Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Perfectly Perfect New Orleans Vacation

Bon voyage!
Frau Schmitt and I always talk to our guests.  We spend an hour or more every day going over the previous day's adventures and planning what the new day may bring in New Orleans.  We are very rarely privy to all the details that transpire between one breakfast and the next.  We always see our guests at breakfast, but we rarely bump into them around the city during the day, and we don't always bump into them when they come home for a nap or to redress for the next round of adventures.  We always see everyone at breakfast.

Kyle and Sue, Kyle, really (sorry Sue, but put credit where credit is due), posted a very nice blog of their time in our fair city.  Kyle and Sue had some real New Orleans adventures. They stayed with us for a week.  Look, nobody ever says their stay is too long.  It is always too short.  Sure, you may get homesick and we understand you have things to do back home, but nobody is ever bored in New Orleans.  Frau Schmitt and I have lived in New Orleans for almost six years and we are still discovering new things even though our guests consider us experts in the local culture and the folkways, and every restaurant and museum under the glorious Louisiana sun.  

Here is a link to Kyle and Sue's New Orleans Adventure.  I'm pretty sure they won't mind if I provide you with the link.  I tip my jaunty fedora to them for really exploring the city on its own terms and really experiencing New Orleans the way it is should be explored, on the map but off the grid, if you will.  What does that mean?  It means whatever you want it to.

I'm not on vacation, so I don't judge what anyone does while they pass a few days, or a week, in our fair city.  I've run the gamut of New Orleans experiences.  New Orleans is full of surprises and you'll find the ones that delight and bemuse you.  I live here, but I've also been a tourist.  We live in a many- and wonderfully-faceted city.  It really is magic in New Orleans.

Is there a perfectly bad New Orleans vacation?  Not that I've seen from my vantage point of being an innkeeper.  Nobody leaves New Orleans disappointed.  Most people, when they do finally and eventually leave, have a tinge of regret that they couldn't have had another day to have another meal, to see another neighborhood, to meet someone else, to hear another band, to just relax in the most relaxing unique city in the world.

A tip of my fedora to Kyle and Sue.  Good guests make good company.  Good guests, as all of our guests are, make our profession a joy.  Sue, I'm looking at you when I write this.  

If you, dear reader, are thinking about visiting New Orleans, we hope you'll consider staying at La Belle Esplanade.  The rest will come easy.  Ask the professor.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade.
...where the rest comes easy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mardi Gras 2016 Is Heating Up

A happy couple on Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA

After last installment, I was hoping to just cruise along with photo essays of our trips to the various krewe dens last weekend.  I took a lot of photos and, believe it or not, I'm feeling a little lazy, so just posting photos for two weeks seemed like a surefire recipe to coast along easy street.  Unfortunately, our web traffic from the last post slowed down to a trickle.  Who woulda thunk that you all come here for the scintillating prose?

It's nice to know.  And, lesson learned, let's get back to the usual wordy folderol for which this blog is so well known.  Give the people what they want.  I will, however, continue using the photos of this year's floats as illustrations.  I've got more than a hundred pictures so there is no point in letting them lie idle.  

On that note, let's start with an old picture with which regular readers are more than familiar:
Tammie the Housekeeper

With Mardi Gras around the corner, the season is heating up.  By that I mean that our inn is getting busier, though the weather has been in the 60s to 70s (Fahrenheit), as well.  With more to do around the house, Tammie the Housekeeper has been around more, pitching in and making sure everything is ship shape, spotlessly clean and in good working order.

Tammie the Housekeeper told me that she has a new boyfriend.  "He's a philatelist," she told me.

When I remarked that this must make for some very interesting evenings, Tammie just gave me that sly sidelong smile she has that I've come to recognize means I will regret asking any more questions.  I changed the subject, instead.  "How do you like the new curtains Frau Schmitt hung in the Clio Suite?" I said.

The Roman Garden Float in the Rex Den
I've always liked that statue used for the Roman Garden Float.  As regular readers know, I am a student of art history.  Mind you, I've never used my knowledge of art history for more than impressing people at cocktail parties.  I am not a professional art historian.  I am an innkeeper, but, I like to think that if I ever get on Jeopardy! I'll ace the art history category in the form of questions.

In case you didn't know, this is a statue of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, being suckled by a she-wolf.  The wolf statue is Etruscan (5th century BC).  The babies underneath were added during the Renaissance (15th century AD).  Roman statues for 400, anyone?

The original:
Rome's founders
Does New Orleans have any founding myths?  Not on par with the founding of Rome.  You can read about the brothers Iberville and Bienville who founded New Orleans, but I'm pretty sure they weren't suckled by a she-wolf.

The truth be told, I find the story of the founding of New Orleans to be a bit confusing and tedious.  If you want to learn more about it, I recommend the book Bienville's Dilemma, by Richard Campanella.  It's very well written and not as dry as some other histories of New Orleans.  All histories of New Orleans tend to be complicated, however, no matter who is telling the story.

Remember, I am not providing the link above to make any money if you choose to buy the book.  It is provided for information purposes only.  As I always tell the guests when they ask if we charge for the two cans of beer we provide in our suites' refrigerators, "We are not here to nickel and dime you."

Garden of Eden Float in the Rex Den
The serpent in the Garden of Eden was the Devil.  Though I've often wondered if I've run into the Devil over the years I've lived in New Orleans, I can't say he's ever taken the form of a snake.  I've seen plenty of actual snakes here over the years, though, let me tell you.  

Before New Orleans was a city, it was a swamp.  Now, snakes aren't slithering down the street the way some people imagine, but they are around.  I often see snakes in the neglected back corners of City Park where few people venture.  They're big ugly black snakes, too.  They give me the willies, but they're usually more afraid of me than I am of them, or so I assume since they disappear as soon as they spot me.

Egyptian Garden Float in the Rex Den
Richard Campanella, the chap who wrote the book I linked to above, is the resident geographer at Tulane University.  He does fine work.  Rumors that he and I collaborate are unfounded and unsubstantiated.  I don't think he could pick me out of a police lineup, which is a good thing to be able to say about oneself under certain circumstances.

Some people ask me why I don't have a website under my own name.  In fact, I do, but at the moment it isn't much to look at.  It just directs people to visit  Richard Campanella has a website under his own name.  It's  If you are interested in New Orleans historical geography, and its current geography, for that matter, you should check it out.  Just like you can waste a lot of time perusing this blog's archives, you can waste equally much on Mr. Campanella's website.  

And, with all of this text written, read, and out of the way, it is time to sign off until next time.  Tune in a couple days from now when you might hear me say...."So, what exactly do you and your new boyfriend do at night, Tammie?"

Until then,
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast
...Good memories are made on our street!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mardi Gras Preview (Part I)

Inside the Rex Den
Mardi Gras Day is about two weeks away.  If you don't live in Louisiana, you may not know that.  This morning, three of the bigger carnival crews opened their dens to the public and Frau Schmitt thought it would be nice to spend our morning looking over this year's floats.  She is usually right about these things, so I agreed.

What follows is pretty much a photo essay of some of what we saw in the Rex Den.  I'm going to have to break this into sections because, frankly, the panoply of subject matter is a bit overwhelming.  

The theme for Rex's parade this year is "Royal Gardens."  I don't remember which float is supposed to represent what royal garden.  After going to three of these warehouses, each bigger and noisier than the last, it all became a happily dizzy blur.

Another float in the Rex Den
I'm going to take a stab at this one and say it represents Versailles.

Another float in the Rex Den

Another float in the Rex Den

Another float in the Rex Den

Is this Shakespeare's Garden?  I don't know.  Sometimes something random gets tossed into the mix.  I know Rex is very fond of Shakespeare, so maybe the krewe just wanted to celebrate his 400th anniversary---which I assume means birthday in this case.

Another float in the Rex Den
You've got me which garden this is supposed to represent, but this pink-fringed white salamander was my favorite float of the day.

Another float in the Rex Den
That's a papal tiara, which doesn't get much use nowadays during the reign of Pope Francis.  In fact, the last pope to wear one was Paul VI, in 1963.  This float obviously has something to do with gardens in the Vatican, but which one I cannot say.

Thus concludes our photo essay for the time being.  Don't worry, I have scads and scads more photos to share between today and Mardi Gras Day.  If you are thinking about coming to New Orleans, you now have an inkling of what you will see.  If you weren't thinking about coming to New Orleans, maybe I've whetted your appetite.  I think we still have a few slots open during the big parade weekends.

And, in further news, I would like to both thank and congratulate two regular readers from The Shire City.  That's right, we received a SASE from funny, sunny and wunnerful Pittsfield, Massachusetts, founded 1761.  

Any other regular reader (or first-time visitor to this blog) who wants to earn an honorable mention in these pages, click here to find out how!

Until next time,
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Give the People What They Want

Ceci est une pipe
I know I'm pulling a René Magritte stunt here, but the picture above isn't really a pipe.  The picture of a pipe is really just a picture of a pipe.  In this case, the pipe is pixels.  You can't smoke a pipe made of pixels.

Let's take a view from the top:
Ceci n'est pas un pipe
This particular pipe, which probably isn't of any interest to most of our regular readers, is shown here not so that I riff on my knowledge of Belgian Surrealist painters.
"The Treachery of Images."  René Magritte.  Oil on Canvas.  1928.
The reason we are featuring a beautifully handcrafted, one-of-a-kind stainless steel pipe during today's installment is because we got a special request via the old mailbag.

A regular reader from picturesque and glamorous Burleson, TX, wrote:

"Dr. Mr. King, 

"I've noticed in the past that portraits of you often feature you holding a cigar.  I was wondering if you enjoy any other tobacco products.  For instance, are you a cigarette smoker?  What's your stance on vaping and e-cigarettes?  

"I thoroughly enjoy your blog and wish you would update it more frequently.  My wife and I have never been to New Orleans, but, because of what you've written, we are looking forward to a future vacation in your magical city.  I'm sure it's exactly as you describe it.  Whenever you update your blog, my wife receives an email notification through her RSS feed and we get out a couple of cans of Shiner Beer and read it aloud to each other.

"Keep up the good work!  You've got two friends in Burleson (pop. 40,700).  I bet you have friends all over the world!

"Your pal,
(Name Withheld By Request)."

Hi, Name Withheld By Request.  While I do enjoy my cigars, especially cigars from the Finck Cigar Company, coincidentally also located in Texas, I also smoke a pipe when the fancy hits me.  I don't often get questions like this, so you'll have to excuse me if I'm a bit awkward in my answer.  

Most of our guests do not smoke, and there is no smoking allowed inside the walls of our inn.  It's the 21st century, alas.  Guests can smoke in the back garden and all of our suites have private balconies where smoking is permitted as long as all the doors and windows leading inside are closed.  I keep big solid antique cigar ashtrays on the balcony because I think they look nicer than the cheap bakelite ashtrays you find at roadside bars and tamale stands.

I don't smoke cigarettes.  Like Frau Schmitt, who is usually right about these things, I've come to think of cigarettes a nasty and filthy habit.  As an innkeeper, I'm not here to judge anyone, so if you like your coffin nails, more power to you---they just don't agree with me.

As for e-cigarettes, I'm an old fuddy-duddy and I am generally against anything new.  Since most e-cigarettes appear to be made in China, I've always steered clear of them.  I don't eat Chinese canned goods, for instance.  The only Chinese food I eat, when I do, is made in the good old U.S. of A., usually around the corner from our house at the Ming Garden.

Neither Frau Schmitt nor myself has ever eaten at Yummy Yummy on N. Carrollton Avenue, but we do pass by it just about every day. It's across the street from our bank, which we also pass almost every day, usually with a sigh that we have nothing to deposit.
Yummy Yummy Chinese Restaurant
To get to the heart of your letter, Name Withheld By Request, I have a collection of pipes, as any self-respecting pipe smoker does, even a codger like myself.  There is a disease among pipe smokers called Pipe Acquisition Disorder (PAD).  It's the compulsive desire to buy new pipes whether one needs them or not.  It's listed in the DSM-5.  I don't suffer from PAD, myself, but, if I were to smoke a different pipe every day, I can go for two weeks without repeating myself.  To my mind, that's more pipes than I need so I don't buy pipes anymore.

There is a related condition called Tobacco Acquisition Disorder (TAD).  Don't get me started on that.

Here, for your appreciation, is a picture of me holding my fancy-schmantzy stainless steel pipe:
Your humble narrator
I hope your curiosity is satisfied.

I got this pipe from a craftsman in Estonia.  I've never been to Estonia.  I bought it on Etsy.  The cost of living must be very cheap in Estonia because even though this unique metal pipe is hand made, beautifully made, really, and it's a marvel of intricate detail, I don't even think it cost me 50 bucks plus shipping.  

In conclusion, Frau Schmitt and I are looking forward to the day you and Mrs. Name Withheld By Request come to visit us.  What are you waiting for?  Make sure you stay with us for a week.  Nobody ever says their visit to New Orleans is too long.  Even after a week, you won't have seen and done everything New Orleans has to offer.  

There is even a René Magritte painting at the art museum at the end of our street.  You'll see.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Secret New Orleans Bed and Breakfast Club

Our clubhouse

Wanna get in on a secret?

We've got a secret bed and breakfast club.  It's not like this kind of breakfast club:

Well, wait a minute, let me clarify, it kind of is like that.  This New Orleans bed and breakfast club is made up of people who are different from each other, but they've all grown to like and respect each other despite their differences.

There is a member who's a brain, there is a member who is a beauty, there is a jock, a rebel, and a member who is shy.  There is a dapper chap and there is a streetwise lady.  There is a down-on-his luck hoser and a up-and-coming chippie.  There is a Barry Manilow impersonator, there are two Elvis impersonators (one from Nashville, one from Las Vegas), there is a Bing Crosby impersonator, there is also a Cher impersonator, and there is a a buttoned-down accountant who is comfortable in his own skin.  There are members from all walks of life and they learn about each other and they bond over their shared love of New Orleans.

You don't have to stay at a New Orleans bed and breakfast to be a member of this club.  In fact, most B&B owners don't even know this club exists.  While most B&B owners know a lot about New Orleans, most of them don't have an inkling about this club.  Did I mention it's a secret?  You can get in on the ground floor and be amongst the founding member, but it isn't going to be easy.  Nothing worth doing is easy, is it?

Our clubhouse
It's not really a bed and breakfast club, we just call it that because members tend to stay at La Belle Esplanade when they are visiting New Orleans, but this is not required.  Most club members feel La Belle Esplanade, New Orleans' #1 B&B and the club's official HQ, is the most convivial of all their lodging options and this is why they stay here.  For the purposes of this article, we are calling it a B&B club but it's more than that.  It's a lot more than that.

So, if it's not really called the Secret New Orleans Bed and Breakfast Club, what is the club really called?  That's a secret.  

What are the membership benefits?  Those are secret, too.  

How does a person qualify for membership?  That's a secret.  

Why does this club exist?  What's its mission?  What do the members do, exactly?  Secret, secret, secret.

What's the secret password?  It's a secret.  Ditto the secret handshake.

If you want to know more, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope with a letter of inquiry to: 

New Orleans Secret Bed and Breakfast Club
c/o La Belle Esplanade
2216 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
United States of America

Prospective initiates need send no money now, but enclosing $5.00 U.S. (cash preferred over checks) will expedite a response and help cover administrative expenses.  You'll get all the introductory enticing details of what it's like to be a member of New Orleans newest and most exciting secret society.

Are you lame or are you game?  You have to love New Orleans.  If you haven't been to New Orleans yet, you have to think you are going to love New Orleans when you finally do get here.  What are you waiting for?  If you aren't sure you are going to love New Orleans, trust me, and trust the other club members when we all shout out in unison, loudly, proudly and with oomph: "You are going to love New Orleans!"

They've heard the call.

What else do you need to know?  Send off that SASE today.  Your spouse will thank you for it.  Your friends will be envious.  But, remember, all of this is secret.  Keep it under your hat.

À votre santé,
Your pals at La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lonely Planet's Top Pick for Tremé

The three most colorful houses on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, LA

I've been shopping for new eyeglasses.  I'm nearsighted, which means I do not wear glasses to read, but I do wear them to drive or, even, to walk around town in order to see what I'm walking towards.  While I like surprises, I don't like walking up to a McDonald's drive-thru on Canal Street when I think I'm going to Dis and Dem on Banks Street.

Dis and Dem on Banks Street, New Orleans, LA
At Art & Eyes, a rather pricey but very tasteful optical shop on Magazine Street, Meredith was showing me frames and she kept showing me black frames and brown frames and dark blue frames.  I said, "I'm not afraid of color.  Do you know the three colorful houses on Esplanade Avenue between Broad and Claiborne Avenues?"  Meredith said, "You mean on the uptown side of the 2200 block?"  I said, "Yes."  She said, "Yes, I know them.  Is that where you live?"  I said yes again.  She brought out the most colorful frames she had in the shop.

I still haven't made a decision.  Whether or not new eyeglasses are in my future is a matter still left up to fate. 

Regular readers who have been following La Belle Esplanade's saga for awhile will remember when the lovely lady writer from the Lonely Planet Guide came to visit our inn.  This was an unsolicited visit by us, as all of our positive (and negative) publicity is.

I just picked up a copy of the 2016 Lonely Planet Guide for New Orleans.  You can get your own copy, too, and I recommend it.  I don't always agree with the recommendations, but they are generally spot-on.

A line drawing of our inn

What don't I agree with about the Lonely Planet's recommendations?  The book says that if you want to stay in our neighborhood, a car is required.  Very, very few of our guests arrive with a car.  Those that do usually drive here from Texas or some other nearby state and they leave their car parked in front of our inn for the duration of their stay.  

We are located under a mile from the French Quarter in one direction and about one mile from City Park in the other direction.  Our neighborhood is full of details and surprises that you'll never notice from your car window.  New Orleans is a city best experienced on foot.  In that sense, we live in a pedestrian city.  That isn't to say that it's boring here.  Far from it.  It's delightful here.

Illustration from the Crescent City Bike Tours brochure

I mentioned what the Lonely Planet Guide said about needing a car to Kristine from Crescent City Bike Tours while she had a bike tour stopped across the street from our inn.  She was talking about the three colorful houses on the uptown side of the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue, as she often does when she pedals visitors down our street.  I like Kristine, as most people do, and, whenever I see her leading a tour I'll often amble across the street to chitchat and catch up and to trade a little harmless idle gossip.

When I told her that the Lonely Planet thinks visitors need a car to visit our part of the city, Kristine said, "What!?!  We didn't take a car to get here!"  That makes sense since she's in the bicycle rental business and all her party were astride one-speed cruisers.  

She continued, addressing the people on her tour, "As much as I recommend taking a bike around New Orleans, walking really is the best way to enjoy the city.  There is so much to see here, especially in this part of town."  In this case Kristine was very much like Frau Schmitt.  Kristine, like Frau Schmitt, was right.

I can't vouch for everything Kristine says though she is a very accurate tour guide.  I'll never quibble about her professional ethics while I can quibble, and I often do, about some of the things I overhear said by other tour guides in our neighborhood.  In this instance though, like Frau Schmitt, Kristine is definitely in the right.  Kristine added, "I would never rent a car if I was staying here and, believe you me, if I was visiting New Orleans, I would stay at La Belle Esplanade.  It's the Number One Bed and Breakfast in the City."

Kristine was right about that, too.  We've been rated the #1 B&B on Trip Advisor for 21 months now, since April 2014.  We're hoping to set a two-year record in that coveted slot (21 months is already a record).  Time will tell.  I hope I didn't just jinx us.  We don't pay to be rated number one.  It is all based on the honest reviews our guests have written about their stay at La Belle Esplanade.

The bedroom in our Clio Suite

Bidding Kristine and her tour group adieu, I settled into one of the antique chairs in our lobby and flipped open the 2016 Lonely Planet Guide to New Orleans to page 186.  On page 186, La Belle Esplanade is listed as the Top Choice place to say in Tremé and/or Mid-City.  Here is what page 186 says:

"A little quirky, a little saucy, and the co-owner wears a jaunty fedora --- a devil-may-care touch that ties the whole colorful shebang together.  Furnishings in the five themed suites vary but look for chunky headboards, plush chairs, Gibson girl portraits and claw foot tubs.  Bright, monochromatic walls keep it all pretention-free.  Savor crawfish pie and other tasty Southern fare for breakfast. 

"There's a small Museum of Curiosities in the entryway.  The fedora-wearing co-owner writes a very amusing blog for the B&B's website; and the place is a ten-minute walk from the Jazz Fest grounds."

When Amy, the Lonely Planet writer, stopped by, we gave her a full tour of the house so she saw every suite.  She ran her finger over some of the headboards, checking for dust.  Spotless.  If I had written the write-up, I would have emphasized different aspects of the inn, but she did a judicious job of describing what we offer here.  A tip of my jaunty fedora her way for a job done well.  Thanks, Amy!  You are welcome to come back anytime.  Next time, stay with us.  You'll have to pay the going rate, of course.  As I've tried to make clear above, we do not solicit paid endorsements and we do not try to influence what anyone has to say about their experience at our inn.  We do our utmost to exceed expectations and to share all the reasons why we are in love with this magical city we call home.  Honesty, as it always has been, is the best policy.

Who was that jaunty co-owner Amy was writing about?  He is none other than your humble narrator:

One of La Belle Esplanade's two innkeepers

If you are bored in New Orleans, it most probably isn't the city's fault.  I don't like to judge, but if you don't like your time in New Orleans, it says more about your own state of mind than it does about the endless delights New Orleans has to offer.  It's magical here; it's pure magic.

I could write more about this topic all night but you have other things to do than keep reading.  I know it's spellbinding, but let's move on to the next thing in our day-to-day lives, shall we?  This blog has some pretty deep archives so there is plenty more to peruse if you choose to.  Keep checking in regularly if your appetite isn't satisfied by reading the archives.  There is nothing worse than a dead blog so your humble narrator tries to keep things freshly updated regularly, whether the content is noteworthy or not.

One of those things you should be doing instead of reading old blog posts, or more recent ones, is you should be planning your trip to New Orleans.  What are you waiting for?  Now you know where you should stay and it isn't just the Lonely Planet Guide that thinks so.  We are a small boutique operation that caters to people who want to feel at home in New Orleans.  Home is where the heart is.  You'll like our part of the city and you won't need a car.  Trust me on this.  Frau Schmitt, like Kristine, would agree.

Until we meet in person,
à votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Music Never Stops in New Orleans

Our dining room
I am not sitting in our dining room as I write this.  In fact, it is afternoon, long past breakfast time.  I have to put something as the first picture because this is going to be a video-heavy installment, my favorite kind.

It is getting close to Mardi Gras Day.  Because of this, there are marching bands practicing all over the city.  We ate lunch uptown this afternoon while running errands, and a school band marched past the restaurant windows.  We were eating at Martin Wine Cellar, nothing fancy.  

In New Orleans, you can go to the liquor store to have a sandwich.  You can also go the deli to buy a bottle of wine.  How do we tell these two kinds of establishment apart?  It takes practice.  

When I'm puttering around the inn and nobody is around, for a change of pace I like to listen to a little soft Chinese pop music:

I don't speak Mandarin, but I think they're singing about New Orleans.  That's what my heart tells me.

Mardi Gras season just started the other day.  The first parades of the year rolled on January 6.  It's a short season this year.  Mardi Gras Day falls on February 9.  We were talking to Marc at Martin Wine Cellar and he said he doesn't like a short Mardi Gras season.  Just about everyone we know agrees with him.

We still have some nights empty if you are thinking about visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Even though it's a short season, we aren't too busy, yet.  It's still early and people who aren't from New Orleans don't know that Mardi Gras is unfolding before our very eyes.  It's a magical time to visit New Orleans.  

Since we aren't too, too busy just yet, Tammie the Housekeeper isn't around as much as she usually is during other times of the year.
Tammie the Housekeeper

When Tammie isn't around, Frau Schmitt and I do most of the housekeeping.  It's nice to keep in practice.  The other day, Tammie left her iPod at the inn and I noticed it in a drawer in the lobby.  Naturally, I wanted to see what it's like to be Tammie the Housekeeper while performing housekeeping duties, so I put on the headset.

"You might learn more about Tammie than she wants you to," Frau Schmitt told me.  She is usually right about these things, but I didn't listen.  Instead, I listened to what Tammie the Housekeeper listens to on her iPod.

I should have listened to Frau Schmitt.  

I'm sitting on the back balcony of Le Pelican Suite.  I'm overlooking the neighborhood.  It being a Saturday, the high school down the street isn't in session so that marching band isn't practicing today.  They won't march around the neighborhood until we get closer to Mardi Gras Day.  Instead, some pick up brass band is marching around the streets in back of our house.  They aren't bad but they could use a little practice.  They sure are enthusiastic, though, and their enthusiasm is infection.  Even though they don't always keep the beat, I find myself tapping my foot as I type.  I don't have any sense of rhythm to speak of anyway.

We live in a very interesting city.  You never know what you'll see. Come down and find out for yourself.

Like my grandfather, I've always preferred the Conway Twitty version, myself:

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mardi Gras is Coming to New Orleans!!

Baby Jax!
New Orleans is a city of traditions.  Most places have a Baby New Year.  You know him.  He's awarded his sash from an emaciated old man with a long white beard and an exhausted hourglass.  In New Orleans, where nothing is forgotten, we have Baby Jax.

Jax Beer was brewed by the Jackson Brewery, a building that, like our house, is over 110 years old. 
Built in 1883
The old Jackson Brewery is off Jackson Square.  It's still standing.  They don't brew beer there anymore.  Since the 1990's the building has been home to a kind of a mall full of kiosks selling candy and baseball caps and sunglasses.  I have to admit we don't go into the mall very often.  We're not the vendors' target demographic.  We live here.  It's a beautiful building, though.

We welcomed Baby Jax and the new year this past weekend full of festivities and guests who make our profession a joy.  Good guests make good company and, as usual, La Belle Esplanade has been blessed by good guests and good conversation.

For 21 months in a row now, we've been rated the #1 B&B in New Orleans and in all of Louisiana on Trip Advisor.  Thanks again to all our past guests who have written reviews of their experience at our humble boutique inn.

That's a big crawfish
Crawfish (you can pronounce it crayfish if you are from where I'm from) season started the other day.  The warm wet weather we've had in southern Louisiana so far promises a bumper crop.  That means the upcoming crawfish harvest should be plump, plentiful and inexpensive.  Cross your fingers for this trifecta of best possible outcomes.

Crawfish do not get larger than a man.  They don't have a chance to grow that long before they are captured and boiled up.  They get about as long as a man's finger.  Henry Miller liked to call that finger his "stink finger."  Let's not dwell on what he meant by that. 

When a crawfish is as long as a man's good finger, it makes for good eating in its tail parts when the crawfish is boiled up in a spicy brine with sweet corn, garlic and potatoes.  You peel the shell off the tail and pinch the meat out.  You can suck the head if you choose to.  The spices soak into the head meat and make for a tasty niblet that goes well with a chase of cold beer.  I like to make mine Jax Beer.

We have a garden behind our house where guests are welcome to eat crawfish, which are sold boiled by the pound.  Please don't eat crawfish in the house.  They are very messy, as you will quickly learn, and they tend to stink up the whole house---even more than Henry Miller's finger.  Better the back garden stink of boiled crawfish than the bedrooms.  The cats out back like it better that way, too.

La belle d'Esplanade
New Year's Day has come and passed.  Mardi Gras Day will be here before you know it.  We still have some availability around Mardi Gras.  Remember, it isn't just a day, it's a season.  Between January 6 and Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans is an even more magical place than it usually is, and that's saying something.

New Orleans is always magical, but in the next couple of weeks the city and its citizens are going to be pulling out all the stops.  Between January 6 and Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans will be like a pretty girl sporting a pearl necklace studded with diamonds.  When she smiles, the whole world will smile with her.  It's nice to live in New Orleans.  We'll be happy to show you how much.

On behalf of myself, Frau Schmitt, Tammie the Housekeeper, and Baby Jax, on behalf of all New Orleanians, here and abroad, I would like to wish all of our regular readers a happy and prosperous new year and a happy and boisterous Mardi Gras.

It's not what you think.  It's better.  It's more.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy!
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