Hello. If you’re a native to this Greater New Orleans area, (and we all are, even if we don’t all start out that way) you’ve probably heard some unflattering, untrue things about the western side of the great Mississippi river. (Well, technically southern side, but that’s a whole other issue.)
Allow me to help dispel some of these stereotypes and generalizations about the Westbank for you.
#1 – There is an invisible force field that makes the journey to and from prohibitive.
I am happy to say that this is very untrue. I take at least one bridge at least 2 times a day, and my car has never slipped into an otherworldly dimension. In fact, the Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson Parish has recently undergone an overhaul. Eastbankers, you can now travel in your OWN lane instead of straddling the line, hogging up two lanes as you previously did.
#2 – There aren’t a lot of dining options on the Westbank.
Ok, when I hear this one, I know the speaker has never set foot on the Westbank. We boast some of the best restaurants in the city, from fancy-pants (Banana Blossom) to neighborhood classics (Mo’s Pizza of Westwego), to a bizarre combination of the two (just how do you explain Mosca’s, exactly?) and that’s not even scraping the roux. One could argue (as I do all the time) that the Westbank (and New Orleans East) is responsible for the current Vietnamese/Pho craze, and by the way you are very welcome.
#3 – We are all related/all know each other.
FALSE/Ok, kinda true.
No, we are not all related, although there are some last names that you seem to hear more on the Westbank than anywhere else. But there is very rarely more than 2 or 3 degrees of separation between you and the person in the car next to you in the Harvey Tunnel – so watch your driving. They might know your maw maw.
#4- The Westbank is a ‘rural,’ or ‘undeveloped’ area.
This one I hear probably the most often. My friend Sarah once had someone ask her if she took a pirogue to school. Yep, a pirogue. Sarah lived in Gretna. I also had a coworker a number of years ago when the Wii was sold out. She asked me if she could give me some money and I could go the Gamestop on Barataria and buy one for her there, since “Westbankers couldn’t afford it.” After tossing my hand on my hip and spitting out, “Ok, FIRST of all, Deborah!” (because of course her name was Deborah) I explained to her that if a community can support a Gamestop, the people around it can afford a Wii.
#5 – There’s no place to shop
I could end this quickly and just mention that we DO have our very own Fleurty Girl.
But we also have most of the major “big box” stores: Target, multiple Wal-Marts, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc. We also boast a number of small family shops that have been around for years, perhaps most famously Szabo’s Party Supplies, which is still the best place in the city to get cups printed or for hard to find cake decorating items.
Also, Marrero has Mr. Nola’s Glitter … A. Glitter. Store.
#6 – It takes so long to get there and back!
I once attended an event in the CBD and mentioned to someone that I had come from old Gretna, which is literally right over the bridge. “You poor thing!” She exclaimed. “Coming all that way!” She lives in LaPlace. Even in the “deeper” areas of the Westbank, the way the infrastructure has been laid out makes it very easy to get around. Consider that it is 9.9 miles from the Belle Chasse tunnel (that’s Plaquemines Parish, y’all) to the Superdome- and 9 miles even from Clearview Mall. Bet you didn’t know that.
#7 – It’s all the same.
We’re made up of several distinct areas, including places like Gretna, Jean Lafitte and Westwego, which are actual cities with their own mayors, police departments, etc. You know Westwego, right? It’s where you go to get your license renewed, but you gotta drive five MPH slower than a sloth. Lumping Gretna together with Avondale is like saying someone from Kennah, bruh is from River Ridge. It’s inaccurate and gauche.
#8 – The education options on the Westbank are stagnant and unchanged.
Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy in Avondale is ranked by U. S. News and World Report as #2 high school in the state. Thomas Jefferson – #6. Gretna No. 2 Academy for Advanced Studies and Marrero Academy for Advanced Studies are rated numbers 13 and 14 elementary schools in the state, respectively.
#9 – The Westbank is ugly.
This one hurts, guys.
I’m not going to pretend that the dilapidated factory on 4th Street fills me with romance and wonder, but there are a comparable number of eyesores on your side of the water (and you all know it…) If we are craving nature, Westbankers can choose to enjoy not one, but two beautiful options: Bayou Segnette, a state park or Jean Lafitte, a National Park and Preserve, without even bothering to fill the tank.
For nightlife, Algiers Point has quaint corner restaurants and even an English pub!
The Westbank has stately, historic homes, sweeping oaks, and magnificent views of that gorgeous, intoxicating, devastating city that we all adore, and call home.
#10- Luling isn’t the Westbank.
Y’all the Westbank. Deal with it, Luling.