Monday, January 28, 2013

What It's Like to Live In New Orleans

Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
The streetscape in New Orleans is a delight to the eye, as yesterday's New York Times' Frugal Traveler article  pointed out.  Check the last photo on the link and you will know what we mean.    The photo was featured front and center of the page in the hard copy of the paper.

Recently, someone told us while taking a tour of our inn, "Pictures don't do it justice."  The camera doesn't lie, of course, but it will never replace living in the round.  New Orleans is like that.
'tit Rex float
There were eight krewes parading this weekend.  We saw four of them, each one unique, with their own flavor and theme, each one a celebration of what it is like to be alive and well in New Orleans.    'tit Rex (properly spelled with the 'e' reversed) parades with handmade miniature floats.

There is no place else on earth like this city.  That's a good thing, we suppose, otherwise, how would anything get done everywhere else?  Thank goodness there are places other than New Orleans where people toil away 9-5.  Thank goodness there is New Orleans, where people can get away from the rat race and the grind.

I was talking to another Connecticut transplant.  He said, "I've lived here for 20 years.  Now, I'm spoiled from living anywhere else."  That isn't a bad thing when you think about it.  We count ourselves as comrades in luck.

New Orleans doesn't wear you down.  It lifts you up.  Anyone who is unhappy in New Orleans doesn't know how to live.  
Life in New Orleans
Someone called to make a reservation for this weekend and asked if there was anything going on in New Orleans.  "Of course," I answered.  "It's Mardi Gras."

The voice on the phone said, "I thought Mardi Gras is on February 12, this year."  The voice came from a suburb of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The speaker was in Aboite, to be exact. 

If you don't live in New Orleans, you can't be expected to know that Mardi Gras is not a single day.  It is a season that starts on Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, a day dedicated to the memory of St. Joan of Arc.  In this most catholic of cities (in every sense of the adjective), Mardi Gras is as much a state of mind as it is a square on the calendar.
A color front door on Esplanade Avenue
Whenever you stay in New Orleans, something is going on.  Wherever you stay, it will be vibrant, but especially so if you stay at a bed and breakfast on Esplanade Avenue where every room is a different color.  There is a New Orleans you can read about in guide books and find described in hand-out toss-away tourism brochures, and then there is the rest of the city.  We visit the French Quarter, the Riverfront, and the Garden District on a regular basis, but we spend the bulk of our days and nights in the rest of the city.  We are never bored.

You can visit the Quarter and listen to late night jazz on Frenchman Street, and you should.  That said, there is a whole ripe city thriving between the Holy Cross and the Hollygrove neighborhoods, from the Riverbend to Village de L'Est.  La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is right in the middle of it all.  It is close to the action, but far enough away to get a good night's rest to be up for the next day's or night's adventure.
A colorful address on Esplanade Avenue
As a recent guest noted, you won't get personalized advice or directions over breakfast in a chain motel that is painted in shades of beige.  

What have we been up to since our last post?  More than we can write about here.  Besides being part of the crowd around four parades, we have visited the middle of nowhere to eat at the best catfish restaurant in Louisiana.  We have found the best pizza in New Orleans.  We have strolled up and down Esplanade Avenue and along all the cross streets in either direction, both uptown and downtown.  

One question we are always asked is: "What's it like to live in New Orleans?"  It is like reading this blog.  You never know where it will go, but you always appreciate being here.  What's it like to live in New Orleans?  You never know what will be around the corner.  You always appreciate being here, whether for a lifetime, a week, or even a weekend.

A votre sante.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gayarre Park, New Orleans

A perfect New Orleans balcony
Some afternoons, when nobody else is around, I go up to the Les Saintes Suite to sit on the the balcony and write this blog.  

When La Belle Esplanade was a rooming house, Apartment 6F was the most popular of all the suites.  Part of that is due to the privacy of the balcony that faces Esplanade Avenue.  When you sit up their, the street scape is yours to survey and no one is the wiser, unless you make yourself heard.  

A young couple were strolling lakeside in today's 75 degree air.  The sun was shining.  It was January weather in New Orleans.  They stopped in front of our neighbor's blue house.
Middle of the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue
If you haven't met our neighbor on the riverside of 2216 Esplanade Avenue, let me tell you that he is the nicest person you will ever meet.  

Anyhow, the young couple had stopped to read the sign our neighbor has hung on his fence.
Historical marker, New Orleans
I heard the man ask the woman, "Who is Clio?"  I overheard the lady say, "Beats me."  Luckily, I was within earshot. 

"Hey!  Up here!" I called out. Then I pointed across the street to Gayarre Park.  "That's Clio!"
The Clio statue on Esplanade Avenue
The last surviving remnant of the 1884 World's Fair held in New Orleans, the statue in Gayarre Park bears the official title, "Clio: Goddess of History, Genius of Peace."  It is nice to have her around.

"Thanks for the info, mister," they both shouted up to me.  The lady looked at our mailbox.  "Is this really a bed and breakfast?" she asked.

I answered that it is a historic and romantic New Orleans bed and breakfast inn.  I dropped a business card in their direction and it fluttered on the breeze until the gentleman caught it.

"We're coming here for our anniversary," I heard him whisper to her.

"A votre sante," I said as they continued up Esplanade Avenue. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Strange Adventures in New Orleans

Strange Adventures #147.  Copyright DC Comics
Sometimes, when I've got nothing interesting to read, I head Uptown to Freret Street to Crescent City Comics.  Like many nodes of vital activity in a big city like New Orleans, Freret Street is a place that mostly the locals visit.    

You can walk to Freret Street from St. Charles Avenue, but it is usually considered too far for tourists to venture.  If they stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast, guests take a complimentary bicycle and discover all sorts of things.

I rode my bicycle up to Crescent City Comics yesterday and I was looking through the old comic books they have for sale.  I saw Strange Adventures #147 and the top of the cover caught my eye.  Look closely: "An Atomic Knights Adventure...The King of New Orleans!"  Who could resist?

Here is the splash page of that epic story:
It isn't odd to see people dressed as either knights or cowboys in the Vieux Carre
To make a 16-page illustrated story even shorter, I'll just tell you that the Atomic Knights go to New Orleans where all the doctors have been hypnotized and jazz music has been outlawed.  In New Orleans!?!  Someone has to set the world aright.  Call in the Atomic Knights.  They wear suits of armor down Bourbon Street and are pursued by villains dressed as cowboys.  Nobody does a double-take. 

I provide this link to provide a description of this issue and its heroes.  The Atomic Knights fought crystal monsters and sentient plants.  Their most challenging mission, however, was bringing jazz back to New Orleans.  I am not going to let the cat out of the bag.  You can scroll down the linked page to find out how they rescue the brainwashed physicians.  As usual, the spirit of New Orleans saves the day.  If the Atomic Knights hadn't done it, somebody else would have.  Every day has a reason to join a second line parade.

Speaking about Crescent City Comics, located at 4916 Freret Street, down the street from Dat Dog and Midway Pizza in one direction, and Ancora Pizzeria and the High Hat Cafe in the other direction, the staff here is professional and friendly.  You don't need to be a comic book geek to gain admission.  

We've been to a few comic shops in New Orleans.  This one is the best.  If you are thinking about staying in New Orleans, stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  We'll give you a bicycle and we'll give you directions to Freret Street.

The French Quarter is surrounded by a big, plump city ripe to deliver the stuff of which good memories are made.  If you are in town and looking for a graphic novel about New Orleans, you don't need to shop on Amazon.  You can visit a real, freindly brick-and-mortar comic shop.

A votre sante.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who Loves New Orleans?

Great Seal of the City of New Orleans
Who loves New Orleans?  Everybody.  You know what Tennessee Williams said?  "There are only three cities in America: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.  Everywhere else is Cleveland."  After visiting New Orleans, everybody agrees, even people from Chicago.  

People are different in New Orleans.  Time moves at a different pace, one that allows all of life's joys to seep through.  In the 1920s, some marketing types coined a nickname for New Orleans that is as apt today as it was then.  They christened New Orleans "The City That Care Forgot."  There isn't a worry in all of New Orleans, especially along Esplanade Avenue.

Bon vivant "Lucious" Lucius Beebe
I was going through one of the drawers in the antique dressing stand in the Pelican Suite.  I found a folded, yellowed piece of paper which contained a handwritten note dated August 12, 1951.

"My dear Mdm. Etoile," it began.  "Thank you so much for your kind hospitality during my stay.  I enjoyed my meals at Arnaud's,  at Galatoire's, and at Tujague's.  I especially enjoyed the oysters at Casamento's.  I will forever remember you rescuing me from my rooms at the Roosevelt Hotel.  I was considering the Hotel Monteleone, but you came to my aid with open arms and grace.  As a boulevardier and flaneur, I could think of no finer street to stroll than your beautiful Esplanade Avenue.  Sincerely, Lucius Beebe. P.S. You're breakfasts were divine. -XOXOXXO."

I suspect it was written by the famous Lucius Beebe.  The one nobody remembers anymore.
Living well in New Orleans
Something comes over people who spend time in New Orleans.  They succumb to its magic.  Even during the worst storms, Esplanade Ridge rarely floods, but it is always awash with charm.  

Many of our younger (mid-20s/early 30s) guests at La Belle Esplanade report that this is their first stay in a bed and breakfast.  "We don't want to stay in a place that is like grandma's house," they say.  Frau Schmitt and I always enjoyed visiting our grandparents, but we understand what they mean.  We are as hep as the next cat and our inn is anything but stodgy, fussy, or twee.  

Our suites are full of antiques, that's true, but there is nothing old-fashioned about La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  There is free wi-fi and there are flat screen TVs.  Not that anyone comes to New Orleans to surf the internet or watch television.

If you want to treat your significant other to a Valentine's Day escape or a romantic anniversary getaway, our address is 2216 Esplanade Avenue.  Reserve a suite online and enjoy your stay.

Leaving nothing to the imagination
A couple from Mesquite, TX drove to New Orleans this past weekend for some time away from the kids.  They stayed with us.  "I'm so glad we did," the wife said.  "You've spoiled us from staying in a hotel."  Lucius Beebe felt the same way.  Esplanade Avenue is special, especially in the 2200 block.  Some things never change.

"We're driving back and were thinking about stopping in Baton Rouge," they said this morning.  They asked for recommendations of what to do there.

They were twenty years younger than me, so I had to start with a preamble before reporting on the state of the Capital of Louisiana.

"When I was a kid," I began, "It was the Cold War.  Nixon was President.  Brezhnev was the Soviet Premier.  Chairman Mao was running China.  I don't know about about when you were in school, but we knew the capability of different kinds of atomic weapons.  A regular atom bomb could level a whole city.  We knew that from seeing pictures of Nagasaki.  A hydrogen bomb, however was rumored to leave all the buildings intact, just eliminating all the people."

I paused to freshen up my cup of coffee with chicory.  "We never imagined all the dead bodies, of course.  We were just kids and couldn't imagine that.  Instead, we imagined that a city would be empty and everyone who had ever lived there was vaporized.  Absent.  We could wander a whole empty city at will."  The husband was patiently waiting for me to get to the point.

"We went to Baton Rouge last week," I said.  I wasn't lying.  We really did, and the memory was still fresh in my mind.  "Being from New Orleans, that's what Baton Rouge is like.  It's like somebody dropped an H-bomb."
La Belle Esplanade
New Orleans is not like Baton Rouge, the same way that is not like anywhere else on earth.  Good things unfold every minute in New Orleans.  You never know what is waiting around the corner.

We recently had some guests from Paris, France who wanted to spend a night in Baton Rouge.  They called us from the corner of North Boulevard and North 5th Street, right in the heart of downtown Baton Rouge.  "Do have any vacancies for tonight?" they asked.  We did.

After they returned the rental car and walked in our front door, the Parisian couple said, "C'est tres, tres bon to be back in New Orleans." 

It is always very, very good to be in New Orleans.

A votre sante. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's for Breakfast in New Orleans?

Good New Orleans ice cream
The first thing you learn on your first day in New Orleans is that the rules that apply everywhere else in America carry very little weight here.  You can eat whatever you want for breakfast.

Angelo Bracato is an ice cream parlor on North Carrolton Avenue.  

I asked Frau Schmitt what we are serving tomorrow at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  She reminded me that we serve fresh biscuits, an assortment of pickles, some meats, cheeses, and local jellies, fresh satsumas from Plaquemines Parish, and that I am scheduled to head over to the Buttermilk Drop Cafe and Bakery to pick up, what else but buttermilk drops?

The pickles we serve are made by Josie in St. Bernard Parish, right over the New Orleans border.  We serve pickled green beans, pickled mirliton, pickled eggplants, and, of course, Josie's famous pickled quail eggs.  Frau Schmitt mentioned that we also serve boudin balls with remoulade sauce on Sundays.  How could I have forgotten?

"That menu is tilted in favor of the savory side of things," I observed.  "Why don't we head over to Bracato to pick up a little palate cleanser for our guests?"  Frau Schmitt agreed that this was a good idea.  She is usually right about these things, so we headed over to Angelo Bracato.

If you find yourself on Canal Street, take the City Park branch of the streetcar line and it runs right past Angelo Bracato, established in 1905 and still doing a brisk business in spumoni and cassata.  We picked up a pint of blood orange ice to share with our guests over breakfast.  In New Orleans, you can eat ice cream for breakfast.
La Belle Esplanade's dining room
We'll be serving a little blood orange ice tomorrow, made by a family that has learned over the generations how to satisfy a sweet tooth.  They don't overdo the sugar, letting the other ingredients determine the top notes of their confections.

One couple, who hail from Chicago by way of Memphis, said they chose La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast for two reasons:  1). the location, and 2). what people have been saying about our breakfasts.  

We can't do much to improve the ideal location, but we try to do what we can to introduce guests to our fair city to many of the local specialties that they may not be able to taste if they just stay in the French Quarter.  We are close to the French Quarter, but we embrace the spirit of all of New Orleans.

How will we top serving locally made, historic ice cream for breakfast?  On Monday, I am heading over to Blue Dot Donuts at 6:00AM to pick up some maple and bacon Long Johns.  Some other recent guests, a film crew from Roxbury, Mass. sampled the maple and bacon donuts and declared them sinfully divine.  Blue Dot is a bit far away from our neighborhood, but the 6:00AM opening time allows me to take the motor scooter up Canal Street and be back in time for breakfast.  Everything fresh, every day.

Back to our location.  The City Park streetcar line ends at the head of Esplanade Avenue.  It is about a twenty minute picturesque stroll back to our inn.  Just enough of a constitutional stroll to burn off the calories and just enough details to make you forget you have just walked three quarters of a mile.  Taking the streetcar and walking back to your vacation headquarters is the best way to experience the New Orleans that isn't described in tourist brochures.  

Tonight is the first major parade of the Mardi Gras season since it began on January 6th.  The Krewe du Vieux marches tonight and they cross Esplanade Avenue at Royal Street, and then later at Decatur.  We have a full house this weekend and everyone is walking down to catch the parade, Frau Schmitt and I included.  The Krewe Delusion follows the Krewe du Vieux.  It is going to be a very interesting and entertaining night for everyone involved.  We'll have plenty to discuss over breakfast tomorrow.  

If you are thinking of staying in New Orleans, consider staying at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  You never know what you'll have for breakfast, but you can bet it will be a meal you will remember.

A votre sante.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

More views of Les Saintes Suite

La Belle Esplanade, New Orleans
Come into the lobby.  Did you have a nice trip?  Welcome.  It's about to get better.  You are in New Orleans.  I see you've reserved Les Saintes Suite.  You have excellent taste.

Here, let me take your bags.  You've carried them enough today.  Besides, the stairs are steep.  The handrail is almost vertical on one side.  Now that we're on the landing, take a look down...
Watch your step.
No, they don't build houses like this anymore, do they?  You know, I've been reviewing the property records at City Hall.  Construction started on La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast in 1883 and it was first inhabited in 1885.  We are the 26th owners.  The place looks pretty much the same, except for the colors and the artwork.

Well, here's your room, Les Saintes Suite.  Take a gander from the hallway:
Sitting room
Turn your head to the left a little:
An ample writing desk
I know, I know, it's bigger than your apartment back in Cincinnati. It's much less crowded, too.  You can do cartwheels in here if you want to, just be careful.  You're surrounded by antiques as old as the house.

Sure we can go into the bedroom.  It's your bedroom now.  Go stand in the far corner and look back...
It can be yours for a weekend or a week, or more.
Let's take a view from the private balcony, shall we?  It's beautiful up here.
Oak-lined Esplanade Ave. from above
Your apartment in Cincinnati fits a kitchen in this amount of space, does it?  We keep ours downstairs.  We have a separate dining room, too.
The windows catch the morning light
Welcome to La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Welcome to New Orleans.  Whether your sense of romance runs toward courtship or poetry, or a heady mix of the two, we are here to help you make fond memories. 

There are plenty of places to stay in New Orleans.  We are always proud when someone chooses our inn for their visit to our fair city.    Welcome to La Belle Esplanade.

A votre sante.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Valentine's Day in New Orleans

A beautiful block in New Orleans
If you are thinking about a romantic getaway in New Orleans this Valentine's Day, I can suggest a place to stay.  It is on Esplanade Avenue, one of the most beautiful streets in the Crescent City.  It is a convenient walk to the French Quarter and to Frenchman Street, and it also a convenient walk to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens, and the Canal Street streetcar line.  You can ride a carousel or smooch at the top of a ferris wheel.

Spend the evening in the Quarter, but spend the day strolling  around City Park.  If you want to spend a romantic weekend in New Orleans, you want to experience the magic that is the City Care Forgot.  La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue, in a tranquil and picturesque neighborhood where love is in the breeze that makes the oak trees whisper. 

Imagine walking up to this front door:
La belle d'Esplanade
Happy Valentine's Day!  

The inside is just as beautiful as the outside.  Walk through the front door and enjoy the lobby:
Tastefully colorful and eccentric
Every room is a different color.  Every room in this 1883 manor has been restored to its original glory, and then some.  There is original artwork and stories hung on the walls.  The antiques date from the 1880s.  Every room has a private bath with a claw foot tub and a private balcony or porch.

Let's examine the photo of the lobby above.  The fireplace is identical to the (non-working) fireplaces in every room.  The mirror on the mantle says, "Your New Orleans Face."  You can see yourself smiling.  The flowers on the wall are handmade by a local Mardi Gras float artist.  The shelves hold a selection of tobacciana, old pulp fiction magazines, an armadillo's skull, and a bowl full of king cake babies. Other shelves in the lobby hold other exhibits.  The stool is adorned with bottle caps and St. Joan of Arc medals, a piece of folk art indigenous to New Orleans.

Take a look at the ceiling.
The sun always shines in New Orleans
If you want to see the rooms, you will have to check out this link.  The lobby offers a taste of what awaits upstairs.  You will be greeted with a glass of Cajun wine and be given a tour of the grounds.  Yes, on Valentine's Day you can sit in the garden and sip a glass of muscadine.  The rest of the world will be a world away.  Love is in the air in the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue.  
Time stands still around the fountain in the garden
Breakfast will be waiting in the morning, a selection of local delicacies you didn't know existed.  You couldn't know unless you live in New Orleans.  We usually have bread leftover after breakfast.  Ask for it.  You can go feed the swans in City Park.  Swans mate for life, you know.
Swans mate for life
If you want to spend a romantic weekend, or a whole week, in New Orleans, you'll find a nice suite of rooms for your adventure at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Valentine's Day is special.  Every day in New Orleans is romantic.

A votre sante.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What does Mardi Gras look like?

It takes a lot of work to make Mardi Gras happen
We were privileged to be able to take a tour of the Rex den this afternoon.  If you are not from New Orleans, this won't mean anything to you.  Allow me to explain...

The parades held during the Mardi Gras season are the work of local, volunteer associations called krewes.  Members of a krewe pay to build the floats, sew the costumes, and collect the items thrown from the floats when they parade.  Rex is the King of Mardi Gras.  The Krewe of Rex is his krewe.  Every krewe has a den located somewhere in the city where they store their gear and meet in the months that lead up to their big day.  

The Rex den is on South Claibourne Avenue.  You wouldn't know it from the outside, but once you step inside, you know.  I haven't adjusted the photos.  The colors really are that lurid.
Frog Float
The theme for Rex's parade this year is "All Creatures Great and Small."  Here is a preview of some of the floats:
Mosquito Float
Detail of Mosquito Float flower
Snake Float
Not all the floats depict naturally occurring creatures, of course.  These are for Mardi Gras, a mythical time of year.
The Unicorn Float
There is also a siren, a kraken, a cyclops, a polar bear, a panda, a lion, and a praying mantis off the top of my head.  You'll have to come see them on Mardi Gras Day.

Of course, Mardi Gras is not just a day, it is a season.  For the two weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, there is at least one parade just about every night of the week.  Think about visiting New Orleans between weekends to participate in the spirit of the holiday.  A lot of krewes put in a lot of work to make their parade outstanding.  

It isn't just the Krewe of Rex that has palettes full of throws.
What Mardi Gras looks like in January
That picture is just a sample of all the boxes and bags of beads and knickknacks stored in the den.  It's like that all over town, in what look like abandoned warehouses on the outside.  They are really the headquarters where Mardi Gras magic is concocted.  

New Orleans is more crowded than usual this time of year.  Every parade, even the Mystic Krewe of Druids and the Mystic Krewe of Nyx, who parade on a Wednesday evening this year, will be crowded, but the crowd will be more local and more into the spirit of things.  You won't have to wait so much in line to get a good meal, and you'll have room to really catch some good souvenirs if you visit a parade route in the middle of the week.  

Good memories are made in New Orleans.  What does Mardi Gras look like?  It looks like nostalgia for simpler times when the world was without trouble.  New Orleans is like that every year.  They don't call it the City Care Forgot for nothing.

If you are looking to experience the more local side of Mardi Gras, we know where you can stay.  Don't plan on coming on Mardi Gras Day or during the Superbowl.  Come in the middle of a week to savor the best part of living here.

A votre sante.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Les Saintes Suite Finished!

Les Saintes Suite, La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast
 Things rarely happen on time in New Orleans, and that includes getting our last suite open for business.  When we first purchased 2216 Esplanade Avenue it was a boarding house, and we renovated each suite through attrition.  Les Saintes Suite was the last to be vacated.  That, and your humble narrator was in charge of getting things in order, and he tends to take his time about things.  That extra time paid off as options were considered and discarded.

It isn't completely finished, nothing ever is.  The inn is a work art in progress.  As things stand today, it's pretty darned near perfect, but there is always room for improvements and room for more quirks.
Your private balcony is just a turn of your head away
Les Saintes Suite is not named after the New Orleans football team.  Along with the antique full-sized, canopied bed, antique wardrobe, dressing stands, and claw foot bath tub, the mantles are home to statues of those other saints that are revered in New Orleans.
Mantle in the bedroom
There is original artwork on the walls that contain saints' medals in the pigment.  

Looking toward the sitting room.  The antique radio works
It was a gloomy day today so the colors didn't come out right in these photos.  Allow me to try to describe them.  After all the blue and purple in the Clio Suite, we felt we needed a change of palette.  Frau Schmitt delivered with her color choices, as she usually does. 

The sitting room is yellow like curry.  The bedroom is vibrant orange.  The ceiling is spring green.  La France Suite used to be my favorite.  Now it's Les Saintes.  It feels like home.  It should; it has a replica of my personal work desk.
A peaceful place to record one's thoughts

I like the table for its ample space to spread out notes and reference material.  I like a bench for the same reason.  We have had a few writers stay with us, so we thought it would be appropriate to offer them a suite with them in mind.  

You'll notice the table in the foreground.  Here's what it looks like from the side:
They are happy to be here
This is a second-floor suite with one bedroom and one sitting room.  It has a private bath equipped with a claw foot tub.  It has a private balcony with a private view of Esplanade Avenue through the hundred-year-old oaks that line the street.

I did mention the saint statues and original artwork didn't I?
The mantle in the sitting room
All of the suites at La Belle Esplanade are unique.  Every room is a different color and filled with details.  Each suite comes equipped with a refrigerator stocked with local beer, Big Shot Soda (a New Orleans original) and wine.  There is a coffee maker, tea pot, flat screen TV, alarm clock, and free wifi.  Les Saintes Suite has a antique radio that works better than the one I bought a few months ago at Best Buy.

It is supposed to be rainy for the next few days.  Once the sunshine is streaming through the windows, I'll take some more pictures of other details.

A votre sante.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Steamboat Gothic in New Orleans

New Orleans Central Business District and Vieux Carre as seen from the Lower 9th Ward
If you happen to be staying at a romantic and historic bed and breakfast in New Orleans that offers bicycles to its guests, you might find your way to the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Lower 9th Ward.  The Mississippi River makes a hairpin turn right after it passes the foot of Esplanade Avenue.  The trees in front of the CBD in the picture above are in Algiers, on the West Bank of the river, viewed from the beginning of Sister Street on the East Bank.

The Lower 9 is infamous for being the neighborhood most tragically effected by the federal levee failures that accompanied Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  The flooding in 2005 was horrific, but two New Orleans monuments were relatively unscathed and they continue to be landmarks in Holy Cross, and all of New Orleans.

These are the Steamboat Houses:  
First steamboat house seen from the levee
Second steamboat house seen from the sidewalk
We went for a walk on the levee in Holy Cross this morning.  The breeze off the river was reinvigorating, and there were the steamboat houses.  When we first moved here, we took a trip on the Steamboat Natchez down the mighty Mississippi River.  The captain pointed out the Steamboat Houses as we passed.  A steamboat captain built himself a house reminiscent of the architecture he steered down the river.  When his son was grown and married, the captain built an identical house across the street.

They are marvelous confections of artfully carved and assembled wood.  They have spawned an architectural label that no other homes in New Orleans possess.  They are examples of the "steamboat gothic" style.  Are there other examples anywhere else?  We haven't seen any.

Even the fence is forged in steamboat gothic
Some people say the Steamboat Houses are the most beautiful buildings in all of New Orleans.  There is an argument to be made for that.  Your humble narrator has other ideas.
Meet me in New Orleans
You can stay at a peaceful bed and breakfast inn on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.  Pedal your bike down Esplanade Avenue then turn downtown on Henriette Delille Street.  At the next intersection, turn riverside for one block and hook a right on North Rampart Street.  Follow traffic to Saint Claude Avenue and go straight on until you reach Egania Street.  You will see the Steamboat Houses for yourself.

New Orleans is full of surprises.

A votre sante.
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