If you haven’t been to New Orleans yet, today is not a good day to die. Don’t die before you visit New Orleans. Visit New Orleans first—before you die. Get a taste of heaven on earth. Discover what you have to look forward to, unless you intend on going to some other place. Go to Oklahoma City, then. Go anywhere else but New Orleans. A day in New Orleans is like a week of sundaes, each with a cherry on top.
I don’t know for sure for whom the bell tolls every morning at 7:00AM at Our Lady of the Rosary Church at the end of our street. I always suspect that bell is tolling for me. Unfortunately, I am usually busy picking up bread and pastries, and other assorted delicacies, for breakfast at that time of the day. In my line of work, the needs of our guests come first.
There are ten Roman Catholic parishes within a mile radius of our tiny boutique New Orleans hotel. There are 111 parishes total in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Our address is officially part of St. Peter Claver Parish. Before Katrina, we were located in St. Rose of Lima Parish, but, after a post-Katrina reorganization of parish jurisdictions, the former St. Rose of Lima Church is being repurposed as the new home of the Southern Repertory Theater. Ours is a very interesting neighborhood. The New Southern Rep theater will be three blocks from our inn, about a five minute walk, should you want to catch a play while you are visiting.
DON’T DIE BEFORE YOU VISIT NEW ORLEANS.
There is nothing morbid about New Orleans. This is a city in which people dance at funerals. A funeral procession passed near our hotel last Saturday, on its way to the cemetery. You never know what you will find in New Orleans. Ours is a city with deep, rich traditions, where life is lived out in the open with all its happiness and grief out on display.
I took Suzie, one of our guests, across the street and explained to her what she was seeing. She said she wouldn’t even have looked at it if I hadn’t told her what it was. They don’t have funeral processions in her part of Texas. Not often, at least, and not like a New Orleans jazz funeral. The brass band was playing. There was a white horse-drawn hearse. There was a parade of mourners walking solemnly after the hearse and the musicians. There was even a Mardi Gras Indian in full regalia in the procession. This is what it is like to live in New Orleans. Don’t die before you visit New Orleans. New Orleans is like no place else on earth. Visit New Orleans like a New Orleanian.
Life isn’t cheap in New Orleans. Every day is rich and densely textured with traditions and with faith in eternity. You never know what you will find when you turn a corner. Frau Schmitt and I are hoteliers, of course, but, more importantly, we are New Orleans goodwill ambassadors. Frau Schmitt is the better half of this operation. We know a lot about New Orleans. A lot. We live here. We love to share.
When you visit New Orleans, you should experience this wonderful city like you live here, too. There is always more to discover. New Orleans is like an onion with it’s layer after layer after layer. New Orleans is also like an onion because New Orleans, too, will make you cry. Those will be happy tears. New Orleans is a revelation.
IF YOU DIE BEFORE YOU VISIT NEW ORLEANS, YOU WILL REGRET IT.
There is no place else like New Orleans. Our address is on a beautiful street. The old New Orleans Creoles have good reasons for calling Esplanade Avenue, in archaic French, “la belle esplanade.” It is. Esplanade Avenue is a beautiful parklike expanse where peace on earth and good will toward all is our governing principle. Everyone will say hello when you meet them on the sidewalk. There are no strangers in our part of New Orleans; there only friends you haven’t yet met. Hello.
Like a Muslim to Mecca, everyone should visit New Orleans at least once during their lifetime. New Orleans is good for one’s spirit. Don’t die before you visit New Orleans. Visit New Orleans like you mean it. New Orleans provides seafood gumbo for the soul.
Look, we both know you are going to go to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter when you visit New Orleans. You should. How much time you want to spend there with all the drunken frat boys and bachelorette parties—I’m not here to judge. There is a fascinating kaleidoscope of a city outside of the French Quarter, off the usual tourist radar. I don’t read travel articles about New Orleans anymore. They all recycle the same tourist attractions.
I am not a New Orleans tourist. I am a citizen of New Orleans, proudly doing my part, working to rebuild this wonderful city in the aftermath of the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina that happened in August 2005. There is plenty of work left to be done, each of us doing what we can. It isn’t work if we love what we are doing. Don’t die before you visit New Orleans. Visit soon and you will learn what it means to fall in love with New Orleans.
Have a great New Orleans day no matter where you may find yourself,
-La Belle Esplanade
Friday, March 16, 2018: Frau Schmitt and I went to Ancora for lunch, a real Neapolitan pizzeria and salumeria. Over the course of lunch, we picked up a new bread connection for our curated breakfasts at the inn. I lived in Naples for three years. This pizza pie is the real deal. Accept no substitutes.