Avenida de la Explanada, Nueva Orleans, USA
In 2018, New Orleans will celebrate 300 years of civic existence. That's a pretty long time. Many states in these United States of America aren't that old.
New Orleans has been a city over a long and storied history. Some of this history is, frankly, quite baffling, as one would expect from America's most interesting city. Some people think New York City is more interesting. Some people think San Francisco is more interesting. Tennessee Williams, of all people, once said, "There are only three cities in America: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland." Everywhere else in America isn't Cleveland, of course, but he was right about one thing. NYC, SF, and NOLA are kindred spirits and worlds unto themselves.
New Orleans original name, and the name that French-speaking people still call it, was La Nouvelle-Orléans. It's date of birth was May 7, 1718 when the city was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Seiur de Bienville. Bienville Street is named after him. So is Bayou Bienville. So are Oysters Bienville. New Orleans was a colony of Bourbon France until 1763, when it was ceded to the Spanish Empire under King Charles III. Spain's jurisdiction over the city ended in 1803 when that government ceded control to Napoleon, the French Emperor, back to French jurisdiction. During the whole time Spain was in charge of New Orleans, New Orleanians continued to speak French and they continued to identify with French culture. They considered themselves French. Many New Orleanians still identify with their French roots over the current government that holds sway over this polyglot and francophile city.
Napoleon I sold New Orleans to the United States of America in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, which you may have heard of. For 60 years, New Orleans, a major port and the largest city in the South, was a part of the United States. On January 26, 1861, however, the City of New Orleans, along with the rest of the great State of Louisiana seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America (CSA versus USA). That lasted a little longer than the time New Orleans was part of the Napoleonic Empire, but by 1862 New Orleans was once again under Union control as part of the USA. It has been a part of the United States ever since.
While New Orleans pledges allegiance to these United States and the flag for which it stands, New Orleans really is different from any other city in America. Esplanade Avenue, which has been called l'Avenue d'Esplanade, Agenda de la Explanada, and Esplanade Avenue, is a street different from any other street in America.
There are plenty of beautiful streets and avenues, boulevards and thoroughfares, turnpikes, highways, byways, parkways, alleyways, and lanes in America, but there is only one Esplanade Avenue. That's the Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.
Now for a note on pronunciation:
In New Orleans, Esplanade is pronounced ess-plan-AID, not ESS-plah-nahd, the way you want to pronounce it. In French, it's ESS-plah-nahd. In Boston, there's a park called the Esplanade. How do they pronounce it in Boston? ESS-plah-nahd. Everywhere else in the world the word is pronounced ESS-plah-nahd. Everywhere else in the world, if you say ess-plan-AID, people will look at you like you're a yahoo, someone who just fell off the turnip truck and hit his head on the way into town. "Haw-haw! He just said ess-plan-AID," they'll all laugh. Not in New Orleans, though.
If you get off your plane and get into a cab at the airport and tell your driver you want to go to 2216 ESS-plah-nahd Avenue, he's going to look at you funny. That cabbie isn't going to know where you mean. "Where? What't the name of that street again? Where do you want to go?" the cabbie will ask. I know. People from out of town tell me this all the time. They have to spell it out and then it will dawn on the cab driver, "Oh! You mean 2216 ess-plan-AID Avenue." Yup. Esplanade Avenue.
Where is 2216 Esplanade Avenue.? It's the address of La Belle Esplanade, a boutique experience inn located right smack dab in the middle of Esplanade Avenue, in the 2200 block, equidistant from the Mississippi River on one end and City Park on the street's other end. The inn is called La Belle Esplanade because it's named after the street on which it resides. People think everyone speaks French in New Orleans. We don't, but the innkeepers who named their inn are mischievous. How do they pronounce the name of their inn. It's La Belle ESS-plah-nahd on ess-plan-AID Avenue. New Orleanians always get a chuckle out of this. "That's pretty clever," they always say.
Esplanade Avenue really is beautiful, or, as the French say, "C'est belle." Interesting things happen on Esplanade Avenue every day. Some of these things are more interesting than others, but that depends on your perspective. This website is going to delve deeply into what happens on Esplanade Avenue in a New Orleans state of mind. These first few installments are filling up space, to be sure, but we hope they give you a taste of what Esplanade Avenue is like. Just a hint. As the site fills out, you'll get a veritable cornucopia of sub-tropical delights that fill our street and it's surrounding neighborhoods. There really is no other street like Esplanade Avenue. Magic happens and good memories are made here.
New Orleans always reminds me of New York City. Not the pace and not the density. Certainly not the skyline. New Orleans is a low-slung city. The bedrock here is buried under miles of Mississippi River mud. But, everyone you meet in New York City has a scheme. It may be to get rich, it may be to get famous. One way or another, people move to NYC to make their mark on the world. People in New Orleans have schemes, too. In New Orleans, their schemes are to have a good time, to make good memories, to make their mark on New Orleans. "We're gonna have the best Mardi Gras ever next year!" That's what people say in New Orleans. Spend a day here and someone will tell you their Mardi Gras plans for next year. That's how we roll in New Orleans.
Stick around these pages long enough and you'll see for yourself. Good memories are made on Esplanade Avenue.