Mardi gras is a legal holiday in the state of Louisiana, and my stepdad, Ken, got a surprise day off to come and watch the parades and join in the festivities with us. Fabien and I are early risers (you have to be when you sleep most nights in a tent) so we were up and about by 9AM. We caught the beginning of the Zulu Parade on local TV. We headed in to New Orleans around 10:30 to our parade spot from the previous day. We were shocked when we saw the masses of people. Entire neighborhoods had sectioned off parts of the parade route and set up their tents and industrial size BBQs for a day of partying. We were about 5 hours too late to get our front row spots, so we camped out for awhile in Lee Circle behind one of the big installations- but most of the beads didn’t get to us there- we did catch a football though. We got some sausage po’boys and beer and made our way down the parade route where we got better views. We caught the end of the Zulu parade, which was less impressive artistically than the parades from the night before but had a definite party atmosphere and lots of loot (or good throws.) Then we saw the Krewe of Rex, which is one of the most traditional and favorite parades. They first introduced the Mardi gras colors in the mid-20th century. They had beautiful floats with a Victorian England theme. After Rex, came the trucks, or the floats on truck beds which were also an impressive site. We were maxed out on parades so we headed towards Canal Street and the French Quarter. Lots of people were in costume, anywhere from elaborate Carnival masks to your typical Halloween costumes (like Frankenstein’s bride.) Some locals had actually made their own miniature floats and were toting them around with groups of friends. Bourbon Street was even more chaotic than we saw on Monday- and there was a lot more flesh showing. (I guess the fact that it was a warm, muggy day influenced the choice of what to wear and what not to wear.) I thought that the general atmosphere was less charming than on Monday- we didn’t hear a lot of live music, but for sure people were having a good time. We stopped off at the Crescent City Brewery for some beer and a break for our feet. Finally, exhausted, we made our way back to the hotel around 6 in the afternoon. Fabien and I went to the American Diner (next door) for dinner- I had a meatloaf sandwich, and then we met Ken at the pub for a beer. We didn’t have a wild drunken Mardi gras, but we had a great time. You have to be there to really understand the vibe. And now for those who are following Lent, the fun is over, but for us, Cajun country is the next stop on the trip.
Tags: BIG TRIP 2011, In English 2005-2006, Louisiana