New Orleans: A Walkable City

December 15, 2015

Crossing into Louisiana on I-10

Crossing into Louisiana on I-10

Long bridge over Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans

Long bridge over Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans

Paddleboat on the Mississippi River in New Orleans

Paddleboat on the Mississippi River in New Orleans

New Orleans offers a varied menu of attractions for visitors — live music, food, sports, art, festivals — and after my first trip to the city, I have my own list of favorite things.  I’ll be sharing them with you over the next few days.

Ship in the Mississippi River

Ship in the Mississippi River

I was happy to discover how easy it is to navigate; it’s a very walkable city.  We turned in our rental car upon arrival, and spent four days on foot.  New Orleans is very flat, and the weather was in the high 70s (no rain), and both of these factors contributed to the ease of getting around.

“. . . cardinal directions are of limited use here.  The river that borders the city meanders in many directions; many long streets follow the bends of the river and change directions themselves; the long cross-streets radiate; the city is low, with no hills and few tall buildings, so low that ships going by on the Mississippi River appear to be above you, and the river itself is invisible behind levees.

The compass that orients the world makes little sense here and is not much used.  Instead . . . people define direction by the bodies of water.  In place of north there is lakeside, for Lake Ponchartrain; in place of south there is the river; upriver and uptown are west; downriver is east.  These directions are also reminders that the place is very nearly surrounded by water, an enchanted isle with its own rules.”
— Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Horse-drawn carriage in the French Quarter

Horse-drawn carriage in the French Quarter

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

“Only in the old cities — like New Orleans — built long before cars, do walking humans still feel at home. . . . People navigate their streets like fish:  the streets are our medium, a fluid and changing spectacle that is also the stuff we breathe in and out.  It’s a city for watching and being watched, a voyeur-voyee paradise . . .:
— Andrei Codrescu, “Moving Faster Than My Body,” from New Orleans Mon Amour

Pedestrian on Canal Street passing images of the ubiquitous blue dog (art by George Rodrigue)

Pedestrian on Canal Street passing images of the ubiquitous blue dog (art by George Rodrigue)

“On New Orleans’ ordinary streets one savors a sense both of easement and of unspecified possibilities . . .”

St. Louis Cathedral at the end of Jackson Square

St. Louis Cathedral at the end of Jackson Square

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

“I like the feeling of living in day-before-yesterday and day-after-tomorrow at the same time.  Nothing could be more modern than those neon signs just outside on Decatur Street, or the traffic tearing past between us and Jackson Square.  But the little square itself must look exactly the same tonight as it did a hundred years ago and, while we were passing it, I could imagine all sorts of ghosts wandering around, under the palm trees.”
— Frances Parkinson Keyes, from Dinner at Antoine’s

Streetcar on Canal Street

Streetcar on Canal Street

Map of streetcar lines in New Orleans

Map of streetcar lines in New Orleans

New Orleans’ historic streetcars make outlying parts of the city very accessible.  The $3 all-day pass is affordable, and allows you to hop on and off the streetcars and buses at will.  We loved exploring the city this way, and over the course of our stay, we rode all four main lines from end to end.

“The New Orleans dividing line that used to be all important is Canal Street . . . it formed a porous boundary between Downtown and Uptown, downriver and upriver, between the French — or more appropriately, the Creole — section and the ‘American Sector’ . . .”
— Lolis Eric Elie, “Here They Come, There They Go,” from Unfathomable City

Interior, New Orleans streetcar

Interior, New Orleans streetcar

Mardi Gras beads hanging from Canal Street sign

Mardi Gras beads hanging from Canal Street sign

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The seats of the streetcars had backs that you could move forward or backward, a clever way to change the seating so that you faced forward regardless of the direction you were traveling.  You definitely wanted to heed the signs not to stick head or arms out the windows because at times we passed within 6 inches of trees and signposts!

“Patrolman Mancuso inhaled the moldy scent of the oaks and thought, in a romantic aside, that St. Charles Avenue must be the loveliest place in the world.  From time to time he passed the slowly rocking streetcars that seemed to be leisurely moving toward no special destination, following their route through the old mansions on either side of the avenue.  Everything looked so calm, so prosperous, so unsuspicious.”
— John Kennedy Toole, from A Confederacy of Dunces

The green streetcars moved through the Garden District

The green streetcars moved through the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue

Walking and riding the streetcars were our favorite ways of exploring New Orleans.  The city gets high marks for walkability.

 

 

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4 Responses to “New Orleans: A Walkable City”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    I loved seeing the Blue Dog. And Ponchartrain brought back memories of the day I learned both my mother and my aunt were dreadfully afraid of crossing bridges. It was not a pleasant trip across.

  2. mzuritam Says:

    Good photos! We got to visit N.O. the summer before Katrina. Beautiful.


  3. Very captivating photographs! Thank you for sharing : )


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