Monday, August 18, 2014

On Medical Leave

Unfortunately, I sprained my typing finger and now it's in a splint until Labor Day.  Per doctor's orders, your humble narrator will be on medical leave until the splint comes off.  

We are just about full for the month of October.  If you're looking for someplace to stay while visiting New Orleans in September or November, however, we still have plenty of room.  The same is true for most of next year.  We look forward to meeting you.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Everything Looks Crummy in New Orleans

Louisiana maid
"The Spirit of Louisiana" is a painting that hangs in the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) at the end of our street (Esplanade Avenue).  Louisiana used to be a lot bigger.  Think of the Louisiana Purchase, which more than doubled the size of the United States of America.  New Orleans is going to celebrate its 300th birthday in two years.  That's pretty old, depending on where you come from.  If you come from Iowa or Alaska, it's almost incomprehensibly old, like Mesopotamia.

Frau Schmitt chides me when I say it, and she is usually right about these things, but I like to say that things look crummy in New Orleans.  Do they?  Not to us, but we live here.  We're used to it.  If you're used to everything looking new and spiffy, well, New Orleans can look kind of crummy.  It's a city that's been lived in for a long time.  We just got a Panera, but we still don't have a TGIFriday's, an Olive Garden, or a Chipotle Grill.  You have to go to the suburbs or to another kind of city for these things.  We do have Popeye's.  
A dead lizard at Fort Pike, New Orleans
Even the new buildings look old.  That's what happens when you live in the tropics.  It's humid here.  If you walk the sidewalks at night, palmetto bugs, which look exactly like big cockroaches, will scuttle out of your way into the grass.  The condition of the sidewalks are atrocious.  Watch your step.  The views are beautiful.  They'll make your heart ache.  They'll make you wish you were staying longer.  They'll make you wish you live here.  It's a magical place.  It just looks crummy in some (most) places.  That's just the way things are.

New Orleans is beautiful on its own terms.

Be not afraid.  
Snapper turtles for sale
If you find yourself on Japonica Street, next to the Industrial Canal in the Upper 9th Ward, you can buy live snapper turtles.  It takes all day to make good turtle soup.  We made it once and we ate turtle soup for a month.  We eat it at restaurants, now, by the bowl; it's more efficient that way.  Make sure to ask for extra sherry.  Make sure it's made with real turtle meat.  Some places just use chopped up veal, thinking nobody will know the difference.  You know what kind of places those are?  

Places that look crummy are usually crowded.  Tourists don't even realize there's an open restaurant behind the boarded up windows.  Most people like it that way.  I'm agnostic on this matter, but I've made it my mission to find the best turtle soup in the city.  I have a couple places I like.  I like Jack Dempsey's, which is out of the way, in the Bywater.  The walls inside are unpainted particle board. Most people go to Bachannal instead.  To each his or her own.

Frau Schmitt and I tend to agree, except when the discussion turns to Mena's Palace.  Neither of us knows what to make of Mena's Palace.  It's in the French Quarter.  There's better turtle soup in plenty of other places.  We recommend Mena's Palace for other dishes.  The ones we like best at Mena's are dirty dishes.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Creole New Orleans

Three houses on Esplanade Avenue
Frau Scmitt and I know a secret.  It's not about the ziploc bags full of water and pennies.  I covered that a couple days ago.  And it's not that only the orange house in the middle of Esplanade Avenue is a B&B, that the blue house and the green house are just our neighbors.  The secret is that Frau Scmitt is from Germany.  The second half of it is that your humble narrator hails from Connecticut.

Regular readers won't be surprised by this revelation, but people who take the city bus tours will be.  The buses regularly stop in front of our house so that people can take pictures.  Why?  As the tour guides like to say, these three houses are textbook examples of Creole color schemes.  

Frau Scmitt and I picked the colors for La Belle Esplanade, at 2216 Esplanade Avenue.  The person who chose the colors for the blue house at 2212 Esplanade Avenue is Greek.  We run into her at the Greek Festival every spring.  As to who chose the color scheme for the green house at 2222 Esplanade Avenue, we're not at liberty to say.  They're not native New Orleanians; they're successful transplants.    Whenever I run into them, I'm reminded of the motto on the Connecticut State Seal.
Sigillum Reipublicae Connecticutensis
The banner sez: Qui Transtulit Sustinet, "He Who Transplants, Sustains."  I always like the original version of the seal better, where the Hand of God is involved:
Colonial Connecticut Seal
The houses are painted in Creole colors, don't get me wrong.  When I go into some of the more out-of-the-way neighborhoods, these are the kind of colors I see.  Not everything colorful is Creole, however.  I was talking to a historian recently and he told me that, when they were built, all the houses on the block were probably white. 

There is an orange house around the corner from us and I'm pretty sure the colors weren't chosen because of any lingering ancestral Gallic joie-de-vivre.  It's an unsubstantiated hunch somebody told me about.  

I was reading the New Orleans Advocate today when I came across an advertisement for a new exhibit at The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) in the French Quarter.  It features the work of the photographer, Richard Sexton.  I met him once when he was standing at the very tip of Gayarre Place, the park across the street from us.  We introduced each other and I googled him afterward.  He's legit.  

As if having his own website isn't enough, Mr. Sexton also has a new book out, Creole World, a collection of his photographs, some of which are on display at THNOC.  I had forgotten all about our chance meeting until this morning when I saw the advertisement for the show's opening in the newspaper.  The illustration chosen to represent the show was a photo of La Belle Esplanade and her immediate neighbors.
Photo taken by your humble narrator
I had a sense of deja-vu.  It was like that time my mother called to tell us we were in the New York Times.  (We're in the article's last illustration if you don't want to read the whole link.  You should read it.)

That day I met Sexton came flooding back to me.  You know what else came flooding back to me?  A few weeks ago, Frau Schmitt came home with a copy of Creole World.  I went to the shelves in the lobby where we keep all the New Orleans books and I sat on the couch to see if our inn is really in this book.  I started from back to front, which is always bad advice, but I finally found the picture.  We're featured on page xli, in the introduction.  We've got the whole page to ourselves, except for our neighbors.  

This remains my favorite picture of La Belle Esplanade:
A photo from 2012
It was taken by our first guests.

I always say that this is your home while you stay here.  Why?  Because home is where the heart is.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade Bed and Breakfast.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Orleans B&B Recommendation

This is in New Orleans
Somebody asked me what New Orleans B&B I would recommend if I were going to recommend a New Orleans bed and breakfast as the best way to experience the city in an authentic neighborhood, where a vacation becomes an immersion experience of what it's like to live here.

I had a few ideas, and I tossed them around until I decided on my answer.  

We were up at Fort Pike last weekend because we wanted to get out of New Orleans, but we still wanted to be here.  
This is in New Orleans
Some people think Fort Pike is part of the Orleans Parish Prison System (OPPS).  It isn't.  It's a historic fort that was abandoned and now it's a state park.  It's on the uptown side of the Rigolets that separate Lake Pontchatrain from Lake Borgne.  It's the last toehold of New Orleans before Orleans Parish ends and Slidell, Louisiana, begins.  Hardly anyone visits there.  Some people say it feels forlorn.  A lot of people do, actually.  Even the people who are neutral don't claim the place is even remotely cheerful.  People died there.

This is what the end of New Orleans looks like out in the East:
This bridge leads to St. Tammany Parish
If you want to know what New Orleans B&B I would recommend, I'll tell you.  It is House of the Rising Sun.  It's in Algiers, at 335 Pelican Avenue.  It's close to the ferry, be that as it may, but it's in Algiers Point and there's something to be said for that.  The Point isn't like the rest of New Orleans.  It looks like New Orleans, heck, it is part of New Orleans, but everything is quieter.  Algiers is like a snow globe where the sun always shines.  It's relaxing.  It's a sweet locale for a New Orleans B&B.

Vince and Lola stayed with us once.  They were live-in innkeepers at another bed and breakfast in a city I can't remember.  They stayed with us to do reconnaissance for their employers, seeing what the competition was doing well and, well, the most polite to say it is, copy it.  That's the implication, but Vince and Lola weren't really spies and those aren't even their real names.  They were the nicest people you'll ever meet.  I've obscured their personal details.  They weren't Dutch, they were Walloons.  Once they told us that, we couldn't forget them.
Fats Domino's House, Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans
Vince told me that he wanted to meet Kevin, or, as Vince liked to call him, Cockney 007.  Vince was very impressed by Kevin's innkeeping skills.  I've always been, too.  That's why I'm recommending House of the Rising Sun if La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast if full.  

Now, pay attention because I'm gonna warn ya: It's gonna be a totally different experience.  The 330 block of Pelican Avenue in Algiers Point is nothing like the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans.  Algiers is New Orleans, of course, but it's different.  It's quieter on the West Bank.

Neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator really know Kevin and Wendy.  We've seen them, and vice versa, of course.  We've said hello.  I've shaken Kevin's hand (having washed mine many times since), but none of us has ever really talked about business.  It was mostly about...  well, I don't remember what it was about.  That's what competition is like in New Orleans.  It's always good to see them.
Fats Domino's house
The inn Vince and Lola were keeping was listed #1 on Trip Advisor  when we met them.  Vince told me that House of the Rising Sun had been #1 for the longest time.  "I'll tell you a secret," Vince told me.  "I think Kevin knows more than I'll ever know."  I've thought about that statement for a long time afterwards and I think Vince said more than he realized at the time.  A lot of people feel that way, your humble narrator included. 

If I were going to stay on the West Bank of New Orleans, I wouldn't stay in one of the rebranded drive-in Ho-Jo motels along the Frontage Road in Gretna.  I'd stay at House of the Rising Sun.  It's beautiful in Algiers.  

I read a lot of online reviews in my profession.  I want to see what the competition is doing well and, well, the most polite way to say this is, copy it.  I don't find a lot to copy.  Every B&B is unique.  I'll tell you one thing though:  House of the Rising Sun is an option I would consider if I was visiting New Orleans instead of living here.
Read the Fence: F-A-T-S

The city is a kind of kaleidoscope.  Fats Domino's House is in the Lower 9.  House of the Rising Sun is in Algiers.  Uptown is different from Downtown.  The West Bank is different from the East Bank.  New Orleans is a city with a rhythm all its own, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  If I didn't link to it enough already, here it is again: House of the Rising Sun, 335 Pelican Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New Orleans Legends Revealed!!

There's a New Orleans tradition in this picture
If you're reading this, I hope you're gonna visit New Orleans, otherwise, you probably won't care about this one bit.  Let's soldier on, shall we?

First of all, you're not supposed to use exclamation points if you're going to be a serious writer.  Though I was taught that way, I always prefer two exclamation points (!!).  I think it's more exciting that way.  If you clicked on the link to this blog expecting excitement, read on, friend!!!

We've been going to Cafe Navarre quite a bit recently.  We like it.  It's off the beaten track, a neighborhood place, no pretensions, good food, their own routine on how things run but not too odd that you can't figure out to order at the counter and fill your own drink during weekdays.  We normally go on Sundays even though we're not really brunch people.  

Cafe Navarre is run by the same people as the Panola Street Cafe.  Panola Street is way uptown, out of our way, in Carrollton.  It's another neighborhood place.  They make a wonderful hamburger steak at Panola Street Cafe, but not as good as at Liuzza's on North Telemachus and Bienville Streets, which shouldn't be confused with Liuzza's-by-the-Track on Ponce de Leon Street.  Cafe Navarre is behind Delgado Community College, on Navarre Avenue.  It's a bit out of the way for the casual tourist, but Parkway Bakery and Tavern isn't.  Parkway is a bit closer to our house, probably the same distance as Liuzza's, but farther than Liuzza's-by-the-Track, which is just about six blocks away from our house.

What does this have to do with why you're reading this blog?  Well, at all these places, you'll see ziploc bags full of water hanging on an untwisted coat hanger wire from the eaves.  There are always three shiny pennies in the bag.  The bags are evenly spaced, about four feet apart.
A bag full or water and three pennies
These aren't the only places you'll see them.  They're all over the city, outside commercial establishments and dangling from private front porches.  They keep flies away.  At least, that's what people say. 

Is it true?  I've never seen any flies at any of these places.  
A closeup
You can try this at home if you live in a place plagued by flies.  The old Creoles say it only works here, but I don't know.  I've never seen this anywhere else, so it's impossible to say.  Maybe people tried it everywhere else and then they gave up.  In New Orleans, people take the bags in by October.  They put them out again around April each year, tap water and pennies, every time.  

Now you know.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

You Bet Your Life in New Orleans

Undertaker, Grave Digger, Auto Repair shop for sale, New Orleans, LA
After she reads our blog, Tammie the Housekeeper will sometimes accuse me of trying to funny with the captions.  It gives us something to talk about when we're tidying up [Ed. Note: Tammie the Housekeeper is really the one tidying up.]  I explain to her that I don't make anything up, here, and she knows that, but there are some things in New Orleans that are so improbable, they can't possibly be true.

But they are.  Tammie the Housekeeper knows that, too.

There really is an undertaker, gravedigger, and auto repair shop for sale.  It's Uptown, in Central City, near where Buddy Bolden used to live.  We live in Mid-City, an entirely different neighborhood.  Just so nobody thinks I'm making this up, I took a picture of the other side of the building for proof that it exists in three dimensions:
These are usually considered three separate professions
I can't make out what was censored on the lakeside of the building, but the small print underneath says, "Not open to the general public."  I didn't try to go in.

All this talk of dying put me in the mind to visit Xavier University. Not because people die there, but because I've been wanting to visit the St. Katherine Drexel Chapel, which has been open about a year.

They're known for their pharmacy school.  Xavier University was founded by St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1915.  They just built a new chapel on the campus.  It was designed by Cesar Pelli.  It's kind of modern from the outside.
That's I-10 in the background
When I was up there, the Demo Diva was tearing down one of the buildings across the way.  She has pink cranes and dumpsters.  

I don't make any of this up.  I had a picture of it, but now I can't find it.  Here's her website.  She looks just like her picture on the side of a dumpster.  It's uncanny. 

Anyhow, the chapel is kind of modern on the inside, too.
St. Katherine Drexel Chapel, Xavier University
I guess that's the way they're building chapels these days.  

On the way out, I took a picture of a picture of Saint Katharine Drexel.  
Saint Katharine Drexel
Reading about Tammie the Housekeeper without seeing her picture is like saying the secret word without the duck coming down.  For those readers too young to know what this means, we provide a video.  You'll get the reference at 1:04 in.  It's a quiz show.  The host is Groucho Marx, a comedian who had a big film career and then ended up on television.  I've never seen the other two before, but there's something not quite right about the man.  He's the kind of guy who I picture running an Undertaker, Gravedigger, Auto Repair shop.  Who knows?

The moment you've been waiting for:
Tammie the Housekeeper
A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...