Bienvenue en Louisiane!

We're very excited that Stoker Weekend featuring World Horror Con is coming to New Orleans-and think it is WAY overdue! If ever there was a city meant to host this weekend, it is most definitely New Orleans!

If you have not been to New Orleans post-Katrina, or haven't been here in the last three years or so, please bear in mind the city has changed dramatically in those years. The neighborhood just on the other side of Canal Street from the French Quarter, for example, used to be relatively unsafe after dark-it was a business district and virtually abandoned after dark. It has been almost completely gentrified now and has completely changed; there are lots of hotels there, older classics and newer ones-because of proximity to both the convention center, New Orleans Arena, and the Superdome. Many of the once abandoned warehouses have been converted to condos and it has become a prime living area.

Some questions have been coming up with some frequency via email and our Facebook page regarding the city, where to stay, and so forth. I am seeing a lot of misinformation, so rather than simply answering everyone's individual questions, I thought it might be a good idea to just go ahead and post these on the website.

1. Directions. In New Orleans, we do not use north, south, east and west. We use uptown (for up the river) downtown (down the river), lakeside (toward the lake) and riverside (to the river). So, the 'downtown riverside block' would mean down river on the side of the street towards the river. We use the river as our major source of direction; as long as you know where the river is, you should be able to orient yourself.

2. The streets. New Orleans was originally a French city, and the French weren't too thrilled by the Louisiana Purchase. So, they refused to allow Americans to buy property in the French city, so the Americans had to buy property and build upriver from the French Quarter. As the city was still controlled by the French, the Americans gave the streets in their part of the city their own names. The dividing line is Canal Street, so streets on the downriver, French Quarter side have a different name than they do on the upriver side. St. Charles Avenue on the upriver side is Royal Street on the Quarter, downriver side. Likewise, Bourbon Street corresponds to Carondelet, Dauphine to Baronne, Camp to Chartres, and Magazine to Decatur. So, for example, if you are looking at a hotel or restaurant whose address is in the 100 block of Magazine, that is actually one block outside on the upriver side of Canal from Decatur Street in the Quarter.

3. Driving. New Orleans is a wonderful, historic city with many colorful and beautiful neighborhoods. Do not, I repeat, do NOT rent a car; as it will prove to be incredibly expensive in the long run as well as not particularly convenient; one should weigh the cost vs. the convenience-frankly, I live here and would prefer NOT to drive; I drive as little as possible. The neighborhood on the other side of Canal Street from the Quarter is locally called the Central Business District, or CBD for short. (It is what would be referred to as 'downtown' in another city, but I will explain why we don't call it that here later) There is no such thing as free parking in either the French Quarter or the CBD, and it can go for as little as $15 per day to as much as $35 per day to park in a lot. Street parking is limited to two hours and IS STRICTLY ENFORCED. After two hours you get a $40 ticket. After that first ticket, you will get a ticket every time the meter maid walks by again, and on the third, you get towed. The city lot does not take credit cards, checks, or debit cards, and the fee STARTS at $100 a day, in cash. Likewise, to an outsider, the streets don't make sense. One-way streets become two-way streets without warning, and vice versa. Street names also change suddenly and without warning from neighborhood to neighborhood. On all major streets left turns are prohibited; it's a $250 ticket if you make a prohibited left turn and get pulled over. The only reason to have a car in New Orleans as a visitor is if you drove in.

4. The streetcar lines. Cabs are relatively inexpensive here, and there are streetcar (not trolley) lines that cost $1.25. The streetcar lines are St. Charles, Canal Street, and Riverfront. They are currently building another, the Loyola line, but it's not certain when it will be completed. Likewise, the St. Charles line is being refurbished without a time line on completion-it's been replaced by a city bus for where it isn't running, and there's no charge for switching from the streetcar to the bus or vice versa. The St. Charles line starts at the corner of Carondelet and Canal, it swings down Canal Street for a block before turning right and heading up St. Charles Avenue. It runs through the CBD, the Warehouse/Art District, the Garden District, Uptown, and the University District all the way to where St. Charles ends at Carrollton Avenue. It continues up Carrollton to where the line ends at Carrollton and Claiborne. The Canal Street line runs from the river all the way out to where Canal Street ends at Metairie Road and the Old Metairie Cemeteries. The Loyola line, when completed, will run from the Greyhound/Amtrak stations all the way down Basin Street to St. Claude and into the lower 9th Ward. The riverfront line runs just inside the river levee from Jackson Square to the convention center.

5. Cabs. Cabs are relatively inexpensive here. The airport itself is not inside New Orleans proper, it is in Kenner and is the second to last exit on I-10 heading west out of the city before you hit the lake swamp. A cab from the airport to the French Quarter-anywhere, really-is not a metered fare; it is a rate set by the city. It's $32.00 for one, plus an additional dollar per extra passenger. No hotels in the French Quarter or the CBD provide free shuttles to the airport; the shared multi-stop airport shuttles are $20 in each direction-but the return has to be book a minimum of 24 hours in advance. If you are coming into the city by Greyhound or Amtrak, the station is actually on the edge of the CBD and would be, at most, an $8 cab ride at most to any hotel in the CBD or the Quarter. For more information on transportation to and from the hotel, please check the airport's page on ground transportation, or Viator's page on shuttles and private cars.

6. Meals. It really is impossible to eat a bad meal in New Orleans unless you go to a chain restaurant or fast food joint. There are none of these in the French Quarter; chains are prohibited on the streets inside the Quarter. If you should want a fast food meal, you will find them on Canal Street. Almost every bar and/or corner grocery sells food; if you order a sandwich you will be asked if you want it 'dressed,' which means with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes. If you don't want those, or want any additional condiments you have to request it-and be aware that most places use a spatula to spread mayonnaise and it will be put on both pieces of bread-where it's regular bread, a bun, or French bread. So, unless you're a big fan of mayonnaise, be aware that's how it's done here.

7. For anything you might need, there is a grocery store, a Rouse's, at the corner of Royal and St. Peter streets in the Quarter. There's a Walgreen's on the corner of Royal and Iberville, and another on Decatur Street at the Wilkinson Street corner, across from Jax Brewery. There's also a CVS across the street in the Jax Brewery building, but it does NOT have a pharmacy.

8. Also, the French Quarter is a perfect grid. The streets that run toward the river are named after saints, French nobility or explorers until you get to the lower Quarter. The first two streets inside the Quarter are the explorers: Iberville and Bienville. (The Hotel Monteleone takes up the entire riverside block of Royal Street between Iberville and Bienville.) The next is Conti, after Conti every other street is a saint. So, if you're lost and not sure where you are in the Quarter, if you a walk a block in either direction and don't come to a street named for a saint, you're on a street running to and from the river. The streets that run the same direction as the river are Decatur-at the river front, Chartres, Royal, Bourbon, Dauphine, and Burgundy. (If you know French history, these are the royal dukes.)

9. The Quarter has four boundaries: the river, Canal Street on the uptown side, Rampart on the lakeside, and Esplanade on the downtown side. The neighborhood on the other side of Esplanade is the FaubourgMarigny, which contains Frenchmen Street, a very popular street with lots of nightclubs with live music. The FaubourgMarigny can be confusing; because the river makes a big turn just past Esplanade, and the streets follow it, making a ninety degree turn-so if you keep walking and don't make the turn you will find yourself on a completely different street. For example, when you walk down Decatur and cross Esplanade, one block in Decatur makes a ninety degree turn to follow the river. If you keep walking straight, that's Frenchmen Street (see why you shouldn't drive?). The neighborhood on the lake side of Rampart Street is Treme; Treme isn't highly recommended as a night time destination. (Locals always tell people to always stay on the river side of Rampart Street-since Katrina it's not that bad anymore, but better safe than sorry.)

10. Safety. New Orleans has a 'reputation' as a 'dangerous' city but it's no more dangerous than any other city; the vast majority of crime happens in bad neighborhoods far from the Quarter. There are pickpockets on Bourbon Street, of course, and if you are sloppy falling down stupid drunk, you might get rolled-in other words, don't be stupid. New Orleans is a 24/7 city; you can drink at any time of the day, and you can buy alcohol almost anywhere. Also bear in mind that grain alcohol is not illegal here-so before buying a 32 ounce or larger daiquiri in a daiquiri bar, make sure you check the contents of the 'flavor' you're buying. Also, jello shots in New Orleans are almost ALWAYS made with grain alcohol-which is a minimum of 150 proof. Also, bear in mind that if you are arrested in New Orleans for anything-whether its public intoxication, anything-you will spend the weekend in jail. We do not have night court, weekend court, anything: if you get arrested the earliest you will go before a judge is Monday morning. And if you are arrested, you have to go before a judge before you can be released.

Obviously, we want you to have the best possible time while you are here; the point of these helpful hints is to help you make decisions that will ensure your visit here is as hassle-free and enjoyable as possible.

I will also be posting recommendations for places to eat, and other things to do here if you are staying longer than the weekend-because of course you will be too busy doing Stoker Weekend related activities to do anything those days!

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Greg Herren, chair

The city also has its own guide check - check it out, and start planning your 2013 vacation now!

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