If you take a tour with us to cajun country, you'll learn the cajun dialect is a unique and sometimes incomprehensible language to native English OR French speakers. The historical language of the cajun people is Cajun French and while there are still those living in cajun country that speak Cajun French, the Cajun vernacular English is now widely spoken in Southern Louisiana and is heavily influenced by the French language. If you want to learn to speak like a Cajun (or at least be able to understand them!), start with these common words and phrases:
Allons [Ah-loh(n)]: Let's go.
Ça c’est bon (Sa say boh(n)): That’s good.
Ça va (Sa va): How are you? And it's also the response I'm well.
C’est tout (Say too): That’s all.
Cher [sha]: A term of endearment usually used with women, similar to ‘dear’ or ‘sweetheart.’
Chevrette (she-vret): Shrimp
Cocodril (ko-ko-dree): Alligator
Courtbouillon (coo-boo-yon): A rich, spicy tomato-based soup or stew made with fish fillets, onions, and sometimes mixed vegetables.
Fais do-do [fay doe-doe]: A Cajun dance party.
Filé [fee-lay]: Ground sassafras leaves used to season, among other things, gumbo.
Frottoir [froh-twahr]: A washboard or rubboard used as a musical instrument in zydeco and Cajun music.
Gris-gris [gree-gree] To put a curse on someone. Frequently used in jest, not in reference to actual black magic.
Joie de vivre [Jhwa da veev]: Joy of living.
Lagniappe [Lahn-yop]: Something extra.
Laissez les bons temps rouler [Lay say lay boh(n) toh(n) roo lay]: Let the good times roll. With more than 400 festivals each year, this saying embraces the fun-loving nature of Louisiana.
Frequently, we are asked which of the River Road plantation houses is the best to visit. It’s a difficult question to answer since they are all so unique and interesting for different reasons. One of our favorites though is Houmas House, aka The Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road, or the Sugar Palace. People visit Houmas House for its history and its beauty. The architecture itself has stood the test of time, realizing the whims and fancies of its numerous owners over the past two and a half centuries of existence. It started, as all plantations (or farms) do, as a simple plot of land that was purchased from the Houmas Indians. Its first residence was a French carriage house whose charm and ambiance is currently enjoyed by diners at Latil’s landing restaurant. Construction on the main house was completed in 1828 and the estate sold about 30 years later to Irishman John Burnside. Under the ownership of sugar baron John Burnside, Houmas House became the largest producer of sugar in the country, hence the nickname
The Sugar Palace. Learn more about Houmas House on a tour with us!
Some people are surprised to find out that the historical center of New Orleans, the French Quarter, isn’t really very French! Though founded by the French, the architecture is mostly influenced by the 40 year rule of the Spanish. And a lot of the food is heavily influenced by the Italians! Italian immigration was high in the late 1800s and early 1900’s as men, women, and entire families fled the rural poverty of Southern Italy. At one time, the Quarter was even referred to as Little Italy or more specifically Little Palermo. Many Sicilian immigrants made a living as farmers selling their produce in the French Market, or even opening small shops and groceries of their own. One of which – Central Grocery – has become a French Quarter landmark and is credited with the invention of the now famous Muffaletta sandwhich!
Although Italian immigrants, (much like other immigrant populations like the Irish and Germans) were not quite received with open arms, their cuisine blended seamlessly with Cajun and Creole flavors and a new style of food emerged not found anywhere else in the country. One famous dish served by all the best restaurants that boast traditional New Orleans food is BBQ Shrimp. This dish is a direct result of the evolution of Italian cooking. The immigrant population embraced the Gulf seafood and Cajun spices available to them, and incorporated these ingredients into what was once a classic Scampi recipe, resulting in one of the tastiest and most famous dishes available in New Orleans!
Most people know Esplanade Avenue as one of the bounding streets of the Vieux Carre (French Quarter), but the Esplanade ridge as we call it actually traverses several of New Orleans finest neighborhoods providing direct access from the French Quarter to New Orleans City Park. Besides the French Quarter, Esplanade is accessible from the Faubourg Marigny, America’s oldest African American neighborhood – Tremé, Faubourg St. John, and our beloved MidCity. The avenue forms the spine of a historic district in its own right known as the Esplanade Ridge Historic District, which contains one of the highest concentrations of Creole architecture in the country! The most impressive of the bunch are of course on Esplanade Avenue itself. Besides the architectural remnants of New Orleans’ 19th century Creole elite, the avenue has plenty of other points of attraction that make it one of the best places in the city to live and to visit. Its proximity to the Fairgrounds and City Park make it the perfect place to stay while enjoying Jazz Fest in the spring, or exploring New Orleans Museum of Art at the entrance of City Park. The handful of quaint and historic b&bs on Esplanade Ave. such as the Degas House, La Belle Esplanade or the HH Whitney House are sure to be booked solid during peak seasons so we recommend making reservations early. One of our favorite stops on Esplanade is St. Louis cemetery #3, which we visit on both of our City Tours. Learn about the cemetery and the historic homes that make this district so remarkable on our City Tours!
One of the most spectacular points of interest in New Orleans is Audubon Park. Uptown New Orleans was originally developed by dividing the land into long narrow plots perpendicular to the river, so many landowners could benefit from the fertile banks of the Mississippi. Situated between famed Saint Charles Avenue and the great Mississippi River, the plot of land now known as Audubon Park was originally settled as farmland by New Orlean’s first mayor, Etienne de Boré. It was on this sugar plantation that granulated sugar made its debut as a commercial commodity. It was in 1850 (30 years after the passing of Boré) that the plot of land was acquired by the city. The land began its transformation into the lovely urban park we know today in the 1870’s in anticipation of Louisiana’s first world’s fair – The World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884. Two years after the world’s fair, the park was renamed from Upper City Park to Audubon Park after John James Audubon (1785-1851), an admired wildlife artist best known for his Birds of America collection. In 1894, Audubon Park was refined by prominent landscape architect John Charles Olmstead. Since then, the Audubon Commission, tasked with the development and maintenance of the park, has blossomed into a network of nature institutions including research facilities, recreation amenities, the Audubon Zoo, and the Insectarium. The park itself continues to thrive under the Audubon Commission as they are dedicated to the long-term conservation of the land and its inhabitants. To get the full park experience, we recommend taking the St. Charles streetcar uptown to the park’s entrance and walk through the park all the way to Magazine St, or to the Zoo (just on the other side of Magazine), or to the river (just on the other side of the Zoo!)
Fort St. John of the Bayou or Fort San Juan del Bayou, later shortened to Fort St. John, was established in 1701 by the French as the first defensive position outside the city. It was located at the base of Bayou St. John where it opened to Lake Pontchartrain. The Spanish gained control of New Orleans in 1763 and rebuilt the old wooden French fort out of their customary masonry.
Today when you tour the remains you can see bits and pieces, remnants of the glory from yester years. You won’t fully get a picture of all Fort St. John’s splendor unless you look up older photos. The remains serve as an important historical reminder for the city of New Orleans, and how significant the fort and waterways were to the protection of the city from a direct attack by way of Lake Pontchartrain.
The French regained control of New Orleans in 1801 but then later sold it to the Americans in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The fort was occupied by Americans starting in 1803 and was garrisoned in preparation for the British attack but never saw wartime action. General Jackson stationed some of his best gunners there. When it was clear, the enemy would not attack through Lake Pontchartrain, they were recalled for the Battle of New Orleans.
Around 1818 Fort Pike was constructed and designed to guard the Rigolets Pass. It would assume the primary role for coastal defense for Lake Pontchartrain. Fort St. John was decommissioned and sold in 1823. It was later constructed into a hotel, then subsequently an amusement park and tourist destination that lasted through the 1920’s.
It has now faded into the pages of history books but leaves a legacy behind. It leaves a few legends too. All important historical sites have haunts and ghost stories that paint a picture, Fort St. John is no different. Should you get the chance to pass by ask about a soldier named Sancho Pablo.