Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Small City Called New Orleans

New Orleans ain't whatcha think
I took the snapshot above from the roof of the New Orleans Athletic Club on North Rampart Street a few months ago.  The peach colored building, an old established electrical parts warehouse, is torn down as I write this.  What's going to replace it?  A hotel, of course.  We really only have one industry in New Orleans to speak of.  Thanks for coming down to visit.

North Rampart Street itself is all torn up and mostly closed to traffic as I write this.  There is going to be a new streetcar line that will run down N. Rampart Street as far as Elysian Fields Avenue by the end of this year.

Let's provide a little soundtrack video, shall we?

You won't believe this when you meet me, but I used to have the same haircut as the Fun Boy 3 singer.  I still have the same pants.  I sometimes wear them for breakfast.  At the ripe old age of 50, I have a hard time pulling off that haircut unless I've just rolled out of bed.  Now you know why I always wear a hat.

The jolly innkeeper
New Orleans is a real city, though it is sometimes hard for people to fathom that fact.  It doesn't look like any city I've ever lived in.  In a lot of ways, it is a giant town.  Frau Schmitt and I are always bumping into people we know as we run errands around the city.

Frau Schmitt's brother lives in China.  He told a co-worker who is from New Orleans that his sister runs a boutique inn in the middle of Esplanade Avenue.  He told his co-worker that the inn is one of three colorful houses on our street.  His co-worker said he knew exactly where he was talking about and he emailed Frau Schmitt's brother a picture.  Guess what the picture was of?  It was this:

La Belle Esplanade
I'm not suggesting that we are locally famous.  We aren't.  Our address is notable, however.  When you stay with us, you'll be staying in a local landmark.  Bus tours, bicycle tours, and walking tours stop in front of our house every day to admire our inn.  It can be a pain in the neck but it's mostly unobtrusive.  

Some people, our guests mainly, call your humble narrator The Jolly Innkeeper.  That's better than what some of our innkeeper compatriots are called.  It's better than being called the Solemn Innkeeper, The Distracted Innkeeper, the Sullen Innkeeper, Mr. Wet Blanket, The Souse,  Johnny-Come-Late, Saggy Pants, or That-Creepy-Lady-Who-Ripped-Us-Off.

Jolly Innkeeper has a nice ring to it when you consider the other possibilities that are tossed around by people who stay at other lodging options, including those offered on AirB&B.

Whenever someone calls me The Jolly Innkeeper, it reminds me of that Franz Hals painting:

The Jolly Toper
Whenever I think of that painting, it gives me hat envy.

I'd like to take this opportunity to mention, humbly and nonchalantly, that we've been ranked the #1 inn in New Orleans, and in all of Louisiana, for 23 months now.  If we can make it to April, that will be a solid two years being #1.  Thanks to everyone who has reviewed their stay with us.  Sincere thanks from the bottomless wells of our unsullied hearts.  We don't take it lightly.

He's looking at the future
Happily, we haven't yet been cited as a dangerous voice at the Dangerous Speech Project.  Why would we be?  We're all about love on Esplanade Avenue, love of New Orleans.  If you want to know what it is like to love where we live, you've found the right place.  Good memories are made on our street.

New Orleans' population is still about a 100,000 people less than it was before Katrina.  People who stay in the French Quarter and the Garden District are all, like, "Hey, what's all the fuss about?  Everything looks like it's 100% back from the flooding."  It isn't.  There is still plenty of work to be done.  We are part of a gigantic rebuilding project that is reforming New Orleans in more ways than one while trying to keep true to the spirit and traditions of the city.  There is no place else like New Orleans.  It really is magical here.

If you want to visit New Orleans to learn what it is like to be a part of this cadre of civic imagineers, La Belle Esplanade is open to host you and to help curate your New Orleans experience.  We won't just steer you to the Quarter or to Frenchmen Street, the lazy way.  We'll tell you about places that most tourists don't even know exist.  It always makes us happy when people go off the Convention and Visitors Bureau map.  That's why we provide different maps to navigate the city.  We enjoy the company of urban explorers and cultural connoisseurs.

You can follow whatever NOLA you want to.  As innkeepers, we aren't here to judge.  Our job is to help you find what you are looking for.  We live in a kaleidoscopic city that presents different viewpoints from every possible angle.  It's bewildering sometimes until you get used to it.  You will find what you are looking for in New Orleans, especially if what you are looking for is good memories.

Wherever you are in the world, if you say you are going to New Orleans everyone will know where you mean.  It really is magical here.  It's a small city that is world famous for a reason.  It really is magical here.  See for yourself.  

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where every morning hosts a curated breakfast salon

Friday, February 19, 2016

New Orleans Favorite Pickled Pigs Lips

From the folks at Farm Fresh Food Suppliers

I know what you're thinking.  You're wondering if this is a gag (in more ways than one).  The answer is no.  At any hour of the day or night, you can walk into your local New Orleans grocer and pick up a jar of pickled pigs lips.  People tell me they're delicious.  I haven't tried them, myself.

Let's back up a little bit:

100% authentic and world famous

I have no doubt that these pigs lips are authentic.  How famous they are, though, I'm unsure.  Locally famous?  Yes.  World famous?  I'm doubtful.  According to the Farm Fresh Food Suppliers website, you can buy them by the quart or by the gallon.  Let's repeat that last part:  You can buy them by the gallon.

Let's back up a bit further:

It's a tradition

On the Farm Fresh Food Suppliers homepage, there is this sentiment: "In Louisiana, great food is not only a meal...It's a tradition!"  That is certainly true.  People say this all the time.  They tell me the same thing, in one variation or another, several times a day.  It's not just the pigs lips, either.  It's everything that people eat in Louisiana and, believe me, they eat a lot of things in Louisiana that you don't eat where you're from.  The reverse if probably true.  I'm thinking about the lutefisk eaters in Minnesota.  Watch the video.  

Now, let's back up one last time.  Where is this pickled pigs lips ad located?

A New Orleans bus stop

The bus stop shelter at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and N. Broad Avenue is graced with a new advertisement for Pickled Pigs Lips.  It's a handsome and direct ad, don't you think?  It works.  I'm getting hungry just looking at it.

There are busses wrapped with pickled pigs lips ads.  They're really something to see.  The first time I passed one I drove my motor scooter up on the sidewalk.  

Frau Schmitt and I have known about pickled pigs lips since we moved to New Orleans.  If you're in our dining room and you look up on the shelf, you'll see a jar we've kept there since we opened the inn.  We don't open the jar but we do invite people to inspect it if they are interested.  We only bought a quart jar.  We don't see the need to have a gallon on hand.  Our jar is for conversational and educational purposes only.  

For conversational and educational purposes only

If you want to try pickled pigs lips while you are in New Orleans, you are welcome to buy yourself a jar (a quart or a gallon) but please, open it in the back garden to enjoy.  Better yet, take the jar to City Park with a nice bottle of white wine and have yourself a picnic.

As with boiled crawfish, we ask that you don't eat pickled pigs lips in the house.  Outside, however, we encourage you to smack your own lips with gusto as you go about your meal.

Bon apétit,
La Belle Esplanade
...the inn brimming with vim. TM

Monday, February 15, 2016

How's the Weather in New Orleans?

A parade went in front of our house
Reading this where you are, you probably don't get to say that a parade went by your house last week.  

From where we are, this is something that happens a couple of times a year, each time as enchanting as the last time, or more so.  I'm not telling you this to boast about the parade-worthiness of our address.  It's just a fact of living where we do.  Next weekend, a marathon will be run in front of our house.  Next month, it will be another.  There is never a dull day on Esplanade Avenue.

People ask why we live in New Orleans.  It isn't just because of all the parades we see.  There are a lot of reasons we love living in New Orleans.  One of them is that New Orleans isn't in Canada.  We have nothing against Canada but when we saw this picture, well, we're happy we're in Louisiana at the moment:

What's the weather like in Ontario?
Then, when we look at pictures from Sweden, well, let's just say again that we're still happy we're in Louisiana:

What's the weather like in Uppsala?
Sheesh!  What do you people do with all that snow?

If you ask Frau Schmitt, she'll tell you that your humble narrator loves living in New Orleans and he isn't interested in living anywhere else.  Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things.  She'll also tell you that I generally like everybody no matter where they come from.  She is right about that, too.

Wanna know what people I like the most?  When I say I like them the most, I mean I like them the most at this moment.  I like whoever is sitting in front of me, as a general rule.  There are no strangers in New Orleans.  There are only friends you haven't met yet.  Of course, in our line of work, we tend to meet people as soon as they arrive from the airport.  We make a lot of friends, and I don't only mean the tangential Facebook kind of friend. You are always welcome to like us on Facebook.  I mean friends whose company we enjoy.  The kind of friends who share adventures and insights.  The kind of friends you don't forget.

I like people who come from Jacmel, which is a city in Haiti.  

There are longstanding ties between New Orleans and Haiti.  After the Haitian Revolution, the population of New Orleans doubled because displaced Haitians (I am trying to phrase this as politely as possible) wanted to live where people spoke French.  Voilá. Bienvenue à la Nouvelle Orléans.  

You will hear people say, and your humble narrator says this on occasion when prompted, that New Orleans is the northernmost Caribbean city.  It's true.  New Orleans has more in common with Jacmel than it does with New London, Connecticut or with Wewoka, Oklahoma.  

Mardi Gras season ended last week in New Orleans.  What does Carnival look like in Jacmel?

We recently had a gentleman from Haiti stay with us for a week and his lovely bride.  Yves turned me on to Carnival in Jacmel.  I've been talking to Frau Schmitt about it and we may have a trip to Haiti in our future.

Our recent guests, not the ones from Ontario or Sweden but the ones from Haiti, were on their honeymoon.  They are moving to a new country in the next month or so.  Guess where they are moving.  They are moving to none other than Port Moresby which was detailed in an earlier installment of this very same blog.  That was just two months ago.  It's a small world when you have omnivorous interests, even if the country in question is Papua New Guinea.

What's the only place better than Louisiana?

By the way, remember the picture of the giant crawfish we featured in the January 3 installment?  That picture comes from a restaurant in Sweden!  What did I say a few paragraphs above about not wanting to live in Sweden?  I take it back.  We have a chap named Orc to thank for pointing this out to us.

Do you know what they call crawfish in Swedish?  Swedes call them kräftfiske.  Anywhere where they boil up kräftfiske is okay with me.  God bless Sweden.

If you can't make it to Haiti, Ontario, or Sweden, and, really, who would want to at this time of year? you know where to find us.  We're on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.  Good memories are made every day on our street.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast
....where the rest comes easy.    

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Innkeeper's Work Is Never Done

A flower in the Rex Den

Yesterday was Mardi Gras.  Boy, what a day.  Like all good days, though, it had to come to an end.  It's 4:30AM on Ash Wednesday as I write this.  There's no time like the present to start one's penance.

You might think I'm going to talk about Mardi Gras but, frankly, I've been talking about Mardi Gras every day for the past two weeks and now that's it's over I'm done.  I'd like to just take a moment to share something with you.  It's time for my favorite feature of this blog:

Mail Call!

A reservation came in yesterday with the following note attached:

"No questions! Very excited for our stay. Your blog/website and writing style is authentic and draws in the reader... we are looking to enjoy the city on foot/public transport, both the usual spots but hopefully more time spent in the overlooked places."

I spoke with this chap on the phone.  Not only did he call the blog authentic.  On the phone he told me it's mesmerizing.  Maybe you agree.  For my part, I like this guy already.  It seems like he has a good head on his shoulders.

Copyright Emma Fick

In other news from the mailbag, Emma Fick has finished an illustration of La Belle and its sister houses.  That link will take you to other illustrations she's done of New Orleans for a book she's working on.  If you want to see her previous book about Serbia, it's here.  

We haven't met Emma in person, yet.  She's due to stop by the house soon for a tour and to get some of the inside skinny as to what the house actually holds (hint: it's a secret until you get here).

Another flower in the Rex Den

Well, it's 5:00 now and I have to sign off.  I have things to do.  You wouldn't know it to look at us but neither Frau Schmitt nor I are on vacation.  An innkeeper's work is never done.  It's a good thing we love what we do.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
....where the rest comes easy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Some Real New Orleans History

The mantle in our Clio Suite
Remember, in New Orleans, it's usually the rule that most things are pronounced differently than you think, especially if street names or Greek Muses are involved. 

Who are the Nine Muses?  In alphabetical order: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania.

You think this is trivia, but everybody in New Orleans knows this and everyone in New Orleans pronounces those names differently than you probably just did if you are reading this blog aloud.

I recommend reading it aloud.  Rex Hollywood reads each installment aloud to his sweetheart.   I know this because Rex told me this himself and his sweetheart confirmed it.  It's no wonder people who know him (what, you don't know Rex Hollywood?) call him "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" behind his back.  I know this because one of Rex's pals stayed with us and he told me that in confidence.

Anyhow, one of our suites is called the Clio Suite because there is a statue of Clio in the park across the street from this suite's balcony. You, and most of the world that speaks English, French, German, Latin or Greek, Spanish, Albanian, Polish, Magyar, or Arabic, would naturally pronounce the name "klee-OH."  You would be wrong.  In New Orleans, it's pronounced "kl-EYE-oh."

Now you know.

A float in the Rex Den

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Waitaminnit!  This is Mardi Gras season and you said you were going to post pictures of all the floats you saw in the krewe dens you visited two (2) weeks ago!"  

I did say that and I'm getting around to it, but I was looking through some old photos when I found something else that caught my fancy today.  Wanna see it?

A relic from another time

By the usual loopy narrative logic of this blog, let's travel back to one fateful night two years ago when I visited the men's room at The Steak Knife Restaurant on Harrison Avenue in New Orleans' Lakeview neighborhood.  It was strictly for professional reasons.  

Frau Schmitt and I have been to The Steak Knife twice.  We both like it, but with about 800 restaurants to choose from, we have to eat at as many as we can so that we can talk about them knowledgeably with our guests and make recommendations.  The Steak Knife is in a part of the city that few of our guests ever visit (though Alan and Shelly were there just the other day for ice cream --- to Harrison Avenue, not to The Steak Knife).  If you want to learn more about The Steak Knife, here's a link to their website, though, I have to admit, I don't think you're going to learn much there.  They apparently don't feel an urgent need to publicize.  After 40 years in business, they're probably right.   

Let me get to the point, already.  

This particular men's room is full of old pictures and magazine clippings and this one of the guy holding two fish caught my attention.  Here's the caption under the photo:

Big news about a big catch

In case you can't read the tiny print:

"TWO BLACK BASS, both slightly over two pounds, were caught the other day in a back lagoon at City Park by Jack Crowley, 2422 Laharpe.  The fish were taken on a plug casting rod.  City Park's fishing season closes for two months, beginning Monday."

Our inn is located at 2216 Esplanade Avenue.  2422 Laharpe Street is just four blocks away from where we live.  You can stroll over and take a picture of Mr. Crowley's house if you want to.  I just might do that later this week even though Jack doesn't live there anymore.

Coincidentally, I was walking our dog around a back lagoon this morning and two gentlemen were fishing there, in two different locations.  I asked one of them if he had had any luck.  He said he had just hooked a bass and he showed it to me.  He was a kindly looking, elderly gent.  It wasn't Jack.  I know Jack.

You never know what you'll find as you wander the byways and restrooms in New Orleans.

And, on that note, we must conclude.

Frau Schmitt's mother-in-law is coming to visit.  If installments don't come as regularly as we've recently become accustomed, you can't blame my mother.  Blame it on Mardi Gras.  The whole city shuts down during Mardi Gras.  Though Mardi Gras is next Tuesday, the real serious parading begins today and it's not going to stop until Lent.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
...where the rest comes easy.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...