Thursday, July 31, 2014

Talkin' 'Bout N'Awlins

New Orleans Central Business District
There aren't many streets like the one above.  This isn't only because the Central Business District is small, it's also because most streets down there have at least one beautiful building on them.  I was going to post pictures of them all, but there are just too many.  Then, I thought about all the other beautiful streets in the city outside the CBD.    

I thought about telling you about them all, but there just isn't space. 

Use your imagination:

South Miro Street.  Penington Street.  Odin Street.  Agriculture Street.  Music Street.  Panola Street.  Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.  Poeyfare Street.  Caffin Avenue.  

Keep going...

You can tell us about it over breakfast.  
This used to be a Howard Johnson's
If you're interested, I'll tell you about how the Holiday Inn in the CBD used to be a Howard Johnson's.  It's the one with the clarinet on its side.  There was a sniper up there once, I can't remember if it was a Holiday Inn or a Ho-Jo's at the time, and he was firing a rifle at people in the park in front of City Hall.  That was a long time ago, of course, and nobody talks about it much.  

Good food makes for a good breakfast, but so does good conversation.  Good conversation sticks with you longer. 

If you want to know why the title of today's entry is "Talkin' 'Bout N'Awlins," it's for search engine (Google) optimization purposes.  We're a boutique operation looking to attract a particular clientele.

Until then, we look forward to meeting you.  

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

You never know what you'll see in New Orleans

A live oak tree on Esplanade Avenue
One of your hosts is a licensed tour guide, but he doesn't like to brag about it.  He isn't shy about mentioning it, either.  It just is what it is.  

History isn't necessarily our schtick at La Belle Esplanade.  One of us has a master's degree in something that involves a lot of history.  The other one of us is an autodidact.  We'll let you guess which is which.   We know our history, we live in a historic neighborhood, in a house built in 1883, and we're licensed.  Our inn is full of antiques, but it isn't stuffy or like going to grandma's house.  We don't run a twee place.  Kitschy ticky-tacky isn't exactly our game, either.  There is a stuffed bear, left behind by a guest, but we use it as a chew toy for our pet alligator.  [Full disclosure: There is no pet alligator.]

A lot of history happened in our neighborhood, pretty much as it does everywhere else, but there aren't many signs or plaques to describe it.  We have a picture over the mantle in the lobby sitting room:  
Esplanade Avenue in days of old
It's a picture of a mule-drawn milk cart in our street, diagonally across the street from us.  Most people don't realize it, and not just because the world isn't black and white anymore.
The downtown side of the 2100 block of Esplanade Avenue
Though Mr. Okra drives by every few days, we've never seen a milk cart pulled by a mule.  That said, I was taking a nap this afternoon when I was awakened by the sound of a horse in front of our house.  I went outside.  A jockey was riding his horse up Esplanade Avenue.  You never know what you'll see here.

You'd think the Queen Anne mansion on the North Miro corner has turned into an overgrown lot.  It's a trick of the trees.  When you get close,  you can see that the house is still there.  It's been for sale for the longest time, but the sign isn't up right now.  I don't know if it was sold.
House on the corner of North Miro Street and Esplanade Avenue
About a hundred years ago, there weren't many trees in the neighborhood.  It's different now.  It's very shady on Esplanade Avenue.  There's even a tree in a tree:
Corner of Columbus and North Miro Streets
It's very picturesque.  It's historic and charming, but it's more than that.  It's New Orleans.  If you don't know what that means, you can.  We know a very nice bed and breakfast in the middle of Esplanade Avenue.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Les Saintes Suite (Update)

La Belle Esplanade, New Orleans
That's a picture from this past winter.  That's probably when I started this project of rewriting our suites' descriptions to match the changes we've made since we opened.  I've put buttons for each suite at the top of the blog, in case you want to read them all.  I'm not one to procrastinate, but it's time to put this chore behind me.  Today, I'm going to tell you what Les Saintes Suite is like.
Bedroom from the balcony, Les Saintes Suite
Nothing much has changed.  Some things have, of course, but not too much.  It's always been nice in there.   The orange walls aren't as acidic as this photo will lead you to believe, but it's still pretty potent.  If you ask your humble narrator, he'll tell you this suite is one of his favorites.  Tammy the housekeeper says that, too.

Tammie the Housekeeper
It's charming when a B&B has themed suites.  Les Saintes Suite sounds much better than Room 3C.  You think it's about the New Orleans Saints, right?  The football team?  It's not.  It has plaster statues of saints on the mantles and original artwork by a local artist that incorporates devotional medals.  There is a laminated front page of the Times-Picayune from when the Saints won the Superbowl.  

The bed is an antique plantation-size bed.  Remember what that means?  It's innkeeper speak for a full bed.  It's made to sleep two people, but it's a bit smaller than a queen.  We don't have any king-sized beds and we don't think we need them.  When you have beautiful antique beds like this, nobody minds.
Sitting room view of the bedroom, Les Saintes Suite
Les Saintes is made up of two large rooms on the second floor of the front of the house.  There is a private bath with a claw foot tub. The tub is equipped with a shower head for people who don't like to take baths.  Most people take showers, at least when they stay with us.  The sink is in the bedroom.  I'm not going to tell you that's the Creole way of doing things, but I will say it's more European that way.  

There is a red velveteen upholstered chair in the bedroom and another in the sitting room.  There's also an antique couch in the sitting room.  There are antiques in each room, but the most interesting is the antique radio in the bedroom that still works.  It works better than any new radio and it's all analog and vacuum tubes.  It's a Philco.

There's a small refrigerator stocked with beer, wine, juice, and whatnot.  In summer there's on of Loretta's pralines in there.  In winter, too.  There's a coffee maker and a teakettle.  In case you're wondering if there's a hair dryer, there's a hair dryer.  There's also an ironing board with an iron.  There are other things too.  If you think you might need something extra, please let us know, preferably via email.  We'll be happy to discuss it.
View from the front door, Les Saintes Suite
The walls in the sitting room is more yellow orange, while the walls in the bed room are more red orange.  The ceiling in each is lime green.  

There's a private balcony that has a panoramic view of Esplanade Avenue through the hundred-year-old live oak trees outside of our house.  The trees belong to the city.  They are protected landmarks in the Treme/Lafitte neighborhood and in the Esplanade Ridge Historic District.  I'm afraid that's why we'll never have another street car line on Esplanade Avenue.  The trees make the street too beautiful so nobody wants to cut them down to make way for a street car line.   Some people say just as well; streetcars are noisy.

We live in a city on a main street, but ours is a quiet neighborhood.
Riverside wall of the sitting room,  Les Saintes Suite
Did I mention there's a stuffed marlin?

Though I didn't take a picture of it, there is also a large desk and writing bench in this room.  The set up is a reproduction of my own private desk that most guests don't see.  It's nothing like Willie Wonka.  Instead, it's a desk that allows for plenty of spreading out if you want to check email, research restaurants on Yelp before asking us what we think, lay out notebooks and textbooks while writing a sermon, a memoir, a thesis, or just tomorrow's itinerary.  It's big enough for a map.  Everyone who stays in this suite comments on how great a desk it is.  I can't tell you where I got it because a friend made me promise I wouldn't.

I didn't take a picture of Les Saintes Suite's balcony, either.  I do have a picture of the staircase that leads up Les Saintes and to Le Pelican Suites:
Steep staircase, La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast
Both of the inn's staircases look alike except that one of them has a Louisiana flag hanging next to it.  Some people look at it and say, "Pelican for Pelican."  That's not the reason we put it there, though.  The stairs also go to Les Saintes, and there's nothing pelican-y in the front of the house.

Tammy the Housekeeper says she's worked at a lot of places before she chose to help us out.  "I've never been in a place as nice as this," Tammie the Housekeeper told me.  "Every one of the suites is like a work of art.  Nobody has a favorite because every one of our suites is great."  I looked to Frau Schmitt and she nodded in agreement to confirm that Tammie the Housekeeper was being sincere.  She's usually right about these things.

Please see our website: to learn more about our inn, our policies (the link to which is at the bottom of every one of our website's page), and to make a reservation.  The online calendar we maintain on our website reflects all our suites available in real time.  Go straight to the source.  We're about a 15 minute walk from the French Quarter.  Our street is only the 2nd-most beautiful street in New Orleans, the most beautiful being St. Charles Ave.  What about Bourbon Street?  It depends on what end you want to be on.

We look forward to meeting you.  I took all the pictures with my phone.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Clio, Goddess of Peace, Genius of History

Statue of Clio in September
The last time I wrote an update of our description of our Clio Suite, the only pictures I had of the new bed were from when the bed wasn't even all put together yet.  The bed has been complete for awhile now, so I decided to provide an update of the bed pictures.  I know it's not that exciting, but it needs to be done.  

We put the canopy posts up.  Here's one view from the bathroom.  I may as well show it here.  If you reserve this suite, you're going to see it all for yourself.
Bed in Clio Suite, La Belle Esplanade, New Orleans, LA
You probably don't care about our overhead expenses, but this bed cost a lot of money.  It's a queen.  I know it's expensive because Frau Schmitt and I were balancing the books the other day and I asked what this big expense was.  She showed me the receipt and I stopped squawking.  Frau Schmitt said, "It's for the guests."  I couldn't argue with that.  She's usually right about these things.  If it's for the guests, every expense if justified.
The bed in Clio Suite from the other side, in gauzy light
There are silk flowers and Christmas lights strung over the headboard.  I know.  It makes you think of a honeymoon suite in the Poconos, but it's not.  It's such a beautiful suite.  There's no ticky-tacky.  We're adding new original artwork in this suite.  The whole inn is a work in progress.  If you come back next year, you won't want things to be the same.  You'll want them to be better.   Us, too.

Let's have one more parting shot, this time of the bed from the sitting room:
You get the idea
Twelve and a half foot ceilings make all the difference.  That, and the rooms that are bigger than the average apartment in other world-class cities.  You can do cartwheels in here if you choose to. 

I took these pictures with my phone in the morning, when the sun was coming through the front windows, through the trees.  That's why the walls look more pink this time.  They're really more plummy. 

We look forward to meeting you.

The ceilings are still purple.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Flat Stanley in New Orleans

Flat Stanley at Morning Call
Recently, one of our guests commented that they had gone to Morning Call in the Oaks.

Now, I go to the third Morning Call, in City Park, all the time.  Its got the original bloodlines.   They just closed the second Morning Call in the suburbs, so it couldn't be there.  There's talk about a fourth Morning Call in the Quarter, but it's nothing that's been put on paper.  I don't know anything about Morning Call in the Oaks; never heard of it.  I thought she was talking about Oak Alley.  There's a Morning Call at Oak Alley?

Flat Stanley's staying with us now.  He's a nice enough guy.  I asked him what would be the one thing he wanted to see in New Orleans.  He said, "Morning Call in the Oaks."  I said I didn't know where it is.  "Sure you do, " Flat Stanley told me, "It's where I played on the oaks yesterday."
Flat Stanley in a live oak tree
Kids are always climbing on the 500-year-old live oak trees in City Park.  Did he mean Morning Call in City Park?  Yep, he did.  When we got there, he showed me the menu:
Flat Henry and the Morning Call menu
It's right there in capital letters in red: MORNING CALL IN THE OAKS.  Me and the neighbors have been wrong all this time.  
This menu is served 24-hours
We were getting thirsty by this point.  Flat Stanley asked me to read him the menu.  It was too long to read the whole thing, so I asked him what part he wanted me to read first: Beignets, Local Fare, Cafe au Lait, or Other Treats?  Flat Stanley said, "Other Treats, please."

Here's the Other Treats Menu at Morning Call in the Oaks: Ice cream, popcorn, Irish Coffee, Bailey's Coffee, Mango Freeze, Pralines, Beer: Miller Light, Miller Highlife, Heineken, Blue Moon, Abita Amber, Andigator, PBR, Dixie and Dixie Voodoo, Coors Light.

Notice, they don't list every variety of ice cream.  This is what it's like to live in New Orleans.  Flat Stanley said he wanted a Coors Light.  I suggested we read the Cafe au Lait part of the menu.  That's where you find Milk & Juice.

After he finished his milk, Flat Stanley asked if we could go climb in the oak trees again.  Why not?
Flat Stanley in a live oak, City Park, New Orleans
"This is the best vacation ever," Flat Stanley told me.

Frau Schmitt and I hear that a lot in our line of work.  It's New Orleans, after all.

A votre santé,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Paul McCartney and New Orleans

La Belle de l'Avenue d'Esplanade
I've been meaning to write about this.  Now that it's almost Autumn, Andy reminded me about a song about New Orleans sung by Paul McCartney and Wings:

I only remember Wings as being the Band on the Run.

I've never been a McCartney fan, always preferring Ringo.  However, while I was watching the video of "Call Me Back Again," I thought it sounded familiar.  Of course!  Kid Merv sang it last week at Kermit's Mother-in-Law Lounge.  

There's a Wings connection.  Kid Merv is a big fan of "Live and Let Die."

We're big Kid Merv fans.  Recently, he's been playing every Wednesday at the Mother-in-Law Lounge.  It's about a five minute walk from our house.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Decorative Fountain, City Park, New Orleans

Live oak, City Park, New Orleans
If I was being paid by City Park to write this, I would tell you about the 500-year-old live oaks, the Botanical Gardens, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, the Peristyle, the gondolier, the miniature golf course; all the picturesque things.

They're all there, and there are others that I didn't mention.  I'll tell you if you're interested, but this blog post isn't sponsored by New Orleans City Park.

With that out of the way, we were up in City Park the other day, across from Morning Call, when I saw the wading pool fountain wasn't working.  I pulled over to take a picture:
Decorative fountain, City Park, New Orleans
Frau Schmitt asked if I knew who the fountain was dedicated to.  I didn't know, but I was thinking the Kiwanas.  Frau Schmitt suggested I take a close-up picture of the fountain's plaque:
Decorative fountain plaque, City Park, New Orleans
No dedication intended.  Turn's out it isn't a commemorative fountain, at all.  If you can't read it, it says, "This is a decorative fountain and was not designed for inter-active play.  Please do not allow children to wade in the fountain."

Now we know why the fountain's turned off.

Of course, the live oaks in City Park are meant to be climbed on.  There are always kids climbing on them.
Live oak, City Park, New Orleans
Frau Schmitt likes to tell people that City Park is bigger than Central Park in New York City, which is true.  Most people find this very impressive.  I like to tell people that City Park is bigger than Rhode Island.  This isn't true, and Frau Schmitt is always quick to correct me.  We make a good team.  At least, that's what Tammie the Housekeeper sez.
Tammie the Housekeeper

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mardi Gras Indians - New Orleans

House in the 7th Ward
It doesn't matter how many times you've seen them.  It doesn't matter how much you've studied them.  It doesn't matter if you have one as a friend.  It doesn't matter how smart you think you are, or how simpatico.  Unless you are a Mardi Gras Indian, you don't know anything about them.

That's what Brian told me after they went to the Backstreet Cultural Center.  I couldn't disagree when he told me.  After all, whenever I try to explain it, I always say, "The Indians just do what they do.  They don't do it for you, they don't do it for me.  They do it because that's what they do.  You should just feel privileged to witness them, if you get the chance."

I thought about Brian when I was reading this article on the St. Joseph Night and the Mardi Gras Indians.  I don't know the guy who wrote it, but I kind of know what he's talking about.  I don't know if I agree with all his observations, but he wrote this in 1997, and he's from Detroit.  
The next lot over in the 7th Ward
I quoted Brian the other day as I was giving a walking tour of our neighborhood.  As I was talking about the boat that's been washed up in the Musicians' Union Hall parking lot since Katrina, a guy with a faraway look wearing Mardi Gras beads walked by.  He had gray hair and an unkempt beard.  He looked like he'd seen his mother die.  

"Who's that?" one of our group asked.

That man is a shaman.  He knows more things about this neighborhood than I ever will, secret things, the kind of things that happen after dark.  His name is Jean.    

A votre santé,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cornstalk Fence - New Orleans

Dufour Plassan House
There really is a cornstalk fence in our neighborhood.  Not many people know about it, not even the people who live here.  I think it's the most interesting of them, but that's only because it has more fruits and flowers than the other two.  

I always think it's on Crete Street, but it isn't.  It's another block up, on the corner of Bell and North White Streets.
Corner of Bell and North White Streets
I have red beans on my face.  

I told somebody about the fence and I told them it was on Crete Street.  They took me literally and, even after asking somebody who's grandmother lived on the street, they still couldn't find it.  He'd never heard of it.  Imagine?  A beautiful cornstalk fence like this:
Cornstalk fence - Esplanade Ridge
I was going to take a short cut and crib information and pictures of the cornstalk fence off Esplanade Avenue off the internet, but there is remarkably little to find.  It's like this fence is a secret.  I had walk up the street to verify the address and take these pictures.  This may well be the largest cache of images of New Orleans' Esplanade Ridge cornstalk fence in existence.  Feast your eyes:

It's a cornucopia of a fence
I didn't take a picture of the house, or the stained glass window featuring ripe corn.  I was only interested in the fence.  To see it all together in the big picture, you'll have to come back.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Good guests make good company

Our new official Trip Advisor official
I wouldn't say I've met a lot of people from Iowa over the course of my life, but I've met more than Frau Schmitt has while she's lived in the U.S.  It's not that people from Iowa are uncommon.  It's the 31st most populous state in the nation, with a population of a little over 3,000,000.  

The population of Connecticut is 3,500,000; it's the 30th most populous state.  The population of Louisiana is 4,625,000.  Louisiana is the 25th most populous state.  

Iowa contains 56,202 sq. miles (rank: 26), Lousiana contains 52,378 square miles (rank 31), and Connecticut has 5,543 square miles (rank: 48).  We live in a big country full of people.

The reason Iowa's been on my mind is because I've always held the opinion that the nicest people come from Iowa.  I said this to Glenda in the lobby.  I know she enjoys reading our blog, so I want to make sure that she knows I wasn't just saying it to be polite.  My opinion is now a matter of public record.

I have a wish.  9,000,000 people visit New Orleans every year for business or pleasure, mostly for pleasure.  New Orleans has 350.2 sq. miles, some of it water, and there are about 450 hotels and B&Bs in the city.  My wish is that everyone who visits New Orleans from Iowa stays with us.  We only have five suites so we may not always have room for everyone, but if we do, and you're from Iowa, we hope you'll consider staying with us.  
Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain

This weekend we had guests from Iowa (Hi, Glenda!), and also guests from Boston, from the U.K., from Tallahassee, from Arkansas, from California, from Sweden, from Philly, and from Chicago.  They weren't all here at the same time, but it was a long weekend: Independence Day and Essence Fest.  I'm not saying that it wasn't a pleasure to host everyone, or that Iowa people are better, or anything.  They would certainly never say that.  Everyone is welcome.    I'm not laying out the welcome mat only to Iowa citizens or to Iowans-at-heart.  It just occurred to me that New Orleans could use a little more Iowa in it. 

After you stay with us, if you want to see what the rest of America is like, we'd like to recommend a trip Iowa's northwest corner.  It's like the northeast corner of Connecticut.  It's the way things should be in a lot of ways.  

Lawrence Ferlinghetti one told me, "Open eye, open heart."  When you explore your surroundings with curiosity and enthusiasm, you will have the adventure of a lifetime no matter where you are.  New Orleans is a great place to visit and it's a great place to live in.  There are other places that are just as nice, just in a different way.  

We've been getting a lot of demand to stay with us and we are offering more lagniappe than we used to at check-in, at breakfast, and at check-out, and during the day.  For this reason we have to raise our prices a modest amount next season.  It costs us a bit more to offer a bit more.  Unfortunately, it has never been our policy to offer discounts or accept coupons.  Good memories are made in New Orleans. 

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Innkeeper's Lifestyle

Bed and breakfast on Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
After this weekend, which contains both Independence Day and Essence Fest, things slow down in New Orleans.  They've been slowing down since June started, but after the 4th of July you really start to notice it.  You can't escape it by August.  Then things pick up again in September.  Tourism is New Orleans' biggest industry so it has it's own seasons.  It's slow in summer.  It's hot.

We've slowed down a little bit.  We get to spend more time with our guests at breakfast.  It's always nice to have a full house, but we enjoy it more when we can share time with one or two or four people in the morning.  

People always ask us, "What's it like to be an innkeeper?"  Usually, these people are younger, too young to remember Newhart.

I suppose running a B&B in Vermont is a lot like running a B&B in New Orleans, except the part that everything in New Orleans is the opposite of what you'll find in Vermont.  That said, there is an ever-changing cast of interesting characters.  We always feel honored that you chose us to be your hosts in our fair city.

It's not like Newhart, but ours is a very interesting profession.  We enjoy it.  We don't have any background or training.  We're self-taught in the arts of hospitality.  It doesn't hurt that Frau Schmitt is the nicest person you'll ever meet or that your humble narrator is a licensed tour guide and armchair historian.  We enjoy our days and we enjoy our guests.  We enjoy sharing.

There isn't much routine to our days.  We get ready for breakfast and then we sit and chat with our guests for the next hour or so.  Once you leave we may clean the suite ourselves, or we'll let Tammie the Housekeeper do it.  Or, we'll get a phone call from Tammie the Housekeeper to tell us she can't come in today.  I'm not going to say it happens more often than we like, because we both like Tammie the Housekeeper.  I'll just say that Tammie the Housekeeper has a very interesting family life that keeps her engaged, and family is more important than anything else.  Who can disagree?
Tammie the Housekeeper
I suppose they could make a television show based on our lives.  It wouldn't be as interesting as you might imagine.  Good times, mostly; never any drama.  It's a varied routine revolving around taking care of other people and making sure they enjoy their time in New Orleans, introducing them to our neighborhood that we enjoy so much, and inviting them to enjoy a little sliver of our world.  It's nothing at all like this:


Though some people mistake Frau Schmitt for Suzanne Pleshette (who was my grandfather's favorite actress) because they have the same smile, it's been four years since your humble narrator wore a suit and tie, or a sweater.  Most people mistake your humble narrator for the handyman.  I am the handyman, but they think that because I talk like Tom Poston.  

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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