New Orleans: fast facts, travel tips and a pronunciation guide

New Orleans Mardi Gras 2021 is cancelled, but it’s never too soon to start planning a trip to New Orleans, where there’s something fun to do every day (and night) of the year.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street is not named after the amber elixir made in Kentucky. The city planner de Pauger named the street to honour the royal House of Bourbon when he designed what is now called the French Quarter a good 60 years before distillers came up with the booze.

Famous Bourbon: King Louis XIV, the Sun King. Famous bourbon: Jim Beam.

Tip: Walking and boozing is perfectly legal; its the container, not the contents that cops care about. Broken glass is dangerous for stumbly revellers! Don’t forget to ask for a ‘go-cup’ for your cocktail.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Sure, this is technically true, but New Orleans is well-known for something called lagniappe. (pronounced LAN-yap, y’all) This is something extra for free, no strings attached. Most notably, this includes the beads, doubloons, stuffed animals and more that (in happier times) riders throw from Carnival floats, at riders’ own expense. On a smaller scale, lagniappe can be a round of shots, a dessert to share, or an raw extra oyster or two. Where permitted, lagniappe is up to the discretion of the service provider; it’s a reward, not an obligation.

Say: Thank you!  Don’t say: Where’s my free stuff?

Tip: Corporate entities based in the Midwest don’t budget for lagniappe. Go to local places. When eating raw oysters, sit as close to the shucker as possible. He’s probably the most interesting person in the room, anyway.

Oysters and bananas?

For an example of shucker patter from a pro, plus how oysters and bananas go together, check out this video:

I gotta pee!

With 2010 Census data reporting that the Crescent City has more bars per capita than any city in the US, (8.6 per 10,000 residents, for you data nerds) the awful truth is that the city has almost no public toilets. Even on a street that permits, nay, promotes, drinking and walking.

Popping around the corner is neither a wise nor safe option. French Quarter real estate is some of the most expensive in the city, and well-policed. Getting busted for peeing on a wall may not seem like a big thing, but in the eyes of the law, this is both property damage and indecent exposure. You can get a ticket, or even arrested, which could be difficult to explain back home. The simplest option: for every stop, ‘go’ before you go.

Know that any toilet (fancy establishment or not) is only as clean as the last user left it. By the time you get to NO, you’ll probably carry hand sanitiser and tissues by default. By the end of a night out, you will have an opportunity to use them.

If the matter is urgent (you ignored the simplest option) access to is just a drink purchase away. This helps the service pros keep toilets clean(ish) for paying customers! (Those who invest in the price of a cocktail rarely destroy the toilet)

Tip: buy a bottle of water for later. You’ll probably need it. Even better: buy a drink for the bartender!

Bourbon, New Orleans and y’all: a pronunciation guide

New Orleans has been an American city since Napoleon sold it to the US in 1803. After 200+ years of speaking English, locals pronounce the street the same way we pronounce the booze: BUR-bun.

Same goes for the name of the city: noo-AW-lins. It’s ok if you say noo-or-LEENS. Singers have done that for years, do you know what I mean? (-EENS is easier to rhyme) NAW-lins is a horrible Hollywood construct.

Y’all. A contraction of you+all. Gender-neutral, usually plural, can be used formally or informally, wherever contractions are used. Polite: not as ‘pointy’ as you. Softer. Pretty! Feel free to spread the word, y’all. Sounds like this: YAWL

Tip: After a lifetime of living in the city, locals probably know how to pronounce the words they use all the time. It’s a service-based economy, so locals will get your drift, even for toughies like Tchoupitoulas. When in doubt, ask.

No matter how you describe it, New Orleans is a weird, wonderful, magical city that only gets better with a bit of backstory. An entertaining way to enjoy a daily dose of the Crescent City is through the local paper, a terrific snapshot of daily life in the city.

Coming soon: How to beat Bourbon Street hustles