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.
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