Advisor, but also on, and other travel sites.  We are happy to be ambassadors to everyone who is interested in this magical city we call home.

I promised a 70s flashback to another Top 10 hit a few posts ago.  Luckily, we haven't had any guests looking to relive this particular moment in history:

If you were alive in 1974, you would have heard this song every twenty minutes on the radio.  Good memories, my friends, good memories, but not as good as the memories made at La Belle Esplanade.  For better or for worse, neither Frau Schmitt nor I have ever seen a streaker on Esplanade Avenue.  We live on a picturesque street in a quiet neighborhood.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Ode to Golden Flake Potato Chips

It's unexpected
By the time we're done with this installment, you're probably going to wish it was about dancing cats after all.  Well, if wishes were fishes we'd all be eating bouillabaisse.  

The local brand of potato chips is Zapp's and I've featured the various Zapp's flavors and packaging on this blog before.  When you go to the supermarket, though, there are some other local brands, i.e. local to the South, that you may not have heard of if you are from up North.  One brand, in particular, is the official potato chip of Talladega Superspeedway: Golden Flake.
Golden Flake is the official potato chip of a lot of things, most of which I have no idea what they are since I don't follow sports, including college football.  You can tell I'm not from Alabama, or from Louisiana for that matter.

Golden Flake is the inexpensive brand of potato chips found in the South.  I don't buy them often, but when I do I like the mesquite barbecue.  You just learned something personal about me.
Dip Style
You might think I like this flavor because of the taste.  They're all right on that front.  You might think I like this flavor for the way the crinkle cut construction holds up to aggressive dipping.  No, I don't ever have any dip in the house.  You might think I like this flavor because it's on sale.  You're getting closer, but that isn't the real reason.

I like Mesquite Barbecue Golden Flake Chips because of the doggerel on the back of the package.
Take your poetry wherever you can find it
You'll have to squint to be able to read the poetry in that picture, so let me transcribe it for you here:

A taste like is true.

But with a touch of smoke.....just for you.

Mesquite barbeque spice in dip style chips because they are stronger.

This makes the flavor last even longer.

Amen, brother.  I get all misty-eyed whenever I read that out loud.  Try it yourself.  I can wait till you're done.

Some people (I'm looking at you Stacy) think that I make up some of the things I write about here.  I really don't have to.  I may emphasize some things for dramatic effect but when you have your eyes open for magic, you'll find it everywhere you look in New Orleans---even on the back of a bag of inexpensive snack food.

Now, since this is a blog about a boutique New Orleans bed and breakfast inn on Esplanade Avenue, let's get down to business.  Here is a picture of the sitting room in Le Pelican Suite:
Note the blue ceiling
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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