Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I'm Always All Right in New Orleans

Overhead view of N. Rampart St., New Orleans, LA
4 out of 5 Australian travel agents read our blog.  Your humble narrator learned that from a reliable source.   High praise, indeed.  Thank you, one and all.  Keep sending business our way.  We love to treat everyone right.  

I'm not going to say if you're from Australia you'll get special treatment above and beyond what we normally provide but if you're from Australia I'll ask Frau Schmitt to break out the jar of Vegemite we keep on hand for breakfast.  I also promise that I will never mention Crocodile Dundee.  If you've been traveling the U.S. for awhile, by the time you reach New Orleans, you're already tired of the Crocodile Dundee jokes.  

We're not going to discuss shrimp on the barbie.

Enough of that.  We appreciate everyone who chooses to visit New Orleans, from wherever they may hail, even if it's from New Zealand.  We equally love Kiwis, too.  People from Australia and New Zealand hate when Americans confuse them.  They are two different countries.  Frau Schmitt and I know that.  She told me and she is usually right about these things.

It sometimes occurs to me when I'm chatting around the dining room at breakfast that I'm speaking some kind of alternate language where words mean one thing in the context that I'm saying them but they mean something else to the people hearing them.  I can tell by the puzzled looks I get.  Then, I backtrack and explain in a coaxial cable kind of conversation that winds around itself and is full of rich detail that is mostly forgotten and lost once it reaches its final destination.  It the parts that sticks to the bones that matter.  Just ask our dog.

I speak a New Orleans patois full of terms and references that only make sense if you live here.  I speak an international traveler kind of creole.  I speak like I'm from Connecticut, all business, shoot-from-the-hip Yankee.  I speak the sterling smooth tones of a welcoming host, which I am.  And I'm a goodwill ambassador for this magical city Frau Schmitt and I call home.  Frau Schmitt is, too.  Layers on top of layers, like a doberge cake.  You'd think I'd provide a link to "doberge cake," but, no, I'm gonna make you google it yourself if you're interested in what I'm talking about in this case.
Hallowe'en is coming
There's a house across from the Ursulines Academy that was featured in the New Orleans Advocate.  The Advocate is a newspaper, its a paper newspaper.  It's the rolled up newsprint that gets tossed on our front porch every morning, the one I read every day before our guests show up for breakfast.  It's the paper in which I solve the Jumble, in pen, in about one minute flat.  I'm not talking about the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  

Most people associate the Times-Picayune with New Orleans.  I never read that irregularly-printed, out-of-state-owned, turncoat rag.  Fluff and puffandstuff if you ask me.  Get your New Orleans news however you can, though.  Who am I to judge?  Have I mentioned that this is the #1 New Orleans blog read by Australian travel agents?  Now you know.


Hallowe'en House bachannal
I thought the house was on Claiborne Avenue.  This is going to be a thrilling bit of street grid geography for you, but bear with me.  I thought the house where the skeletons are was on Claiborne Avenue, but the Ursulines Academy takes up a full two city blocks.  One part, the narrow face where the athletic center is, faces Claiborne Ave.  Where the skeletons are, is on State Street, right across the street from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.  I've gotta admit, I've got mixed feelings about this tableau's placement.  

There is something to be said for mementi mori, though, so I don't have too many qualms.  When I stopped by to take pictures, two guys from Jimmy's Pest Control were servicing the property next door and the two pest control technicians who got out of the van were admiring the skeletons.

"What do you think?" I asked John.

John said, "I think I don't want to be a skeleton, even if I'm painted in Day-Glo."

"How about you, Juan?" I asked Juan.

"I think I should spend some time in the shrine across the street," Juan said.  Then he did just that.  John followed Juan while I was taking pictures of the Day-Glo skeletons and their dogs.


Out for a stroll, Uptown, New Orleans, LA
The past twelve paragraphs have been leading up to the real subject of today's installment which is the the subject of traveler's constipation.  Surprise!!

Get that giggle out of the way.  This is a serious malady.

All right, are you ready to continue?  

When some people travel, they are bothered by an intestinal sluggishness, if you want to call it that.  The cause may be the low-level anxiety of being in a new place.  It may be a shift in time zones or climate.  It may be the change in diet; after all, the food in New Orleans is very rich and it probably isn't what you're used to where you come from.  

We don't normally discuss this with our guests unless they bring it up.  Some people bring it up.  Whenever they do, it's in private consultation, guest to innkeeper.  It's like a doctor-patient relationship or attorney-client privilege.  Don't be ashamed to ask us anything.   We have been asked to provide answers for all sorts of questions.  Your secrets are safe with us.  That is what we are here for.  

Thankfully, no one has ever raised the subject at breakfast in front of our other guests, though I suppose that would be one way to quickly change the topic from talking about the difference between Australia and New Zealand.

Well, I found a video.  Please, any fetishists are encouraged to leave this page now.  This post isn't posted for your jollies.  That's why this video is buried at the bottom of this installment.  There is a way to encourage peristalsis manually according to the video evidence I've researched at a guest's request.  (Who says we don't go the extra mile?)

Frau Schmitt makes sure I have plenty of fiber in my diet and she is usually right about these things.  I prefer to call it roughage, but I'm old fashioned about these things.  There is plenty of fried food and cream sauce in New Orleans, but if you ask you can usually get a salad on the side. 

I've never tried the method illustrated below, nor have I asked any of our guests if they have gotten good results.  Most things that happen in our suites are none of our business.  I always believe patience is it's own reward.  However, if you are a mind to self massage the edges of your abdomen, here are some tips:


As always, venturing into uncharted territory for New Orleans B&B blogs, I'm just going to leave that at that.  No wonder Australian travel agents love this blog.  Your humble narrator leaves no stone unturned.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

P.S. If you are visiting New Orleans from Australia, we will never discuss this:

Never.
Never.
Never.
Never.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

New Orleans will stick in your mind.


Dooky Chase's Restaurant since 1941

Awright, I'm just going to crank out an installment on autopilot if you don't mind.  Let's see how this winds out.  Yo.

Today's soundtrack is provided courtesy of Taco.  Prepare yourself for some difficult listening:


I'm not watching the video as I write this.  Once was enough.  I am listening to the song play in another window as I go along here.  Again, I'm treating you to another big radio treat from when I was a much younger humble narrator.  Based on my research, Puttin' on the Ritz by Taco, while a top ten hit nationally, never cracked the top 50 in the New Orleans market.  New Orleanians have better taste. 

That Taco is pretty creepy looking, isn't he?  Top ten hit.

We like to send people who stay with us to Santa Fe, a Creole Southwestern restaurant up the street from us, about a 15-20 minute walk away on a very beautiful street.  Esplanade Avenue is the second-most beautiful street in New Orleans.  

Santa Fe is our go-to place to eat out when Frau Schmitt and I can't agree on somewhere else.  It is Creole Southwestern food.  What does that mean?  They have tacos and burritos, but they incorporate a lot of crawfish and seafood.  It's the crawfish and seafood that make it Creole.  The owner is Portuguese, so take a close look at the specials.  If you still have room for desert after your meal, Santa Fe has the best Tres Leches Cake in the city, hands down.  They also serve the second best sangria in the city.

Want a hot tip?  If you have an appetite, order the Chicken Maximillian at Santa Fe.  You won't regret it.

And, so, what this all boils down to is the fact that we have a restaurant on our street that serves crawfish tacos and this fact is really the only justification that I can muster to include an old dated video by a musician named Taco from over 30 years ago.  I know.  I'm shameless.  Even I don't want my MTV.

Professional blog writers will tell you to include five links to outside websites in every post for search engine optimization.  I don't normally pay attention, but maybe, today, since I'm just running on auto-pilot anyway, that's what I'll do.  Old habits die hard.  I'm not promising anything.  You can count the links as we go along.  They're gonna be real mind-stickers, I'm sure.

Whenever I think of Taco in the 1980s, I think of Falco.  Their names rhyme and one was really pretty much as good as the other.  Fasten your seat belts, folks, this is going to be a painful ride.  This next video is much better than the official Falco version that tormented those of us alive in the 80s.  The footage comes from an Academy Award nominated movie.  It wasn't The Princess and the Frog.

I sometimes think of Falco when I'm walking through City Park which is on the lakeside end of Esplanade Avenue, just past Beauregard Circle, which is just over the bridge that spans Bayou St. John.  I think about Falco because there are plenty of falcons that fly on the sly over the empty spaces in City Park.  

City Park is a well-manicured urban oasis, with plenty to see and do.  It is very romantic up there.  But, there are also plenty of wild places in City Park, places that most casual visitors don't see.  Some parts of New Orleans' City Park, which is larger than Central Park in New York City, are veritably forest.  Here there be hawks.  Here there be falcons.

There is a falconry club that meets on Saturday mornings in the middle of one of the abandoned golf courses in City Park.  It's pretty informal and I don't think they have a permit.  The members just show up with leather jerkins and gauntlets and hooded falcons, then they let a rabbit loose in the field and they have their sport.  The more I think about it, the less I think they have official permission to do this.  I expect that the City Park Board of Directors would worry about bad publicity from PETA.  You never know what you'll find in the out-of-the-way niches of New Orleans.
Wille Mae's Scotch House, corner of St. Ann and N. Tonti Streets
Some people like to come to New Orleans and go all high hat.  It's really more of a casual city.  Unless you're wearing a seersucker suit, it's not a suit and tie kind of a city.  With nine and a half million tourists a year, how many of them do you think pack a suit and tie?  Very few who stay with us, I can tell you that.

When I lived in New England, I wore a three-piece suit every day---bespoke.  Since moving to New Orleans, five years ago, I rarely go formal.  There just isn't any need.  If you are wearing a Saints jersey, you can go anywhere.  A New Orleans Saints jersey is carte blanche.  People wear them for their court appearances to influence the jury in their favor.

I was going to end this installment with a clip of Puttin' on the Ritz from the original 1930 movie of the same name starring Fred Astaire.  The sound quality was bad so, instead, I'm offering up a remix version.  Some people think I'm a purist and that I don't like anything new or remade.  That isn't necessarily true.  I live in a city that is old and being remade as you read this, trying to keep what is best about New Orleans and building off that while trying to stay true to the city's spirit and genius.  New Orleans has a tourist-based economy, but it isn't Disneyland.  It is something else, altogether.  It is something hard to describe.


You can put on the Ritz, or you can dance like nobody is watching.  You can stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Canal Street, or you can stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast on Esplanade Avenue.    Either is delightful in it's own way for different reasons which are very much the same.  Both places aim to delight you and to introduce you to a magical city we all call home.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.


P.S.  Above, I mentioned that our links today would be real mind-stickers.  What did I mean by that exactly?  I meant they should stick in your mind like a girl who keeps her shape in good shape with Tab.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Orleans Fried Chicken Triangle

McHardy's Chicken & Fixin', New Orleans, LA
Before we get started with today's subject matter, which has been tackled before on this blog much, much earlier on, we need to get in touch with our inner Kali and provide a soundtrack:


Frau Schmitt and I went to the Prime Example on the corner of North Broad Avenue and St. Bernard Avenue a few nights ago.  Amii Stewart wasn't the headliner, she wasn't even in the room, but the band did play a rousing version of Knock on Wood.  The whole room was dancing, your humble narrator included.  That was something to see, I'll tell you.


You know what they say in New Orleans?  They say: "Dance like nobody is watching."  I take that motto to heart.

I bet that when the 10-piece funk band that always plays at the Krazy Korner on Bourbon Street plays Knock on Wood the whole bar is hopping.     

We had a guest recently who had done his homework and learned through geographical triangulation that we are, indeed, located equidistant between the the apices of the little discussed, though well-known among cognescenti, New Orleans Fried Chicken Triangle (same link as before---I'm giving you a second chance).  Many people have lost there way within The Fried Chicken Triangle's borders.  Many more have found tasty paradise.

I was going to report our guest's findings after he had visited the three fried chicken restaurants within a five minute walk of our house.  He didn't have time to go the third, though, so this report will be incomplete from his perspective.  I'll supplement his findings with what information I'm able to provide, which is the usual modus operandi around hereabouts.  He inspired Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator to go on bivouac six blocks behind our house.  We regularly do this anyway, but this time we had a reason to do it.

Why, in five days and four nights, couldn't one person go to three fried chicken restaurants?  Because he spent one of those days taking a plantation tour. 

Our anonymous guest in question (he knows who he is and he's probably reading this installment right now), the tertiary subject of today's installment, has taken plenty of plantation tours.  He has been to New Orleans numerous times over the years.  His least favorite tours are the ones that present life on a Mississippi River plantation like a Culture Club video:


If VEVO doesn't allow you to see it here, you'll have to click the embedded YouTube link to watch this video there.  It's worth a gander.  Think Oak Alley when you watch that clip.  Karma chameleon, indeed.

Our guest wanted to see Whitney Plantation.  Who can blame him?

Dooky Chase's isn't going anywhere soon, Dooky Chase's will be open the next time he visits our fair city.  This is a chap who has been to New Orleans many times over many years.  You'd think he would know the city like we do, but he has tended to stay in the French Quarter most of the time.  No harm in that, but there's a whole other city out here waiting to be discovered.  We went to Dooky Chase's for lunch ourselves, to try the fried chicken.

This post is getting to be more convoluted than usual.  Are you following along with me this far?  Even I'm getting lost in the wheels within wheels.  Let's cut to the chase and get this fried chicken business out of the way, shall we?


The first day, our guest had fried chicken at McHardy's and he told us it was the best he's had in a long, long, and even one more long time, and, lunch had only cost him $5.00!  That's what he said, "That was the best fried chicken I've had in a long, long, long time."  

The next day, he went to Willie Mae's Scotch House.  Ms. Willie Mae Seaton died last Friday, which has nothing to do with the quality of the chicken, but I thought I would mention that this New Orleans icon is no longer with us.  May she rest in peace.  

Our guest's verdict comparing Willie Mae's chicken to McHardy's? McHardy's---no contest.

We went to Dooky Chase's this afternoon to pick up the slack left over from our new pal going to Whitney Plantation.  Our verdict?  McHardy's is better and not just because McHardy's is less expensive.

Before he left for the airport, I spoke with our guest, who, for reasons I'm not going to go into here, is going to remain anonymous for the duration of this article and probably forevermore.  As a professional innkeeper, I am always discreet about people's privacy.  Let's call him Chauncy.

I was talking to Chauncy and we both agreed that the reason McHardy's gets short shrift in the reputation department is because there's no sit-down dining.  It's a take out joint (hence the lower prices).  According to the Food Network, Willie Mae's has the best fried chicken in all of America.  According to a recent poll of New Orleanians, Dooky Chase has the best fried chicken in New Orleans.  According to the Creole grapevine in our neighborhood, it's always McHardy's that gets the top vote.  

At the hazard of sounding like somebody on Fox News when I say this, the mainstream media never asks the people who live in our neighborhood where to find the best fried chicken.  If they did, then I'd have to wait in line at McHardy's.  They don't, so I don't have to wait in line and for that I am grateful even though I'm sure Mr. McHardy, who is a prince of a fellow, wouldn't complain about the extra business.  Maybe somebody from the Food Network is reading this blog.  Shhhh.

Don't get me wrong.  I like both Dooky Chase's and Willie Mae's.  It's just that if I want the best fried chicken in town, I go to McHardy's and then I walk to the park and eat it there, which is a very pleasant experience, let me tell you.  If you are staying with us, I recommend enjoying your chicken in a park but you can always get take out and eat it in our back gardens, which are lovely.
The picnic table in our garden
I would prefer that you don't eat steaming hot fried chicken in your suite for the same reason that I ask that you to not eat boiled crawfish in your suite.  Both tend to stink up the house, the crawfish more than the chicken.  Don't be that person in your office who puts fish or popcorn in the microwave---no matter what you think, nobody likes it when you do that.  I know it's delicious, but it's nice to eat outside, especially this time of year.

And that brings us to the muddling conclusion of today's entry in the annals of New Orleans innkeeping.  Let's cut to a shot of this:
Macaroons!!
À votre santé, and,
Knock on wood,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Some Statues on Poydras Street

The Superdome on Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA

Regular readers of this blog know that your humble narrator's disinterest in abstract sculpture is well-entrenched.  For those of you who are tuning in for the first time, two entries ago involved a hard-hitting exposé of the debate over removing the monuments celebrating the Confederacy in New Orleans.  I ended that installment by saying that, while I don't have much invested in the fight, not being particularly for or against either side of the kerfuffle, my main concern is what will replace the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard.  

The Battle of Liberty Place monument probably should be consigned to history's scrap heap.  

Looking to see what artistic marvels might replace the bronze statues of the three Confederate heroes, a good place to look would be Poydras Street.  The Poydras Street neutral ground is replete with examples of the kind of contemporary sculpture that is usually found in public spaces.  I'm not looking forward to seeing any of it in General Beauregard's place at the end of Esplanade Avenue.
Pink bunny on Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA
Exhibit A is the pink bunny on Poydras street.  If this were in some children's playground or other innocuous space, I probably wouldn't mind it so much, but it's not.  This sculptural fluff is in a place where it is seen by thousands and thousands of people a year in a very prominent place.  What place is that?
In front of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
It's right in front of the Superdome.  Sheesh.  Regular readers also know that I don't follow sports so it's not like I have strong feelings about dishonoring the New Orleans Saints or anything, but, really? An abstract metal pink bunny in front of the Superdome?  Why?  What gives here?  I must be obtuse.

I'll give the pink bunny one point: at least I know what it's supposed to be.  Not many people can say that about the other sculptures in the Poydras Street neutral ground.  Shall we take a gander at Exhibit B?
Abstract sculpture on Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA
Howzabout Exhibit C?  Another whatzit:
A pile of chrome on Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA
I'm not going to catalog all the abstract sculpture on Poydras Street.  If you live in a city with a well-intentioned public art program, you've puzzled over plenty of this stuff already.  We're not talking about the Cloud Gate in Chicago here.  The subject under consideration is the usual bunch of half-baked junk welded together with a statement of intent to justify its existence in our sight lines.  I know these are harsh words, but, really, I wouldn't mind getting in on that racket.  I need to buy an acetylene torch.

Lest you think I'm just a philistine who frets over abstract art, there are also some realistic sculptures on Poydras Street.  Let's look at the latest additions to New Orleans' inspiring streetscape, shall we?
One half
The other half
These two ladies in bathing caps and bathing suits face each other over a break in the Poydras Street neutral ground where cars make U-turns. They are made of resin and oil.  Here's a look at the artist's statement in front of the one in the black bathing suit.
Carole Feuerman, Kendall Island, Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA
I know it's a bit small to read.  Here's what the last bit says:

"While their outward appearance is often beauty and tranquility, these elegant faces mask a deeper meaning of heroism, endurance and triumph; they are survivors, like the many faces of New Orleans' citizens who braved the hurricane."  

Now, I've read a lot of twaddle in my day.  Regular readers know I've written my fair share of twaddle, too.  This blurb I've just quoted seems to stretch a bit too far for my personal taste.  I assume the hurricane in question is Hurricane Katrina, not Betsy, Ike or Isaac, or any other hurricane that has struck the city that I'm not naming.  What any of those storms have to do with two women in bathing suits and bathing caps with their eyes closed---you got me----I don't know.  Like I say, it seems to be a bit of a stretch.
One half
The other half
Maybe I'm just some yahoo who can't appreciate the finer parts about the fine arts.  You know what my favorite thing of these statues is?  It's that people put Mardi Gras beads around their necks.  They need more beads, a lot more.  

As I was taking the above photos, another guy came up next to me.  Traffic was pretty slow at that point.  No cars were making a U-turn so we had the vantage point to ourselves.  He said, "These are some pretty weird statues, aren't they?"  He said it, I didn't. 

Maybe they could go on top of the pedestal in Lee Circle instead of Robert E. Lee.  Be careful what you wish for.  
Robert E. Lee statue, Lee Circle, New Orleans, LA
If these two bathing beauties, or, these two heroically tranquil and enduringly triumphant bathing survivors, if you prefer, were up that high, how would someone be able to drape them with Mardi Gras beads?  As you know, I'm in favor of more beads.  That's a trade off I'm not willing to endorse.

If you want to know more about the public artwork in our fair city, Frau Schmitt and I are always happy to discuss it over breakfast.  We know where all the best statues are, and most of the lesser ones, too.

À votre santé,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why Are Hats So Popular in New Orleans?

Promoting colored straw fedoras all over the city
Last episode, I promised to provide an online tour of the statues that are in the Poydras Street neutral ground, and I know that regular readers who follow this blog have been sitting on the edge of their futons waiting to read my modern public art critique.  Sorry to disappoint, as we sometimes do here on the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue.  Just read our reviews.  

If you don't mind, not that you have any choice in the matter, I'd like to pause in our overall narrative arc, such as it is, to discuss the popularity of hats in New Orleans.  You'll see a lot of men wearing hats if you come to visit.  You'll see a lot of women wearing hats, too, but men in New Orleans love hats.  Your humble narrator is one of those.  I always wear a hat.

We had brunch at La Crêpe Nanou this afternoon and a couple came in who had dyed their hair the same color.  I didn't have my camera with me, and it would have been rude, anyway, to snap a pic of them, so I'll give you a picture of the outside of La Crêpe Nanou instead:
Yummy Yummy, North Carrolton Ave, New Orleans, La
Well, I looked through my files and I couldn't find the Crêpe Nanou pictures.  Here's a picture of the Yummy Yummy Chinese Restaurant on North Carrolton Avenue instead.  You'll have to use your imagination.  Pretend it's La Crêpe Nanou.  I wrote about La Crêpe Nanou a few weeks ago.  You can read that scintillating illustrated post here.  

The couple who had dyed their hair the same color looked like darned fools, if I can be excused for observing so.  I'm very accepting of eccentricity, being a crank, myself, but something wasn't working with the magenta hair pairing.  I figured one of them had bought the bottle of dye at Walgreens and there was plenty left over---why can't we both do it?  "---Sure, I love ya, baby."

Plenty of people look like darned fools sometimes, your humble narrator included.  That isn't something we should hold against anyone when we meet them.  Foolishness is something that needs to be proven.  Some people may be misguided, but that isn't a black mark against them, even if they have dyed their hair magenta in solidarity, or love, or mutual respect, or whatever tomfool I-Dream-of-Jeannie reason they might claim.

I said to Frau Schmitt that we should do that, dye our hair the same color.  This way people will know we're a couple, as if our wedding rings weren't proof enough.  Plus, it would be a kind of branding.  If our guests see somebody with hair of a color not found in nature (magenta) they would know they were bumping into one of their hosts.  The La Belle Esplanade Magenta Squad (TM)!!

"This isn't one of your best ideas," Frau Schmitt said, and she is usually right about these things.  She is especially right because it would be her walking around with magenta hair all day.  Me, I'd be wearing a hat.  I love to wear hats.  

For me, it would be like having the word 'KICK' tattooed on one buttock and 'ME' tattooed on the other.  Who would know?  It's not like I walk around New Orleans without pants.  It's the same way I wear a hat.  My hat covers my microencephaly.
A trio of jokers
When people ask me where to buy a hat in New Orleans, I always send them to Meyer the Hatter.  It is the oldest and largest hat store in the South.  The shop is on the first block of St. Charles Avenue, just off Canal Street.  They don't have the least expensive selection, only the best.  If you want to buy a flimsy cheap hat made in China, there is always the French Market at the end of our street.  If you want to buy a Mexican-made straw hat, of which I own one, there is a shop for that.  If you want a Goorin Brothers hat, there are two Goorin locations in New Orleans.  I can tell you where to go.  If you want a quality hat that will fit you, and suit you, and last you a lifetime: go old school.  Go to Meyer the Hatter.

Why are hats popular in New Orleans?  It isn't because people are ashamed of their bad dye jobs.  It isn't because most New Orleans men are bald either.  It's because people like to dress up in New Orleans.  This is a city that hews to tradition.  Nobody in New Orleans stopped wearing hats because JFK had a good head of hair.  They never stopped wearing hats.  When you look good, you feel good.  Everybody knows that.  Not everybody knows how to look good, but people who live in New Orleans know exactly how to do just that.  It's a way of life.  Je ne c'est quoi, bébé.   That's why hats are common in New Orleans.  They shade the eyes and enhance a person's profile and public persona.  

Why wear a hat in New Orleans?  Because that's what people here do.  When in New Orleans, forget your cares.  You may look foolish anywhere else, but you won't look foolish here.  New Orleans loves you.

À votre santé,

La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New Orleans Great Confederate Monument Debate

Neutral ground, N. Jefferson Davis Parkway, New Orleans, LA
Maybe you know something about this, maybe you don't.  It's in all the papers down here but of how much interest this is to the rest of the country, I have no idea.  Unlike our guests, I'm not one prone to travel.

After the shooting in South Carolina a few months ago, the Mayor of New Orleans proposed removing three prominent statues of Confederate heroes and one monument to a white supremacist coup during the Reconstruction Era.  I'm not going to dwell on those since you can look up the debate yourself if you're inclined.  I'll just tell you that the statues in question are of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, and an obelisk that commemorates the Battle of Liberty Place.

There are plenty of other C.S.A. commemorative monuments scattered around the city, and I want to talk about the one dedicated to the memory of Charles Didier Dreux.
The great man himself
As far as I can tell, he had both of his arms in life.  There isn't a lot of information about Charles Didier Dreux.  There isn't a Wikipedia page dedicated to his life.  There's no shame in that.  Neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator rate a Wikipedia entry, yet.
A close up
The most interesting and informative article I could find was here.  It's written by Ned Hémard, whose writing style is as loosely rambling between tangents as your humble narrator's.  I found it interesting, especially the first part which had nothing to do with Charles Didier Dreux.  YMMV.  I have to admit, the digression into tumuli was a bit distracting but I wouldn't change a word if I could.

The article states that Charles Didier Dreux was descended from Robert the Great, the Comte de Dreux, fifth son of King Louis VI of France.  I already knew that.  How?  It's on the back side of the pedestal on Jeff Davis Highway.
Noble lineage
Charles Didier Dreux was the first Confederate officer to be killed in battle during the Civil War.  That's commemorated, too, on the front side of the pedestal.
Nobler, braver, never lived
I don't know enough about the man to comment on those last lines. I do find it interesting that his last words are engraved in marble to last forever.  "Boys Steady."
Charles Didier Dreux's last words
The Dreux name (pronounced 'drew' if you didn't know that) is common in and around New Orleans to this day.  I know somebody named Dreux Blank---I'm not kidding.  His last name, his family name, maybe I should say his patronymic, was originally Blanc, as he'll be happy to tell you, until it was Anglicized to Blank.

Then, there's always Drew Brees.
An Anglicized first name?
If Drew Brees wants to become more popular in New Orleans than he already is, he'll change the spelling of his name to Dreux.  That's the only way it would be possible.  Some people think it's inevitable.  I'm in a pool.

There haven't been any calls to remove the Charles Didier Dreux statue yet.  There are a couple of other Confederate memorials in the Jeff Davis Parkway neutral ground, too.  The Albert Pike one is a real doozy.  There are a couple of others scattered in other parts of the city.  I'll be happy to tell you how to get to them if you are interested.  For that, though, you have to stay with us.  It will give us something to talk about over breakfast.

The P.G.T. Beauregard statue is at the end of Esplanade Avenue in front of City Park.  It's a very impressive equestrian model planted in the middle of Beauregard Circle.  I don't have strong opinions over removing it.  My main concern is what would replace it.

In our next installment, I'll show the statues that are on Poydras Street.  Given the choice, I think I would prefer Gen. Beauregard.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade ---Where the rest comes easy! (TM)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Parrots in New Orleans

New Orleans parrot
I sit in the gardens behind our house all the time, but I rarely meet with guests there.  We live in New Orleans.  When people stay with us, they are usually out and about, exploring the city and all the things this mesmerizing metropolis offers.  You know: jazz, son-balls, muffalattas, sazaracs, the French Quarter, the art museums, the ferry, those kind of things.  While our gardens are lovely, there is so much to do in New Orleans, most people don't hang around our house when they visit.  They're welcome to, of course, but most don't.
Hello, friend
   
I was sitting in the back garden when a colorful parrot landed in the oleander tree.  I've never seen a bird so beautiful.  He was tame, but he kept his distance, keeping to the branches around our patio until Belfast Billy showed up.

The parrot loved Belfast Billy, who was our guest at the time, along with Billy's lovely wife.  We sat at the table under under the sun umbrella and fed the parrot sunflower seeds and drinks from our fountain.  The parrot, as well as everyone else, was good company.

Angie asked me, "What is your day like?  I mean, what do you do over the course of your day?"  I looked straight at the colorful parrot and I said, "My days are like this.  I never know what's going to happen."  

The parrot had escaped from a house two blocks away, in Tremé.  The owners called over the back fence to fetch him.  They heard his cries from the corner, where Barracks Street intersects with N. Tonti Street.  Turns out the parrot is a she.  Her name is Parsley.  She's a lovely bird.  I enjoyed the time I spent admiring her colors and, while I don't hope she escapes again, I hope that if she does she'll know she is welcome here.  Everybody is.

Traditionally, there are four beers associated with New Orleans.  You can find evidence of them everywhere.  Not the beers, mind you, but signs, coasters, shirts and souvenirs stamped with their logos.  These four local beer brands, which commanded 80% of the New Orleans market in their day, are: Regal, Dixie, Jax, and Falstaff.

Dixie is still brewed, albeit somewhere far outside the city.  The Jax brewery building is now an odd shopping mall next to Jackson Square.  The Falstaff brewery building is now apartments, but the Falstaff sign still stands in Mid-City, still a landmark.  The Regal brewery building was torn down.  On it's foundation the Royal Sonesta Hotel was erected.
Parsley loves Regal Beer
I was looking at some old commercials for Regal Beer, the Never-Hurried Beer.




This video's notes say this is Harry Owens.  I know Harry Owens and this chap looks nothing like the Harry Owens from Nebraska who transplanted to Hawai'i and wrote songs that Bing Crosby sang.

Unless he's wearing a toupee for that Regal Beer commercial, this is what the Harry Owens I'm thinking of looked like in 1958:

Sit through that second clip long enough and you'll figure out that the guy in the first clip isn't Harry Owens.  

This is like people who go to Disney World (the one in Florida) and think they are getting a true Hawaiian experience by staying in the Polynesian Resort.  I've been to the Polynesian Resort, I enjoyed it.  We saw the luau show.  It was okay, especially the last twenty minutes.  Was it authentic?  Well, Neither Frau Schmitt nor I have been to Hawai'i but we're guessing the answer is no.  Maybe I should write that in capital letters: NO.

If you go to Disney World (the one in Florida) you can also stay at the New Orleans Resort.  Is it gonna be anything like New Orleans? We didn't visit it, though it was tempting, but we're guessing the answer is no.  Maybe I should write that in capital letters: NO.

If you want to experience New Orleans the way it is lived by the people who call this magical city home, we can recommend a place to stay.  It's on Esplanade Avenue.  You'll still be a tourist, but our inn will be your home for as long as you are here.  Our job is to be ambassadors.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

If you want to hear der Bingle sing Sweet Leilani by Harry Owens, here is your chance:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Top Choice in the New Orleans Lonely Planet Guide

Une belle fille de l'Avenue d'Esplanade

I have some interesting good news to share.  Before I do that though, I'll tell you about how my writing today's entry came about.

First, I cracked my knuckles and I limbered up with a few rounds of calisthenics.  Then I sauntered over to the hi-fi and picked some appropriate music to accompany today's literary endeavors.  Here's what's spinning today: Leroy Anderson.




Pretty appropriate, eh?  Leroy Anderson was born in Massachusetts but after serving in WWII, he got wise and settled down with his wife in Woodbury, CT.  Besides being a very successful composer, he served on the boards of the Hartford and the New Haven Symphonies.  I've always thought his crowning achievement (outside his many, many compositions) was his stint as the manager of the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra.  Waterbury is one of my favorite cities in the whole world.

In case you don't know, and it has long ceased to surprise me that some people don't know this, the CT above stands for the great state of Connecticut.  Hartford is the state capital.  New Haven is the home of Yale University.  Waterbury is known as the Brass City.  I could go on and about Connecticut, my home state, but most people aren't as interested as I think they should be and I assume you aren't, either.

So, with the Typewriter Song playing in the background, I saw on the right hand side of the YouTube screen from which I cribbed the above clip a related clip that I thought will be of interest to the kind of folks who enjoy wasting their time reading our blog.  I'd like to thank you for stopping by today.

A lot of our guests, Europeans mostly, ask if many New Orleanians speak French anymore.  I'm sorry to disappoint them, but the answer is: No.  Nobody speaks French anymore.  Graves are inscribed in French, but nobody is sitting around the breakfast table saying, "Pouvez-vous passer le miel, s'il vous plaît?"  [Can you please pass the honey?]

This disappoints some people, especially people from France.  They've heard that New Orleans is the most francophone and francophile city in the United States.  That is true, of course, but, still, nobody speaks French.  So, in an effort to make some kind of franco-centric connection, they ask me if this man is popular in New Orleans:



To which I can only reply that Jerry Lewis must have some fans somewhere in the U.S. but I have never met anyone who admitted to enjoying his particular brand of humor.  I have never met anyone.  Ever.  I found it painful to watch that clip and, as you now know, I love that song.  I don't get it.

After digressing and noodling about, I ate half a shrimp po' boy left over from lunch and I decided it was finally time to share with you some news that I find very exciting.  Frau Schmitt finds it exciting too, and she is usually right about these things.  

I was on the Lonely Planet website last night and guess what inn is a TOP CHOICE in the next edition of the Lonely Planet Guide?  If I'm writing about it, you probably don't have to guess.  Here's the link to proof.

Some people will think we paid to get that little blue ribbon in the upper left corner of the screen.  Nope.  We had no idea.  We didn't ask for it.  A few months ago, I reported that a writer from Lonely Planet had contacted me and I gave her a tour of the inn.  We chatted for a long time.  She saw every room.  She saw the kitchen, which is usually off limits, and we had a long discussion about breakfast.  She told me that how we serve breakfast is becoming, more and more, the more desirable way to go about it for people seeking an authentic destination experience.

"An authentic destination experience."  See?  I can sling the industry lingo just like the pros do, when I want to.  


La Belle Esplanade, a boutique New Orleans B&B inn
Only four bed and breakfasts made the Top Choice in the guidebook's latest addition.  We are the top choice for Tremé and Mid-City, our part of New Orleans.  We find this very flattering because there is some stiff competition, especially Ashton's Bed and Breakfast, just one block away from our house.  When we are fully booked, I always tell people to check at Ashton's.  If we're full, they usually are, too, but it never hurts to look.

Also making the Top Choice list is our friend, Nancy, at Auld Sweet Olive Bed and Breakfast.  A tip of the fedora in Nancy's direction, which I always do anyway.

This is the second guide book in which we appear.  The other one, ironically enough considering what I just wrote above, is published in French.  We love French guests.  Frau Schmitt is taking French lessons and she can speak conversationally, which is the best way, with our French-speaking guests.  

Needless to say, but I will anyway, Frau Schmitt also speaks German like a native German-speaker with our German-speaking guests.  Her English is impeccable, too; she did earn her Master's Degree in the U.S., after all ....AND, she know a smattering of Spanish!

Me?  I play charades and draw pictures to get my point across.  Sometimes it works.
The giraffe's head in our lobby
Our schtick, if I may borrow a word with which Jerry Lewis would be well familiar, is that we tend to steer people away from places that are listed in the guidebooks.  Not all the time, mind you, but often enough that we're getting a reputation for that.  Now that we are showing up in guidebooks, what will people think?

If I worried about what people think, this blog would be very different, wouldn't it?  I would have spent today telling you about the seafood festival that's going on in City Park this weekend, or about Southern Decadence, a big gay pride festival that happens in the French Quarter every Labor Day weekend.  Instead, in the middle of August, which happens to be the month in which Leroy Anderson wrote this composition, I offer you this:


Christmas and New Year's Ever are coming!  Make your reservations early!


À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...