As regular readers know, I dislike referring to La Belle Esplanade as a bed and breakfast. Unlike the idea of what you think of as a bed and breakfast in your mind, La Belle is not like your great-great grandparents’ house stuffed full of antiques, full of post-it note rules of what not to touch, and run by amateurs as an supplement to their real income source (Social Security).
For Frau Schmitt, who is the better half of this operation, and I, your humble narrator, this is our full time vocation. We are professional innkeepers, or, as I prefer to say, we are micro-hoteliers. We run a hotel with five suites. We manage a staff of two, us, in order to keep the level of service up to 10-**********star standards. La Belle Esplanade isn’t just unlike any other New Orleans hotel. La Belle Esplanade is unlike any other hotel, period.
La Belle Esplanade is in a class by itself. We like the competition this way.
We don’t visit or stay in bed and breakfasts when we take vacations. Some other innkeepers do that in order to learn tips and tricks of the trade. We did it a few times when we were still greenhorns in our profession, but, frankly, that route was a dead end. We don’t like staying in somebody’s house furnished either à la Target or full of half-broken antiques, where everything works wonky and there are signs everywhere telling us what not to do. “Don’t touch the armoire. It’s been in our family for four generations and we want to pass it on to our grandchildren.” Great. Thanks for putting it in the room, Mr. and Mrs. B&B Innkeeper. I’ll admire it from a distance.
We prefer to stay at elegant old-fashioned hotels with a lot of history under their belts and a lot of hospitality experience built into the services offered. This often still leaves a level of service to be desired from our perspective since, after all, we run a very personalized boutique operation. With only five suites, we can curate and tailor what we do for our guests in a way that a hotel with 200 rooms and a staff of 50 people on site at any time just can’t. When you choose to stay at La Belle Esplanade, you choose to make two friends in New Orleans. When you choose to stay in any other hotel, you get what you pay for. La Belle Esplanade is unlike any other New Orleans hotel.
Frau Schmitt and I find we get more hospitality insights when we stay in grand hotels.
When I say grand hotels, I don’t mean the Exit 36a Marriott off any interstate highway near you, but sometimes, we can learn from negative examples to do the opposite of the big chains.
If you don’t remember, every year, 9/11 is the anniversary of when the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were destroyed, the Pentagon was struck by an airplane commandeered by hijackers, and United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field after the passengers overwhelmed the hijackers of that plane who intended to crash it in Washington, DC. 2996 people were killed during this terrorist attack on the United States. Over 6000 more people were injured. The attack caused over $10,000,000,000 in property damage. None of this happened in New Orleans, so, while it is a tragic day worth recalling, Frau Schmitt and I choose not to make a big deal of it with the guests who stay with us on any given Sept. 11.
Here’s one thing we didn’t copy from a chain hotel this past Sept. 11:
Nothing compliments a moment of reverent and reflective silence over a tragedy like some commemorative mini-muffins, dontcha think?. Did they charge money for those mini-muffins and coffee before 8:45 and after 9:15? I’ve never been in a middling-tier chain hotel/motel where they charged for continental breakfast or coffee, or for powdered eggs in a chafing dish and stale danish for that matter, either. Maybe this is a pay-as-you-go Marriott, where everything is à la carte, like at an upscale steakhouse.
Who can put a price on prepackaged supermarket bakery aisle grade, BHT-preserved mini-muffins. 3-for-a dollar, maybe?
In my mind, the general manager of the Exit 36a Marriott addressed a solemn gathering of guests, everyone’s heads bowed in the breakfast room, assembled on the morning of 9/11/17 to honor those who died on 9/11/01. They came to honor the dead and to take advantage of this memorial free chow special during the designated half hour window.
In my mind’s eye, the general manager of this particular hotel is a clean-cut, somewhat pudgy man with a baby face. You know the earnest type I’m talking about. He is in this mid-30s, wearing a white shirt with the Marriott M embroidered over his shirt’s breast pocket, which contains two Marriott-branded click pens. He is wearing a name tag, but, for the purposes of this story, his identity will remain anonymous.
He is wearing tan chinos and no jacket. He’s going to be too busy running today, running around managing operations, to sport either a single-breasted or double-breasted jacket. He’s wearing a tie, of course. He is management. He is not wearing a clip-on tie, like you thought I was going to say. He’s wearing a red dacron tie, tied in a loose four-in-hand knot, and the tail end dangles out longer than the cravat part in front. The skinny tail sometimes gets tucked into his waistband during his running around the hotel grounds to make sure everything is just so, up to corporate standards. The pattern on his red tie features Dora the Explorer because his daughter gave it to him for Fathers’ Day.
He says this to his audience on this solemn morning:
“Hi everbody! I’m not good at making speeches, but here it goes! Luckily, my boss sent me some notes.
On behalf of all our Marriott affiliate partners around the world, the staff of the Exit 36a Marriott would like to extend our condolences to all of you who lost family members or colleagues during this tragic day in our history. The world changed on this date in 2001. Since that day, we here at the Exit 36a Marriott have struggled to overcome adversity, to build bridges between people who don’t get along, and to offer the tastiest mini-muffins to all of our guests to soothe any pain you may be feeling while staying at our hotel. Thank you for choosing Marriott for your business and leisure travel needs.
Please take the next half hour to enjoy the mini-muffins we have around the lobby. All you can eat. Thanks to Marriott’s corporate supply chain, we have boxes of them in the back room, so, please, eat up. There are plenty more where these came from. We have chocolate chip, blueberry, and plain.
The coffee today is complimentary between 8:45 and 9:15, too. The coffee urn, like the entire Marriott brand’s sympathy for all those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, is bottomless. You’ll find our coffee a great way to start the day!
Thank you again for choosing Marriott for this memorable occasion. At Marriott, we want to be a part of your life. When traveling, remember to choose Marriott, the hotels that honor our past while working together for a better future. For extended stays with all the comforts of home, consider staying at one of our Towne Place Suites (TM).”
—–Alright. Look. At La Belle Esplanade, which is unlike any other New Orleans hotel, we’ll never give a speech like that. We don’t serve supermarket-grade mini-muffins, either. We’ve never served mini-muffins, or anything else from a corporate supply chain. At La Belle Esplanade, every morning is a curated breakfast salon of local delicacies and intelligent conversation. Our boutique experience inn is the opposite of corporate in every way.
We look forward to meeting you.
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
Friday, September 15, 2016: Another fine New Orleans day. You shoulda been here.
Postscript: Instead of talking to a baby-faced, barely-needs-to-shave, hotel manager working his way up the Marriott (or Sheraton, etc.) corporate ladder, what do you think it would be like to talk to a seasoned man-about-New Orleans, a man of savoir faire, a gentleman who knows how to tie a tie in a Windsor knot as chiseled and crisp as an ice sculpture, and who can put a dimple in that power knot as jaunty as the dimples in his smile? You know who I’m talking about. If you wanna get the inside skinny on New Orleans outside the corporate line, off the usual tourist radar, and that you can’t find in any guide book, La Belle Esplanade is unlike any other New Orleans hotel. You can talk to this gent:
He doesn’t have a coporate party line to toe. He shoots from the hip. You never know what’s gonna come out of his mouth, but you can be sure it will be both informative and entertaining. There is only one New Orleans. There is only one La Belle Esplanade. Just ask Frau Schmitt, the better half of this operation. She is usually right about these things and she’ll tell you, too, that La Belle is unlike any other New Orleans hotel. La Belle Esplanade is more better.