If you are unfamiliar with New Orleans, LA, and are looking for hotel recommendations, I highly recommend the Drury Inn and Suites. It's within walking distance of Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, the Arts District, and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Yet, it's reasonably quiet (even during Mardi Gras). Also, they provide snacks and three complimentary beverages of your choice in their dining area each afternoon. Things like popcorn, baked potatoes, soup, chicken fingers, salad, and nachos made a great "pick-me-up" before spending nights listening to music and strolling through the streets. They offered a couple of wine choices, several different cocktails, and a couple of beers. (My favorite was the Tequila Sunrises as the bartender loaded me up with Maraschino cherries. Yum!) One of our favorite times of day was stopping by for a snack and cocktails before heading out for the night. It was a good time to sit back, people watch and make plans for the evening.
Monday, February 8th, after an early dinner that evening, we made our way to Canal Street to pick out our spot to watch the Krewe of Orpheus Mardi Gras Parade. The crowds were surprisingly thin at this location, and we were able to get a wonderful vantage point. All of the parades were huge and seemed to snake throughout the entire city, which allows almost everyone to get a front-row seat to the action. So many excited children were sprinkled around me. The wide-eyed looks of amazement on their faces were priceless as they took in all the colors and trinkets flying about. I suspect my face might have had that same look.
My first thought as I settled in to watch the first of the floats appear was that there was no way the narrow, quaint streets could possibly hold these larger than life works of art on wheels. Some of the floats depicted creatures so lifelike, that you expected them to speak and move on their own. Nestled onto each float were the Krewe members armed with their stash of beads and other parade souvenirs just ready for the chunking. I quickly learned to keep my eyes on what was right in front of me and not be distracted because if not, beads could come whipping at your head at any time. Yeah, you only have to learn that one time the hard way to remember it. Trust me. Flying string of beads, tender cheek, not a pleasant combination. I did get a bunch of beads. (Note: the colors do rub off on clothing, but a good stain remover will get the ink out.)
Mixed in with the floats were marching bands from the local schools, and people decked out in unbelievable costumes from the various city clubs and organizations. Flambeaux carried lit torches as they strolled between the floats. Some people were handing them money as they passed by the crowd. I'm not sure what the significance of this was, maybe donations to the organizations represented?
After the parade, we ventured down to Bourbon Street and WOW! A mass of people moving in one slow tide. A mass of very happy (yes, some VERY happy) revelers. Let the beads begin. I'm so sad that I wasn't able to get pictures of the crowds and festivities, but it would not have been wise to be fumbling with a camera or a phone in that crowd. Not only were there bodies crammed all around trying to get different places, but there were beads covering the ground. It made walking a challenge. (Or was that the Hurricanes?) I received several beads and a marriage proposal. :) (No, I did not flash anyone anything.) The crowd was very well behaved. That could have been because there was a heavy police presence. The officers were on horses, which were so calm and patient. Of course, everyone wanted to pet them.
We did manage to swim out of the tide and go to one of my favorite places in New Orleans. Madame Laveau's House of Voodoo. A tiny little shop that fascinates me. Maybe one day, I'll have to get a psychic reading done. Not that I believe in any of that stuff. Although, while we were there, I put a penny in a wishing box and made a wish that came true the next day. Oooo . . .
Dinner that night was at Brennan's on 417 Royal Street. It was recommended to us by a wonderful gallery curator that we met earlier that day in the French Quarter. Not only was the food amazing (I had a creamy Vegetable Alfredo dish that I can still taste), but it was a great place to do some people watching. Eric had a pecan-crusted catfish, grilled veggies, and "popcorn" rice (?) with an apple-flavored craft beer that all got a thumbs-up.
Tuesday morning, Krewe of Zulu and Krewe of Rex parades began bright and early and lasted most of the morning. A festive atmosphere hovered over the area all day. (Although it did make getting around the city a bit complicated for a few hours.)
After a breakfast of eggs, fruit, and yogurt for me, and waffles and sausage for my husband (which is also included at the hotel), we headed down to the French Quarter to the market and a walk along the Mississippi River to watch the steam engines chug in and out of the harbor. This is a beautiful area to sit on a bench and look at the water. We also did some shopping at the market place.
Having walked off breakfast by now, we decided to stop in Cafe' Du Monde for coffee (well, hot chocolate for me) and the required traditional beignets when you're in New Orleans. If you've ever had them, you know they are so worth the calorie overload. Deep fried goodness. The inside eatery stayed packed with people the whole time we were in New Orleans, so we ate outside on the steps across from Jackson Square. One tip from me: don't wear all black when you're planning on eating them. Apparently, black is a magnet for powdered sugar. An eating adventure made even more fun by those persistent forty mile an hour gales popping up just when you had forgotten about them. (Always when I was taking a bite, it seemed.) I think I was getting powdered sugar out of my eyebrows all day.
Our last full day of the trip, we went down to the Arts District to visit the art galleries, museums, parks, and enjoy the flavor of the area.
With the exception of Ash Wednesday, which is a quiet, reflective day that all the shops close down to honor, the city is definitely crackling with fun and energy during Mardi Gras. I want to go back and celebrate it again soon. The people are so warm and friendly, and none of the horror stories I heard about the crowds were true at all. Lots of wonderful memories of this magical city were made during Mardi Gras, 2016.