Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Skunk Ape Sighting in New Orleans City Park

City Park in New Orleans, LA

There are parts of City Park that most visitors never see.  City Park in New Orleans is larger than Central Park in New York City.  If you are in New Orleans for a few days, you'll usually stay around the main entrance of the park, where the art museum is and the sculpture garden and Morning Call.  

Further back, there are all sorts of things that won't be of interest to the casual visitor.  One of these things is a forest off Harrison Avenue, which runs through the park.  I'm not going to give you directions because you probably won't go there anyway, so, why waste the typing?

I was in the forest the other day, which is threaded through with paths between underbrush and oak trees and cypress trees and pine trees and other trees I don't know the names of.  It can be kind of creepy back there, full of odd noises and unexplainable sensations.  Some people say there is voodoo back there and I've seen evidence of that.  Some people say the forest is haunted.  While I've felt the hair on my arms stand on end, I've never seen any direct evidence of ghosts.  

Yesterday, though, I did see a skunk ape.  At least, I thought it was a skunk ape.  I still think that.  It certainly smelled like a skunk ape.

Mysterious things in City Park, New Orleans, LA
I was walking along, minding my own business, as I approached a tree by a lagoon.

A cryptic tree in City Park, New Orleans, LA
Something stunk like rotten cabbage.  You know what I mean?  I walked under the tree and the smell just got stronger.  Woof!  After I was under the tree, I heard a rustling overhead.  When I turned, that's when I saw it: the skunk ape!

Skunk apes are more commonly seen in Florida.  In fact, there hasn't been a documented skunk ape sighting in Louisiana (arguably until now).  What has been sighted in Louisiana is the Honey Island Swamp Monster, which is similar to the a skunk ape.  

I'm no cryptozoologist, so I can't tell the difference between a Honey Island swamp monster and a skunk ape.  It would probably take DNA tests to determine what, exactly, I saw.  I'm leaning more toward skunk ape, though, and not just because it's more fun to say.  Looking at some old footage of the Honey Island Swamp Monster, I remain convinced that what I saw was a skunk ape.

Naturally, I didn't have my camera with me.  Isn't that always the way?  I did go back today to take a picture to serve as proof that I saw the skunk ape.  I provide it to you below...

This is a picture of the branch on which the skunk ape was sitting when I spotted him:

The skunk ape tree
When the skunk ape realized that I knew he was there, he waved.  Then, before I realized what was happening, he ran away.  There were no signs of him when I went back to the tree today.

You never know what you are going to see in New Orleans.

If you want to learn more, you know where to find me.  I'm at La Belle Esplanade, where every morning is a curated New Orleans breakfast salon.

Update, March 2017:  Please visit The New Orleans Oddtiarium to read about the good work The Odditarium has been doing trying to track down the skunk ape in City Park.  The Odditarium is a makeshift museum that has it's own website.  It's headquartered in our lobby at La Belle Esplanade.  Our small boutique inn really is the most interesting place to stay in America's most interesting city!  The skunk ape reports can be found by clicking the "Odditarium News" tab on The Odditarium's website.

À votre santé.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

C'mon, C'mon, Come On To New Orleans

It's déjà vu until it's ennui

Remember the last installment when we featured an Elvis song to describe what it's like to be in New Orleans?  Well, here we go again, folks.

One of the people who appears between 1:45 and 3:00 stayed with us recently.  We'll leave it up to you to guess who it was.  It wasn't the ballerina.

There are some things that your humble narrator never gets tired of.  Some of those are oysters with caviar at the Bourbon House, the pan roast at Pascal's Manale, a hot cup of black Community Coffee, and, last but foremost in my mind, Esplanade Avenue.

Click this link.

We think it's very nice that the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation used a picture of our house as the illustration to exemplify our neighborhood.  It's not so nice that we don't get any credit for being here.  I see Degas House is named as a place to stay in our neighborhood.  Café Degas gets their business mentioned under their picture.  So does Lola's.  What about La Belle Esplanade?  We're just so much wallpaper to NOTMC.

I wrote to them the other day about this.  Didn't get a response.  We're just so much wallpaper to NOTMC.

We're more than wallpaper.  Ours is a house in which good memories are born, the kind of good memories that last forever.  I'm not going to cry over it.  Next week, after all, will mark the date when we will be rated the #1 Inn in New Orleans and Frau Schmitt and I take a simple pride in that.  Not that the NOTMC seems to care about how we're following our own personal NOLA by being goodwill ambassadors for the city.  We're just so much wallpaper to NOTMC.

Howzat for sour grapes?  Thanks for letting me get that off my spleen.  Let's continue in our usual loopily chipper fashion....

There's no resistin' that Manchu chicken
We've been talking a lot about fried chicken recently, including with that recent guest who wasn't a ballerina.  As I'm sure I've mentioned previously, we live in the city's "Fried Chicken Triangle."  We are centrally located between the vertices of said triangle, in fact.  It's a picturesque five minute stroll to end of either the adjacent, the opposite, or the hypotenuse.  If this last sentence didn't make any sense, you shouldn't have slept through high school geometry.

People who stay with us tend to eat fried chicken for at least one of their meals, and not necessarily at Dooky Chase's, Willie Mae's, or McHardy's.  Yesterday, John had fried chicken at Jacques-Imo's, which is on the other side of town.  A lot of people get the fried chicken wings at Manchu.  After they get them once, they usually get them a second time (twice).  They say those Manchu wings taste mighty nice.

That's not wallpaper

If you are interested in honest-to-goodness Tennessee sausage, we've recently received some memorabilia from a reputable Tennessee sausage maker to include in the odditarium in our lobby.  Memorabilia isn't the right word since these brands are still in production using time-honored recipes.  I think the word our benefactor used was, "swag."

We got some Tennessee sausage swag in the mail today and, let me tell you, we're going to put it to good use.  We try to keep the contents of our lobby interesting for our guests.

As innkeepers, we meet very interesting people every week.  They aren't all ballerinas, to be sure, but we don't hold that against anyone.  Come as you are.  New Orleans will love you.  You know where you should stay.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Between the Moon and New Orleans

We haven't used this picture in a while
When you get caught between the moon and New Orleans, the best that you can do---THE BEST THAT YOU CAN DO---is fall in love.

It is easy to fall in love with New Orleans.  It is easy to fall in love in New Orleans.  It is easy to fall in love in New Orleans on top of falling in love with New Orleans.  It is easy to fall in love all over New Orleans.  Wanna fall in love?  Stay at La Belle Esplanade, in New Orleans.

It is easy to fall in love, well, period, really, wherever you are.  It takes two to tango and the right setting, but that has nothing to do with this next clip, which has nothing to do with anything but a fond regard for Jerry Lewis.  Just hit play and keep reading.  There is nothing memorable to watch here...

And then there's Falco.

We only include today's Jerry Lewis reference because a regular reader, who shall remain unnamed (Hi, Kevin), has come out publicly as not being a Jerry Lewis fan.  I can't blame him.  I'm not a particularly great fan of Mr. Lewis, myself.  Neither is Frau Schmitt, who is German by birth, not French.  Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things.

What about Elvis?

Today, we are blessed to have a couple who were married in Las Vegas staying with us.  They weren't married by Elvis nor by an Elvis impersonator, but, whenever I think of Vegas, I think of Elvis.  Whenever I think of Elvis, I think of the Rolling Elvi, a krewe of Elvis impersonators who ride motor scooters in Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.  You see, there is always a thread that binds these posts together whether you realize it or not.  Be patient, dear reader, your humble narrator will tie the whole shebang together in the end one way or another.

If your brain is flaming and you don't know which way to go, you can always choose the obvious place to stay in New Orleans: some hotel in the French Quarter.  

Have a good time.  Plenty of people do.  You'll be one of them.  There is nothing wrong with that.  When you're walking around the French Quarter nursing a Hand Grenade, think of me, please.  That's all I ask.

Cooler heads usually prevail.  If you take the time to do a little research, maybe you'll make a reservation at the #1-ranked inn in New Orleans, and you'll find yourself staying at La Belle Esplanade.  We only have five suites.  If you are tempted (and you should resist every temptation but the one to stay somewhere good memories are made every day) make a reservation early.  We're a small boutique operation and we fill up far in advance.  

Well, we could talk about this all day.  As Kevin likes to say, and as Elvis used to like to say, too, enough of all this conversation.  Let's get to the satisfactioning....

When are you coming to New Orleans?  When are you going to visit La Belle Esplanade?  When are you going to really fall in love?  Don't you prefer a little more fire and a little less spark?

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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Eating the New Orleans Way

An angle on New Orleans breakfast

Ours is a small boutique operation and we're inclined to serve things at breakfast that you wouldn't normally eat at home.  

We don't keep ketchup in the inn, for instance.  No one ever asks for it, luckily, otherwise we would have to keep some Creole catsup on hand at all times.  We use other sauces.  We don't use industrial amounts of other industrial food products either.  We go to our local cheesemonger rather than to Costco, for instance.  Costco is for toilet paper and facial tissues. 

When we serve something, it is usually something artisanal, purchased from a local craftsperson or baker or chef.  When you stay with us, you are not staying in a French Quarter hotel and you are not eating at a French Quarter restaurant that churns through thousands of guests a week.  We only have five suites and each suite accommodates no more than two people.  

The average length of stay at our inn, when all the numbers are tallied and divided, is a little shy of five nights per visit.  We encourage people to stay longer rather than shorter.  We don't encourage people to visit New Orleans longer because we'll make more money that way.  It doesn't matter to us where they stay.  

They can stay at one place for two nights and with us for three nights.  They don't have to stay all five nights with us, though most people who split their time between two locations, though, find themselves wishing they had just settled here.  Our experience is that people who stay longer understand New Orleans better.  They have a richer experience.  They appreciate the city and its many flavors with more gusto and savor.  If you want to stay in New Orleans for a day, there are plenty of hotels anxious to fill rooms.  

To us, you aren't a body filling a bed.  You are company.  We hope you don't choose to stay with us because we have a roof at night and a hot meal in the morning.  We hope you choose to stay with us to learn about New Orleans.  We are New Orleans ambassadors.

We use some name brand condiments, but they are Louisiana name brands.  Our dislike of the Heinz family of products has nothing to do with an alleged dislike of Secretary of State John Kerry.  He's welcome to stay here anytime.  We always look forward to the conversations.  It's just that you can eat Heinz ketchup (or any other Heinz condiment) anywhere in these great U.S. of A.  

You won't find this in our pantry:

When we first started out as innkeepers, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Everything on the breakfast table was unabashedly from Walmart.  Now, we have nothing against Walmart, but for the prices we were paying, we weren't paying to eat cream cheese or butter or waffles or pre-cooked scrambled egg dishes fresh from the local Walmart freezer.  The Walmart in Arkansas isn't so different from the Walmart in Louisiana.  It is no different from the Walmart where you are from.  Argue what you want to the contrary, but I'm not believing it.  That breakfast was the proof.

You don't stay with us to eat food you can buy at Walmart.  You stay with us to sample a taste of New Orleans.  That's why we support our neighbors who are much better at making crawfish pie and bread pudding and apple fritters and buttermilk drops and quince jam and pickled quail eggs than we are.  If you want to eat scrambled eggs, stay home.  At our inn, every meal is a taste of the various neighborhoods that make up our kaleidoscope of a city, full of history and nuance and, frankly, delicious.  Every morning at our inn is a curated New Orleans breakfast salon.  

Try getting a curated New Orleans breakfast salon at a hotel, even the Ritz-Carlton, or the Astor Crown Plaza, or the Roosevelt Hotel. We don't consider other bed and breakfasts in New Orleans our competition.  We expect our standard of service to exceed what you would find in a five-star Canal Street hotel.  You don't hunker down to breakfast and expect to talk to the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton for the next hour, do you?  At our inn, that's what you do.  And, unlike the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Frau Schmitt and I have spent innumerable hours investigating every aspect of New Orleans culture.  We aren't cooped up in our back office going over spread sheets and balance sheets and composing Power Point presentations for our corporate overlords.  

We own the brand.  We are the franchise.  An army of one inn.  Whatever happens, for good or for ill, is our responsibility.  Happily, for everyone concerned, it is mostly for good.  If something breaks, we fix it in a flash.

I'm a first name basis with everyone in the hardware store.  I tell them my problem and they tell me how to fix it.  How many hotel GMs can say that?  I wear a necktie on occasion, usually on Sundays, but my handyman apron is always at the ready.

We don't offer room service.  We don't offer Vol-Pak condiments either, whether they are made by Heinz or by some other food conglomerate.

We don't offer Corn Flakes, either.  You're in New Orleans.  Who want's Corn Flakes?  Even Superman won't deliver them.  

Some people refer to Frau Schmitt as a super woman because of her feats of hospitality.  I do.  As for me?  They call me all thumbs most of the time but it all works out in the end.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Zasu Pitts.  She had a great name but it wasn't a name that many people knew how to pronounce.  She started out as a dramatic actress in silent movies.  When talkies were introduced, she switched to comedy.  

However you are reading "Zasu," now, you are probably pronouncing it wrong.  I did it, too, for the longest time.  What is the right way to say her name?  "Say-Zoo."  It doesn't matter what the opening credits of this next clip say, it was "Say-Zoo."  That's what Zasu always said.  Feel like you're in New Orleans, yet?  

It's Esplan-AID Avenue, not ES-plah-nahd.

Thelma Todd knew how to say it.

Whatever you want to know about New Orleans, we can probably tell you.  We won't give you a canned and homogenized answer.  We'll give you the real deal.

When are you coming to New Orleans?

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
Where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Do You Have A New Orleans Accent?

Flags that have flown over New Orleans

It seems we are going to get into a rut of starting each installment with a quotation.  Let's get that part out of the way and start with a quote from the late, great Wolcott Gibbs who was giving advice to New Yorker editor Katherine White when he wrote the following in 1937.

Quoth Gibbs:

"This magazine is on the whole liberal about expletives. The only test I know of is whether or not they are really essential to the author's effect. "Son of a bitch," "bastard" and many others can be used whenever it is the editor's judgment that that is the only possible remark under the circumstances. When they are gratuitous, when the writer is just trying to sound tough to no especial purpose, they come out."

This blog is not particularly liberal about expletives, as regular readers have no doubt noticed.  Your humble narrator deplores the general coarsening of public dialogue and culture (with all apologies in advance to future President Trump) and he eschews salty language and "sailor talk."

Now, with that out of the way, let's start a genteel conversation over tea and crumpets and cucumber sandwiches with the crust cut off---

The New Orleans accent is as varied and mysterious to most people as are most other things in this wonderful city Frau Schmitt and I call home.  Some people arrive expecting to hear a Southern drawl. They are soon disappointed.

New Orleans is located in the South, but it isn't really part of the South.  It is its own island.  New Orleans is a predominantly Roman Catholic city, especially the part in which we live, but that doesn't mean it is part of the Bible Belt.  As a long-established major port city, New Orleans' polyglot population has interbred and intermixed and juxtaposed its myriad tongues into a form of speech that can be heard elsewhere in other port cities, but not in the rest of the South.

You'll read that a New Orleans accent most closely approximates a Brooklyn accent, and that is true much of the time.  My accent, which comes by way of the New York side of Connecticut, sounds enough like a New York accent that some people mistake me for a transplanted Manhattanite.  In some parts of New Orleans, though, I'm mistook for a native.

Notice that I said I am mistaken for a native in some parts of New Orleans.  In other parts of the city I'm mistaken for an Englishman. The city is a Pandora's box of accents depending upon in which neighborhood you land.  When Frau Schmitt and I first visited the Lower 9th Ward, we could barely understand what anyone was telling us.  The accent there is that different.  The same can be said in Gert Town, in Zion City, in the East, in Versailles, in Uptown, and in the Irish Channel.  Don't even get me started on Yat Speak.

Frau Schmitt, who heralds from Hamburg (that's a port city in Germany that you may have heard of) always tells people we moved here from Boston, which is true.  People from here always say when she says that, "I thought you had a different accent from here."  They never question that she isn't originally from Boston.  Boston may as well be on the moon.  In a lot of ways, it is, from a New Orleanian's vantage.

We know where we come from.  Our destination is clear.  We keep our word in faith, not in fear.  You can call us classical, modern, or retro as long as you never consider us so-so.

Like the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (Frie und Hansastädt Hamburg), New Orleans has salt on its tongue and our river is might.

If you can't get to Hamburg, you can always follow your Nola.

If you aren't particularly interested in slick commercials trying to sell you a vision of the city you're visiting, you can stay with us.  Believe me, there is a physical New Orleans in which we all live, and then there is also a New Orleans of the mind.  Find the best of both worlds on Esplanade Avenue.  Think about staying at La Belle Esplanade where you can talk like you want to and say what you mean----just say it with the same mouth you use to kiss ya mamma.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
Where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Your Adult Spring Break Getaway---In New Orleans!

It's not just a movie

From the late great poet, Richard Armour:
"Shake and shake
the catsup bottle.
None'll come---
And then a lot'll."

Tabasco sauce is a kind of Creole and Cajun ketchup.  We put hot sauce on everything in New Orleans.  Some people like Tabasco brand, others prefer Crystal.  Crystal Hot Sauce, the official pepper sauce of the New Orleans Saints, is the local New Orleans favorite.  It's a long story as to why, aside from flavor, and we don't have the space to go into it here.  If you want to learn all the reasons, I'll be happy to drone on in a scholarly dissertation over breakfast.  Just the idea of it makes your mouth water, doesn't it?

In other news, Emma Fick finished her illustration of La Belle Esplanade for the book she's working on.  She did a really nice job:
I should probably say copyright Emma Fick

It should be noted that La Belle Esplanade has two owners.  One of them is your humble narrator, who is often called a colorful character.  The other is Frau Schmitt, who is also equally colorful.  Frau Schmitt doesn't always get as much press as I do, unfortunately.  She should.  She's the backbone of this operation.  I am just the most public face.  I think Frau Schmitt deserves a round of applause, and I am usually right about these things.

Let's finish off with the reason for the title of this installment: we've been named a top adult spring getaway destination.  I don't mean this kind of spring break getaway. 

Trust me.  I don't mean that kind of spring break. 

I mean the kind of spring break that the people at bedandbreakfast.com are selling.  Click the link to see the photo that they use to lead off that article.  That's the kind of spring break I'm talking about.  If you are interested, check out our website and make a reservation there.  Please, don't do it on bedandbreakfast.com.  

In case you are wondering if that was a paid endorsement, we didn't even know we were featured in the article until a rival website company called to tell us about it.  One would think that bedandbreakfast.com would have the courtesy to tell us but, truth be told, we don't have a lot of interaction with them.  We've been inspected by them and we are rated a Diamond Collection Inn by them, but we don't really give them much thought.  We prefer people who come to us through our website because those people can read about all we have to offer straight from the horse's mouth (mine).  

Some of the people who read our website even read our blog before deciding to stay with us.  We hear that this sometimes clinches the deal.  Maybe you're one of those people.  If so, thanks for stopping by.  We hope you are intrigued by what you've read here and that we'll be able to meet you in the months ahead.

So, where should you stay if you are coming to New Orleans for the spring, or during any time of year, really?  There is only one choice:

La Belle Esplanade
Where every morning is a curated New Orleans breakfast salon.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
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