The Joys of Being a New Orleans Local

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Being a New Orleans local is like being one of the cool kids – people want to know what you do, people want to be part of your experience and you get all the inside references. That’s why Unique Nola Tours sends you out with locals – so you get a real deal New Orleans walking tour experience.

Let’s start with the food. You may have heard of gumbo, jambalaya and what the heck is etouffee? Locals not only know this stuff, they have an understanding of what makes a quality version and what makes a cheap knock-off. A “normal” American might get shrimp once a year, for the holidays in a shrimp cocktail for example. In New Orleans it’s not unusual to go to a party where an entire Cajun rowboat (a pirogue, cher) is filled with boiled shrimp.

Gumbo is as varied as your Grandma’s spaghetti sauce, and everyone here defends their “MawMaw’s” recipe to the death. We’ll tell you the word “gumbo” is West African for okra. We understand that the “roux” is our version of a mirepoix or sofrito. Further, we use rice as it is native to the Caribbean. Finally, we copy the original locals, Native Americans, and sprinkle filé, the leaves of a sassafras tree plant, native to the area. So without a big lecture on world cultures, locals really get that gumbo is a combination of all the people that formed us – Native, African, Island and Euro.

Which brings us to a key concept of New Orleans culture – the layers of meaning that need to be understood to understand the big picture of life down here. Whether it’s the origins of Mardi Gras, the roots of American pop music or the famously confusing definitions of “Creole,” locals here have these concepts in their DNA. On any New Orleans walking tour, we run into somebody that knows something unique to the city.

Here’s a funny and quaint example of knowing the layers to get the great payoff of inside knowledge: Here we have female walking krewes. Krewes are private groups that basically make Mardi Gras happen. And these krewes march along in different parades as a popular attraction. The best known ones are The Pussyfooters and The Bearded Oysters. There is yet another walking krewe that dresses up in red flight attendant outfits – the jackets, the skirts and the kewl wedge cap they wear. To get their name, you must understand a couple things first.

A very common term of endearment here between, say your best friend’s mom and yourself is “heart.” The New Orleans accent sounds nothing like the rest of the South, it has a sound similar to the open vowels of Brooklyn. So your friend’s Mama might invite you into the kitchen saying “Oh my hawt, you wanna piece a’ king cake?” You following so far? Okay next, the word “hawt” is also internet slang for an attractive woman.

So now we can put together this linguistic gumbo that any local immediately gets when hearing the name of this female flight attendant-style walking group: The Amelia EarHawts. And each member is a “Hawt.”

The Unique NOLA Tours Experience

Here’s the thing – you could miss a lot of quality content as it literally parades by you if it weren’t for a local pointing it out. Add in the fact that we all love showing off our remarkable and intricate city, that you know we are going to really pile on the knowledge. A New Orleans walking tour with a local reveals the deeply intertangled stories of the area. You might say we know where all the bodies are buried – and in our Plague Tour and our True Crime tour you could say that literally.

On the The Local’s Guide to the French Quarter Tour, we show where the famous folks live, where the big chefs live, the important business owners and athletes. We sometimes visit with the residents, who know and trust us, and are happy to share their own stories. This is a joy of being a local – connections.

Did you know there are a lot of New Orleans Saints fans in Canada? You know why? ‘Cuz doing a road trip from cold Calgary to warm New Orleans in November is a really great idea! The weather here is changeable, but usually warm and humid. When it rains in the Spring and Summer it’s usually over in an hour. If you have to get up a half hour early to warm your car up in the morning or shovel snow, you can appreciate why a local is so happy here watching the Weather Channel.

The joys of being a local is knowing that we live somewhere unique. Somewhere everyone else in the world wants to experience. There is a story of a nice Uptown lady who was once asked “Why don’t you travel?” Her response: “Why should I travel? I’m already here.”

Welcome, Hawt, to New Orleans.