Monday, December 29, 2014

The best hamburger in New Orleans?

The menu board at Bud's Broiler, City Park Ave.
Some our fellow innkeepers read this blog, believe it or not.  Not just in New Orleans, but all over the country.  They sometimes ask me why I often feel compelled to dwell on topics that many tourists aren't going to see.  If you read a lot of B&B blogs (I've read a few, not many) you'll see reprinted recipes and reprinted festival schedules, and links to restaurant reviews, and whatnot.  All well and good, but those things don't really interest me much.

Frau Schmitt and I live in New Orleans.  We do go to the French Quarter.  We do go to Frenchmen Street.  We go to plenty of other places, too.  Plenty of them; the kind of places the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) doesn't like to discuss.  Don't ask me why.

If you get a map from the CVB, it shows the Quarter and the Garden District.  It even shows Freret Street for some reason.  It doesn't show our neighborhood.  Off the top of my head, I can think of four museums in our neighborhood and, oh, maybe 20 restaurants, all of them very good.  There are also five B&Bs just on Esplanade Avenue.  Yet, our neighborhood doesn't rate a mention on the official map.  Oh well.  More for us.

Bud's Broiler is located on the City Park Avenue side of City Park.  It's about a mile and a half from our house and it's open 24 hours.  A 24-hour hamburger stand that sells beer---and I don't mean just root beer.  New Orleans is like that.  It's full of surprises.  

The last time I went to Bud's Broiler, I noticed the prices had gone up.  A Number 1 costs $3.05.  Try getting a charcoal grilled hamburger for three bucks in the French Quarter.  

Hey, look!  Here's a link to a review of Bud's Broiler!  I'm not saying it's great.  I'm only saying I like it.  Frau Schmitt is a little less enamored with the place.  I always say I want to go to Bud's for my birthday and she gently suggests I choose somewhere else.  You might wonder where I choose instead.  For that, you'll have to ask me over breakfast.  It will give us something else to talk about.

Until that morning,
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in New Orleans

A festive view
I noticed this morning that our neighbor in the green house put some garland and bows on her balcony.  It looks nice.  We'll be doing something similar next year.  We haven't been decorating for the season, but that's going to change.  

Mardi Gras is the biggest holiday in New Orleans, celebrated by people of all faiths and none at all.  Christmas comes in second as the most visible holiday in the city.  Why not?
Not your typical Christmas picture
It's a very Catholic city.  It has been since it was founded.  Don't let appearances fool you.  Christmas is a big deal.  Even on Bourbon Street where the Devil pretty much has the run of the place.

Just a short entry today because I have things to do.  I know content has been a bit skimpy the past two weeks and I apologize to our regular readers.  Fear not.  I'll be back on schedule next week.

What's a post about Christmas without mention of toys?  You know what I always say about New Orleans, that you never know what you'll find when you turn a corner.  Frau Schmitt and I had a late breakfast a few days ago at Biscuits and Buns on Banks.  We parked our scooters on South Alexander Street, and this is what I saw as we left:
Prince Charming doll on a piece of cinder block
Who knows why?  It's just one of those things.

Happy Christmas from your humble narrator, Frau Schmitt and, of course, from Tammie the Housekeeper, your friends at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

À votre santé.
Tammy the Housekeeper
La Belle Esplanade

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Voodoo Fest 2015

What happens when you worship the music
Another reservation arrived this morning for the last weekend during next October.  The inn is filling up.  From what I can gather, the folks who made the reservation aren't coming to New Orleans for Voodoo Fest or for Hallowe'en, but for something more special.  

As our inn becomes more famous (if I can call it that) and more popular (if I can call it that, too), I come to realize that people need to plan more and more in advance for the busy times of year.  I'm not saying that you need to plan your trip a year in advance, but I am saying you shouldn't wait for two weeks before.  

In case you're interested in coming to Voodoo Fest next year, here's the link.  We have two suites left.  Each suite has one bed that sleeps two people.  Please don't write to ask about renting out the house, or about piling in a suite with all your pals like a slumber party.  We don't do that.

What we do offer, is a peaceful respite in a real neighborhood within walking distance of many major tourist attractions as well as some off the beating path.  New Orleans is a magical city.

We are already full for Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras, but I think we have availability for everything else I can think of at the moment.  Please visit our website if you're interested.  If you can't find the information you're looking for there, please write.  

Our online calendar is accurate and the best way to make a reservation.  We offer all our available suites on our website.  We do not offer them all on other sites.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Look at New Orleans Past

Like the Creoles always say, "Plus ça change, plus chest la même chose."  New Orleans remains the largest coffee port in the country.  The banana trade is moving back to the city after a few decade hiatus.  

Of course, everything in New Orleans is still in color.  It's not a black and white kind of town.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Prices at the Original Bud's Broiler

The menu board at Bud's Broiler
Bud's Broiler is a local franchise of hamburger stands in New Orleans.  The original one is just outside City Park, across from the Delgado Community College campus.  The original Bud's is open 24 hours a day, the way it should be in a city that is open 24 hours a day.  

I don't have a picture of the outside because the neon is always burned out in places so it looks less impressive in photos than it does in person.  It's a magical place, like many places in New Orleans.  It's low-key, but that doesn't make it any less magical.  Can you get a charcoal broiled hamburger and a Heineken at 4:00 in the morning where you live?  I have to admit, though I have the opportunity to do so, I never opt for the Heineken that early in the AM.

When I was in Bud's Broiler the other day, I noticed that the prices have changed.  Here's a close up of the menu board:
Meat and hot dog prices at Bud's Broiler
You order by number here, and you have to specify if you want onions on that.  Prices have gone up about a quarter (25 cents to our non-American readers) for most things.  Meat refers to hamburgers.  Notice that hot dog prices haven't changed.  You can still get a #9 (my personal favorite) for $1.90.  It's a frankfurter smothered in house made BBQ sauce, cut into thirds and placed on a hamburger bun.  It's delish.

Wheat buns still cost an extra 25 cents.

Your humble narrator's New Orleans Face
Someone recently asked to see a picture of me in my new cowboy hat.  Here you go.  I wear my cowboy hat when we have people from out west.  It's a three gallon hat.  I don't really like to wear it around town, but around the property, I think it's pretty flattering.  It's certainly a conversation piece.  This is my New Orleans face.

You know how I always say the nicest people live in Iowa?  Well, I would like to add Kansas to that list.  Do you know the second-most populous city in Kansas?  I didn't either until we had guests stay with us from Overland Park, pop. 173,372 according to the 2010 U.S. census.  The most populous city in Kansas is Wichita.  Overland Park is above and beyond Wichita, by design.

Our guest was describing the Christmas lights in Overland Park.  "Have you ever been?" she asked.  "How many people have you met outside Kansas who have been to Overland Park?" I countered.  

I think Frau Schmitt and I are going to schedule an Overland Park vacation.  We have to visit Nebraska first, though, before we go to Kansas.  I promised her that years ago.  It was during our honeymoon.
City seal of Overland Park, KS
Overland Park was founded in 1905, a blink of an eye, historically speaking.  New Orleans was founded in 1718.  Our tricentennial is coming up.  Naturally, it's seen as a reason to get more tourists to visit the city.  None of this interests your humble narrator too much.  He comes from a state that celebrated it's 350th anniversary years ago.  Frau Schmitt, well, she comes from a country that predates the Romans.  Still, we'd like to visit the OP, as they call it in Kansas.

Speaking of history, how did New Orleans become a part of the United States?  You can find out at the New Orleans Wax Museum.
Great moments in history
1803 was the year Napoleon decided to divest the French Empire's colonial holdings and to deal with the United States, making both America and Louisiana better places.  It was a momentous decision.  Emperor Bonaparte didn't take it lightly.  He soaked in the bathtub awhile before deciding his course of action.  He was Churchillian in some ways.  According to the wax museum, this is what his bath suite looked like:
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Did I mention we recently had some guests who arrived from Kansas?  Ah! Kansas!  The way they described it, it sounds like God's country.  Living in New Orleans, the way we do, it's hard to imagine someplace better.  I asked Tammie the Housekeeper what she thought about our Kansas guests.
Tammy the Housekeeper
Tammy the Housekeeper had only this to say: "They were very tidy and neat."

I'm not going to say I'm going to offer a discount for Kansas guests any more than I offer one to guests from Iowa (i.e. none) but we welcome people from all over the world.  The more the merrier.  We have yet to host guests from Nebraska.  I have no idea why.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another New Orleans Experiment Goes Awry

You can do this at home, too.
While looking at an old lithograph in an auction gallery on St. Charles Avenue, I got the idea that I could hang frog legs on the bannisters of the balconies in front of our house.  I don't know why the gentleman in the print was doing it, perhaps he was drying them for jerky.  My first thought was that he was a kind of Creole Benjamin Franklin.  

If you follow my line of thinking, the lightning would hit the decorative cast iron banister and this would set the frog's legs twitching, thus proving the existence of electricity!  I've included a diagram to demonstrate the principle:
The current in the needle causes the frog muscles to abduct like a ballerina's
Here's a picture of the balcony I have in mind for recreating this experiment:
It's the Clio Suite balcony
Needless to say, Frau Schmitt didn't follow my line of thinking, or rather, she followed it just fine and advised against it.  She pointed out the tall oak trees in front of our house are more likely to attract lightning than our banisters.  "And it's a good thing, too." she added.  She had some other things to say about my idea.  She is usually right about these things so I moved on to another project.

A new website you might be interested in
There's a new website you might be interested in.  It's called Find Everything Historic.  It's very interesting.  If you do happen to be interested, and I've piqued your interest just by repeating variations of the word interesting six times in this paragraph, look at this hotel in West Baden Springs, Indiana.  If you think that place is a showstopper, check out the what they've got in Louisiana.
It was a very good year
And now, the moment we've all been waiting for, the resumption of our exhibit-by-exhibit tour of the New Orleans Wax Museum.  It's back by popular demand.  

I can tell you the story of the Casket Girls, a part of New Orleans lore that goes back to right after the colony's founding.  It's a tangled tale, however and since a picture tells a thousand words, let's just look at the display.  Remember, it's dark in the wax museum and I didn't use a flash.
A historical recreation
It's not often that you see a drunken pirate and a laughing nun standing next to each other.  
Everyone had a good time
I'm not saying it's impossible.  In fact, I have seen a laughing nun and a drunken pirate within spitting distance of each other.  The first time was during Mardi Gras, of course.  The second time was on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar.  Both times, they were both laughing.  New Orleans is that kind of a city.

I had other things to talk about, but time is getting away from us.  I have to go to Tujagues tonight for a meeting of the Tour Guide Association.  Frau Schmitt and I went to Tujagues for Thanksgiving, so I'm not as excited as I normally would be.  It's always good there, even with their recent renovations.  It's the second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, probably in all of Louisiana.  

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Secret of King Pelican Brand Louisiana Okra

This pelican gets around
If you're ever in the French Market, which is in the French Quarter, which is at one end of our street, you'll see that there's a booth that sells mounted fruit crate labels.  You know the kind.  If you study the racks closely, you'll find one for King Pelican Brand Louisiana Okra that bears a striking resemblance to the iceberg lettuce label above.  

We have an example in our dining room.  

Who can turn the world on with her smile?

Some of the carriage drivers say that the Mary Tyler Moore Show was originally supposed to be set in the French Quarter, not in Minneapolis.  Others say it was supposed to be set in Tremé, but those people are confusing it with the HBO series of the same name.  This year, the NFL decided what city will host the Super Bowl in 2018.  It was between New Orleans, Minneapolis and somewhere else.  Minneapolis won again.  

If you want to see a fake okra label, we have one mounted on the wall in our dining room.  I can't stop thinking about it.  I just came back from the French Market where I walked to get a second one of them.  Don't ask why.  Frau Schmitt says that there's a sucker born every minute and she's usually right about these things.

Tammy the Housekeeper
When I got home, Tammie the Housekeeper asked me why I wasn't writing about the Wax Museum today.  I told her I was onto something else, something pelican-related.  Then she showed me some email from a female fan of the blog.  Then she showed me more fan mail email from some male fans.   People want more wax museum.  Okay.

Next time. 

When you're staying in New Orleans, there are no nothing days.  They all suddenly seem worthwhile.

Good memories are made in New Orleans.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Walking in New Orleans

Bed in our Clio Suite
We made some new acquaintances this past weekend who used our inn as their headquarters to make a walking exploration of this magical city we call home.  Why not?  Frau Schmitt and I walk everywhere, and not just because we have to walk our dog.  We walk our neighborhood because, as I say to everyone on the introductory tours of our garden, I find it endlessly fascinating.

I live here.  We've lived here for four and a half years now.  We still have the zeal of converts.  There are so many details, everything seems ever new.  If any of this sounds familiar to regular readers, it's because I haven't changed my mind about how much I am in love with New Orleans.  I wouldn't be a good innkeeper if I had.  

I understand that there are innkeepers who have a negative attitude about New Orleans; at least, they have a negative opinion of any neighborhood that isn't their's.  Where they live is safe.  Everywhere else, well: There Be Dragons.  Beware.
A view of our dining room
I've never come across a cannibal in all my walks about New Orleans.  That doesn't mean they aren't out there.  It only means that they are as rare as yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
I've never seen one of these.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia
There are many parts to New Orleans.  Many neighborhoods.  I don't recommend staying with us if you want to spend most of your time Uptown.  Uptown is the other side of Canal Street.  It's the American part of the city.  Esplanade Avenue is Downtown, in the Creole part of the city.  It's all New Orleans, but the two halves are very different----which is to say nothing of Algiers on the other side of the river.

You can visit Uptown if you stay with us.  Plenty of people do.  Everybody does, really, but if you stay with us, your focus should be Downtown.  Uptown, in our estimation, is a place to visit, not a place in which to stay.  YMMV.
Some of our front windows
From our house, you can walk to the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street, of course.  You can also walk to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art.  Further afield, off Esplanade Ridge proper, you can explore Tremé, the 7th Ward, Mid-City, and the neighborhood that is called City Park.  All of this comfortably on foot.  Most people don't do this, but those that do come back with stories that make everyone else in the room wish they had gone along for the stroll.

It's a fascinating city we live in.

When you walk around New Orleans, you'll find everyone is friendly.  Everyone says hello.  If you find yourself lost, just ask for directions.  New Orleanians know their city is confusing and they're happy to help you find your way.  It's a wonderful place in which to find oneself lost.  Home is where the heart is, and many people say that this is the first place where they felt they had nothing to fear.  Plenty of other people say the opposite, but they don't stay with us. They stay in the French Quarter.  

I would like to give another shout-out, yet again, to the Rose Manor Inn, in New Orleans' West End neighborhood.  It's a bit out of the way, but everything I know about this inn makes me respect it all the more.  They're in a different spot, out on the edge of town.  Not that there isn't anything to do there---there's plenty, and it's a historic and interesting neighborhood.  It's different from Esplanade Ridge, but there's no harm in that.  The innkeepers are top notch.  

If we happen to be full, which happens more and more these days, think about staying at the Rose Manor Inn.  Read their website, read their reviews on Trip Advisor.  Know in advance that you will be nowhere near the French Quarter.  We're not in the French Quarter, either.  If you choose to stay at the Rose Manor Inn, I predict you'll be pleasantly surprised.  You'll see a different part of New Orleans that most people never see.  There is something magnificent to be said for that.  We inhabit a magical city.
Looking lakeside on Esplanade Avenue
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Maybe they call it Yahoo Travel for another reason.

Tammie the Housekeeper
Tammie the Housekeeper corralled me in the linen closet this morning.  This isn't going to be the spicy story that you might expect with an opening like that.  She was hot under the collar about something she had read on the Yahoo Travel website.  It was an article titled, "We Can't Stand You" and Other Confessions of a B&B Owner.

She made me read it, looking over my shoulder and hissing between her teeth every time we reached a part that particularly made her blood boil.  "What do you make of that?" she asked when we were done.

It's balderdash.  That's my opinion.  A bit of shock schlock.  Internet meme grandstanding.  Chum cast out to attract the search engines that half digest the stuff on the web before they spit it out again for you to find.  It's poppycock.  Mirriam-Webster Dictionary gives a Dutch origin for that word.  I always think of it back to its Latin roots when I say it, but this is a family blog so Mirriam-Webster will do just fine.  

Here's my opinion: real innkeepers did not write that article.  If they did, then they aren't real innkeepers.  Does this lift the veil on B&Bs?  No.  It's pure poppycock.

I'm comfortable that Frau Schmitt and Tammie the Housekeeper will allow me to speak for all three of us.  We are not happy when our guests leave.  We do not do a happy dance.  We do not lie to our guests, nor do we assume our guests are lying to us.  How is that any way to live?  How is that any way to conduct business?  Being an innkeeper enriches one's soul, it doesn't kill it.  Whoever wrote that article appears to be dead, or at least hollow, inside.  It isn't a funny article.  It's very sad.

We do not carry concealed weapons.  We don't know anyone who does.  When someone makes a reservation, we do not look them up on the internet, research their Facebook accounts, or even give them a moment's thought until the week before they are about to arrive.  Then, we write to them to make sure they don't have any questions or special needs for their upcoming stay.  We verify their arrival time to make sure we'll be here when they are.

Hospitality is not a game.  It is a profession.  We certainly don't judge anyone.  We are honored when someone chooses our inn as the headquarters for their time in New Orleans.  We are ambassadors for our fair city and our mission is to make sure our guests leave with good memories.  There can't be anything phony about that.

Anyone is free to believe the Yahoo article.  That will say more about the person who believes it than it does about B&B owners in general.  I can't say I take offense.  It's so patently false and so far removed from our reality that, frankly, it doesn't make sense.  It isn't journalism or an exposé.  It's poppycock, pure and simple.  

I can't even say shame on Yahoo for printing something like this.  They are an internet company that is losing its relevance.  If it weren't for the Yahoo's big stake in Chinese company Alibaba, what would their stock be worth?  It's gone up ten points the past month.  I wish Marissa Mayer luck, but, like most people, I think, I don't give Yahoo much thought.  If this article was a way to get my attention, it worked.  It worked for as long as it took for me to calm Tammie the Housekeeper down and to write this blog post.  Then I had enough time to think, "What was Tammie doing on Yahoo, anyway?"  If this is an example of the quality content I can find on Yahoo, well, I'm not only speechless, I'm inclined to read elsewhere.

And now, for the love of Pete, Tammie the Housekeeper is tugging at my sleeve to show me a follow-up article.  It's even more titillatingly egregious than the first.  Who cares?  Noise in a vacuum.  The less said about this nonsense the better.  If the author(s) can make a living out of spinning this hooey into a career, maybe a book deal, at least, more power to them.  None of what they describe has any resemblance to how Frau Schmitt or I spend our days or conduct our business.  That goes double for Tammie the Housekeeper.
La Belle d'Esplanade
If you want to experience a true boutique New Orleans B&B experience instead of the yahoo way, we have know of a place on Esplanade Avenue where we recommend you might stay.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Foundation of New Orleans

Somewhere in New Orleans
I've said it before and I'll say it again, you never know what you're going to see when you turn a corner in New Orleans.  The photo above was taken on North Peters Street.

Yup, there's dancing in the streets.  Music, too.  Tonight, as I write this, I'm entertained by a brass band across the street where there's a wedding.  Love blooms in New Orleans, too.
Just another day in New Orleans
When people come here, they ask if they're dressed appropriately for whatever restaurant they have reservations at.  Honey, you're in New Orleans (as any waitress will tell you).  You can wear whatever you want.  Be yourself.  Nobody judges you.  Nobody looks twice.  There are too many other things to see.  It's a kaleidoscope of a city.
Don's Automotive, New Orleans, LA
I was at Don's Automotive the other day, but I don't own a car.  I went because Don's Automotive is also known as Don's Garage and Social Club.  I went to socialize.  Nothing is what appears to be here.  Or, rather, it is what it appears to be but it's also something more.  It's something more magical.
Plaque in the New Orleans Wax Museum
You thought I wasn't going to talk about the wax museum, didn't you?  I haven't forgotten.  There are still about thirty exhibits to go through and I took pictures of every one of them.  

The wax museum, officially known as the Museé Conti, is full of recreations of great moments in the city's history.  There are some other things, too, but it's going to take weeks for us to get to them.  In the meantime, here is exhibit No. 2. A City Is Planned:
The planning of New Orleans
Three men in a Parisian boudoir looked over an inaccurate map of some swampland in Louisiana when they drew the street grid for the French Quarter.  I think Pauger Street is named after the man who designed the original city, but I'm not double checking that statement.  You can if you want to.  I'm betting you're not that interested, so I'm just going to let that fact stand unchallenged. 

If you want to know the truth, ask me over breakfast.  Then, I'll tell you that the city was laid out by Adrien de Pauger, and that he selected many of the street names in the French Quarter, too.  He also designed the original street layouts for Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama.  He got around, but most experts agree that New Orleans was his best work.

You'll agree, too.

Come experience it for yourself.

Until then,
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A trip to the New Orleans Wax Museum

Museum entrance
Hey!  Guess who went to the wax museum?  If you guessed your humble narrator, you're right.

Officially called the Museé Conti, the New Orleans Wax Museum is a real treat, especially on a hot day.  The museum was established in 1964 and the exhibits date from then.

I took enough photos in that wax museum to go on for weeks.  I know.  You can't wait, can you?

Let's start off with the Rediscovery of the Mississippi in 1699:
A plaque in the New Orleans Wax Museum
No complaints about the photo quality, please.  It's dark in the wax museum.  The dim lighting makes everything more lifelike.
Rediscovery of the Mississippi
This is either Iberville or Bienville talking to some Native Americans, Choctaws, I believe.  It's probably Bienville.  They were brothers, but I think Bienville spent more time here.

Fun fact, the first streets off Canal Street headed downriver are Iberville and Bienville.  They run up as far as City Park Avenue in Mid-City.  I like Bienville Street in particular because it has a neutral ground after it leaves the French Quarter and it's lined with oak trees.  

There's a good Creole restaurant on the corner of Bienville Street and North Jefferson Davis Parkway called Neyow's.  We went once and I ordered smothered pork chops.  The cook brought out our plates and she looked my two pork chops.  "Those are too skinny," she said, so she brought out another.  It was already more than enough food.  I don't remember what Frau Schmitt ordered.  I'm sure it was good.

You should click on the link to Neyow's website and watch the video of how they chargrill oysters there.  What's that they're ladling over the oysters?  If I were to guess, I would guess butter.
Clouds in City Park, New Orleans, LA
After we left the wax museum, we headed over to City Park at the end of our street to watch the clouds go by.

À votre santé,

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Small Town New Orleans

Two New Orleanians
New Orleans is a big city.  It's big in the sense that wherever you go anywhere in the world, if you tell people you're from New Orleans they know where you mean.  It's a city that is world famous.  It's the birthplace of jazz, after all.  

When we talk to people over a breakfast of buttermilk drops from the Buttermilk Drop Bakery and sausage from Terranova's, our guests often say that there is no place in the world like New Orleans.  The city is unique in the whole wide world.

I think that's true.  Frau Schmitt agrees with me and she's usually right about these things.  Of course, every place is unique.  Like fingerprints and personal histories, every city has its own feel.  Every city has its own story.  New Orleans doesn't feel like anywhere else.  As to the history of New Orleans, it's a complicated doozy of a tale.  If you have the time to listen, I'll try to disentangle it for you.  It's so convoluted it can make you woozy.  Just soak it in.  You'll be a changed person when all is said and done.
A bicycle tour passes in front of our house
About 360,000 people live in New Orleans.  We're still missing about a fifth of our pre-Katrina population.  Even though it's a big city, relatively speaking, it's like a small town.  Spend enough time here and you'll find yourself running into people you know.  Most of them are friends.  The ones who aren't friends, just aren't your friends yet.  They'll be friends the next time you bump into them.

Bicycle tours stop in front of our house all the time.  We live on a picturesque and historic street that is interesting to tourists (our street has a dedicated bike lane) and our orange house with the blue shutters tends to attract attention from shutterbugs.  

I like to sit out on the front porch to smoke a cigar and read the newspaper, so I get to hear a lot of what the tour guides tell their tourists.  I think it's alright to call people taking a tour a tourist.  I hear a lot of tour guide palaver and patter while I sit on my front porch and I'd like to tell you which bicycle tour I think is the best.  Ready?
Here's that picture again
It's Crescent City Bike Tours.  I know I've mentioned them before on this blog but good things bear repeating.  Kristine and Richie really do a world class job showing off the world class city those of us who live here call home.  

I happen to know Kristine.  After all, she passes by our house almost every day.  When our guests want to take a bike tour of the city, I refer them to Crescent City Bike Tours.  I don't do this because I keep bumping into Kristine's tours when I'm walking our dog around the neighborhood.  I do it because I listen to what she tells people.  It's the real deal.  New Orleans is a place full of stories, some of them true, some somewhat less so.  There really  isn't any need to make anything up.  The city is a magical granny knot of history.  Kristine, who was born and raised here, who's family has deep and famous roots, will tell you the truth.

When you're visiting New Orleans, think about taking a bike tour.  If you're thinking about taking a bike tour, let me provide this link again.  There are plenty of bike tour companies in the city.  I've heard them all.  Go with best.  Let somebody else take the rest.

Frau Schmitt doesn't know Kristine on a first name basis, only by sight from across the street.  I asked her who she thinks offers the best bike tour in New Orleans.  She told me, "That lady with the short black hair who always dings her bell and waves to you."  Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things.  You just heard it from a reliable source.  

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Singing Oak in City Park

Singing Oak, City Park
Some people mistake it for an ordinary oak tree, though an old one.  Other people know its secret.  If you want to know it, read on.
Attribution for the Singing Oak
So, while from a distance, it may seem like an ordinary oak tree.  Closer inspection reveals a little sign that some people stumble over.  It turns out this extraordinary oak is a piece of artwork.  I how much did it cost?

According to the sign, artist Jim Hart was born in 1948.  According to his gallery, he was born in 1952.  According to wikipedia, as of this writing, he was born in the early 1950s.  Who's a body to believe, here?  Let's just say that Jim Hart's birth is shrouded in mystery, the way many things are in New Orleans.  Mr. Hart is Canadian, but the mystery surrounding his birth year puts him in good company in this city.

Interestingly, though the name of this sculpture is "The Singing Oak," the tree itself is not listed as one of the materials.  Mr. Hart only takes credit for aluminum alloy tuned to the pentonic scale.  The living wood is sui generis.  Only God can make a tree.  

So, what does all of this mean?  It means there are chimes of various sizes and tones hanging from the oak tree's branches.  It's enchanting when the wind blows through them.
Chimes in the singing oak (upper half of photo)
Some people call it "the musical oak," or "the singing tree," or "the musical oak tree."  All wrong.  It's The Singing Oak.  The placard that dogs always like to sniff around makes that clear:
It' such an interesting picture I thought I'd show it again
I was standing under the Singing Oak the other day and for no reason whatsoever I thought of Carmen Miranda.
Carmen Miranda
I didn't really, but I've had this picture of Carmen Miranda sitting on my desktop waiting to be included in a blog post that I just had to use it so I could get rid of it.  There's no time like the present.

For those readers who are too young to remember, Carmen Miranda was the inspiration for the Chiquita Banana Lady.  You may be to young to remember the Chiquita Banana Lady, too.  I don't know, though, the image below looks pretty current:
Let's say this is copyrighted by the Chiquita Corporation
The last time I bought a banana, she looked like this:
Again, I'd place the copyright with Chiquita

The original Chiquita Banana Lady sure could sing:

What do Chiquita bananas have to do with New Orleans?  Well, if you didn't know, Chiquita is moving back to New Orleans, making the city once again a major banana port.  In fact, the company just rented a warehouse from Blaine Kern Enterprises (of Mardi Gras World fame) that's located on Earhart Blvd. next to where the new coroner's complex is being built.  

I know you're probably not interested in any of this, but this is the kind of thing you want to be interested in if you are staying in New Orleans for more than a weekend.  We have to talk about something besides Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street over breakfast.  As a licensed tour guide, I'm able to tell you all about the history of the banana trade in New Orleans, from it's beginning up till yesterday.

Of course, the original Carmen Miranda sure could sing, too:

We have some fascinating conversations around our breakfast table.  Feel free to ask about anything.  Chiquita Bananas used to be imported by the United Fruit Company, headquartered in New Orleans.  Their building is still standing, on St. Charles Avenue.  I think it's a hotel now.  Carmen Miranda died in 1955 at the age of 46.  Hers was a career cut tragically short.  I'm not trying to be funny when I say that.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Writing a B&B blog

New Orleans Museum of Art across Big Lake, City Park, New Orleans, LA
Some people ask why I bother to keep our blog so active when, sometimes, it seems like I don't have anything to say.  Can you believe people tell me that?  

Your typical B&B blog will list recipes and things going on the area at the time, and list things, just things.  Blogs that list things are good for SEO traffic (SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization).  Now, regular readers know that I shy away from publishing recipes, schedules and reprinting things that you can find somewhere else.  I don't do this because I want to rank low in Google searches, but more because I don't find blogs that do that very interesting.  I have a confession to make: I don't read a lot of other B&B blogs.  I don't find them very interesting.

How interesting you find our blog is a matter of taste.  I write it, and I'll take my chances whether you find it worth your time.  Some days are better than others.  I admit it.
Sign for the Fair Grounds Race Track, New Orleans, LA
Our inn is located in the middle of Esplanade Avenue.  We measured it yesterday.  We are exactly one mile from Bourbon Street and one mile from City Park.  It's a mile and a half to the very end of Esplanade Avenue at the Mississippi River.  We say it takes 35 minutes to walk to either end of our street, which is an exaggeration unless you are walking slowly.  The first time you walk our street, you'll walk slowly.  There is a lot to see.  After that, it's much faster.

We are a ten minute walk to the Fair Grounds Race Track.  This is important for people who like to play the ponies (opening day is Thanksgiving Day, an important milestone on the New Orleans calendar) and it is important for people who want to go to Jazz Fest.  We are located in an ideal location for people who want to go to Jazz Fest.  We still have a few suites available for the last weekend next year.  We request a four night minimum stay during Jazz Fest.  Why?  Because we like people who are serious about coming to the festival.  Next year we are hosting a couple who got married at Jazz Fest and are coming to celebrate their anniversary.  We're looking forward to it.  We trust they are, too.
Oak trees in City Park, New Orleans, LA
This weekend is Voodoo Fest in City Park, at the lakeside end of our street, about a twenty minute walk away.  Voodoo Fest ends at 11:00 at night and some people are concerned about walking down Esplanade Avenue a little before midnight.  Is it safe at night?  It's as safe as it is during the day, which is to say, yes.  It is safe.

Some B&B blogs will talk about restaurants in the area and specials that are running.  I don't mind talking about restaurants, but Frau Schmitt and I tend to do that in person.  We talk about it over breakfast.  We've been to over 250 restaurants in New Orleans.  That gives us plenty of fodder for conversation, not that there isn't anything else to talk about.  

Regular readers know that I tend to just write about whatever catches my fancy at the moment.  I try to give you an idea of what it is like to live in New Orleans.  It's my perspective, skewed as it may be sometimes. 

Some people expect that Hallowe'en is a big holiday here.  I've never found it to be.  The big holiday in New Orleans is Mardi Gras.  Hallowe'en?  It's up there with Thanksgiving.  It's important and it's celebrated, but it's not that big a fuss.  If you want it to be, it can be, of course.  Like anything, Hallowe'en is what you make of it.
Dis and Dat, Banks Street, New Orleans, LA
A couple weeks ago we went to Dis and Dat on Banks Street.  It's a hamburger and hot dog place in Mid-City.  The guy who owns Dat Dog opened it.  It's alright.  Funky Nola.  I thought Cowbell was better, but Cowbell is even more out of the way.  You can walk to Dis and Dat from our house.

The guy who owns Dat Dog knows what he's doing and the location on Banks Street ensures that it will be busy.  It's a block away from where the new VA and LSU hospitals are being built.  That's prime real estate though the neighborhood looks a little crummy right now.  It will change for the better, the way most things are sprucing up in New Orleans.

So, if you landed on this page for advice on how to write a B&B blog, I hope I haven't disappointed you too, too much.  I haven't included any tips or lists of topics to cover or any how-to advice at all.  We call this showing not telling in the trade.  If you've landed on this page looking for a New Orleans B&B with a little personality, where the hosts do things a little differently, well look at the title of this blog, not at the title of this post.  I can recommend a unique boutique inn where you can stay if you're planning a visit to our fair city.  We live in a wonderful neighborhood as a perusal of our blog's archives will show.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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