Friday, April 29, 2016

The Best Place to Have Brunch in New Orleans

Would you buy a used car from this man?

If you are of a certain age, you'll recognize the man in the picture above.  He never endorsed staying at La Belle Esplanade.  He did visit New Orleans occasionally over his career, but this wasn't a city in which he felt at home.  He never stayed with us.  We're known for making people of all political stripes feel welcome, and we're also known for explaining what makes New Orleans America's Most Interesting City.  I bet if Nixon stayed with us, he would have fallen in love with New Orleans.  We've seen it happen before.

We went to the movies this afternoon...

...but we didn't see Elvis & Nixon.  It wasn't playing at a convenient time.  We're not on vacation, after all.  It only seems like we have all the time in the world.  We do work for a living.

Instead, we went to see something else.  We went to The Theaters at Canal Place for a late matinee.

On to other business---

Your humble narrator
If you follow us on Facebook, you'll recognize this picture.  It was taken a few seconds after the photo that's our profile picture on our Facebook page.  People ask why photos of Frau Schmitt so rarely surface in public.  The answer is simple: one of us is camera shy.  I don't know why:
Frau Schmitt
I think she's beautiful.  I always say Frau Schmitt is the nicest person you'll ever meet.  In this one case, and in this one case only, I am right about these things.

We were having a late lunch at La Crêpe Nanou.  As I've mentioned before, La Crêpe Nanou is a bit out of the way for our guests and the restaurant doesn't take reservations, so a lot of people are hesitant to make the trek out to Prytania Street to chance to take a table.  We've never had a problem getting a table to savor a meal over an hour or two.  Also, La Crêpe Nanou only serves lunch (brunch, really) on Sundays when most of our guests are at a second line parade.  

I'm not trying to paint it like we don't want to have lunch with our guests and that's our main reason for going to La Crêpe Nanou on Sunday afternoons.  Our guests, as Mr. Nixon would have learned had he stayed with us, are wonderful company.  We enjoy the ambience and the food at La Crêpe Nanou on its own merits, irrespective of who may or may not join us there.

Also, it's fun to say La Crêpe Nanou.  It's fun to spell, too.

Let's cover one more subject, since most of these blog installments cover three subjects per post.  I'm a trinitarian.

In a month, we're going to have a new website.  We like our current website, and it's gotten a lot of compliments.  It's just time to move on from big multinational corporate octopi.  One particular multinational corporate octopus bought up our website provider soon after we signed on.  We hung in for awhile, but, really, enough is enough.  We're small business people.  We prefer supporting other small business people.  We'll announce when the new website is up in this forum, which is owned by Google, and on Facebook, of course.

We're really sticking it to the Man.

We take inspiration from another local business from these parts: River Parish Disposal.

During Jazz Fest, River Parish Disposal is really cleaning up, business-wise.  Yes, I know I made a pun there.  Their portable toilets are everywhere.

Portable toilets in City Park
They've probably trademarked their slogan, which is too bad.  I'd like to use it for La Belle Esplanade.

Truer words were never written on the side of a port-o-let
They love that slogan so much that their website isn't  It's  I'm not talking trash when I say that's marketing genius.  I stand in awe, much as Elvis did when he met the president.

I am perennially awestruck in New Orleans.  We live in a magical city.  You'll see when you get here.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

Postscript and just to be clear:

A manatee
We went to see a matinee, not to see a manatee.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Rare and Fabulous Find in New Orleans

A picture picked at random

I didn't know what our lead in photo was going to be when I inserted it at the head of today's blog installment.  I just clicked on something.  Turns out it's a good choice because, surprisesurprise! La Belle Esplanade is the subject of today's chapter.

Today's title is the title I swiped from a review written about our inn.  I'm just cutting and pasting and filling in the blanks today.  That's what most B&B blogs do.  Let me let you in on a secret....

Most B&B blogs aren't written by the innkeepers.  They are farmed out to professionals who stuff the blog entries with keywords for search engine optimization (SEO as we say in the trade) so that the blog entries will show up at the top of Google keyword searches.  Is anyone searching "rare and fabulous find in New Orleans" on Google or bing?  I don't know.  I don't particularly care.  That isn't what we're about here.  This blog is written by me, your humble narrator, in the flesh, warts and all.

I've already chosen the videos that will accompany today's installment.  Now, all I have to do is plug in the text and, believe me, nothing I'm going to talk about today has to do with Jazz Fest.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is in its second day today.  If I was a professional blog writer, I would be writing about that and linking to the schedule and trying to drum up business for us from people who want to go to Jazz Fest.  Truth be told, we've been booked since January for the next two weekends. We don't need to talk about Jazz Fest.

Neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator have ever been to Jazz Fest, even though it's about a ten minute walk from our house.  We're not on vacation so we don't really have the time to partake of the festivities.  What should I tell you about instead?

I walked into a bar on St. Claude Avenue and it went something like this:

Thankfully, I soon met up with Frau Schmitt and she suggested we go to a place on N. Rampart Street.  Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things so I followed her.  That adventure went a little like this:

We were in the Bywater.  It was pretty racy.

I know what you're thinking.  Can't we talk about something besides New Orleans for a change?  We're all educated people.

Remember, Tim Robbins and I used to look a lot alike at one point in our lives.  I've referred to this in past installments if you have the time to read all our archives.  In fact, I was at Tastee Donuts the other morning and I wasn't wearing a hat.  It's very rare when you won't see me in a hat. It's not that I'm bald.  I just don't own a comb.  

Anyway, I wasn't wearing a hat and Lisa, who sees me a few times a week when Frau Schmitt and I want to serve apple fritters at breakfast, said, "You remind me of Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption.  That's one of my favorite movies."  I learned something about Lisa that day.  I also learned that, though Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994, I appear to be 22 years younger than I am.  

I like being older.  You don't hear many people say that out loud.  Frau Schmitt will tell you that I enjoy growing old.  She is usually right about these things.  Howzabout a little T.S. Elliot:

Thomas Stearns Elliot
"I grow old... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."
[From the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1922.]

I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.  I don't measure out my life in coffee spoons, though.  So much for that comparison.

So, should we talk a bit about New Orleans?  Of course we should.  What else is there to talk about?

New Orleans is beautiful.  We love where we live.  If you want to learn what it's like to live in New Orleans, if only for a short time, do you know where you should stay?  You should stay at La Belle Esplanade.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Running the Numbers In New Orleans

A fish below the ice in City Park

I noticed today that we've received our 333rd review on Trip Advisor.  I remember when we didn't have any.  For a smidge over two years, we've been ranked the #1 place to stay in New Orleans, and in all of Louisiana, really.  It's quite a feather in our cap and one of which we feel justly proud.  Believe me, we never thought we'd be ranked #1.

For those readers who haven't read reviews of our inn, and there are other places where you can read reviews about our inn besides on Trip Advisor, but, Trip Advisor seems to be where everyone thinking about coming to New Orleans goes to help make up their minds of where to stay, here's a breakdown by the numbers:

La Belle Esplanade

333 Total Reviews
323 Excellent                    
10   Very Good
 0    Average
 0    Poor
 0    Terrible

307 in English
 12  in French
   7  in German
   3  in Italian
   2  in Swedish
   1  in Dutch
   1  in Norwegian
   1  in Portuguese

Those are some pretty impressive numbers, if I do say so myself.  I always find it interesting to see how many reviews are written in languages other than English.  Very few, it turns out.  We don't have many but I think we have more than anyone else in New Orleans, though I haven't made a systematic study of the matter.  Let's just say we are a cosmopolitan inn.

We have no control of what our ranking is on Trip Advisor.  The number is based entirely on the ratings we receive from our guests. We know some other innkeepers who try to game the system and have friends or professional services submit reviews on their behalf.  Trip Advisor frowns on that and they seem to do a pretty good job of weeding out the falsehoods.  

Every one of our 333 reviews was written by someone who stayed at La Belle Esplanade.  I know because I recognize everyone who wrote a review.  When you run a small boutique operation the way we do, you get to know your guests.  This isn't a 400-plus-room hotel.  We only have five suites.  We spend a lot of time talking with our guests every morning.  It's a nice way to do business.

It's nice to stay here, too, apparently.  We don't have room service, but we are always around if you need help with something.  We don't have a microwave in the suites, or even in the building, but this way the house never stinks of popcorn or fish.  There isn't any valet parking, instead, you just park on the street in front of our house for free (not that you need to rent a car---you don't).  We have free wi-fi, too.  We're not here to nickel-and-dime you.  Pay the going rate and we'll throw in a lot of lagniappe.

So, not to boast or blow our own horn, but we're very happy and humbled to have the chance to do what we do.  We enjoy being innkeepers.  It ain't work when ya like whatcha do.  We're looking forward to reading and responding to the next 333 reviews.  Now, how many will that make?

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

Have I mentioned you can like us on Facebook?  I hear all the cool crowd is doing it nowadays.

Monday, April 11, 2016

New Orleans Is Full of Sly Magic.

New Orleans is full of sly magic
There is a subtle perturbation in the atmosphere in New Orleans, a hum in the back of your ears, something below the substance that is more spirit than solid or liquid or gas.  There are occult powers at work along this city's sinews.  Phantasmagoria and fantasia, both and neither; terra firma, terra incognita and terra sigillata.  Is it any wonder that we love where we live?

When you spend enough time in New Orleans, you get a little discombobulated, then your balance readjusts, your tympanic membranes get used to the on-key pressure, and your pineal gland recalibrates.  Then, everything seems right in the world for long stretches along Esplanade Avenue, or St. Claude Avenue, or St. Bernard Avenue, or Carrolton Avenue, or Dumaine Street, or Washington Avenue, or along South Galvez Street, well, heck, along just about any byway or alleyway in the city, even Pirates' Alley or Duels Street.  Stay here long enough and you'll get spoiled for living anywhere else.

It really is magical in New Orleans.  Ask anyone.

It isn't voodoo, per se.  It's the voodoo that the people who live here do.  It's hard to put your finger on what makes New Orleans different, but you can always feel the pulse.  Everybody eats red beans on Mondays.  Why?  We don't ask that kind of question.  Like the Mardi Gras Indians, and everyone else who calls New Orleans home, we just do what we do because that's what we do.

'Nuff said about that.  Try to pin a butterfly down with enough description and words and, before you realize it, the butterfly has flown away.

Wanna see a rare picture of Frau Schmitt?

The nicest person you will ever meet

We went to see China Lights in City Park last night.  Wanna see a picture of a dragon?

Dragon over the oleander
China Lights is a big exhibit of silk sculptures lit from the inside.  We've seen the sculptures during the day and, let me tell you, they are much more impressive at night.  They're impressive during the day, but at night, they're magic.  It wasn't cheap to get in but it was worth the price of admission.  That's the way with most things.  Who dares to tally an epiphany's value?

Not quite the whole dragon
China Lights runs until May 1.  Even when nothing is happening in New Orleans, officially, something is always happening.  That's why we love where we live, off the record and off the radar and off the charts.  There is never a dull moment.  You can come to New Orleans any time of year, at any time of day, and you'll find something happening.  It's that kind of a place.  Its texture is rich and dense, full of portents and magic and dazzle and sizzle, fo'  shizzle.

If you don't know what it means to miss New Orleans, that's because you haven't spent enough time here, yet.  Stay for a couple days, embed yourself in the back streets outside the French Quarter, outside the Garden District, off the usual tourist maps and tourist traps.  You'll fall in love.  New Orleans is full of sly magic.

If you are considering a visit, we'd be pleased if you choose to make our colorful and humble inn your headquarters and base of operations for the duration of your stay.  We know a lot about New Orleans magic.  Reserve a suite early.  We are a small boutique operation that offers customized recommendations and accommodations.  You'll know what we mean when you get here.  Stay with us and you might just be spoiled from staying anywhere else.  It's not our vacation, though.  You can always stay down the street.  

I always say you should read an inn's blog to get an idea of what the place is about.  I can't say ours is always useful, in fact we've installed a poll to measure this somewhere toward the bottom of the column to your right.  Feel free to vote if you are so inclined.

New Orleans is a city full of sly magic.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where every morning is a curated New Orleans breakfast salon. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Innkeeper Endorses Trump!!

Fool riding a goat
I thought we needed a boost in blog traffic so I wrote an interesting headline for today's installment.  I'm not really endorsing a future President Trump.  While we do have freewheeling conversations around the breakfast table every morning, and I don't necessarily discourage the topic of politics as much as curtail it, you'll never know my political leanings.  Your humble narrator is a cipher when it comes to my politics.  I have a long history of being a man of mystery and I don't want to let the cat out of the bag now. 

The image above comes from an ongoingly updated archive of medieval manuscript illuminations from Discarding Images.  Let it never be said that your humble narrator doesn't have a variety of variegated interests.

Now, what were we talking about?

The spirit of New Orleans
Our favorite painter, Whalehead King, who has executed (and I use that word justly) most of the original artwork in our inn, is working on a new masterpiece for La France Suite.  It's gonna be a real kinger-dinger!  I was in his studio tonight to get a glimpse of his sketches and the progress he's made so far on the 4'x4' canvas that's going to hang over the bedroom (non-working) decorative fireplace in La France Suite.

The fireplace used to work when our inn was built, but that was over 130 years ago.  There is a fireplace in every room in our house but none of them contain fires.  You provide the spark that burns in your heart when you fall in love with New Orleans.

We asked Whalehead King to replace the Degas print that's hanging there currently and he happily said he was able to figuratively blow the roof off this project.  Here is a photo of what the new original painting will be replacing:

Cotton brokers in New Orleans à la Degas

If you want to see a reproduction of that painting, you can stay at the Degas House, which is a wedding venue and bed and breakfast a block away from our inn.  If you want to see the original, you'll have to visit Ville de Pau, in France.  I read French better than I speak it but I don't read French all that well.  If you want to read the extensive English wikipedia entry on Pau, well, here ya go.  It seems like an interesting place, all things considered.  As interesting as New Orleans?  Regular readers of this blog already know the answer to that question.  I don't need to belabor the obvious.

If this is a bit of an itsy bitsy teeny weeny short entry today, it's because it's French Quarter Festival this weekend.  Ask any innkeeper in New Orleans and they'll be happy to tell you that this is their busiest month!  I don't know what other innkeepers do to keep themselves so busy when nobody is checking in or out because the house if full for the weekend, but it's a good excuse for me to write a short entry.  I know what Frau Schmitt and I have been doing and she says it's free time well spent.  She is usually right about these things.

So there you have it.  If you want to see original artwork, produced locally, so locally you can smell the turpentine wafting over our back garden, you know where to find us.  We're a block away from the Degas house and a mile outside the French Quarter.  Try getting a quiet night's sleep in the Quarter this weekend!

To all of our American friends who live in states that haven't had primaries yet, remember to go out and vote for your man when the time comes.  Oh, you can vote for a woman, too, this year so far if you are so inclined.  A little birdie told me that.  I'm not making any endorsements.   

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where every day is a curated breakfast salon.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Crawfish New Orleans Style

You can spot the skunk ape behind the bush
Let's take a look of an idealized French Quarter for a few minutes.  Yes, we're back to our Elvis marathon...

I wish someone would call me King Creole, but I'm from Connecticut so that's never going to happen.

Do vendors wander the French Quarter streets in mule carts singing about crawfish nowadays?  No.  Nor do they sell gumbo from a hand-pulled cart or carry baskets on their heads as they tout their wares to all who can hear.  It's a myth.  It was a myth in 1958 when Elvis came to New Orleans to shoot a movie.

Played at a theater near you
According to the film's plot, after Elvis' character's mother died and his father lost his job as a pharmacist, the impoverished family moved to the French Quarter.  Let me tell you something: today, there are very few, if any, impoverished families living in the French Quarter.  The Quarter has some of the priciest real estate in New Orleans.  A lot of it is rented out on AirB&B.

I'm not going to recap the whole plot of King Creole.  It makes about as much sense as anything in New Orleans does.  The movie is one part folderol, one part balderdash, one part myth-making, another part of nostalgia, and a dollop of sentimentality.  Toss in a  dash of bitters and the whole shebang makes for a satisfying and toe-tapping cocktail.  Sounds like any day here, really.  That's why Frau Schmitt and I love where we live.  All the world's a stage...etc.  Etcetera.

Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things.

Does a remix add any value to the original?

Regular readers already know that your humble narrator has established a reputation as being an old fuddy-duddy.  I'm not so interested in the myth and the overall narrative and the cotton candy and the pecan pie on the other side of the levee.   I just enjoy wandering our city on foot, saying hello to everyone I encounter along the way, engaging in idle chitchat and learning some actual news from the street.  We live in an amazing city.  I could make up stories about what I do every day but the prosaic truth of my errands and to-and-fro are profound and entertaining enough.

We really do live in an amazing city.  We don't eat crawfish everyday.  We don't eat jambalaya or gumbo or barbecue shrimp every day.  We do eat well, though.  In New Orleans, it is almost impossible not to eat well.  We are content.  In New Orleans, it is almost impossible not to be content.  Most people are positively, genuinely happy.  It's that kind of a city.

If you want to escape your cares, come to New Orleans.  Life is different here.  Come as a visitor but stay like a friend.  You can stay at La Belle Esplanade...where every morning is a curated New Orleans breakfast salon.  We look forward to sharing our city with you.

There was a song from the King Creole soundtrack that hit #1 on he Billboard Top 10.  It wasn't Crawfish.  It was Hard Headed Woman.  I wasn't alive then so you can't blame me.  How does a Youtube fan video compare to the original film clip in which the song first appeared?  I'm not here to judge.

New Orleans is all things to all people.  It is The City That Care Forgot.  

A tip of our fedora to Megan and Lauren!
À votre santé, nos amies.
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