Sunday, September 29, 2013

Louis Armstrong in New Orleans

Jazz in Armstrong Park every Thursday
Louis Armstrong was the Zulu King on Mardi Gras Day, 1949.  He never came back to New Orleans after that.  No hotel in the French Quarter or the Central Business District would allow him to stay there.  We weren't open then, but he would have been welcome at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Everyone is. 
Photo courtesy of  Louis Armstrong in the middle.  Thanks for the memories
As soon as you land at Armstrong International Airport (MSY), you know that you are in a city where people who don't live here, and people who do live here, have good memories.  New Orleans is a city of black and white and every shade and hue in between.  Any hate that rears its ugly head in New Orleans is short lived.  Love is in the air.  It is romantic in the extreme.
Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Advocate
The photo above is swiped from the New Orleans Advocate, the newspaper to which we subscribe.  I'll give you my copy at breakfast.  Unlike the Times-Picayune, it is written and delivered to our doorstep every day.  They recently ran an article about how the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure and Pleasure Club has gotten City Council approval to expand their headquarters.  Finally.  This has been in the works for too long to think about.  It is overdue.  

I could have taken my own picture from the neutral ground in North Broad Street, but it would have looked the same.  It is what it is.  Why mess with perfection?  

Though Louis Armstrong never came back to New Orleans, he lived out his days and died in Queens, he always signed his letters, "Red beans and ricely yours."  If you read his memoir, "Satchmo," you will understand why he loved this city so much that it hurt.   

As far as we can tell, after delving through the historical record, Louis Armstrong never lived on Esplanade Avenue like Degas did.  Like everyone else who lives in New Orleans, he must have known the street well.  It is one of the most beautifully perfect streets in the city.  It always has been.  It always will be as long as we have something to do with it.

Louis Armstrong, who was a United Nations goodwill ambassador, left a legacy that lives on in New Orleans.  He is revered in the city, rightly so, as if to make up for snubbing him during the days when Plessy vs. Fergussen set the law of the land.  New Orleans is a city littered with bright spots and demerits, like the dappled shade under the live oaks that line our street.  It is a city of sometimes cruel contradictions that are shrugged off like palmetto bugs on a summer's eve.  Life is what you make of it when there is music in the streets.
La Belle Esplanade
Separate but equal is no longer the law of the land.  Thank Heaven.  We are all better off for that.  We are all in this gumbo together, come Hell or high water.  When you lay your head down to sleep, you should feel safe.  You should feel home.  Home is where the heart is.  That is what New Orleans is like on Esplanade Avenue.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

We remain red beans and ricely yours.  We will see on Thursday, and on every other day of this new millennium.  To your health.  Laissez les bon temps rouler

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New coffee shop in New Orleans

Entrance to New Orleans City Hall
First of all, we would like to proffer a toast to your continued health and happiness.  That is the how we start business in New Orleans.

I was walking up Bayou Road today, which is the oldest street in the city.  Bayou Road, an old Choctaw portage trail that links Lake Pontchartrain to the the French Quarter, is why New Orleans is located where it is, a city known all over the world against all odds.  There is a new coffee shop opening at the corner of Bayou Road and North Dorgenois Street, two blocks lakeside of our address.
The future Pagoda Cafe
The building used to be one of a chain of Chinese laundries built to look like pagodas.  Try to do that nowadays.  The last Chinese laundry still operating in New Orleans is Q.Lee on Basin Street, just before that street turns into Orleans Avenue under the Claiborne Avenue Overpass.  It is next to Kermit's Speak Easy.   They do good work.  Like Calgon, it's an ancient Creole secret.  

The building has been falling down since Katrina.  It used to be some kind of reggae record store called One Love based on the faded paint job next to the former front door.  It's a beautiful mystery of a place.  They've been restoring the joint for about five months, working every day.  While I was walking the dog this afternoon, I was lucky enough to meet the new owners.

Notice the attention to detail.  This is how signs are painted in New Orleans, by hand, with an distinctive script that can be found from Seal's Class Act Lounge on the corner of Saint Bernard Avenue and North Miro Street, to the back lot behind City Hall that warns people not to park their motor bikes on the sidewalk.
Pagoda Cafe.  Coffe.  Breakfast.  Lunch.
I had a brief chat with the new proprietors of the Pagoda Cafe.  They are going to do a soft opening in about three weeks.  I can't wait.  I can't wait to have a neighborhood coffee shop two blocks away where I can catch up on neighborhood news and meet my neighbors as they go to work or just take a break on their way home.  It is a gem of a spot.  It's in our neighborhood.

"We still need to get some more permits from City Hall," the new entrepreneurs told me.  I feel their pain.  I had to go to City Hall today, myself.  It is a chore that is never a pleasure.  It really is a chore.  It is amazing that anything ever gets done in New Orleans.
City Hall, New Orleans
There is supposed to be a neon outline of the Mississippi River running behind the letters that say "CITY HALL."  Looking at the picture above, you'll notice that the only part that stays lit nowadays is the smidge of tubes between the H and the A.  Uptown.  As Kermit Ruffins like to ask during his Thursday set at Bullet's Sports Bar on A.P. Tureaud Avenue, "What is New Orleans?"  I always think it's that little bit of neon light that stays lit.

We live in a very interesting neighborhood.  It gets better every day.  

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Changes at our New Orleans bed and breakfast.

Our front door
A clean house is a happy house.  I was sweeping the front steps this morning when the bus stopped at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Miro Street.  There is always ample on-street parking on our stretch of Esplanade Avenue, but Tammie the housekeeper likes to take the bus.  As she walked up the sidewalk in my direction, I noticed that she had gotten a new look.
Tammie the housekeeper's old look
"I've noticed that you haven't mentioned me in that blog of yours," Tammie the housekeeper said as she settled down on the freshly swept steps.  "I have to say that I prefer it that way.  I hate that picture you alway use when you write about me."

I always say that good guests make good company.  I also always say that a good housekeeper is the backbone of a good bed and breakfast.  Tammie is an excellent housekeeper.  That's why I always try to stay on her good side.  Frau Schmitt and myself get all the accolades during check-in and breakfast, but Tammie the housekeeper is the unsung hero of La Belle Esplanade.  Nobody ever sees her, but they appreciate all the good work she does.

"Did you get a haircut?" I asked.

"I did.  What do you think?" Tammie the housekeeper asked.

"I think I should use a new picture of you when you appear in our blog," I answered.

"It's about time.  I hate that picture of me smoking a pipe.  Even my boyfriend thinks I smoke a pipe when I'm working here."

Her boyfriend should know better.  There is no smoking indoors at our inn.  Guests can smoke in the back gardens, or they can smoke on the balconies, provided the windows and doors are closed, but no one is allowed to smoke indoors.  We're in New Orleans, but this isn't a barroom.

Tammie the housekeeper isn't the only thing around La Belle Esplanade that has gotten a new look.  We've taken advantage of the slow summer season to do some redecorating around the inn.  We've repaired a few of the antique marble topped tables, we've purchased some comfortable new stylish modern chairs.  

An artist friend of ours is working on a new painting for us.  It is 4 feet x 6 feet.  "Do you think you may have bitten off more than you can chew?" I asked.  "Maybe," he said, "but it will all come out in the wash."  That's a little oil painting humor.   

The cigar box museum has outgrown its shelf in the dining room.  I moved it to the lobby.  It's dedicated to the display of old-time brands of cigars that are still made in the good old U.S. of A.  It's really something to see.

We've been open for one full year this month.  "With all the changes going on around here," Tammie the housekeeper said, "I think it's time you retired that silly picture of me smoking a pipe."

I couldn't agree more.
Tammie the housekeeper's new look
Frau Schmitt doesn't think Tammie the housekeeper will appreciate this particular change.  She is usually right about these things.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shaft in the Park

Poster courtesy of NOMA
If you are going to be in New Orleans this Friday, the New Orleans Museum of Art will be screening Shaft in the sculpture garden.  Admission is $6.00 for non-members and there will be a number of food vendors on site, including Woody's Fish Tacos, which we always enjoy.  We saw the original King Kong a few months ago in the sculpture garden.  
Photo courtesy of Cafe Reconcile
If you are here on October 21st, Cafe Reconcile will be hosting "Chefs to Watch," a culinary cook-off with up-and-coming New Orleans chefs and one from Baton Rouge.  

Cafe Reconcile is on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, which is a very interesting street that is undergoing a renaissance.  We took a walking tour of it a few weeks ago.  The Food and Beverage Museum and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra are relocating there, in the old Dryades Market building.  Church Alley is an amazing coffee bar on the street that we can recommend.  It is a fascinating neighborhood.  The 91 Bus, which stops in front of our house, runs down Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.  

There are all sorts of things going on every day in New Orleans.  Few of them are found in a guide book.  You have to live here to get a feel for the place.  Yes, you can spend all your time in the French Quarter buying tee shirts and drinking hand grenades, though they say that The Jester is the world's most powerful drink (click that link at your peril).  There are plenty of other things to do, though.

A cinematographer was over the house this morning.  It turns out he and a special someone are celebrating an anniversary this weekend.  Frau Schmitt, who happens to know a thing or two about what women like, suggested they stay in Les Saintes Suite on their special day.  

He lives on Tchoupitoulas Street, uptown.  There's no wrong way to pronounce it.  He asked if there is anything to do within walking distance.  I said, "You gotta be kidding me."  Frau Schmitt was more tactful.  She suggested they stroll up to Swirl Wine Bar to pick up a bottle and a light snack to unwind on their balcony.  After that, she suggested he treat the young lady to dinner at Cafe Degas right up the road.  She is usually right about these things.

Every night on Esplanade Avenue is a night to remember.  If they were staying on Friday, I would have suggested watching Shaft under the stars.  That's something you can't do on Tchoupitoulas Street.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Honeymoon in New Orleans

Pocket door in Les Fleurs Suite
We always call Les Fleurs Suite, "The Honeymoon Suite."  While all of our suites are romantic in their different ways, Les Fleurs is romantic romantic, if you know what I mean.  We don't call it Les Fleurs for nothing.  It's full of flowers.

It always makes me happy when people come from New York City and marvel at how much floor space they have for the length of their stay.  It is bigger than their apartment.

The other day, I was puttering around The Flower Suite with my camera, which also happens to be my phone.  I thought I should take some new pictures.  Coincidentally, today, someone asked me about Les Fleurs Suite.   

I found a use for those photos I was going to throw away.
Front window curtain
It's very dark if you don't open the curtains.  Some people like it that way.  The front window leads to a private porch that faces Esplanade Avenue through a thicket of wild ginger.  It is a nice to sit and watch the easy parade along Esplanade.  

View from the hall door.
There are white Christmas lights around the pocket doors and in the bed canopy.  I didn't take a picture of that, but you can use your imagination.  It is very romantic.

I haven't mentioned flowers yet, but there are some.  The whole two-room suite has a botanical theme.
Remember I took these with my phone
There are flowers everywhere you look.  I chose to look over the mantle in the sitting room because it always makes me smile to look at these original oil paintings.
Mantle in Les Fleurs Suite
There are plenty of reasons to stay at a bed and breakfast, but a big part of it is the bed.  The bed in Les Fleurs Suite is a beautiful bed.

I didn't take any pictures of the private bath, but it has an antique clawfoot tub.  A lot of people ask if there's a shower.  There is.  

It is a cozy place and I don't mean it the way that Grandma's house is cozy.  I mean cozy in a romantic way.  It's like something out of a movie.  

To all the honeymooners, past, present and future,

A votre sante,
La Belle Esplanade Bed and Breakfast.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

I was reading something on the internet this morning about 10 Myths about New Orleans.  One particular observation was that wearing Mardi Gras beads any time of year except after a parade is like carving a jack-o-lantern in May.  I'm going to remember that.  

It is also true that I have never heard anyone who lives here say "N'Awlins."  Never.  Not even with quotation marks.  I was going to link to the full list, but nothing shows up on for me anymore.  Maybe it will work for you.  I know I didn't imagine it.  I'm thinking about writing a synopsis, but it probably won't be as interesting to you.
The hat makes the man
You might think that I spend all my time on the internet, but it wouldn't be true.  Too much, perhaps, but not all of it.  I do a lot of research.  I have to.  I'm going to be a licensed tour guide.  I went to the airport today to get my fingerprints taken as part of the application process.  Soon, you can rest assured that your humble narrator has passed and FBI background check.  

We're going on a group bicycle ride tonight.   It starts at Finn McCool's on Banks Street, about fifteen minutes away and it ends up at the Bayou Beer Garden about ten minutes away.  Two Irish joints.  It is supposed to be about an hour and a half ride, so it's going to be a very scenic route.  Especially at night.

Every night I walk our dog, and every night I say, "Our neighborhood is so beautiful at night."  I say it during the day, too, but at night New Orleans is even more magical.  
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The dog is usually just interested in finding the next chicken bone.  Either that or he's watching the cat dance with the owl.  You never know what you'll find when you turn the corner here.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How safe is New Orleans?

Tammie, the housekeeper

Tammy the housekeeper told me she saw a video in the Mid-City Record.  It's our newspaper of choice, hereabouts, right after the New Orleans Advocate and the Wall Street Journal.  The NOPD posted a video.  That's news around here.  


A lot of people ask me about the crime rate in New Orleans.  If you read the Mid-City Messenger article, you'll see that the lady left her car unlocked and running with the keys in the ignition while she was at the store.  It happened at the intersection of North Broad and St. Bernard.  I can't tell for sure, but it looks like the Viper Place, where they sell car alarms and audio.  There's a Walgreen's, Seafood King, and something else I can't remember at that intersection.  It doesn't look like any of those other places to me.

If you are from a place where you can leave your keys in the ignition, leave the motor running, and leave the car door unlocked, you might find the crime rate high.  If you practice common sense, it is always a good day for someone in New Orleans.  It may as well be you.

As soon as you walk in the lobby, you'll know it should be you.

A votre santé,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Finding a good bakery in New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
I hear people have nightmares when they don't stay in a New Orleans bed and breakfast.  I don't know if that's true, but I thought I would pass it along.
Blue Plate Building
We were down on the other end of Jefferson Davis Parkway today checking out another bakery.  Not that we don't like the bakeries we already use, but variety is the spice of life.

The Blue Plate Building wasn't always artist lofts.  It used to be a mayonnaise factory.  They don't build 'em like that anymore.  Every time I pass it by myself, I stop because it is so remarkably perfect architecture.  

Here's a panoramic view of the intersection of South Jefferson Davis Parkway and Earhart Avenue:
Blue Plate Building, New Orleans, LA
The view to the left
New Orleans is a city of contrasts.  Your heart will break at how beautiful it is.  

If you take Washington Street from the Blue Plate Building, you'll end up in Broadmoor.   There are fascinating things going on down there.  Laurel Street Bakery is going to open a shop there.  We can't wait to give them a try.

I'll tell you about it when we do.

A votre santé,

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dining in the Lower Nine

Cafe Dauphine
We had to get to Chalmette to go to the movies, and the Claiborne Avenue Bridge is closed.  I don't know if it's the bridge over the railroad tracks or the bridge over the Industrial Canal.  We took the Saint Claude detour before we got that far.   

When we go to Chalmette, we like to bundle our errands.  We are always saying we wish there was a nice place to eat at along the way.  It turns out there is, but you don't take Claiborne to get there.  

Every other time we've been on Dauphine Street as far as the Lower 9, Cafe Dauphine was closed, but we know the reputation.  Going across the Industrial Canal we saw a billboard for Cafe Dauphine.  It reminded us that they must be open for lunch before a matinee on a Monday.  They were.

It is very nice inside.
Inside Cafe Dauphine
It's a beautiful place with its signature dish, of course:
Some Cafe Dauphine entrees
We didn't order the fried stuffed bell peppers because it seemed like a lot of food.  The original stuffed bell pepper is just like Mama used to make.  

We only had a light lunch, and we didn't have room for desert.  
Some Cafe Dauphine desserts
There wasn't any room for the chocolate explosion cake.

On the way out, Frau Schmitt said that this must be a great place to come for dinner.  She's usually right about these things, so Cafe Dauphine isn't scratched off our list yet.  

Neither is a certain po'boy and hot plate joint that I spotted on the way home.
Po-Boys and Hot Plates
A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Orleans Secrets

Mosquito King
September in New Orleans!  Finally!  Autumn has arrived.  The mosquitos have gone south for the winter.  It is still 90 degrees and humid, but it feels like October is right around the corner.  October is most people's favorite time of year.  

Men who are visiting New Orleans for a wedding should not expect to get a haircut on Sundays or Mondays.  Barbershops are closed.  That's why I get my hair cut on Wednesdays.

For as long as I'm able, I like to have a barber who is older than I am.  Jimmie told me he has been at Golden Shears at 6008 Magazine Street for almost 50 years.  He took over the shop from his uncle who had it for 40 years before him.  Before the uncle, the barber shop had belonged to another man for 25 years.  

So, this building is over a hundred years old?

"Yes," Jimmie said.  "Just look around.  All the houses are over a hundred years old."  He was right.  It's that way all over town.

On the way home, I passed a statue that you see all over the city.  
He looks like he's hailing a bus
The statues aren't hailing a cab.  They are not waving hello as you approach.  They are not waving goodbye when you look over their shoulder.  They are not reaching to catch Mardi Gras beads.  They are all the same and they all have the same purpose.  It isn't a secret, but I don't think it is something the city likes to publicize to the tourist trade.  That is really all I can say about it now, but we'll tell you if you really need to know.

If you are well-groomed man visiting New Orleans for a wedding, we can tell you were to get your hair cut, but you'll have to go to Supercuts in the mall on Sundays and Mondays.  Any other day of the week, there's Jimmy, except he doesn't work Fridays, either.  On Fridays, we recommend Aiden Gill at 2026 Magazine Street. 

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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