Sunday, September 30, 2012

What the Tour Guides Say on Esplanade Avenue

A New Orleans B&B; 2216 Esplanade Avenue
I have always wondered about what the tour bus drivers are talking about when they pause across the street from La Belle Esplanade.  Now, I have the inside scoop.

Two lovely young ladies from Little Rock, Arkansas drove down to spend a New Orleans weekend.  It was their first time in our fair city and, after walking about the French Quarter and hearing their host tell them about the various neighborhoods outside the Quarter, they decided to take a bus tour yesterday courtesy of Cajun Encounters.  They took the "City and Cemetery" tour.

Imagine their surprise when their bus headed up Esplanade Avenue, where they had spent the previous night.  Imagine their surprise when the driver paused in the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue and pointed out "his two favorite houses," one of which was none other than La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast, the headquarters for their New Orleans adventure.   According to their report, the driver, who stopped in front of every interesting building, spent an extra long time in Esplanade Avenue's 2200 block.  

While he expressed his admiration of La Belle Esplanade's vibrant color scheme, he did take time to extol the beauty of her sister at 2212.
A beautiful neighbor; 2212 Esplanade Avenue
Our visitors from Little Rock knew a little more backstory than the tour guide.  They had been given a brief introduction to these properties' history the afternoon before.  2212, 2216, and 2222 Esplanade Avenue were all built in the 1890s by cotton broker Julius Weis as investment properties.  All three are constructed in different styles, unlike other row houses built on speculation.  If you look closely, you can see the same features used in all three in re-imagined ways.

2222 Esplanade Avenue:
The grand apartments at 2222 Esplanade Avenue
These fraternal architectural triplets are laid out on narrow wedges of land that follow the plot lines of Bayou Road, the oldest street in New Orleans, not Esplanade Avenue.  They are separated by narrow alleys that make a unique, antique urban oasis, exemplified by the shared garden in back.

2212 is a private residence.  2216 is La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  2222 is home to four beautiful apartments.  If you want to know what life is like in New Orleans, no matter how long your commitment to a particular address, this NOLA bed and breakfast is the perfect way to experience what it is like to live here.  It is magic, pure and simple.

How did they feel about having their home away from home featured on a paid tour?  "It only confirmed that we are staying someplace special,"  Emily told me over a breakfast plate of alligator and biscuits.  Lindsay agreed as she bit into the sculpted icing flower of her petit fours.

Good guests make good company.  We are glad this weekend's guests enjoyed their stay and we hope they drive safely back to Little Rock with only fond memories from their brief sojourn in the City Care Forgot.

2212 and 2216 Esplanade Avenue before La Belle Esplanade got its fresh coat of paint
There is something cheerful about a bright orange house with deep blue shutters in which every room is a different color.

A votre sante.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Treme Bicentennial

The corner of Gov. Nicholls and Henriette de Lille Streets
The Treme neighborhood is celebrating its 200th year in October.  Check out the official website for events running from October 16 to October 21, 2012.  

La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is located within the Greater Treme neighborhood.  Since I wanted to write about historic Treme today, I took a stroll down Bayou Road, the oldest street in New Orleans that runs directly in front of the inn.  Yes, our address is 2216 Esplanade Avenue, but the addresses opposite us are on Bayou Road.  It is complicated, like many things here are at first introduction.
Looking back at where Barracks Street splits from Bayou Road; those are banana trees
A house in the Barracks Street Square
After Bayou Road crosses N. Claiborne Avenue it becomes Governor Nicholls Street.  Though they run parallel to Esplanade Avenue, few visitors travel these parts.  As a very old part of the city, this route is thick with historic details.  As I was taking these pictures, I was trailing a group on a bicycle tour.
My favorite house on Bayou Road
My favorite house on Gov. Nicholls Street; look at that lean
This neighborhood is not gentrified.  It is inhabited by people whose families have lived here for generations.  Treme has its own culture.
New Orleans African-American Museum in Treme
The African-American Museum building and grounds
Esplanade Avenue is one of the most picturesque streets in New Orleans, but Governor Nicholls Street and Bayou Road have their own charms.  Treme is one of the things that make New Orleans a magical place, not only for tourists but for the people who live here.  Treme doesn't exist to attract tourism dollars.  It thrives because home is where the heart is.
Front door inspired by the New Orleans Water Meter cover
Tomb of the Unknown Slave on the side of St. Augustine Church
If you will be staying in the area on October 21, you'll be able to witness an event that will be the first of its kind: The United Second Line.  I count 13 Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs marching. It starts at 11:00 AM at 1210 Gov. Nicholls Street.  Scroll to the bottom of this link to count for yourself.  I don't know for sure, but I believe that is the address pictured in the first photo which is the location of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, the oldest African-American Catholic congregation.

If you don't know what a second line is, you may want to stop by the Backstreet Cultural Museum located across the street from St. Augustine.  When we came to New Orleans our first time, we spent two hours here learning about something we had no idea existed.  

Nowadays, we join every second line we come across in our travels around town.  No matter what we are doing when we are at home, as soon as we hear a brass band in the neighborhood, we are out the front door to march and dance in the street.  Nowadays, we are the proud custodians of a Mardi Gras Indian suit, something that gives us daily pleasure. 

The opposite corner of Henriette de Lille Street
No matter when you visit New Orleans, you will encounter a surprising adventure.  Maybe, like us, you will move here in order to have adventures every day.  By the way, my stroll to take these pictures was a little over a quarter mile.  If I had continued another block, I would have been at the edge of the French Quarter.  I had business in Faubourg Marigny, a different kind of neighborhood altogether, instead.

If you are going to be in New Orleans during the celebration of Treme's bicentennial, you know where you can stay.  It's the most colorful house on Esplanade Avenue.

A votre sante.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where to stay in New Orleans

Canal Street, New Orleans or Any City, USA?
If you are going to visit the great city of New Orleans, you have a number of hotel options to choose from.  You can stay at the Marriot, the Sheridan, the Quality Inn, or the Hampton Inn and Suites by the Convention Center.  You can stay at the Intercontinental Hotel or the Omni Hotel.  These are all established brands with global reputations to uphold.  Like a visit to Olive Garden, or Appleby's, or TGIFriday's, or McDonald's, you pay your money and you get what you expect.  Enjoy your stay.

Interestingly, while New Orleans does have a few McDonald's franchises, this city that lives and thrives by its taste buds does not have one Olive Garden, Appleby's or TGIFridays outlet within its boundaries.  Big hotels managed by the big conglomerates rise over Canal Street and Poydras Street and Convention Center Blvd (was any street ever so appropriately named?).  Somebody has to satisfy the overwhelming demand for lodging.

There is an alternative.  Rather than plunking down good money to check in to a nondescript box at one of the hotels featured above, you can invest your stay in the community.  A New Orleans bed and breakfast inn is an extraordinary thing quite distinct from the corporate chains.  It is owner-operated, managed by the same persons who decorated and maintain the suites.

You can stay on the impersonal 13th floor at Harrah's, or you can stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Your stay will make you smile.
The smile on our first guest's face says it all
Built in the 1890s, La Belle Esplanade is designed to satisfy the test of time.  No corporate architect was hired to provide minimal profitable square footage at maximum density stacked one floor atop the other.  Instead, a livable two-story edifice was divided into five accommodating suites to serve as a headquarters for your New Orleans adventure.

The big chain hotels offer decor that is bought in bulk without reference to its location.  A room in the New Orleans Marriott will be very much like a room in the Oklahoma City Marriot, or the St. Louis Marriott, or the Marriott in Groton, Conn.  No two rooms in a New Orleans B&B are alike.

You can stay in Les Fleurs Suite...
Click the picture to learn more about La Belle Esplanade
Every room is a different color.  Take a look at the bedroom of La Pelican Suite...
Click the picture to check availability
Every room is furnished with period antiques from when the manor was built.  It is also sprinkled with original artwork, stories, and hospitality that is more than off-the-rack.

La France Suite...
At twilight, we all say, "Vive la Nouvelle Orleans!"
Two more suites will be available in the near future: the Clio Suite and Les Saintes Suite.  Beautiful rooms are not these suites' only attraction.  They also have balconies.
La France Suite balcony at sunset
Of course, there is a garden in back...
The fountain provides just the right note of tranquility
There are plenty of bed and breakfast options in New Orleans that offer more than the high rise towers do to deliver a unique experience.  A New Orleans innkeeper gets into the business to make a living, but he or she also does it to share the best aspects of this magical city we call home.  New Orleans innkeepers live in New Orleans and they answer to nobody else but their guests, their neighbors, and their impeccable sense of taste.

To learn more: Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO).

A votre sante.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Orleans Small Business Attorney

Atty. Andrew Legrand
La Belle Esplanade, LLC would like to give accolades to its attorney.  He is Andrew Legrand.  He is a nice guy, and a smart guy, a recent graduate of Loyola University here in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He was born and raised in Metarie.  He is new to the attorney business, focussing his attention on small business law.  His eyes light up at the thought of reviewing contracts.  That is the kind of attorney a small business owner wants.

Atty. Legrand is professional.  He performs his due diligence.  When he offers his professional counsel, he does it after he has done his homework.  If he is unsure about a detail, he researches it.  When he has exhausted a subject, he shares his discoveries.

Our first meetings were conducted at our dining room table.  Atty. Legrand was not there just to enjoy our hospitality.  He was there to learn our needs and how he could assist.  Since our introduction, we have met and corresponded with him many times and resolved more than he probably anticipated, but he has always satisfied our expectations with professional aplomb.

After helping us successfully navigate the thicket of paperwork that accompanies opening a new business in Louisiana, and, more specifically, in the City of New Orleans, Atty. Legrand recently stopped by La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast to check on our progress.  
Our dining room
He stayed for over an hour, taking the full tour and sitting in the dining room for some locally roasted coffee with chicory.  We talked about our business and his business.  Unlike your humble author, Atty. Legrand embraces technology and the advantages it brings.  His insight into modern business practices and opportunities has made us think twice about how we do things.  An interesting development in his legal practice:  he is very involved in the licensing process as it effects food trucks in New Orleans.  He has a number of food truck clients and he is working with City Hall to rewrite statutes that haven’t been looked at since the 1950s.  

La Belle Esplanade feels privileged to have Atty. Legrand on its team.  He is reliable, efficient, and goes above and beyond the call of a professional relationship.  He calls himself a virtual lawyer for small businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs.  He is a real lawyer, not a virtual one.  He is a personable attorney, not a database.  He is following a business model of his own invention, and it seems to be serving him well.  While he keeps his office online, he is always happy to stop by and see things with his own eyes before making a recommendation.  That’s good service, and that is not the kind of service we have ever received from other attorneys.  He is a man in the field.  

Atty. Legrand has served us well, and he continues to do so.  We expect to keep him on retainer for many years to come, until one of us retires.  He has many productive years ahead of him, and we look forward to taking advantage of his services for as long as he practices.  Learn more about Atty. Legrand here.

I did mention that he stopped by recently, didn't I?  Here are his thoughts on the visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bicycle Second Line on October 7!!

Ready to cruise New Orleans
A second line is a kind of informal parade native to New Orleans.  People march behind the first line.  

What is the first line?  It is a band of musicians who lead the parade and the people who hired the musicians to provide musical accompaniment while they march through their neighborhood.  What is the second line?  It is everybody else who joins in.  The second line can stretch for blocks and blocks.

There is going to be a bicycle second line during Gentilly Fest on October 7, 2012.  It is sponsored by Bike Easy, an organization that promotes safe bicycling in this fair city of New Orleans, LA.

New Orleans is the kind of city that is made for bicycles.  It is flat.  Around every corner is a fresh surprise.  Traveling New Orleans streets by bike is the best way to experience the cityscape.

We have ridden in a number of Bike Easy's second line parades.  It is always a good time as an armada of bicycles wend through the streets ringing bells and waving to everyone who comes out on their front porches to shout encouragement.
The best way to get around the city
There is a donation required to get some official swag, but in the spirit of second lines, everyone is welcome to join.  When we first moved to New Orleans, and participated in our first bicycle second line, we corresponded with Jamie Wine, Bike Easy's executive director and a gentleman of the velocipede.  He said that anybody can join the parade, donation or no.  "It's New Orleans.  It's a second line, for goodness' sake," he said.  Naturally, we encourage donations to this fine organization to support their good work and to get a nifty tee shirt and admission to the after party.   

La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast currently has four bicycles in its fleet, available free of charge to guests who would like to pedal about the streets of New Orleans.  If you haven't forgotten how to ride a bike, this second line parade is an excellent way to enjoy some New Orleans culture and camaraderie firsthand, and to enjoy Gentilly Fest.  Gentilly Fest runs from Friday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Oct. 7.  The music promises to be great.  Pontchartrain Park, where the festival is held, is about a half-hour picturesque bike ride from the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue.
The men's model in front of our fountain
If you are looking for a unique experience flavored by a thriving community, consider La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast to attend Gentilly Fest.  We will provide the bicycles.  New Orleans will  provide the memories.
The ladies' model on the other side of the garden
A votre sante.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Enjoying the view

A pleasant oasis
I am sitting on the front porch of Les Fleurs Suite as I write this.  It is a beautiful day.  The view toward the Lake...
Gayarre Park through the wild ginger
Straight ahead...
Where Bayou Road crosses Esplanade Avenue
And toward the River...
The corner of North Miro Street and Esplanade Avenue
Let's look up at one of those old Southern Oaks...
At least a hundred-year-old tree
Les Fleurs is the largest of the suites currently open at our colorful and eclectic inn.  Because it is slightly above ground level its porch interacts with the street.  People walk by all the time.  They mind their own business.  If they do stop, it is to admire the building.  You can't blame them.

I've been sitting here for about a half hour, watching the world go by in our little corner of it.  All is peaceful this afternoon.  And that is the kind of news we like to report around here at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
You could be sitting here
A votre sante.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More about Les Fleurs Suite

The shutters were for Hurricane Isaac when this photo was taken.
The largest of the suites currently open is Les Fleurs Suite.  It was the first to be finished, and even after that we've been making additions to the decor.  As we visit antique stores and art galleries around New Orleans, we find new additions for La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Not just for the new suites, but also for those that we think are done.  When making a work of art, the work is never done.

Today we focus on the sitting room rather than the bedroom of Les Fleurs Suite.  Not that the bedroom doesn't deserve its own post, but we featured the flower bedecked bed enough with our last entry on these rooms.

We've added some prints to the sitting room:
Antique sofa and marble topped table
Les Fleurs Suite is located on the first floor, across from the dining room.  It has two rooms with a private bath.  The bathroom is just that, a place for full washing in an antique claw foot tub.  The sink is located, a-la-Europe, in the bedroom so that guests have complete privacy in the spacious water closet.

We picked up the table in Central City.  Get ready for a New Orleans geography lesson...

Central City is the neighborhood that lies uptown of Canal Street and the Superdome, roughly between Claiborne and St. Charles Avenues as far as Napoleon Avenue.  It is not in the center of the city, nor is it related to Mid-City, which is also not in the center of the city.  Tourists rarely visit Central City.  It is a relatively self-contained world serving the needs of its inhabitants.  It is a fascinating place, however, and was home to a thriving Jewish community and many jazz legends.  The Uptown Mardi Gras Indian Tribes are headquartered in Central City.

The table was on the sidewalk.  We knocked on the door and asked if the table was for sale.  The lady who answered the door said, "That table is for the trash man.  Take it if you want it.  I can't bear to look at it anymore."  On two motor scooters, we brought the table to its new home.

If you are sitting on the couch, this is what you will see in the opposite corner:
Pocket doors to the right, antique wardrobe to the left
Let's take a closer look at that wardrobe:
They don't make furniture like this any more
Les Fleurs Suite's front window (not pictured here) opens onto a front porch that faces Esplanade Avenue.  People stroll Esplanade Avenue all day long.  Some of them are locals, some of them are tourists, and some of them are both.  While sitting on the front porch, don't be surprised to see people stop to take a picture of the building.  Don't be surprised if tour buses or bicycle tours linger on the opposite side of the street.  

Sometimes, the tour guides are discussing Gayarre Park, which separates Esplanade Avenue from Bayou Road.  Other times, they are discussing the historical significance of the three stately manors in the middle of the 2200 block.  La Belle Esplanade is the rose between two magnolias.

I'm not really interested in writing a full post about the Les Fleurs Suite's bathroom.  Let's just post a photo and be done with it:
The water pressure promotes healthy skin and hair growth
2216 Esplanade Avenue is a manor built in the 1890s.  The building has undergone a number of renovations over the last century and more.  Your hosts think this incarnation is the best of all, honoring the past while moving into the bright future of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

Every suite is equipped with its own refrigerator stocked with local soft drinks, beer, water and wine.  Each suite has a coffee maker to enjoy that first cup on a private porch or balcony.  The grounds are secure and locked off-street parking is available in the rear of the sumptuous gardens.  We also feature free wi-fi and cable TV.  Why anyone would want to watch TV while in New Orleans is beyond my idea of a vacation, but it is there if you want it.

If you are thinking about staying a New Orleans B&B, consider La Belle Esplanade.  The location is convenient and beautiful, as are the grounds.  

Bienvenue a l'Avenue d'Esplanade.
Sanctus, Sacre, Nola

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Breakfast on Esplanade Ave., New Orleans, LA

Ready for breakfast
Imagine enjoying a New Orleans breakfast in one of the sunniest rooms on Esplanade Avenue.  We like to go the the farmers' market by American Can on Bayou St. John, about a half mile from La Belle Esplanade B&B, for fresh produce.  

Our particular favorite market is in the Arabi section of St. Bernard Parish.  We meet Josie there, where she provides us with preserves and pickles.  Her cherry jelly is one of our favorites, as is her pickled mirrilton.  

Cafe style seating
I get to take my motor scooter to Alois Binder Bakery in the Marigny in the wee hours of the morning to pick up a loaf of fresh po' boy bread for Josie's jellies.  Some days I stop by Cake Cafe, also in the Marigny, to pick up some souffles or a dozen of the most interesting onion bagels you've ever tried.  The hole is stuffed with diced onion.  Other mornings take me to the Buttermilk Drop in the 7th Ward, where I pick up their signature dish: buttermilk drops.  

A buttermilk drop is a local donut confection.  I've had many midnight "only in New Orleans" moments listening to grizzled men in the dead of night discussing how to make the perfect buttermilk drop.  I know one gentleman who has spent his professional life trying to fill one with jelly.  "It just can't be done," he says.  "A buttermilk drop is a cake.  You can't fill it, no matter how hard you try."  From what I gather during our conversations, he is still trying.

The buffet table is a salvaged door
True to the city, our coffee is locally sourced and infused with chicory, the New Orleans way.  It will get you ready to start the day with a spring in your step.
Color makes life interesting
As can be seen on Mr. Henry's breakfast menu, the citizens of New Orleans don't settle for two fried eggs with potatoes.  They prefer a meal that will stick to their ribs and keep them satisfied.  Yes, liver for breakfast, though we don't serve liver at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Instead, we serve crawfish pie, alligator bites, muffalettas, and, on Mondays, red beans.

Some days I get to go up Bienville Street to pick up some fresh empanadas, filled with either chicken or fruit from Norma's Bakery.  This is a tucked-away treasure of a business located behind the Canal Street streetcar headquarters.

Every day presents a different meal at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  While we take great pride in the dining room, guests also dine al fresco on their balconies or in the garden out back.

Thank you everyone for booking a room at La Belle Esplanade, and thanks to all for your kind comments and reviews.  We humbly do what we can to make your stay in New Orleans a memorable adventure that you will fondly recall for years to come.

A votre sante.

Friday, September 14, 2012

610 Stompers

More public service from the 610 Stompers
I spotted the above billboard on North Broad Street across from the courthouse.  If you aren't from New Orleans, you may not recognize those iconic gentlemen.  The are the 610 Stompers, ordinary men with extraordinary moves.

They've only been in existence since 2009, but they have become part of the city's fabric.  We first saw them in a Mardi Gras parade in 2010.  Like anyone who has seen them in action, they made a lasting impression and won our admiration.

Now, they are cropping up on the sides of buses and at bus stops, as well as on billboards.
North Broad Street, New Orleans
Corner of N. Broad and Esplanade Avenue
As their website says, they come from the epicenter of culture in America.  It is hard to disagree.  Any place that can give birth to a group as ordinary and extraordinary as the 610 Stompers is the place to be.  You've never seen anything like them.  Of course, if you watched last year's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, you may have seen them there representing their city.  (Watch the Macy's video.)

Another sign on North Broad Street by the courthouse that makes me smile:
Mr. Everything
We have never eaten here, despite it being the home of the world famous grilled chicken.  La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is located only a few blocks for what is called the home of the best fried chicken in America, Willie Mae's Scotch House.   Though Urban Spoon lists Willie Mae's as being in the 7th Ward, you can take it on eyewitness testimony that it is firmly planted in the 6th Ward, in Greater Treme.  

Esplanade Avenue forms the boundary between New Orleans' 6th and 7th Wards.  Downtown is the 7th.  Uptown is the 6th.  St. Anne Street is uptown of La Belle Esplanade.  The line outside the restaurant can stretch around the corner of St. Anne and N. Tonti Streets.  It is worth the wait, as anyone who has eaten at Willie Mae's can tell you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

La Pelican Suite (Part II)

A lavender room
Some cities are not lovable.  Does anyone visit Houston, TX and become enchanted?  Oklahoma City? Wheeling, WV?  Bismark, ND?  Of course somebody does, but I don't know the people who love these places.  Every city has its charms, and some have more charms than others.  Minneapolis trumps St. Paul for a reason, though both are too cold from my tastes.  What is this leading up to?  

New Orleans is easy to love.  It is easy on the eyes.  It is full of color and music.  It pulsates.  It throbs.  A city is a place in which people live close together and share their eccentricities.  New Orleans is like that.  If you can't find a good meal in New Orleans, you don't have any taste buds.  If you are bored in New Orleans, you don't know what to do.  

With that in mind, here are some new pictures of La Pelican Suite. The sitting room is lavender.  The bedroom is spring green.  The ceilings are cerulean.  
Facing the bed, looking up
Antique sofa.  New pillows.
The map behind the sofa is of New Orleans circa 1820.  Esplanade Avenue is just Esplanade Ridge, but Bayou Road is there.  It is the oldest street in the city, older than the French Quarter.  It runs opposite 2216 Esplanade Avenue, on the other side of Gayarre Park.  The other picture is a view of the harbor in the 1880s.
The fireplace mantle in the bedroom
The fireplace mantle in the sitting room
La Pelican Suite is the quietest of all the suites at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  It also has a very private balcony...
Riverside of 2216 Esplanade Avenue
Attentive readers will notice that the porch pictured above is a different color from the vibrant orange at the rest of the address.  We decided, as a matter of maintaining the historical record, not to paint the side of the house fronting the alley between 2216 and 2212 Esplanade Avenue.  You can see what the property looked like for twenty years before it came under new management.

There is a table and two chairs for enjoying the sunrise over the first cup of morning coffee (coffee maker in every suite), or for enjoying a bottle of Abita beer (complimentary in every suite's refrigerator) for a nightcap.

New Orleans is a city of unexpected delights.  Esplanade Avenue is a distillation of that.  La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast?  It is a concentration of the Esplanade Avenue experience.  Remember, in New Orleans, Esplanade is pronounced "es-plan-AID."

A votre sante.

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