Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Devil's Circus in New Orleans

2216 and 2222 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA
I just got a little neighborhood gossip that confirmed some other neighborhood gossip that has been accumulating over the years that we've lived in our part of the city.  It's no secret that movie stars and celebrities live in New Orleans, or that some of them live on Esplanade Avenue.

What I heard from one of our neighbors, though, is that John Miljan used to live in the green house next door to our inn.  Yes, that green house.  I don't have any proof, mind you.  I'm only repeating what I hear on the street, the N'awlins grapevine, if you will.

Remember, nobody who lives in New Orleans calls it N'awlins.  I only did that for your benefit, dear reader.  Don't try to pull that stunt while you're here.  It will show you're a tourist, a rube from the sticks.  It will be like wearing Mardi Gras beads when it isn't Mardi Gras season.  It's an invitation for pickpockets to strike up a further conversation and pinch your wallet without you suspecting.

Who was John Miljan?  He was an actor who appeared in a total of 201 films.  Some of them were real box office gold.  Nobody remembers him now.  

He appeared in "The Devil's Circus," which was a big hit in 1926.  It played at the Bell Theatre on the corner of Bell and North Dorgenois Streets, just three blocks from our house.  The Bell Theater burned down a long time ago.  We are getting a new movie theater in our neighborhood, but that one is going to be on North Broad Avenue, about a fifteen minute walk from our house vs. five minutes.  Still, it's always nice to have a movie theater in your neighborhood.  How many other places can say that?  Most people have to drive a half hour or more to see a movie on the big screen.  Especially if you live in Wewoka, OK.  

[Special note:  The City of Wewoka has a new website since we last checked in with them.  The new website looks very nice at the top of the screen.  Then you scroll down.]

In case you don't remember The Devil's Circus, we include the first third of the film below.  I think it was shot in New Orleans.  It's certainly the kind of story that happens in New Orleans every day.

Your humble narrator enjoys watching silent movies.  Your attention span may vary, of course.  If you like jangly piano music, you're going to love this soundtrack.

I think John Miljan played the fat man who appears at 3:13 in this clip.  From what I understand, after talking to the neighbors, he wasn't in the best of health at the time.  

From what I can gather, John Miljan lived at 2222 Esplanade Avenue, in the green house.  He died in 1960, in California, long before Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator moved to New Orleans, so we don't know anything first hand.  There isn't a plaque in front of the house to commemorate his residence the way there is at the Degas House a block away.  The Degas House has two historic markers on the sidewalk talking about the French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas.  Maybe you've heard of him.  We don't have anything but innuendo and legend about somebody who may or may not have lived next door that nobody remembers today.  Sometimes, that's enough.  Sometimes, that's better.

Nobody in the neighborhood even remembers John Miljan's name.  All they know is that a great actor once lived in that house and that he was in The Devil's Circus, Footloose Widows, and The Amateur Gentleman, all films released in 1926.  It was a very good year.

The Amateur Gentleman.  I would like to see that one.  Maybe I could learn something.

Buffa's, a 24-hour bar and restaurant on Esplanade Avenue, often shows silent movies on Thursday nights.  Frau Schmitt and I often go to see them, have one of the best bloody marys in the city, and enjoy a little convivial conversation amongst other people who live in New Orleans year round.  

I was talking to Lenore, who lives on the block behind our house, and she told me, "That actor who lived in the green house really chewed up the scenery in The Devil's Circus.  He ate it up and spit it out."  That's why I think John Miljan played the fat man.  He stole the show.

You never know what you'll find in New Orleans.  It really is a devil's circus.  It isn't all naughty, though.  You'll stumble across plenty of things that will warm your heart, make you happy to be alive, and raise your eyes up to the clouds.  It's that kind of a city.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why people love New Orleans

A tree in City Park, New Orleans
It looks like there's a mountain in the distance in the lower right corner of that photo.  I don't know what it is, but it certainly isn't a mountain.  There are no mountains, and, really, there aren't any hills to speak of in New Orleans.

Now it's time for my most favorite recurring feature.  Let's open up the old mailbag, shall we?

Today, we received a letter from an avid reader of this blog who was in New Orleans during French Quarter Festival.  We didn't have anything available, unfortunately, so they stayed in a hotel in the city's Central Business District (CBD).  As our correspondent says, it was okay.  She would rather they stayed on picturesque Esplanade Avenue but we only have five suites and we tend to fill up early if something is going on in the city.  Of course, there is always something going on in New Orleans, officially or not.

There's a lesson here: make a reservation with us early.  Unless it's July or August.  We have plenty of room in July and August.  Few people visit New Orleans in the summer but I think it's the best time of the year.  There aren't any lines, the price for everything goes down, and you'll have the run of the city.  It's nice if you can take the humidity.

On to the part of the letter that tickled me:

"...the first thing we did was go to Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House for oysters. (see pic attached).  This advice I got from your blog of course!  You were right!  There was a line at the Acme and a line at Felix's, but not at the Bourbon House and the oysters were huge and delicious!  We went back a second time later in the week."

I did write a blog post about the best oysters in New Orleans in January, but that's not the one she was referring to.  That was the time I ran into the chap from Sedgley, England and I directed him to Casamento's.  That's not the advice our correspondent followed.

She was talking about a more recent entry in the archives, in which your humble narrator dined on oysters with caviar!  That's the blog post about the best oysters in the French Quarter.  There is a difference.  No offense intended to the Bourbon House, but Casamento's really does have the best oysters in town.  'nuff said.

I wasn't going to tell you this, but I've been back to the Bourbon House, myself, a second time.  For the exact same meal.  In five years, I haven't been to Acme or Felix's yet.  There is always too long a line.  I hope nobody learns about the oyster bar at the Bourbon House because there will be a line there, too.

So why do I write about it here?  Because nobody reads this blog.  The secret is safe.

How empty is the Bourbon House oyster bar?  Let's take a look at that attached pic mentioned in the letter:
A man walks into an oyster bar
You might think that guy was pretty lonely sitting all by himself.  I wish I was there that day but I was riding my motor scooter in the Lower 9th Ward investigating a bakery that's opened up down there. Don't worry.  I have it on good authority that he was in very good company, the best kind.  He was with his wife.  

When you order a dozen raw oysters at the Bourbon House, you get a shucker's dozen.  You get thirteen.

Remember, if you are thinking of staying with us, make a reservation early.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sweet dreams come true in New Orleans

A parade went by our house
I know the blog has been a little video clip-intense recently.  I promise this will be last time, until I forget about my promise, of course.  

We are going to see a New Orleans movie this weekend.  No, not Green Lantern and, no, not Planet of the Apes.  We aren't going to see a movie shot at a New Orleans soundstage.  We are going to see a movie about New Orleans.  "The Whole Gritty City."

The film is playing at Indywood, a small theater located at the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue that's in an old laundromat.  It really is a kind of homemade art house affair, with only about 36 comfortably upholstered armchairs in front of the screen and a string of Christmas LEDs to mark out the aisles when the lights go down and the show has started.  The restroom is in the back, behind the curtain.  We don't go often, but we go often enough.  The popcorn is handmade and the person who mans the ticket booth/concession stand (such as it is) is always enthusiastic about having people come in to see a movie.  

Now, I'm going to divert into other, related terrain.  Whenever I'm in one of the neighborhood bars in the Marigny or in the Bywater or on North Carrollton Avenue (are there any bars on South Carrollton Avenue?), somebody inevitably plunks a buck in the jukebox and chooses to hear one song in particular.  What song is it?  Here's the video produced for the original version.  It's a good song, but it gets better when it's pressed through the New Orleans filter.

I don't know how old you are.  Let me tell you something, though, gentle reader.  If you were a high school student in suburban Connecticut lounging around the high school cafeteria with MTV playing in the background while you ate a hamburger made of horse meat and smothered with ketchup that was considered a vegetable under the Reagan administration, that was the video was da bomb.  All eyes were glued to the TV screen.  Yowza!  Welcome to the 80s!  It was followed by Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band.  Click that on link at your peril.  It's pure, painful top 40 goodness.  It does feature Christie Brinkley, or at least a Christie Brinkley lookalike.  Who?  Who cares?  I don't care enough to look it up.  Neither should you.

Being a completist, I'm going to attach another real turd of a video by someone who will be performing in New Orleans later this month.  It will make your parents wonder where they went wrong.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Mr. Marilyn Manson.  You don't need to click play if you don't want to.  You won't be missing much.  Sweet dreams are not made of this version.  If I can be excused for sounding like a grumpy old man, it's like looking at, and listening to, a slophouse trough.

Now that I've established my street cred, I'd like to go on record as saying that that version is a symptom of the decline and fall of Western civilization.  To all of you disgruntled Marilyn Manson fans, keep those angry emails coming!  I read every one.  I don't care how much lipstick you put on that pig, I refuse to kiss it.

So, after sitting through that morass, let's take a listen to this song performed the New Orleans way.  Welcome to New Orleans and it's brass band tradition.  Everything old is new again.  This is the most boring video we offer today.  There's no movement.  It's the best version of this song, though.  Unlock your mind.  Dance like nobody is watching.  Cut loose.  

Turn up the volume and imagine you are in New Orleans.

You are here in spirit.  That's almost as good as being here in person.  Welcome aboard.  New Orleans loves you.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The #1 Rated B&B in New Orleans

Somebody bumped into me when I was taking this picture
We are not ones to boast because we think it brings bad luck.  Nothing lasts forever.  It has been our good fortune to be ranked as the #1 bed and breakfast on Trip Advisor for one solid year as of this month.  To be more explicit, out of 144 B&Bs listed on Trip Advisor in New Orleans, as of this writing (it used to be 146), we have been considered the top of the list for sleep quality, location, rooms, service, value and cleanliness.  YMMV.

It gets better.  Out of 532 lodging options listed on Trip Advisor, we have scored the highest from traveller reviews for one year, month after month.  You won't see that when you filter the results on Trip Advisor.  They tend to steer people toward the bigger hotels, which is fine.  We only have five suites.  We don't want every Tom, Dick and Jane finding us on the front page when they are looking for someplace to stay.  We wouldn't have time to answer the phone.

Our position is unplanned.  It has taken us by surprise just as much as it has everyone else.  As I may have said before, way back in the day when we opened the inn and started this blog, neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator have any background in the hospitality industry.  We've just made it up as we went along.  This isn't to say that just anyone can be Grade A Number One just by opening the door.  It takes some business sense.  It takes the kind of personality that enjoys interacting will all sorts of people.  It takes an encyclopedic knowledge of the city people are visiting.  It takes humility, goodwill and good cheer and attention to detail.  There are angels in the details.  A good innkeeper has to be willing to not have a day off for months at a time.  Thankfully, we love what we do.  It isn't really work when you enjoy your profession.

Being an innkeeper doesn't necessarily require good organizational skills, but it helps if your wife has them (doesn't it always?).  My usual befuddlement about what is going on tends to add to our inn's charm.  I'm quick on my feet when I need to be.
The sign in our foyer

I took the above photo the other night, in the wee still hours of the morning.  The reflection in the glass is our address, 2216, as the moonlight and star shine spill though the transom over our front door.  We live in a magical city.  New Orleans has treated us well.  That is what we try to share with our guests.  Dreams can come true on Esplanade Avenue.

Almost certainly, some young Turks will open a New Orleans B&B, tap into the zeitgeist, and claim the No. 1 position.  Nothing lasts forever.  Almost certainly, one of our fellow innkeepers will again reclaim their rightful place at the top of the list.  You'll notice that I don't call our fellow innkeepers our competition.  There is no competition, or, when there is, it is the most friendliest and convivial sort.  In New Orleans, you only have friends, whether you have met them yet or not.
Mardi Gras flowers in our lobby
We opened La Belle Esplanade in September, 2012.  We would like to thank the many, many guests who have stayed with us and who have shared their experiences with the worldwide web.  

Sometimes, people stay with us and accuse us of having our family or friends plant reviews on various online travel sites.  We've never done that.  Your humble narrator's mother, who is the other person who reads this blog (Hi Mom!) has never written a review on our behalf.  Neither has anyone who hasn't stayed with us.  Nor do we offer discounts or treats to people who do decide to write a review.  Firstly, we are allergic to discounts and, secondly, we believe in honesty.

I learned early on, when I was a wee lad, that honesty is the best policy.  This is one of the few things upon which Frau Schmitt and I both agree, and she is usually right about these things.

We are not young Turks, and we are not New Orleans natives either.  We have only lived in New Orleans five years now, but we call the city home.  The city calls us citizens, and there is no nicer compliment than that, let me tell you.

When you find yourself in the September of your years, we hope you find yourself as happy as your humble narrator.  We hope you meet wonderful, interesting people every day and that you get a chance to share what you know to enrich their time in the wonderful city that you, yourself, call home.

What's that he said?  The title of two Sinatra songs in the same post?  Why, yes, I do believe that's what I said, but I'm not going to share a Sinatra video, or even one of Maurice Chevalier.  I'm sorry to disappoint our regular readers (Hi Carol!) who think they've discovered my method.  Let's end this with The Soul Rebels Brass Band.  The Soul Rebels were at the front of a second line parade that went past our house this afternoon.  Why not?

Sweet dreams are made of this.  Let it roll.  That's jazz.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where Smart People Stay in New Orleans

A parade went by our house recently
If you are thinking about staying at our inn, I'm not trying to flatter you by implying that your one of the smart set.  Plenty of smart people stay in the French Quarter.  They also stay in the Marigny, in the Bywater, in the Central Business District (CBD), in the Garden District, and in those indistinct neighborhoods that get collectively lumped together as being in "Uptown."

We live in Downtown, which means we live on the downriver side of Canal Street.  We are not in the French Quarter.  I should say that again and italicize it in case some people don't understand that.  We are not in the French Quarter.  We are a located a mile away.  The Quarter is about a 20 minute walk.  We live on a beautiful street, so most people don't mind, but if you don't like to walk and you want to spend all of your time on Bourbon Street, you should probably stay in the French Quarter.  If you want to spend all your stay walking around the Garden District or on Magazine Street---you should stay in the Garden District.  We are not in the Garden District.

I know it is more expensive to stay in the French Quarter and that you'll probably have to stay in a hotel or an illegal short-term rental apartment you found on Air B&B.  You really can't fault us on our location when we make it perfectly clear that we are not in the French Quarter when we explicitly say this, even on our website.

I'm the first to admit that we are not the cheapest accommodations in town, especially if you are newlyweds in your salad days, but we aren't the most expensive either.  We try to offer good value for the money spent.  We don't try to nickel and dime you.  We offer plenty of lagniappe.  

New Orleans itself does a lot of the heavy lifting making your stay memorable.  Our job is to be ambassadors to this wonderful city we call home.  That's why we spend so much time in the morning chitchatting over breakfast, making recommendations and trying to explain what you've seen the day before.  What's important to us is that you understand, at least a little, of what it's like to be part of this grand social experiment we call New Orleans. 
The same picture twice.
As a small boutique operation, we only have five suites available at any given time.  That means we can only really accommodate 10 people each night.  We've been rated the #1 B&B in New Orleans for a year now (which isn't something we like to brag about---it won't last forever) so we tend to fill up early.  If we don't have anything available when you're thinking of visiting our fair city, please check out bbnola.com, which the site for the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO).  Every room and suite listed on that site belongs to a licensed B&B in the city and they are serious about providing an experience above and beyond what you'll get in a hotel.

Some people prefer a hotel and they try a B&B for the adventure of it.  Most of the time, it's a rewarding experience.  Some people, however, belong in a hotel.  We tend to win those people over but, again, remember, we are not in the French Quarter.  We are in a real neighborhood where people live.  It's not like the neighborhood you live in (I feel pretty confident saying that) but it is a typical New Orleans neighborhood.  Nobody in New Orleans goes to Bourbon Street every night to catch beads tossed off the balconies by drunken tourists.  Nobody.  People who live here have other things to do, much richer and more rewarding things.
Did I mention a parade went by our house recently?
If you are looking to learn what it is like to live in America's most unique city, consider staying in a B&B.  If you are looking to learn what it is like to live on Esplanade Avenue, in our part of town, think about staying with us.  If we don't have a vacancy, there are five other B&Bs on our street a pearl's throw away.  If they don't have a vacancy, the whole city is your oyster, really.  You won't leave disappointed.

A day spent in New Orleans is better than a week spent in most other places.  I feel pretty confident saying that, too.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Biggest Frede Fup Fan in America

The biggest Frede Fup fan in America
Who is Frede Fup?  I had the chance to ask the man himself over breakfast.  "It's a name, like Donald Duck," he told me.  Well, that made everything as clear as mud.  "A fup is someone who treats somebody else," he told me.  "Like a doctor?" I asked.  "No, no, like swindler," he answered.

Ah.  I see.  At least I thought I understood at the time.  Now, I'm not as sure but I've still become a big Frede Fup fan.

Between that conversation and now, I think it's safe to say that I've become the biggest Frede Fup fan in America, and I don't even speak Danish.  I know what kaerlighed means, but that's about all.  If I ever go to Copenhagen, I can say "love" over and over without context or conjugation and I'll seem like a crazy person.  I hope most Danes speak a smattering of English, the way most Germans do, otherwise I'll be lost or locked in a looney bin, which are pretty much the same thing.

I don't want to spend my Danish vacation in a mental hospital.  I want to see Hans Christian Andersen's house.  Howzabout a little Danny Kaye?

I went on Amazon to buy a couple of Frede Fup CDs.  There aren't any Frede Fup CDs for sale on the American version of Amazon.com.  I guess I have to move to Denmark, which I won't do for the reasons I've described above.  I only know one word of Danish.  It's an important word, to be sure, but it won't get me very far.

There aren't any Frede Fup CDs for sale on the American version of Amazon.com but there is just one mp3 download of the compilation album "De Største Er Se Små (Sange Til Anker)."  I'm old fashioned, so I don't have an mp3 player, so I didn't part with my 99 cents to get the download of Frede Fup singing "Lystsejlads."  Instead, when I need a Frede Fup fix, I go back to our post from a couple of weeks ago and I watch the video that I posted then.  I listen to it in the background while I do my chores.

I'd love to see Frede Fup perform at the French Quarter Festival or at Jazz Fest or even at Jazz in the Park.  I can see the crowds going wild over this Danish phenomenon. Maybe it's just my imagination, but imagination is a good thing to have when you live in New Orleans.

Our city is a place in which dreams come true.  It can happen to you.  What are you waiting for?

À votre santé,
For dit helbred,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Carefree Times in New Orleans

Mother-in-Law Lounge, view from under the Claiborne Overpass
I've been thinking about getting a bat house to put in our garden.  There's one in the Couturie Forest in City Park that I've been admiring, a double, and I've been thinking it would be nice to have bats swarm out of our backyard every night.  They're harmless.  They'll eat the mosquitoes.  It will be something to see, especially for our goth guests, of which we've had none.

I don't know why we don't have a lot of gloomy types choose to stay with us.  Maybe it's all the color and whimsy we fill the house with.  We have had a few Ann Rice fans, but not too many.  We aren't located in the Garden District, and that's where I think most die-hard Ann Rice fans stay.  Lafayette Cemetery is there, across the street from Commander's Palace on Washington Street.  That's where the "cemetery scene" from the movie was shot.  I have no idea what happened in the scene because I haven't seen the movie.

I was going to post a clip from Interview with a Vampire, but I don't want to watch it.  I decided to post a clip of something else instead:

It might surprise you to learn that I'm not a big fan of the movie Gigi, either.  I thought it was boring.  Frau Schmitt and I saw it at the Prytania Theater, uptown.  I do, however, enjoy watching Maurice Chevalier.  He was very good at playing himself.  Much like your humble narrator.  He had something else in common with your humble narrator.  He knew how to wear a hat.

One of New Orleans nicknames is, "The City That Care Forgot."

Frau Schmitt and I went to the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar last week to watch Kid Merv play.  We're big Kid Merv fans.  It was our first time at the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar, even though it's only about eight blocks from our house.  Is is safe to walk to the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar?  Not if you read this discussion on Trip Advisor.  We walked.  I just told a young couple from Scotland to walk there from our house.  Everything in New Orleans looks crummy and run down if you aren't from here (except the Garden District, of course) and if you aren't from here, you're excused for feeling nervous.  If you feel nervous, take a cab.  If you're from Glasgow, you'll probably feel comfortable.  No worries either way.

If you want to know if I think Esplanade Avenue is safe, it's the subject of the second-most popular post on this blog.  You can usually find it in the column of popular posts to your right.  Our most popular post?  By far, it is "How Much Do Cigarettes Cost in New Orleans?"  You can usually find it in that right hand column, too.  You can find a lot of useful information in our blog archives if you have enough time to kill.  It's full of surprises.  

Sitting in the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar, I had a conversation with a fellow patron while we listened to Kid Merv.  It went a little bit like this:

Other than my plans for the bat house, there isn't much to report, if you can count that as something worth reporting.  I've been meaning to replace the pump in the fountain in our back yard, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.  I've had the replacement pump for two weeks.  It gives me something to talk about, as if I don't have enough to talk about.  By the time you get here, maybe I'll have the fountain working again.  Plugging in the pump while my feet are calf-deep in water is one of my least favorite chores.  Luckily, I only have to do it once a year or so.

The goldfish in the fountain survived the winter.  There are six of them.  They've all grown about 2 inches over the winter.  It was a fat December followed by a carefree February.  They are now about three inches long.

I'm like a proud papa, happy to show them off.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Music in New Orleans

Fats Domino's house
I didn't go down to the Lower 9th Ward to take the above picture.  I swiped it from Wikipedia, which has an extensive article about Fats Domino's career.  The Wikipedia article describes the house as a mansion, and it may be thought of as such in the Lower 9, but it isn't the kind of gingerbread mansion you'll find in the Garden District or on St. Charles Avenue, uptown.  It is a stately house, however.  It's a landmark.

Most people don't realize Fats Domino is from New Orleans, or that he decided not to tour, nationally or internationally, later in life.    He is still alive.  He still doesn't tour.  He never wanted to leave New Orleans.  There wasn't anything good to eat anywhere else.  We here that a lot from people who came back post-Katrina.

Neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator are music people.  We go out to hear live music, and there is plenty to hear, and we enjoy it, but we don't follow the bands or go to specific shows, except that we are big fans of Gal Holiday, who plays at Chickie Wah-Wah most Sundays, and we re big fans of Kid Merv, who plays on Wednesdays at the Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo Bar as of this writing.

We're more like Richie Cunningham:

When Frau Schmitt and I lived in the Lower Garden District, I used to go to Lucky's Bar on St. Charles Avenue and the scene was often like what's depicted in that video.  There is nothing wrong with that, but it's nothing like Fats Domino.

Here's Fats:

Now, I should ramble on a bit about this and that and whatnot so that Mr. Domino can finish singing while you read along.  Fats Domino was born Antoine Domino which is a real Creole name.  The Antoine part if pure French.  The Domino part, I don't know where it comes from, but you meet a lot of people in New Orleans who have Domino as their last name.  It isn't their stage name.  It's their birth name.  Their last name is Domino on their baptismal certificates.

I've been reading the history of Domino Sugar, now known as Domino Foods, and the whole thing is very complicated to disentangle, but I think the company got its name after it bought a sugar refinery in New Orleans owned by one Walter Domino.  This is only my armchair historian's opinion and anyone writing their PhD dissertation on the subject should not quote our blog as a source.  It is pure speculation based on the evidence I've been able to uncover over the course of a few cursory afternoons.

Who says we don't take our job of relating New Orleans history seriously?  They have no idea how much effort we put into our profession.  Actually, most people who stay with us do.  Frau Schmitt and I are constantly correcting each other over the breakfast table, presenting what we know so that guests have the most accurate picture of what New Orleans is, how it got to be this way, and where it seems to be going.  We have two different points of view that tend to converge in the happiest middle sweet spot.  It's right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue.

We aren't the Bickersons or the Lockhorns.  We are much more pleasant to be around than that.  Ours is not an inn that runs on affectionate dysfunction or ennui or inertia.  It functions through the love we share for what we do in this marvelous city we call home.  Home is where the heart is.  We are ambassadors for our neighborhood and, larger yet, for New Orleans, which some people call America's most unique city.  We certainly feel that way and that's what we try to share.

We live in a city dense with details that overlap and intersect, all in a wonderful web that is both confounding and charming at the same time.

Let's have one last video clip.  This one is Louis Armstrong singing Blueberry Hill:

I could, of course, write and write and write some more about Louis Armstrong, but he is one New Orleanian who's story must wait for another day.  I'm not going to tackle it in this format, just as I defer from discussing Fats Domino in depth.

You can hear the same song sung many different ways when you hop from club to club in New Orleans, or even when you just walk down the street.  All of them are right.  We live in a city where music and magic are in the very air.

Listen for yourself with an open ear and an open heart.  New Orleans will treat you right.  I found my thrill on Esplanade Avenue.  You will, too.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fun New Orleans Facts

Mural on the side of the Mother-in-Law Lounge
Hey!  Is that Kermit Ruffins?!?  It should be.  That picture is part of the mural on the uptown side of the Mother-in-Law Lounge on North Claiborne Avenue.  This is our 301st post on this blog and the 3rd in a row in which we won't be discussing the Mother-in-Law Lounge.  If this is your first visit to our blog, welcome aboard. It's nice to have you here.

To get you up to speed, your humble narrator is an innkeeper in New Orleans who tends to ramble over two or three topics per entry, sometimes tying them together, sometimes just jumping from subject to subject according to his whim.  We're in the middle of a bait-and-switch serial in which I use pictures of the Mother-in-Law Lounge to illustrate things that have nothing to do with it directly.  We are also on our second installment of including video clips of Maurice Chevalier in the movie "Gigi."

Thank Heaven for little girls.  I've often had the same sentiment myself as I wistfully sit at a café table watching the world go by.  It's like that refrain from Ernie K-Doe: "And ohhhh water!/  I can live without lemonade!/  But to live without girls,/ I can't live without girls/ It's like a man with a hole in his head!"  Frau Schmitt sometimes notices a faraway look in my eye and she'll ask me what I'm thinking about.  My answer is always the same: "You."

If you want to hear Ernie K-Doe sing those lines in his own inimitable style, refer to the end of our 300th post where there's a video.  If you don't feel like counting to 300 from the beginning, here is a shortcut: it's the entry before this one.

The Mother-in-Law Lounge used to be Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge.  Now it's Kermit's Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge.  You don't believe me?
It's true
Here are some fun bullet points I got off a placemat.  They would make for a good PowerPoint presentation, in case anyone ever asks me to give one:

* 69% of U.S. shrimp are harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.

* 70% of oysters harvested in the U.S. come from the Gulf Coast.  In blind taste tests, 85% of Americans prefer Gulf oysters over all other varieties.  ---That's more than the percentage of people who prefer Pepsi over Coke in a blind challenge.

* 90% of U.S. crawfish (pronounced crayfish where I'm from) comes from Louisiana.  [I've heard it said that 90% of the crawfish harvested in Louisiana stays in Louisiana.  I'm too lazy to look it up, but I believe it.  People eat a lot of crawfish in Louisiana.  A lot.]

* Louisiana is the top alligator meat producer in the world.  It's a $12 million industry in the state.

* Louisiana is the top shipper of live #1 male crabs to the Atlantic Coast.  

* There are 70 turtle farms in Louisiana.

I could go on and on and on, but that's enough of that.

I'm sitting at a café table on North Carrolton Avenue as I write this, watching the world go by.  I can't hear anything because the jukebox is playing loud brass band music (go figure, we're in New Orleans) so I had to rely on my eyes to figure out which brand won the Coke vs. Pepsi Challenge.  I also can't hear the words of the Gigi clip I posted above, but I already know them.  Thank Heaven for little girls.

I don't have a camera, otherwise I would post a picture of what I see.  I see Pandora's Snow Ball Stand.  It's open and there's a line about twenty deep.  It's snow ball season in New Orleans, and I'm not talking about the kind of snow that falls from the sky.  It't the beginning of April and the daytime highs have been running between the high 70s to low 80s on the Fahrenheit scale.

If you stick to the French Quarter, you won't find any snow balls.  There isn't enough money to be made slinging snow balls to be able to afford French Quarter rent.  You have to go out into the neighborhoods to find and enjoy this particular New Orleans treat.  What is it?  Ask me when you get here and I'll tell you.

Here is another picture instead.
I love New Orleans
This is what I see when I'm sitting at my desk in our lobby and I turn my head to my right.  The lobby is a veritable odditarium full of interesting things.  You'll never be bored in New Orleans.

Neither Frau Schmitt nor your humble narrator are New Orleans natives.  When I lose my temper, which is exceedingly rare, and I am talking about crawfish, which is less rare now than it was before we chose to live here, I sometimes lapse into my natural accent.  I slip and call dem crawfish, those crayfish.  

I'm a New Orleanian of a certain distinct type, but I'm not a native.  I don't think I'll ever be considered a Louisianian no matter how long I live in New Orleans.  Those are two different things that can overlap but are not necessarily the same.  Nothing lost, nothing gained.  I am a Nutmegger by birth and by the grace of God.  I always will be.  If you don't know what that means, I'll tell you over breakfast.

Here is a hint:  The official song of my home state is similar to what follows.  It's not the George M. Cohan Broadway version but the more traditional one, the one that a brave tattered army of patriots sang during the Revolution of 1776.

I could go on and on and on, but that's enough for one day.  The moon has been nacreous these past few morning when I've been out getting pastries just before sunup.  If that's not a sentence that will boost my SEO traffic, I don't know what I'm doing.  

I don't know what I'm doing.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Best Oysters in the French Quarter

Mural outside the Mother-in-Law Lounge, New Orleans
You might think I'm going to finally tell you about the Mother-in-Law Lounge on North Claiborne Avenue.  If you do think that, I hate to tell you that you are wrong again.  I'm going to tell you about a quintessential New Orleans experience, and, at the same time, I'll tell you where I think you'll find the best oysters in the French Quarter.  That's a tall order to fill.

Frau Schmitt had French class yesterday, leaving your humble narrator to his own devices.  This isn't necessarily a good thing.  We are in the middle of our busy season, and we are feeling a little fagged and shagged and worn out, a little frayed around the edges, a little weak and, speaking for myself, at least, a little susceptible to bad influences.  I'm in the kind of mood that can lead to a little minor mischief if I'm not on my guard.  I briefly let my guard down, yesterday, in a self-indulgent moment.

Let's have a little musical accompaniment to go along with today's post, shall we?  From 1966, Mr. Johnny Sea:

Some things never change.  Johnny Sea is still alive.  He was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, about an hour and a half east on Interstate 10 from where we live.  He has a website and he's now going under his birth name of John Seay, Jr..  I'm sure someone convinced him to change the spelling of his name for stage reasons, so that people would know how to pronounce it.  Ernie K-Doe did the same thing.  He was born Ernie Kador, Jr.  
Mural of Ernie K-Dow and Allen Toussaint depicted on the side of the Mother-in-Law Lounge
Back on topic, I enjoy dining on raw oysters.  Frau Schmitt does not.  Since she had class yesterday, I decided to treat myself to a lunch of oysters in the French Quarter.  This is the decision that led to my downfall.

I was thinking of going to Acme Oyster House, which usually has a line outside that goes down the block.  Yesterday afternoon was no different, even though it was a Thursday at 1:00 and there aren't any convention-goers in town that I'm aware of except for the pop culture symposium held for college librarians at the Marriott on Canal Street.  The only reason I know about this is because one of the presenters at that convention is staying with us.  

I'm not one to wait in line, so the line outside Acme scratched that option off my list.  Will I ever go to Acme?  Maybe in August when we don't have many visitors to New Orleans.  There shouldn't be a line then.  #2 on the list was Felix's across the street from Acme.  There wasn't a line outside, but there was a press of bodies inside that were pressing against the front door.  It wasn't pretty.  I didn't go to Felix's either.  Now, I'm going to tell you a secret.

Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House is on the corner of Bourbon Street and Iberville Street in the French Quarter, within spitting distance of Acme and Felix's.  I always like the Bourbon House, which feels palatial inside.  It is the first place Frau Schmitt and I ate at on our first afternoon in New Orleans, so many years ago.  I remember it well.  Just ask Frau Schmitt.

I decided to try the oyster bar at the Bourbon House, and, sure enough, there was plenty of room.

As I read a book and watched the shuckers go about their work, I ordered a dozen raw oysters ($15.00 this time of year).  I got a shucker's dozen: thirteen succulent raw oysters with all the trimmings.  They were delicious.

The bartender asked me if I was finished, and I was, of course, but I was enjoying reading my book and I was enjoying the atmosphere of the oyster bar, so I said I'd like to take my time.  Check back with me in ten minutes or so.  It was then that a worm of desire wriggled into my brain.  Dickie Brennan, according to local lore, and the blurb on the menu, likes to eat his raw oysters with caviar spooned on top.  That thought occupied my mind so much that I couldn't concentrate on the book I was reading.  I treated myself.  When the bartender returned, I ordered a half dozen oysters with caviar (also $15.00).

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Mr. Fancy-Pants Innkeeper fritters away his afternoons eating oysters and caviar.  This B&B business must pay pretty good!"  Let me disillusion you, gentle reader.  This does not happen every day.  It was a fluke.  I do often fritter away my afternoons, but it's usually by running errands for the inn or standing in line to pay my taxes at City Hall.  It's very rare for me to spend $30.00 for lunch, or even to have lunch in the French Quarter, but I do what I have to do so that I can talk about it with our guests and to be able to make recommendations.

Here's a recommendation:  Try the oysters with caviar at the Bourbon House.  They are delicious, in a different class from the regular oysters.  They are excellent.

It's not just the oysters and the caviar that make this platter particularly tasty.  Each oyster only gets 8 or 10 tiny fish eggs on them.  The shuckers dust the oysters with some kind of seasoning that looks like dry Creole mustard seeds, but isn't.  It's that dusting with the caviar that take these oysters to another transcendental level.  Aphrodite on the half shell.  I'll get them again.  Maybe next year, when I can afford them.

So those are the best oysters in the French Quarter, in your humble narrator's humble opinion: oysters with caviar at the Bourbon House.  Treat yourself right and order them with champagne, which I didn't do but I probably will when I get the chance.  That's gonna be one decadent lunch.  

As long as we're having a musical review over the course of this post, here's a video of Ernie K-Doe's second-most famous song.  In the United Kingdom, it may be his most famous song.  It was commandeered by the Boots Pharmacy chain as their jingle a few years back.  If you aren't British, Boots is the equivalent of Walgreens, CVS, and Rite-Aid all rolled up into one on the other side of the pond.  Here come the girls.  That soundtrack is pure K-Doe.  You can see his face about 2:21 into the video, but I recommend watching the whole thing rather than skipping ahead.  He really belts it out after 2:21.

We live in New Orleans.  We try to eat everywhere and we try to go everywhere at least once, but usually twice or thrice.  We try to be able to recommend things to people who don't live in New Orleans.  That's our job, to make your New Orleans adventure a memorable one in the best way.  Sometimes, our days are spent like humdrum innkeepers.  Other days, we live like Maurice Chevalier.  I'll remember yesterday well.  I lived to tell the tale.  Call me Ishmael.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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