Monday, September 29, 2014

What will you see in New Orleans?

View from the field in the Superdome
As I write this, our blog got 249 readers today.  Small beer, to be sure, but it almost sets a record for people checking in on what's going on in our small corner of New Orleans.  What drew people to read the wonderful prose your humble narrator offers up once or twice a week?  I don't know.  There's no accounting for taste.  So what do you want to know about?

Let's start out with a disappointment.
Dixie Beer sign
Dixie Beer is a New Orleans original.  The original brewery was on Tulane Avenue, a few blocks uptown from our house.  Since Katrina, it's been abandoned and the property was taken by the VA to build a big new VA hospital.  The good news is that the big brewery building is going to be incorporated into the hospital campus instead of being torn down as originally planned.  The other good news is that you can still buy a six pack of Dixie at most local grocers.  The bad news is that it's brewed in Milwaukee.  At least it's still around.

The Falstaff brewery building is still around, too.  It's apartments now.  I've posted pictures of it before so I won't waste your time doing it again.  You can trawl through the archives if you're so inclined.  That will be good for traffic.  Regal was another big local brew.  That brewery was torn down to build the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street.  The fourth local beer was Jax.  The Jax Brewery is also still standing, a few blocks uptown of Jackson Square in the French Quarter.  It's a shopping mall filled with sad shops and cell phone accessory kiosks.  Have a good time.

Not everything is forlorn in New Orleans, though it sometimes looks that way.  The reverse is true.  It's a vibrant and happy place.  Everyone is friendly.  We find this to be true, but we've lived here long enough to pass as natives.  Our guests tell us the same thing, even if they have a foreign accent, like from the UK or Switzerland or Iowa or Australia or Malaysia or Lebanon or Kenya or Cuba.  Everyone they meet is nice and they swap stories and if our guests are lost the people who live here give them directions and they also often give them something to drink on a hot day, or shelter if its raining.  It's that kind of a city.
La France Suite balcony
I was talking to someone who will remain nameless and she suggested that I email our previous guests to let them know what's going on at the inn and what specials we're offering.  I don't know about you, but I don't like to find a lot of spam email in my inbox trying to sell me things.  YMMV.  She was the kind of person who said LOL instead of laughing.  It wasn't endearing.

I'm toying with the idea of an email newsletter, but I figure that anyone who is really interested in keeping up with La Belle Esplande, or with la dolce vita, will read this blog.  If not, well, they don't know what they're missing and it isn't much anyway.  Ignorance is bliss.  That's always been my usual modus operandi.  

This woman who will remain nameless asked me if we blog about the inn.  Well, sort of, I said.  "Do you post recipes and top ten lists?  They generate a lot of traffic and interest."  Well, no, we don't do that.  I just write about whatever I write about.  It could be anything or nothing.  Mostly it's a smidge more than nothing and a bit less than interesting.  I hope you've read this far... all 249 of you today.
A $250 a night hotel room.  Not La Belle Esplanade
It's the La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast blog (just look at the header) so I feel kind of obligated to talk about La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast fairly frequently.  We're in New Orleans, so I feel obligated to talk about New Orleans.  Everyone is interested in what's happening in New Orleans.  It's like magic here.  If you leave disappointed, you'd better check your pulse to make sure it's still beating.

What other material do we cover?  This.  That.  Whatnot.  The pictures sometimes match up with the words in some way.  I take the pictures with my phone.  I make it all up as I go along.  We do the same thing at breakfast when we're talking with guests.  Like the people who live here, we live here, so we're open to serendipitous twists.  The conversation can go any which way.  It makes things interesting, even during the pregnant pauses.  It's very romantic where we live.  Good memories are made here.

If you're looking for a colorful bed and breakfast, I have a suggestion.  What's this blog about again?  Ah, yes!  It's about the 2nd-most beautiful street in New Orleans: Esplanade Avenue.  Ours is a marvelous neighborhood.  It's missing something, though.  It's missing you.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B (Part IV)

2216 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
Today we reach the conclusion of the series of blog posts that many people have been waiting for us to conclude.  I can't blame them.  We like to save the best for last.  Then, we follow up with something else.  Life is good in New Orleans.

Our Iowa correspondent ended her list with one final comparison of what it is like to stay at the Hyatt in the Central Business District and La Belle Esplanade, what many people call: The most unique B&B in New Orleans (TM).  Who says that?  People.  The same people who are waiting for me to finish this series.

So, what is this last comparison?  Okay, I'll tell you:

Hotel:  Staff doing their job.

B&B:  New friends making you feel welcome!!

Sort of a damp squib of a denouement, don't you think?  I didn't add those two exclamation points.  She did it and she's right.  You have two friends in New Orleans.
Tammie the Housekeeper
We had a consultant visit us recently, a real expert in the hospitality field.  This guy knows his stuff.  He was passing through town and stayed with us for a night.  He was a nice enough chap and he didn't want to bother us, even when the smoke alarm battery was low in his room.  Every minute for a couple of hours:  Beep.....Beep.... Beep.  

I asked him, "Why didn't you call us?  Didn't I say that you aren't bothering us if you need to call?  Frau Schmitt and I are only fifty feet away, even if we can't hear the alarm going off."  He said he didn't want to bother us.  That bothers us. A guest's comfort is our primary concern.  We're professional innkeepers, after all.  The worst part is that I changed that battery last month.  Duracell isn't all it's cracked up to be.  

Anyhow, he pulled me aside on his way out to tell me, "Don't tell Frau Schmitt I told you this, but you two should teach classes on how to be professional innkeepers.  You two are what every innkeeper aspires to be.  You're good.  You're two of the best."  I promised not to tell Frau Schmitt but why he didn't want me to, I have no idea.

I have a pretty good idea why he told me the next thing.

He pulled me further aside and whispered, "Don't tell Tammie the Housekeeper this, but she's a housekeeper's housekeeper.  She's discreet and attentive to details.  She deserves a raise."

Believe me, I'm not telling Tammie the Housekeeper that, especially that last part.  

Tammie the Housekeeper is certainly discreet, though.  Even when she's supposed to be around, I don't know where she is half the time.  She's like a ghost.  I found her this afternoon reading a comic book in the dining room.  "Did you clean Le Pelican Suite yet?" I asked.

She looked up.  "I did it about a half hour ago," she answered before she went back to reading.  "Where do you get this old copy of The Brave & The Bold?" she asked.  It was the issue starring Batman and Wildcat---I know you don't care.
Sticker from Crescent City Comics on Freret Street, New Orleans
There's no point in lying.  I get them at Crescent City Comics on Freret Street.  They have boxes of old comics books, 20 for $10.00.  Most of them aren't worth reading, but the new ones are even less so and those cost three bucks or more for one.  Very, very few of our guests are interested in comic book shops, but when they are, I send them to Freret Street.  Nice guys.  Professionals.  I visit every two months or so just to check in.

No matter what you're looking for in New Orleans, remember, you have two friends here...and then there's Tammie the Housekeeper who you will probably never see.  There's something to be said for that.

Want to know what else that professional innkeeper told me when he pulled me aside?  He said, "This was the most unique breakfast I've eaten in months.  It's tops."  Then, he asked me for the address of the Buttermilk Drop Bakery where I got the donuts that morning.  It's a few blocks away from our house, on North Dorgenois Street.  They have a new website.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B (Part III)

World's Largest Cuckoo Clock
I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking how long can he drag out this "New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B" series?  Probably to a part IV.  Sometimes, it's a long slog to cover all the bases, but it's worth it when you finally reach home.

I know what else you're thinking.  You're thinking why is he using the same pictures from last post?  What do these pictures have to do with anything, anyway?  I could give you the easy answer, tell you I'm lazy, but that isn't it.  I have my reasons.  I'm an artiste.  It doesn't have to make sense.
Does voodoo work?
So, if this your first time reading our blog and you don't know what's going on, here's the skinny: a recent guest from Iowa, of all places, sent me a comparison of what it was like to stay at La Belle Esplanade B&B and what it was like to stay at the Hyatt down in the Central Business District.  She kindly gave her permission to reprint it here.  I'm doing it in installments.  Why installments?  I'm a little light on material at the moment---plus, I'm an artiste.  Timing is everything.
Voodoo works
Hotel:  Free water if you turned on the tap in the bathroom.  Everything else cost money.  They nickel-and-dimed us after we checked in.

B&B:  A small refrigerator stocked with a complementary selection of local beer, some wine, some juice, a bottle of New Orleans own sweet Big Shot soda, a carafe of filtered water, and some whatnot like a praline. 

Hotel:  A large screen TV.

B&B:  A small TV with basic cable.  We never turned it on.  In New Orleans, life is too interesting for TV.

Hotel:  Industrial carpet glued to a cement floor.

B&B:  Refinished original hardwood floors worn smoothly dimpled by uncountable tiptoed footsteps since 1883.  No splinters, either.

Hotel:  Standard furniture designed to pack tightly into a Chinese shipping container.  Furniture store art.

B&B:  Lovely antiques mixed with some comfortable modern pieces.  It wasn't grandma's house, but it wasn't pre-fabricated, either.  Historical prints mixed with original oil paintings by a local artist we got to meet.

Hotel:  No surprises.

B&B:  One delightful discovery after another.  Personality.
Joy Theater, Canal Street, New Orleans
I'll be honest with you, the inside of the Saenger Theater on Canal Street is breathtaking.  The sign outside is a showstopper, too, but I still prefer the Joy Theater.  When those three letters light up over the marquee, I always think, "This is New Orleans."  I even think this during broad daylight.  For me, the Joy marquee sums up the city.

I still prefer the inside of the Saenger, and Frau Schmitt agrees with me.  She is usually right about these things.  They did a bang-up job in there.  If you ever have a chance just to go into the lobby, you should.  The Joy, not so much.

So, there is still one thing left to compare between staying at a New Orleans hotel and staying in a New Orleans B&B (our much anticipated conclusion).  This list doesn't apply to all B&Bs, of course, only the one in which our far-flung correspondent spent her too-short time in this magical city we call home.  To learn what that is, tune back in later this week.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B (Part II)

A sign in the Weisbaden, Germany, City Hall
Neither Frau Schmitt nor myself are big believers in voodoo, but we know a lot about it.  You can't not know about voodoo if you live in New Orleans.  I don't want to lead you to believe that occult arts are everywhere or that voodoo queens are still around for consultation---they are, especially in Jackson Square.  We just don't go there often.  I'll admit, neither one of us has had our palms read.  

Here's what I know:  There is magic in New Orleans.

There is magic whether you stay in one of the chain hotels in the Central Business District, what we call the CBD down here, and there is magic if you stay in an eccentric and colorful New Orleans B&B.  Is it there's more magic in a B&B?  Some people don't believe in it, but we know one person who wrote a comparison between the features she found in a hotel she stayed in after staying at La Belle Esplanade:
World's largest cuckoo clock, Weisbaden, Germany
Hotel:  View of a busy street from the window.  Cars stuck in traffic.

B&B:  View of lush gardens from a private balcony facing the back.  A living neighborhood made up of old small homes lit every morning by a citrus sunrise glow.  

Hotel:  Standard fiberglass tub and shower.

B&B:  Antique cast iron claw foot tub equipped with a shower head.  Inviting for a long relaxing soak; efficient for a quick rinse, when desired.  

Hotel:  Credit card key.

B&B:  A house key.  It was our home for the duration of our stay, after all.

Hotel:  A dark room with neutral walls and anonymous furniture store artwork presumably purchased by the square foot.

B&B:  The glow of soft lights welcoming us at night, up the stairs to a room painted different colors, with a sky blue ceiling, and original artwork, prints of historical maps, and an antique mirror, and ceiling fans.  
A live oak in City Park, New Orleans
A lot of people come to New Orleans, and, if they only visit the places listed in guide books, they'll see a part of New Orleans, but they won't get a real grasp of everything this great city contains.  People live out rewarding lives in New Orleans.  There is magic here, and it isn't just the kind magic that can be packaged and sold. 

City Park is almost twice the size of Central Park in New York.  You don't need to walk all over it to know that City Park is special. One place you probably won't walk if you're here for a short visit is the abandoned golf course in the middle of the park.  That's where the picture above was taken.

There are more secrets than anyone can possibly discover, even on the longest weekend.  Those are for the people who live here to know.  They know them, and they share them.  Some of them work in hotels, of course, but they don't have the time to share.  Corporate frowns on it, anyway.  The policy of a big chain hotel is, "get 'em in, get 'em out, keep 'em quiet."  

We do like our guests to be courteous to the other guests, but we also encourage everyone to explore, to ask questions, to go where few other tourists go.  That's where you'll find the magic that makes New Orleans great.  Everything else is the gravy that spills over the side of the plate.

Part III follows in a few days.  Until then...
A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

We look forward to meeting you and sharing what we can about this magical city we call home.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Orleans Hotel vs. New Orleans B&B (Part I)

This is a pelican
It might surprise some people, but we sometimes get email about the contents of this blog.  Thanks for stopping by.  We sometimes get postcards in the regular mail, too.  That's always nice.  Who doesn't like mail, digital or pen-to-paper?

Remember last entry when I said I would be sharing some observations from a far-flung correspondent about the differences between a blocks-long and blocks-wide and several-floors-tall chain hotel in the New Orleans Central Business Distract and an all-too-humble picturesque boutique New Orleans B&B located on Esplanade Avenue?  Well, the time has come to share a little of that.  Here we go...
No two pelicans are exactly alike
Hotel: Elevator to the 6th Floor.

B&B: A well worn, winding staircase to the second story that brings back wonderful memories of homes of childhood friends, current friends, a favorite uncle and aunt.

Hotel:  No breakfast.

B&B:  New foods from around the neighborhood that awaken the palate and prompt the salivary glands to anticipate what else a great culinary city has to offer.  Pleasant conversations that lead to discovery and common understanding between people of diverse backgrounds who meet, if only for a few days, in a place where good memories are made.  Cloth napkins.

Hotel:  King bed.  I couldn't find my husband in the middle of the night.

B&B:  A beautiful antique canopied bed where we slept close and contented in each other's company, with the kind of easy familiarity that it takes years to acquire.  We cuddled.  We snuggled.  He snored.  I smiled. 
New Orleans is for lovers
Some people say Virginia is for lovers.  Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things, but I've never heard her say that about Virginia.  She hasn't been.  She's been to New Orleans, though.  She lives here... with me.  We love it here.  You will probably love it here, too.  

There a few more comparisons to go through and your humble narrator is a tad short of material this month.  We'll be stretching this theme over a couple of entries.  It seems to have brought out the poet in our far-flung correspondent, at least when she's talking about the New Orleans B&B experience.  This is Part I.  Stay tuned.

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Staying in a New Orleans B&B vs. a New Orleans hotel

City of New Orleans Recycling Center
Esplanade Avenue is a beautifully named street.  An esplanade is a beautiful city promenade.  An avenue is, well, an avenue.  We live on Esplanade Avenue, which is pronounced es-plan-AID, not ESS-plan-ahd.  When in doubt about New Orleans street names, pronounce them wrong.  You'll save a lot of time that way.
City of New Orleans Recycling Center on Elysian Fields Avenue
I love the names of New Orleans' streets.  They are evocative.  Music Street, Humanity Street, Frenchmen Street, Marengo Street...the list goes on and on.  There's even a Colapissa Street.  

We don't recycle glass in New Orleans, and this is something that surprises most people.  After all, glass is the first of all recyclable products.  Even the Romans recycled glass.  Not here, though.  Everything else.

If you stay at a hotel in the Central Business District, or you eat in one of the chi-chi green restaurants in New Orleans where most of the help except the management is tattooed and pierced and the food is certified organic and farm-grown, they'll have a special trash can for glass.  They're fooling you.  Most of it ends up in one of the landfills in Jefferson Parish.  The rest of it is trucked to garbage dumps just outside Slidell.
City of New Orleans Recycling Center
The city of New Orleans Recycling Center is located on Elysian Fields Avenue, another beautifully named street.  It sounds nicer if you say it in French, of course.  Then, it's Les Champs d'Elyseés.  There's a similarly named street in Paris, we're told.

We have a far-flung correspondent in Iowa, of all places.  She wrote  a comparison between what it is like to stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast, a humble boutique inn located on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, and staying at what she called an "unnamed national hotel," also in New Orleans.  I'll name it.  It was the Hyatt Regency on Loyola Avenue.  It was the big Hyatt between City Hall and the Superdome.  I love it there.  They don't recycle glass, either.  It's like walking through the set of Logan's Run.

I'm not suggesting that a young Michael York is shooting anybody at the Hyatt Regency, only that I tend to get lost wandering around the Hyatt on Loyola Avenue and I'm reminded of the movie's gloomy and poorly lit trailer:

There are reasons to stay at a big chain hotel in the New Orleans Central Business District (CBD), like the fact that it's the place that hosts a conference or convention.  We don't live in the most convenient neighborhood for business.  Ours is a neighborhood that has been built for idle picturesque leisure and wiling away pleasant hours as one day turns into the next.

You don't have to be 35 years old or younger to enjoy Esplanade Avenue.  If that sentence doesn't make any sense to you, you should watch Logan's Run.  You'll also learn that Farrah Fawcett always had talent.

Regular readers know that we write these posts with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind, and we've just hit our maximum word count, after which Google spiders and robots won't read anymore to pull this post up in search engine searches.  It's an opportune time to break the narrative, such as it is, and continue the next time with what our Iowa correspondent had to say.
Across the street from the New Orleans Recycling Center
Until then,
A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two Weeks in New Orleans

What's behind the curtain
What have you been doing the past two weeks?  Nothing much has been happening in New Orleans, the way nothing much ever does, which means plenty has happened but most of it doesn't make sense unless you spend a lot of time here, which we do.  All in all, there isn't much to report.  My typing finger healed up just in time.

Esplanade Avenue is a beautiful street.  I don't say this because we live on Esplanade, I say it because it's true.  I'm not the only one to think this.  Frau Schmitt agrees with me and she's usually right about these things.  Other people say it, too.  While Esplanade Avenue is the highlight of our part of New Orleans, I also always say that we live in a very interesting neighborhood.  I say it all the time.

It's not the French Quarter and it's not the Marigny.  It's not the Garden District.  Heck, it isn't even Faubourg St. John, which is just on the other side of North Broad Avenue, three blocks away.  Our neighborhood doesn't have a name because it's sort of in the middle of everything, a pleasant kind of Interzone, if you will, without the junkies, criminals, surrealism or cut-up stream of consciousness.  Maybe it is a bit surreal sometimes, but our part of town is more beatified than beatnik.  

Once the hipsters have priced themselves out of the Bywater, I suspect our part of town will be next.  Wikitravel lumps us in with Mid-City, which is close enough.  Other people consider us part of Treme, which is also somewhat accurate.  Esplanade Avenue is sort of a world of it's own, the boundary line between the 6th Ward and the 7th Ward, if that means anything to you.
Clouds in the 7th Ward
Judging from the reviews we get, the vast majority of people who stay with us enjoy our neighborhood.  The neighborhood seems to grow on them the longer they stay, but we never know for sure until we read it in black and white.  I'm the kind of person who believes what he reads.  Regular readers of this blog seem to be that kind of person, too.  Am I right?
A street corner in the 7th Ward
We do not live in the French Quarter.  The Quarter is about a 20 minute walk away, but ours is a very different kind of neighborhood.  It looks nothing like where you're from, unless you're from New Orleans, of course.  I don't want to sugar coat any of this.  We live close to all sorts of things.  The best fried chicken in America is fried just five blocks behind our house, for instance, and the best record store in the world, if you collect punk LPs, is three blocks away on Bayou Road.

Some people think your humble narrator watches a lot of Nick at Night.  Untrue.  I was, however thinking of The Jeffersons' theme today because I got an email announcing the scheduled musical line up for the 6th season of Jazz in the Park.  

Jazz in the Park is a series of free concerts held on Thursdays in Armstrong Park in Treme.  The park is about a twenty minute walk from our house, on North Rampart Street.  I like the video that went along with the announcement:
That instrument you hear in the beginning is a washboard.  It's going to be a solid lineup.  I especially like all the high school marching bands that are performing.  If you think watching them is going to be a ho-hum recital, you're in for a surprise.  They march through our neighborhood to practice for Mardi Gras, and I see them every year around our house.  They're great.  This is how music is made in New Orleans.

If you're thinking about visiting New Orleans between April and June next year, I suggest arriving on a Wednesday or early on a Thursday.  I always say four nights is the right amount of time for a visit.  A little longer is always nicer, but shorter is always too little.  Of course, you should come for as long as you have time for.  You won't regret it no matter how long you stay.

If you have two weeks free, and you have nothing else to do, I know a nice place where you can stay.  We've got room, unless it's the first weekend of Jazz Fest.  We're already booked solid for that.  

A votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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