Friday, February 22, 2013

The View on Esplanade Avenue

Looking riverside on Esplanade Avenue
I was standing in the neutral ground on Esplanade Avenue between North Miro and North Tonti Streets.  It's where the neutral ground suddenly narrows on its way to Bayou Saint John.  From Chartres to Miro, the neutral ground down the middle of Esplanade is a park-like setting where strollers walk under the shade of the oaks.  After Miro, the neutral ground becomes as wide as an oyster loaf at Ye Olde College Inn.
Almost actual size
Looking lakeside on Esplanade Avenue
Esplanade Avenue is the boundary between the 6th Ward and the 7th Ward in New Orleans.  From Chartres Street to North Miro Street, most people walk in the wide neutral ground.  After North Miro, they have to choose a side.  I can't say I've seen more people pick the 6th Ward over the 7th, or vice versa.  Everyone is neighborly in this part of New Orleans. 
Actual size
I was standing right in the middle of the middle of Esplanade Avenue, right where Bayou Road crosses.  I looked up and noticed that the arrow was pointing at the balcony.  

That orange house is La Belle Esplanade, a colorful New Orleans bed and breakfast.  The suite behind that balcony has been getting a lot of attention recently. 
Les Saintes Suite
A votre sante.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The best BLT in New Orleans

It was a gloomy day in New Orleans
As I am sure I've mentioned before, there are some people who spend their whole visit to New Orleans in the French Quarter.  There isn't anything wrong with that, per se, just as there isn't anything wrong with spending a week in the Garden District, in Carrollton, on Frenchman Street, or on Esplanade Avenue.

One of our guests is spending most of his visit in the Bywater, a neighborhood that is just a short way away from our New Orleans bed and breakfast inn.  We just learned this morning, that he's been eating lunch every day at Elizabeth's.  "I love the praline bacon," he told us.  "Is that a local specialty or is it specific to there?" he asked.  

"I think you can only get that bacon at Elizabeth's," Frau Schmitt answered.  She is usually right about these things.  
The front door at Elizabeth's
I mentioned that I enjoy the BLT at Elizabeth's.  At the sound of the 'B' in BLT, our guest licked his lips like Pavlov's dog.  "I bet a BLT is delicious with that praline bacon," he said dreamily.

I had to correct him.  The BLT at Elizabeth's is a BLT in name only.  It has the same colors as a BLT that you can order at other places, but the colors are more vibrant, as is the flavor.  Instead of pale and hard supermarket tomatoes, they use juicy red creole tomatoes.  Instead of iceberg lettuce, they use spinach.  No actual bacon is used in the creation of this sandwich.  Instead, they use crisped hog jowls, and that, dear reader, is where the magic happens.  The sandwich is served open faced on ciabatta dressed in vinaigrette. 

Don't wrinkle your nose at crisped hog jowls until you've tried them.

"I know what I'm having for lunch today," our guest said.  He was going to have lunch at the same place for a fourth day in a row.  He's the kind of man who knows what he likes, and he sticks with it.  He has already made another reservation for when he's coming down for a convention in June.  It seems we are becoming New Orleans' premier convention bed and breakfast.  

"I bet that BLT is the best sandwich in town," our guest said.  I was going to agree, but I stopped short.  I recalled the corner of Paris Avenue and Gentilly Road, just a short way away from our address.  I remembered what Jimmy says:
Truth in advertising
"I'm not about to argue with Jimmy," was all I could say in reply.

A votre sante.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reserving a Bed and Breakfast Suite in New Orleans

It's the orange house in the middle
The past few weeks have been busy at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast, the orange house with blue shutters in the middle of Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, LA.  Today is Lundi Gras.  Tomorrow is Mardi Gras.  Last week was the Super Bowl.  Valentine's Day weekend is fast approaching.  There is no city on earth as romantic as New Orleans, and we include Paris and Adelaide when we make that statement.  Love is in the air in New Orleans.

If you remember the Mardi Gras Indian suit we used to have in the lobby, we still have it.  It isn't in the lobby anymore, but it is still around.  We put it in the back garden yesterday to admire the workmanship and take some pictures.
A spy boy suit and banana trees
I am scheduled to take some pictures of this year's version.  The spy boy has spent all year sewing a new suit with an elephant theme.  He'll be walking from St. Roch Avenue to a semi-secret location on N. Rampart Street in the Marigny at the crack of dawn tomorrow.  We'll see what happens between then and now.  Guaranteed it will be good.

There will be skull and bones gangs and skins and bones gangs out tomorrow morning.

Willie Mae's Scotch House on North Tonti Street has been busy.
America's best fried chicken
The Food Network says that Willie Mae's makes the best fried chicken in America.  Everyone who has tried it tells us that the Food Network is right.  It is about a five minute picturesque walk from our address on Esplanade Avenue.  Every restaurant has been busy these past few weeks.  New Orleans is full of celebration, and you will never have a bad meal in this city.  Ask anyone who has eaten here.

Some people use Expedia to make reservations at bed and breakfast inns in New Orleans.  We had one couple stay with us last night for only one night.  Today they left to spend a night in a big hotel on Canal Street instead of enjoying another day and night in a boutique inn on Esplanade Avenue.  I asked the woman who made the reservation why.

"Expedia said our suite was booked today," she told me, "So, Expedia recommended another room in a bigger hotel in another part of the city for tonight.  We have to take a cab over there this morning.  I would have paid a thousand dollars to spend another night to stay here."  I wish she had emailed me beforehand.  We could have arranged it at a substantial discount from she was willing to pay.

Don't trust everything Expedia tells you about La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  I have checked our availability through Expedia and the software often tells me there are no rooms available, even when I, the innkeeper in question, know that the opposite is true.  If you want to stay at La Belle Esplanade, let us know directly.  We can probably work something out.  If we can't there are about 150 licensed B&B's in New Orleans.  All of them are good.  The Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans maintains a website of reputable, legally licensed inns.  Don't take chances.  In hypertext markup language, you can find them at:  You don't have to sleep in a beige, impersonal, cramped, international chain hotel bed when you visit New Orleans.  It is a big city with a kaleidoscope of options and opportunities.

The best way to check availability and make a reservation at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is through the online calendar on our website (the "Availability" page has a link).  In case you don't realize I've just included a link to our website, it's this:   

The proprietors know it is counterintuitive to look for La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast on a website named after Whalehead King (  He's the chap who owns the domain name and he generously gave it to us along with the original oil paintings and stories that are scattered throughout our suites, lobby, dining room, and in the hallways.  Good friendships result in, well...good friendships.  That's how New Orleans works.

Back to business, it rained in New Orleans this morning.  An Australian barrister and an Australian solicitor checked out this morning, en route to Cajun Country, after a few days and nights at our inn.  They are the most pleasant people you will ever meet, as most of our guests are.  

If you ever find yourself five hours' drive from Sydney, in New South Wales, somewhere between East Bulga, North Bulga, West Bulga, South Bulga, or just plain old Bulga, which is in the middle of it all, you can see it all, including the longest single drop waterfall in Australia.  And you can enjoy dining on the leanest most beautiful Limousin beef that can be found anywhere on this green, revolving earth.  

There is a little house available for rent in New South Wales.  In case you didn't see the link embedded in the last sentence, this is it:  A cudgerie is a tree native to the remote mountains of New South Wales.  Frau Schmitt, who is usually right about these things, and I can tell you, the Little House's hosts are excellent company.

Both the Aussies reported to us over a breakfast of muffaletta sliders, poor boy bread with farmer jams made in St. Bernard Parish, and Miss Loretta's praline-filled king cake, that there is no other place like New Orleans.  "People are so nice here," the barrister said.

The solicitor agreed.  "Every street is full of surprises," she said.  "We've had a wonderful time here," she added, honestly.

Last night, they had a simple dinner of sandwiches at the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.  It wasn't what they planned when they walked out our front door and headed lakeside on Esplanade Avenue.  They were headed toward Cafe Degas, but musicians were playing on the back porch a block from the Fair Grounds and the Aussies heard the mellow jazz wafting over the warm mid-February breeze.  They were sucked in, as were other people strolling the neighborhood.  Good food.  Good drink.  Good music.  Good city.  "Last night was our favorite night," they both said together.  

"The music in New Orleans is beautifully generous, like everyone we've talked to since we arrived," the barrister said.

"It replaced the night before that as our favorite, and the night before that one, and even the first night, and even the tantalizing anticipation on the plane flight," the well-travelled barrister and the gracious solicitor said.  "New Orleans is better than everything I've read about it," she added, honestly.

"What's your secret to serving such wonderful breakfasts?" they asked.  Frau Schmitt let them in on our secret.  That's how it works in New Orleans, no matter what you plan to do.  

They made their reservation directly through, not Expedia or any other third-party agent.  In New Orleans, face-to-face is the best way to learn about what is going on.  It is what we do here. 

Before it started raining this morning, this is what the sky looked like on Henriette Delille Street:
New Orleans is beautiful
After the sun rose over the Mississippi River, it started raining.  The solicitor looked out the window. "It's pouring buckets," she observed.  Everyone in New Orleans was as happy as if the sun was shining.  There are no bad days in New Orleans.

"I'd like to stay another day," the barrister said.  Everybody says that in New Orleans, even the people who live here.

A votre sante.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Best Mardi Gras Parade of All

A parade on Esplanade
It's been a quiet week in the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana.  It was a quiet week until 10:00 this morning when the Krewe of St. Peter Claver School rolled down Esplanade Avenue.

We were in the dining room, discussing last night's parades over chicken empanadas from Norma's Bakery and chicory ("the roasted ground root of Belgian endive") coffee from Community Coffee.  Then, just barely audible, there was the sound of a marching band out on Esplanade Avenue.  We heard it through our feet more than our ears.  

Olaf dashed to the door and opened it, and the full brassy music of oompah and snare rushed in from outside  There was nothing else to do.  We all went outside and pleaded for beads.
How the floats roll on Esplanade Avenue
It was a children's parade, organized by St. Peter Claver School just down the street.  

Geographically, it is hard to determine which parish the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue falls into.  Before Hurricane Katrina, it was part of St. Rose of Lima.  After Katrina, St Rose of Lima merged with Our Lady of the Rosary, up the road on Esplanade Avenue, lakeside.  Many people chose to join Corpus Christi Parish on St. Bernard Avenue, St. Leo the Great Parish on Paris Avenue, or St. Peter Claver, on St. Philip Street.  St Peter Claver Church is the closest Roman Catholic establishment to us, if you don't count the historic St. Anne Shrine that is three picturesque uptown blocks away, at the intersection of Ursulines Avenue and North Johnson Street.

Anyhow, it was a children's crusade of a parade, keeping the spirit of Mardi Gras alive for another generation, at least.
Smooth pavement in New Orleans
The average age of the krewe members was probably about 10.  They ranged from first grade to around eighth.  They just kept coming, along with their adult chaperones.  This was a 45 minute parade around the neighborhood, at least from where we stood.
They just kept coming, stopping traffic where they went.
We were all out there.  There was Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator.  There was Olaf and Britta.  There was Carol and Terence (see the photo at the top of this post).  There were Johanna and Tricia and Alma and Marie and Angie.  There were toddlers and grandparents.  Kristin and Steven weren't there.  They are teachers and this was a school day.

Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School marching band
Shortly after the sub-krewe of priests and religious passed by, the parade was over.
The spirit of New Orleans
We had all caught more beads than we could comfortably wear around our necks.  What did we do?  We added to the collection on our front fence:
The porch of Les Fleurs Suite
Last night's parades were good.  Tonight's parades will be good.  Endymion will be good.  Bacchus will be good.  The parades on Mardi Gras Day will be good.  Rex will be spectacular and Zulu will be awesome.  In the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue, this morning's parade in front of our sidewalk will always be the best parade of all.

A votre sante.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon
There is a marathon in New Orleans on February 24th, just two weeks away!  It had slipped my mind even though it is one of my favorite days of the year.  I am not a runner.  It's the only day of the year that the city cleans the street.

On the evening of February 23rd, whatever cars are still parked on the street will be towed, then, as people are falling asleep, street sweeping trucks will go up and down Esplanade Avenue.  For young children, it is like seeing a fleet of unicorns.  

For people from Boston, where the streets are swept every week, it is nostalgic.  Even if they don't keep the streets as tidy as they do in New England, New Orleans always feels like home.  There are more important things in urban life than tidy avenues.

The New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon starts at 7:00 in the morning, when it guaranteed to be cool.  Both the full marathon and the half marathon run the length of Esplanade Avenue right in front of our New Orleans bed and breakfast inn.  Here is what it will look like around 8:00:
Nobody races in the neutral ground
The runners take over the street until a little after noon.  Most people after eleven aren't really running any more.  They are more forming up a second line on the way to the finish line.

The view from the front porch of Les Fleurs suite:
Where Esplanade is crossed by Bayou Road
People from blocks around come to the route to cheer and offer encouragement.  Last year the crew set up a bandstand on North Broad Street to entertain the runners and the neighbors.  What classic music did they play?  This marathon's name says it all.  

We like to walk up and down the street enjoying the atmosphere, seeing people we know, exchanging chitchat, and making new acquaintances.  It's a congenial atmosphere, but, then, it is most every day on Esplanade Avenue.  The marathon is special because there are more than the usual amount of cheerful people out in the morning.

Across from the bandstand you'll see a sight you don't see any other time of year:
Tastee Donuts on North Broad Street
People are usually running to get inside Tastee Donuts, not running past it.  

If you want to watch the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon this year, consider La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  You can sip coffee with chicory on the balcony and watch the race go by.  When you're ready, you can walk leisurely up to the finish line at the end of our street, relaxed and well rested.

In other news...
The proudest sign in New Orleans
...we have a sign update!!  We met with the sign painter this afternoon to finalize the design and color scheme.  As I mentioned before, I am fond our current chalk-written ghost sign.  I have always been proud of my penmanship.  The old sign won't be replaced.  The new sign will be, well, a new sign.

The new sign won't be done in time for this month's marathon (you can't rush perfection), but it will be done by the time of the Crescent City Classic on March 30.  The city doesn't sweep the streets for this 10k run, but it is still a magical morning on a beautiful street.  Stay tuned.

A votre sante. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

What's New Orleans Like?

Joe "King" Oliver
Just as there is more than one gumbo in New Orleans.  There is more one beat, more than one melody, more than one chorus, and more than one song.

I know, it's been video week on the blog.  I know, it's only Monday.  When you are a professional innkeeper, the week starts when the first guests arrive.  Every day is somebody's vacation.  Our work week started on Wednesday.  The Super Bowl was in town and all our guests complimented the city on its exceptional hospitality.

The guy from Chicago said, "I haven't been here for twenty years.  You can still dance like you mean it.  I've missed New Orleans."  He added, "I don't know what I was waiting for."

For your viewing and listening pleasure, allow me to introduce you to Big Freedia.  She is New Orleans all the way: Uptown, Downtown, West Bank, East.  If that seems confusing, you haven't seen anything yet.

It's not all dixieland jazz in New Orleans.  The recent Super Bowl coverage in various media highlighted some other aspects of the city's culture beyond infectious goodwill and unfailing hospitality.  

The soundtrack of the video above may not be to your liking.  We have to admit that while the song is growing on me, Frau Schmitt cannot listen to more than about a minute.  "Are you watching that Big Freedia video again?!?" she scolds.  She is right, as she usually is.  I like the visuals.

Do you want to know what New Orleans is like?  It is like dancing both within and beyond the city's scope and scape.  New Orleans is more than the sum of its buildings and bridges.  The city's people are bigger.  They dance like no one is watching.  They bounce as much they improvise their next steps.  As every visitor knows, every day in New Orleans makes good memories.

Big Freedia was interviewed on NPR the other day.

There is no place on earth that contains so many promising surprises as New Orleans does.  There is nowhere else on earth where so many dreams come true every day and every evening.  There is no other city where everyone is their best self, and we  blossom like a flowers on the side of a Mardi Gras float.  When you are alive in New Orleans, you know it.  When you live in New Orleans, you live with a purpose.
We've added more paper blossoms to the wall since this picture was taken
It's a big and fertile city.  The Super Bowl is over, but New Orleans persists and thrives against all odds, much like the San Francisco 49ers last night.  When your heart is in the game, the game is always thrilling.  You rally after the lights go out.  That is what New Orleans is like.  Tennessee Williams thought that there are only three cities in America worth being called cities.  One of them is New Orleans.  The other two are not Baltimore.  

La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is located right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue, between the French Quarter, where the TV cameras were this weekend's action off the gridiron, and City Park, where the city is enjoyed by the people who live here and make New Orleans their own every day.  It's about a 20 minute walk either way.  We really are right in the middle.

Here is what our inn looks like from the outside:
See our website to reserve a suite for your visit
We look forward to welcoming you inside.

Unless you are eating a bag of cracklins at the bar, if the Saints or LSU aren't playing, the only pigskin people care about in New Orleans is the barbecue trailer following behind a second line.

A votre sante.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Eating in New Orleans

If you are wondering what is New Orleans, one answer is as good as another.  New Orleans is a many-splendored, organic thing, a city with more than one face.  

This much is true:  On saturdays, New Orleans is a cold cut sandwich.  Yes, it's a cold cut sandwich fully dressed on a half loaf of french bread.  You can have one freshly made in the back of any corner grocer.

On the corner of Paris Avenue and Gentilly Road, there is a sign over the gas pumps that says, "JIMMY SAYS WE MAKE THE TASTIEST SANDWICHES IN TOWN!" That sign doesn't lie.  Neither does Jimmy.  

You can have an oyster, havarti and bacon loaf at Ye Olde College Inn, or you can have a barbecue shrimp po' boy at Liuzza's-by-the-Track.  You can have a Ray-Ray at Sammy's on Elysian Fields Avenue, or you can have The Peacemaker at Mahoney's on Magazine Street.  A peacemaker is a fat loaf of french bread stuffed with fried oysters, fried bacon and melted cheese.

You will always find something to eat in New Orleans, at Tujaque's, the Court of the Two Sisters, the Camellia Grill, the Ruby Slipper, K-Paul's, Emeril's, Theo's, Juan's Flying Burrito, or at Mona's.  You will never have a bad meal in New Orleans.  Especially not at breakfast.

When it is a cold cut sandwich that was made with love of tradition and craft, like a muffuletta from Central Grocery, you know you are in New Orleans on a Saturday.  
The view from stage right
The view from stage left
Every meal and every day is good in New Orleans.

A votre sante.

Friday, February 1, 2013

That New Orleans State of Mind

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
What is like to live in New Orleans?  It is as good as you would expect.  We certainly have no complaints.  It's not a never-ending party, but it is always a celebration.  Life is good in the City That Care Forgot.
A house and a motor scooter on Esplanade Avenue
Somebody will play the Eurhythmics on the jukebox, "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This."  Nobody pays attention, but the person who chose this song has a method to her madness.  After Annie Lennox is done singing, the next song comes on.  It's by the Soul Rebels Brass Band.

Then people pay attention.  In New Orleans, what is made locally is always better than what is made for mass consumption.  Things sound different in New Orleans.  Food tastes better.  Time moves at a different pace.

In New Orleans, the old ways are best.  In a city that has stood the test of time against all odds, tradition means something, especially when the traditions are homegrown.  

A group of lovely women who belong to the Krewe of Excalibur are staying with us this weekend.  They are from Austin, Texas of all places.  One of their neighbors is from New Orleans, and he got them involved with the krewe.  "You should see his house," one of the ladies said.  "It's like a shrine to New Orleans.  It's tasteful, but you can tell he has a passion about his hometown."

I would venture to guess that every home in New Orleans contains at least one fleur de lis, a Mardi Gras poster, a mask on the wall, or a framed ticket to Jazz Fest.  When you live in New Orleans, you don't think about much else.  The city inflames the imagination.  Imagine living under its influence 24 hours a day.  It is intoxicating.  Once bitten, never shy.
One of our balconies
This time of year, more than any other time, you feel the special appeal New Orleans offers to everyone bold enough to take a taste.    It isn't because the Super Bowl is in the Super Dome this year.  In the places I hang out, people are waiting for Monday.  The Saints aren't in the Super Bowl so there is little point to watching the game unless there is nothing else going on.

There is always something going on in New Orleans.  Mardi Gras is on March 12 this year.  The Super Bowl is just a distraction from what is really important.

We went to Mystic Blue Signs on Magazine Street to get a sign for La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  With so many tour buses stopping in front of our house, we may as well advertise better than we do.  Esplanade Avenue is a tastefully elegant street, one where neon wouldn't be welcome.  Our current sign is handwritten in chalk:
Perfect penmanship
The new sign will be something to see, like the bed and breakfast it announces.  People stop to take pictures of the property all the time.  Soon, they will have another detail to focus their lens on.  Details to follow.

We hope to see you soon.

A votre sante.
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