French map of Chicago ironically much like city's own

Encouraging caution among tourists understandable, but many treasures lie beyond both's boundaries

Do not go west, young Frenchman.

And the South Side south of 59th Street? Non, non, non.

If you read my colleague Katherine Skiba's story in the Tribune on Tuesday, you know what I'm talking about. The French government has been advising visitors to Paris-on-the-Prairie to steer clear of the West Side and anything south of 59th.

The exact warning, which appears on the website of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is "eviter le West Side et le sud de la ville apres la 59eme rue."

This calls for a quick French lesson.

"Eviter" means "avoid" and "sud" means "south" and "rue" means "street" and "West Side" means what it means.

As fast as you can say "Zut alors!" the French ministry's warning elicited various responses, from "perfectly sensible" to "idiotic and racist" to "typically French."

("Don't get me started on what I think of the French," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during an appearance Tuesday in which he praised a few of the city's southern and western attractions.)

But whatever you think of the French, let's get one thing straight: Their advice isn't all that different from what Chicago officially tells visitors to Chicago. Our officials just do it more discreetly and with more nuance.

Let's take a tour on the website of Choose Chicago, the city's official tourism marketing agency.

We'll begin at

Look. Photos of Chicago in all its splendor. The skyline. The lake. The orchestra. The trees.

Now let's click on "Neighborhoods."

"The heart and soul of Chicago," says the website, "lives in our 77 vibrant neighborhoods."

The 77 vibrant neighborhoods are outlined on a map. Let's scroll over the map, check out the neighborhoods.

Huh. Some light up with pretty pictures. Click on the photo and up pops information on where to eat and play.

Pilsen lights up. Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square. Rogers Park and Irving Park. West Town and the West Loop, neither of which, it's worth noting, is very far west.

But keep clicking. Farther south. Farther west.

Huh. With a few exceptions — Humboldt Park and Pullman, for example — those parts of the map are dead. They don't light up. No suggestions of where a person might eat and play, a lack of encouragement that equals discouragement.

Let's try something different. Here's a spot to click on the "full list" of Chicago neighborhoods.