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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Orleans -- Getting Around (Repost!)

[Given I'm having a party in September to celebrate the launch of The Dead Man's Deal I thought I'd repost a couple blogs about traveling here in New Orleans. -jax]

Traveling to New Orleans? First time? It can be overwhelming. Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, coming to New Orleans is a bit of a trick. You can Yelp the good restaurants and hotels, you can find online lists of things to see, places to go, venues to hear amazing music, and there is always something happening almost every weekend. But where to even start? You get into a cab and say “Take me to…” You’re bound to get it wrong because, well, it’s New Orleans.

Let me give you an example. Throughout the US, states are divided into counties. In Louisiana we have parishes.

You might live in a neighborhood. In New Orleans we call them faubourgs (pronounced “foh-burg”, and translates into “suburb” according to Google).

Why? Partly because, unlike most of the US which was founded by the British, Louisiana was French. This is a broad brush that explains everything different about New Orleans, from the law to food to architecture — which I’ll elaborate on in future blogs.

I know what you're thinking. “Good. French. I took some French back in high school. Surely I’ll know how to pronounce street names!”

You've got another think coming.

Nothing here is pronounced the way you think it should be. Or the French, for that matter.

I’ll begin in the French Quarter (which, you’d reason, must be French — kinda in the name) you’ll find road names like “Chartres”. Any Frenchman would pronounce this “shar-trah”, with a very soft emphasis on the “trah”. The New Orleanian calls it “Charter”, as in “I want to charter a boat”.

There’s a road called Burgundy. It’s spelled just like the color; ask a New Orleanian for a glass of burgundy and you’ll get just what you’d expect. But if you want directions, the emphasis is different. It’s BurGUNdy.

Walking along the Mississippi River you’ll hear the piping music coming from the paddle wheel boat, Natchez. Everyone knows that’s a calliope (pronounced “kah-LIE-oh-pee”). The road along highway 90, however, is Calliope (pronounce “KAL-ee-ohp”).

If that weren’t perplexing enough keep in mind that the city is split right in two. After the Louisiana purchase there was a plan to build a canal that connected the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain (pronounced “PAHN-chah-trane”). It would act as a break from old New Orleans (the Vieux Carre, pronounced “view ka-RAY”) and those new comers from America. The canal was never built. But a road (Canal Street) is in its place. Thus, the names of roads from the French Quarter and down river are different from Canal Street and up river.

If you’re walking along Bourbon Street, heading to the Audubon Park, once you cross Canal you’ll find yourself on Carondelet Street (pronounced “cahr-on-duh-let”).

Given that, I’ll let you try to pronounce this:

Every New Orleanian can say it. But none can spell it.

Here are a few websites the will help you get around town:



If you’re planning a trip here and need some pronunciation guidance, comment here.

Oh. And please, just call it New Orleans (pronounced “new orlenz”). See y’all soon!

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