Monday, May 27, 2013

Money Wasters Second Line

Money Wasters Social Aid and Pleasure Club
As anyone will tell you, nothing bad, not even professional wrestling, ever came out of Stamford, Connecticut.  Just ask Mayor Pavia.  Your humble narrator's certified birth certificate is filed away in city hall.  He has turned the corner at East Main Street and Houston Terrace more times than he can remember.

Where would you take your mother on her first day in your fair city?
Since we live in Treme, we went to a second line parade.  The Money Wasters Social Aid and Pleasure Club were going down North Broad Street, three blocks from our house.  It was 40 degrees in Connecticut yesterday.  It was in the mid-eighties in New Orleans today.  We walked the three shady blocks up Esplanade Avenue, but the parade hadn't arrived yet.  We decided to walk uptown and meet them en route.

We got as far as Zulu Headquarters.
Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club
It was election day.
Temmer Fox is running for Mr. Big Stuff 2014
I don't know if you have to provide a birth certificate to be a member of either the Zulu or Money Wasters clubs.  I don't know if there are any rules against being members of both clubs.  I don't see why there would be, but, unfortunately, I'm not a member of either.

The brass band rounded the corner from Orleans Avenue onto North Broad Street.  They had just come up from Kermit's Treme Speakeasy.  The second line paused for a spell.  Some people went inside the building.  Other people got something to eat on the neutral ground.  The police blocked off the street so that everyone could laugh and talk and dance.  You meet a lot of friends in New Orleans.
The Money Wasters' Queen
We followed the brass band as far as our eye doctor's office on North Broad Street, past the Crawfish House.  It was the next stop on the route.  We watched the queen offer a toast to our eye doctor.  In our neighborhood, there is a different surprise around every corner.  Then, we walked down Bayou Road, back home, where we sat in the garden behind our inn.  
Our back garden
This morning, a couple from Amsterdam asked me what our chairs are called.  Answer: Adirondack.  "That's a Creole word?" they asked, "They are native to here?"  They are named after the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, close to where I'm from.  They are very comfortable chairs, as our guests agreed.   

This week, our guests are being treated to an unexpected bonus.  They get to chat over breakfast with three family members.  

A couple from Akron are having a romantic bed and breakfast getaway with us.  They mentioned to my mother that she must be very proud of all the work Frau Schmitt and I have put into our inn.  "He always showed promise," my mother told them.  "That, and he married himself a good wife."  My mother is usually right about these things.
Blue hydrangea
The hydrangea are blooming in our back garden.  My grandparents had a blue hydrangea bush in their back yard.  Good memories are made on Esplanade Avenue.  Our blog will be on a brief hiatus while Frau Schmitt and I squire my mother around New Orleans, and my mother and I stroll down Memory Lane.  

We'll be back on June 3rd.  Why not June 2?  Because Frau Schmitt and I thinking of taking a group scooter ride up to Baton Rouge on June 2nd and that promises to take all day.  
Two wheels set you free
A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.   

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our CEO's New Orleans bed and breakfast blog

Esplanade Avenue, 1905
There is nothing worse than a dead blog.  After that, there is nothing worse than a blog written with search engine optimization (SEO) and google rankings in mind.  There is nothing more boring than a bland blog.  Reading a bland blog is like staying in a chain hotel; there are no delightful surprises.  Needless to say, this blog is written without a whit of SEO sensibility.
A shadow on Esplanade Avenue
It is always nice when people tell me they read the blog before they visit New Orleans.  So far the number is up to five and my statistics confirm this.  Like the breakfast we serve, we strive to keep our blog fresh.  The only thing associated with La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast that ever came out of a can is bright paint.  Every room is a different color.
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast
Your humble narrator doesn't read a lot of blogs.  It probably shows.  It is always nice when people say that they enjoy reading this blog, but I don't know how much it will prepare you for your visit.  Remember how it felt to see New Orleans in the flesh for the first time?  If you haven't been here, it was thrilling.

As innkeepers, we live in New Orleans, in a real neighborhood.  We can't say that we know the city like we know each other's moods, but we have lived here for four years next month.  It is long enough to still be tourists in a city where you never know what is around the next corner.

When you stay in a big chain hotel, or even a little hotel, you are a customer.  When you stay in a New Orleans bed and breakfast, you are a guest.  There are over 50 New Orleans bed and breakfasts.  When you read this blog, you learn about what's going on in our neighborhood, close to home.  We try to give you a glimpse of what it is like to live here.  Ours is only the most slender sliver of muffaletta.  
Tammie, the housekeeper
Tammie, the housekeeper, was looking over my shoulder as I was writing the above.  I was sitting at the desk in the lobby sharpening my pelican quill pen between paragraphs.  She took a peek as the ink was drying.  "This blog is boring," she said.  "It's always says the same thing.  It's like those H.P. Lovecraft books you keep in the Clio Suite."
H.P. Lovecraft
Tammie, the housekeeper, handed me my eyeglasses that I had left in La France Suite.  I am nearsighted, so I don't need my glasses to write our blog.  "New Orleans is great.  We live in a nice part of town.  Good things happen on Esplanade Avenue. By the way, you can stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast...," Tammie read over my shoulder.

I asked if she had something else to do.  "I've got to make the bed in La France Suite," she said, patting the sheets draped over her arm.  "A votre sante," she said over her shoulder.
La France Suite
Your humble narrator doesn't spend a lot of time reading other bed and breakfast blogs.  From my front porch, I can see six other innkeepers.  We're neighbors.  We wave to each other.

Frau Schmitt doesn't read any other bed and breakfast blogs, either.  "I'll bet yours is like nobody else's," she tells me.  She is usually right about these things.  "I have to admit though, sometimes, it rambles."  It is a labor of love.  

Good things happen on Esplanade Avenue.
A statue on Esplanade Avenue
A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bayou Boogaloo Review

New Orleans hydrangea
I was taking some pictures of the hydrangea behind our inn the other morning.  It was after I had picked up the day's muffalettas and crawfish pies. I had some time to kill because we weren't expecting anyone to be awake for another half hour.  It turned out two of our guests are early risers.

They had been to the Mid- City Bayou Boogaloo the day before.  We didn't go this year, but we have been before.  It's like a smaller version of Jazz Fest on Bayou Saint John.  We've always thought of it as only attracting people from the area, but we know two people who flew in from The Beehive City
This isn't the place
It is also known as The Hardware City.
This is the place
I asked them if they enjoyed their day.  Was it worth flying from out-of-state to go to this year's Bayou Boogaloo?  "It was everything we expected," they enthused.  They said they had a great time.  "We got their early and stayed until closing.  It's like nothing we have back home," they said.

It is their first time in New Orleans.  "You're in the perfect location," they told me.  They've been to the Quarter.  They've been to Frenchman Street.  They had dinner at The Three Muses the night before.  They were at the Bayou Boogaloo all day yesterday, then they had dinner at Cafe Degas, up the street. "We haven't taken a taxi yet," they said.

What were their plans for today?  They are going to walk up to City Park.  Then, they are taking the Canal Street streetcar to the ferry.  Then, they are going to shop for artwork in Jackson Square.   

"We know where we're going to vacation next year," they told me. They've fallen in love with New Orleans.  "It's the opposite here from where we come from," they said.  

Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator moved here from Boston.  We know what they mean.
Sicut Patribus Sit Deus Nobis 
They are definitely committing to coming to the 2014 Bayou Boogaloo.  They are thinking about coming to next year's Jazz Fest.  They asked how far we are from the Fair Grounds.  It's a twelve-minute walk up Bayou Road, across the street, to the Jazz Fest front gate.  "You really are in the perfect location," they said.
Fairgrounds Racetrack gate
 I was talking to Larry a few weeks ago.  He deals with surveys.  "Studies show that there is only one question on a survey that means anything," he told me.  "Would you recommend us to a friend?"

"We'll be telling everybody how great the Bayou Boogaloo was.  We'll be telling everyone how great New Orleans is," our guests told me.
Laissez les bon temps rouler
A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Questions about New Orleans

A house on Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
We run a New Orleans bed and breakfast inn right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue, equidistant between the French Quarter and City Park.  One of the first questions people always ask us is, "Which way is the French Quarter?"  It is riverside out our front door, about 20 minutes by foot, in the direction of the traffic light on North Miro Street.  

As one of our guests told me this week, the traffic light means go. "When you pointed toward the Quarter, I saw the green light," he said.  "We just followed our nose and ended up at Cosimo's."

One of the second questions people like to ask is: "Is this neighborhood safe?"  We have always found it to be.  We think of our block as more operatic than ominous.
2216 Esplanade Avenue
In a city with a long history of deferred maintenance and picturesque decay, if you aren't from around here, you may be put off by some of New Orleans' streetscapes.  We felt the same way when we first moved here.  

Prior to Katrina, our neighborhood was home to 8000 people.  We currently have 4000 neighbors, give-and-take.  Everywhere you go, there are still a lot of empty buildings in New Orleans.
A sign on Esplanade Avenue
Even if it doesn't always look it, there are plenty of full buildings, too.  Few things are as they appear here.  You will see some things so beautiful that they will break your heart.  You will see other things that will break your heart in another way.  Our neighborhood made a favorable impression on a certain French painter.  We live in Treme.  

Esplanade Avenue is a street that runs through and connects a number of neighborhoods.  Ours is the oldest black neighborhood in America, the birthplace of jazz.  It is home to Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs.  It is home to good neighbors.  It is our home, too.

There is never a dull moment in our part of town.  Most of them, like our memories, are pleasant.  That's what it is what it's like to visit New Orleans.  It is also what it's like to live here.  

The third most-most-often asked question is: "Where do the locals eat?"  They eat at Mandina's on Canal Street.
You can't miss it after dark
If you go on a Monday, you'll see the Monday regulars.  If you go on a Tuesday, you'll see the Tuesday regulars.  If you wait for a table at the bar, you'll see the plaque that marks where the high water reached after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina.  Look up.
Welcome to La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast
From what we've heard, the water only came up to our front steps.  Esplanade Avenue runs along the city's high ground.  Our address is about three feet above sea level.

There are other neon signs in Mid-City.  One of them is on North Broad Street, a short walk from our house.
In business since Walmsey was mayor and Harding was president
One of our guests walked up to Mandina's for dinner and, as he was leaving, the maitre d' asked where he was staying.  "That isn't a safe walk back, after dark, down Canal Street, right on North Broad Street, and then right on Esplanade Avenue," the maitre d' said as he phoned for a cab.

We were walking back from Crescent City Steaks when his cab passed by.  He waved, then he asked the driver to let him out.  We walked together the rest of the way home without incident except for saying hello to the people sitting on their front porch on Governor Nicholls Street.  

Is the neighborhood safe?  Overall, we have to say yes.  Our guests tend to agree after they stay here.

A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

What's It Like To Be An Innkeeper?

Gina Lollobrigida
When you are an innkeeper, you meet a lot of friends.  I can't speak for the people who staff the five-star hotels in the French Quarter, or the shiny towers around Canal Street.  As a part of an army of three, Frau Schmitt, Tammie, the housekeeper, and myself, I can only speak for the staff of La Belle Esplanade.  We meet a lot of friends for too short a while.  
Our Gina Lollobrigida
We run a New Orleans bed and breakfast on Esplanade Avenue.  It is more of a boutique operation than you'll find in the Central Business District.  We meet a lot of interesting people over the course of a month.  Good memories are made on Esplanade Avenue. 
A New Orleans bed and breakfast
We have five suites.  Each suite has a private bath equipped with an antique claw foot tub and a shower head with exceptional water pressure.  The hot water tanks are in the attic.  

Each suite also has two other rooms.  One is a sitting room.  The other is a bedroom.  There is a refrigerator stocked with local sodas, local beer, wine, juice and water.  There is a corner grocery two blocks away that has anything else you'll need.  There is a flat screen TV and free wifi.  We put pralines on the pillows.  Each suite has its own balcony, except Les Fleurs Suite.  It has a front porch that faces Esplanade Avenue.  

I haven't mentioned the furniture because every room is a different color and every suite has its own name: La Pelican, La France, Les Fleurs, Les Saintes, and Clio.  Each is comfortable and unique in its own way.
The bed in La Pelican Suite
We live in a very nice part of New Orleans. 

Whether you visit New Orleans for one day and two nights, or two days and three nights, you'll only get a taste of the city, and I'm not talking about the varied breakfast that Frau Schmitt whips up every morning.
Ready for breakfast
You'll want to come back to New Orleans even if you stay seven days and eight nights.  There is too much to discover.  There are more good memories to be made.   

What's it like to be an innkeeper?  We don't travel much.  We have both been all over the world, but we are happy where we are now.  There is too much to discover.  It's not as easy as we make it look, but it's probably not as hard as you think.  Everything I learned, I learned from watching Bob Newhart.  Ask Frau Schmitt.  She is usually right about these things.
The back garden at La Belle Esplanade
Last night, two of our guests dined at Santa Fe Restaurant, up the street.  A famous actor was sitting at the table next to theirs.  It wasn't Bob Newhart and it wasn't Gina Lollobrigida, but you never know who you'll bump into on Esplanade Avenue.  When you are an innkeeper in New Orleans, you hear and share a lot of stories.
The coffee table in Les Saintes Suite
A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ginger envy

Gina Lollobrigida
There was something in the air this morning that made me think of Gina Lollobrigida.  I like to keep a tidy sidewalk, so I was picking up a chicken bone, a gum drop, and a penny (heads-up), while the 91 bus passed by.  The paperboy had just delivered my Advocate

As I was picking up the penny, Gina Lollogrigida's name popped into my head.  Then I said it again.  Then I said it again.  Try it.  Gina Lollobrigida.  

When I turned around, I realized what made me think of it.  Frau Schmitt called me over to chat with our neighbor in the blue house, and I forgot all about Gina Lollobrigida.  There is ginger in the air.
The ginger is in bloom on Esplanade Avenue
Our neighbor, who is the nicest fellow you'll ever meet, has a neighbor who lives on his other side, in the lavender house with green trim.  She is very nice, too.  We often chat when she's sweeping her sidewalk.  Her neighbors in the iris house that used to be a doctor's office are the groundskeepers for the rest of the block.  We all gathered around and admired each other's ginger.  

All the neighbors agreed that the ginger growing in front of the blue house had the most leaves and the most flowers.  The flowers have been unfolding all week.  Now that the temperature reached a humid 88 degrees, summer seems to have arrived.  It smells like ginger on Esplanade Avenue.
Our neighbors ginger
Aside from the ginger that grows around the oak at the bus stop, the ground in front of the iris house is pretty threadbare.  Mostly a little hardscrabble crabgrass, packed mud, and acorn tops.  The groundskeepers asked our neighbor in the blue house how he got his green thumb.  

"I fill my home with good memories," he said.  "Everything grows better when you take care of it with love.   Sure, the ginger in front of my house is lush, but it won't be the best on the block for long.  There are plenty of good memories being made in that orange bed and breakfast with blue shutters next door to me.  You should see their gardens in back," he said.
The gardens behind La Belle Esplanade
The groundskeepers admitted they had ginger envy.  "You think you have it now?" our neighbor told them.  "Just wait another two or three years.  That New Orleans B&B is getting filled with so many good memories that the ginger in front is going to bloom like a flambeaux on Mardi Gras Day. "
Ginger on Esplanade Avenue
I tried to change the subject to Gina Lollobrigida, but the neighbors wanted to talk about something else.
Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Advocate
The Dalai Lama is in town.

A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Orleans Institutions

It's been too long
We usually serve fresh pastries and bread for breakfast, among many other things, but if Hubig's Pies are ever sold again, they will be on the menu.  It's been too long since I've seen a Hubig's Pie truck driving down Esplanade Avenue.
The corner of North Rampart and Frenchmen Streets
When something good is made in New Orleans, it lasts.  Look at the venerable sazarac and Southern Comfort.  Look at a menu.  Listen to the music.  Walk the streets.  A whole city mourns the loss of fried fruit-filled pies and it rallies to help Savory Simon pull a Lazarus.  It is rare to see Che Guevera on a tee shirt in New Orleans.  It is less rare to see somebody wearing a Hubig's shirt.

New Orleans loves its institutions.  The past is mixed with the present to make a bright future.  The old Falstaff brewery still dominates the Mid-City skyline.  You can see it from the balcony off Le Pelican Suite.  The guy mixing Crystal Preserves still works all night.  The Blue Plate Foods building may be the Blue Plate Artist Lofts, but you can still buy Blue Plate mayonnaise at Canseco's Market.  The American Can Building still looks over Bayou St. John.  
Orleans Avenue, New Orleans
I don't know if American Can is still in business, but I do know that they were not a local company.  My uncle worked for them in Connecticut.  Regardless, the American Can Building is an icon and an anchor for its neighborhood.  Besides high ceilings and a farmers market every week, there is a wine bar, a package store (as we would say in New England), and a branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

If you know me, you know that I like to wear a hat.  Many of our guests think that your humble narrator is bald.  He isn't.  I have a full head of hair.  Frau Schmitt can attest to this.  She is usually right about these things.
Hat band card from Meyer the Hatter
When more men wore hats, they would check their hats at the door with the hat check clerk.  While there are plenty of bars in New Orleans that are open 24 hours a day, there have always been some that are only open 'till they close.  

In olden days, when professional hat check clerk was a viable career option just like cigar-cigarette girl was, when the musicians packed up their instruments, there would be a run on the hat check desk.  Since so many fedoras look the same, gentlemen of distinction put identification cards in their hats.

I bought my fedora from the South's largest hat store, Meyer the Hatter on St. Charles Avenue, just off Canal.  It's a full-service hat store.  My fedora came with an ID card.

It isn't really true that every fedora looks the same.  The same fedora on two different people will be two different hats.  Life is what you bring to it.  Good memories are made in New Orleans.
Here to stay in New Orleans

A young visitor to our fair city

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

7th Ward Shooting, New Orleans

Our Lady of Prompt Succor
The day before the shooting that happened on the corner of North Villere and Frenchman Streets, I told two of our guests that if you read the police reports in the newspaper it seems like someone gets shot every day in New Orleans.  I said that we have have lived here three years and we have never heard the sound of gunfire.  Firecrackers, yes, but not gunfire.  I assured them that their likelihood of their being shot was slim.  

19 people were shot on the corner of North Villere and Frenchman Streets during the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club's annual Mother's Day second line.   The corner of North Villere and Frenchman Streets.  Even if you live in Black Pearl or West Lakeshore or Venetian Isles, that is close to home.     

Nobody we know was among the victims, or even in the area.  That doesn't make it any better.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the patroness of New Orleans.  Her national shrine is on the corner of State Street and South Claiborne Avenue.  
Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Ursulines nuns have a long history in New Orleans.  They used to live in the French Quarter.  Three blocks uptown of our street, they have an avenue named after them.  They eventually moved many, many more blocks uptown, where they also moved their girls academy, and they moved the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.  

On Sundays, and on every other day, at least a hundred twenty people in New Orleans say, "Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us!"  It helped Andrew Jackson win the Battle of New Orleans.
St. Joan of Arc
We've only lived in New Orleans for three years: six months uptown and two and a half years downtown.  We know tragedies unfold every day in New Orleans.  Sometimes slowly, sometimes in a burst.  Sometimes private, sometimes public, sometimes both. This is one of those times.

I can't read anything written in anybody's heart.  All I know is what I see on the streets.  I have seen more saints than sinners in New Orleans than I have seen anywhere else.  

It doesn't take too many apples to spoil a good barrel.  New Orleans is shaped like a bowl.  We are surrounded by water, but you have to go looking for it to see it.  The only good thing that involves gunpowder happens on the Fourth of July.  It is shot harmlessly heavenward from barges in the Mississippi River.

The middle of Esplanade is home to Clio, the Goddess of Peace and Muse of History.  Her statue is in Gayerre Place, on a terra cotta pedestal.
Gayarre Place, New Orleans
Everyone who lives in New Orleans lives here by choice.  The city is shaped like a bowl and it holds a few bad apples.  The good of its neighbors and neighborhoods outweighs the bad.   

Is New Orleans safe?  Overall, I still have to say yes.

Sweetheart statue
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.

A votre sante,

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