As an innkeeper, I keep an unofficial tally of the most-frequent first question that people ask as soon as they walk in our front door to check in to our boutique experience inn. Mind you, most people have read our Trip Advisor reviews, and our reviews elsewhere, so they come with preconceived notions of what our inn offers and what we are all about. Still, we get recurrent questions right from the get-go, as if we aren’t the #1 place to stay in New Orleans for 3 years running.
It’s like asking, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”
Here are my Top Three Favorite Questions:
Number one: “Is this neighborhood safe?”
I’ve covered this before in our old blog, here. If I thought Esplanade Avenue was safe in 2012, when we first opened our inn, I sure as heck think it’s safe now. There have been a lot of changes in New Orleans for the better. If Esplanade Avenue was safe in 2012, it’s like a kindergarten playground in 2017. Maybe it’s a little intimidating if you’re six, but, if you’re grown, you’ll have no problem navigating the non-existent challenges you’ll encounter on a walk home along Esplanade Avenue from the French Quarter to our front stoop.
The cab drivers are to blame for this question, or, my favorite, “our friendly Uber driver who lives here,” who has told our guests that our location isn’t safe and they had better not walk around the blocks that surround our house. It used to bother me but now I get it. If made my living driving people around, I would make it my business to convince them to call me whenever they had to get from Point A (La Belle Esplanade) to Point B (anywhere else in New Orleans). Where does all the crime and the pickpocketing happen to tourists? Where all the drunks and the easy marks and the tourists are: in the French Quarter and on Frenchmen Street. Ours is a quiet and peaceable neighborhood.
Number Two: “Do you have wi-fi? What’s the password?”
We do have wi-fi. We maintain three networks on the property through a couple of modems. We don’t make a big deal about it on our website because, really, this is 2017. Does any #1-ranked place not have wi-fi? We do live in a real city. La Belle Esplanade is not in some secluded hamlet in the Rocky Mountains. New Orleans is not Antarctica—it’s 73 degrees (F) as I write this in the middle of January.
Yes we have wi-fi. I’m using it now to post this installment of our blog. It’s working quite well, as it always does as I update our blog 2-3 times per week. Why do you need the password as soon as you walk in the door?
Relax. We’re in New Orleans. We’re on the grid, but we aren’t married to the internet. I know you’d like to watch a YouTube video instead of have a conversation with me, but, really, that’s not what New Orleans is like. In New Orleans, we do things face-to-face. We bond. We share. We press the flesh. We don’t eat at our desks, we drink on the street, and we get merry. We live out our lives bumping into our neighbors, and we don’t bump into them because we’re so busy looking at our phones that we didn’t see them. Look, J.P. Morgan Chase Rockefeller, Jr., you probably don’t need to check your emails the minute you step into our lobby. If you do, then I’m happy to divulge the password, but, first, let me give you the lay of the land and orient you to the New Orleans state of mind. If you want to glue your eyes to your tablet after I’m done, I have no quibble with that. Yours isn’t my vacation. Be patient and all things will be revealed.
Number Three: “Do you have air conditioning?”
We live in the sub-tropics, if our inn didn’t have A/C, we wouldn’t be in business. You northerners would melt away in the night. This is a question we usually get over the phone before people make a reservation. “Before I book, I just want to ask if you have air conditioning.” Alternate questions: “Before I book, I just want to make sure you have a hair dryer;” “Before I book, I have to ask if you have an ironing board in the room;” “Before we book a room, can you tell me if our room will have a shower?”
I don’t mind so much if we get these questions over the phone, or through email, before people make a reservation. It says as much on our website, but we’re a small operation you may not trust and this website, if you haven’t noticed, has a lot of text. It’s content is exhaustive. We try to cover all the bases, and, while I like to think it’s arranged in a logical way so that you can find the answers to your questions easily, I understand that it’s a lot to wade through. Also, some people find our inn on other websites that don’t have all this information, so interested potential guests call. Then, I refer them to our website, but I’m always happy to chat on the phone. I’m always happy to chitchat and chew the fat, shoot the breeze, fritter away an hour. That’s the New Orleans way.
What I find astonishing is when people make a reservation months in advance, fly all the way to New Orleans, take a cab here from the airport, and their first question on arrival is if we have air conditioning. If that’s a deal breaker, the time to ask that was well before you walked in our front door into our air conditioned lobby.
We have air conditioning. Lots of it. It won’t be cold enough to hang a side of beef in your suite but you’ll be comfortable the whole time you’re here.
I’m not trying to make fun of anyone or mock them. Believe me, we meet all sorts of people in this line of work and I know as well as anyone else that New Orleans can be a bewildering place. It’s a city like no place else I’ve ever lived. You can read a lot of horror stories about staying at small places like ours, especially if they aren’t professional operations like ours (AirBnB). When you walk in the front door of La Belle Esplanade the first time, you aren’t a stranger. You are a friend we are lucky, very lucky, to meet for the first time. Welcome aboard. Welcome to New Orleans.
I always like to say that La Belle Esplanade is like the Ritz, if the Ritz was located in an old house and run by only two people. La Belle Esplanade is like the Ritz. La Belle Esplanade has heart. Our inn runs on professionalism and personality. You’ll see when you get here. Our neighborhood is safe and there is a lot going on where we live that is off the usual tourist radar. We have wi-fi and we’re happy to give you the password to access it. We have air conditioning, and hair dryers and ironing boards, and our antique claw foot tubs are equipped with shower heads if you aren’t inclined to take a bath. No worries. We have all the amenities you expect from a 5-star***** boutique experience inn, and we have quite a few other pleasant surprises, too.
Come stay with us anytime. We’re not ranked #1 without reason. We’re ranked #1 for very good reasons. Come see for yourself.
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
…where every morning starts with a curated breakfast salon.
Friday, January 20, 2017: It’s a balmy 70 degrees (F) this evening. Everyone is out and about having the kind of adventures they can only have in New Orleans. Welcome to the New Orleans state of mind. Good memories are made on our street.