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Published: February 19th 2018
New Orleans Louisiana
We reached our destination. - New Orleans. It is often called NOLA – New Orleans NO Louisiana LA. We arrived mid afternoon on Friday 9 Feb. Our choice of accommodation for the next 5 days was an AirBnB, located just outside of the city area. As with most residential areas close to the city there is a mix of nice and nasty in terms of buildings and people. This is probably one of the disadvantages of AirBnB – not easy to work out where the accommodation actually is in the context of the broader area.
During the Mardi Gras period which starts on 6 January in New Orleans, there will be many parades; some simply walking and others with floats, marching bands and so on. Each of the parades are organized and operated by Krewes. A Krewe is a group of people who have a common interest and commit to organizing a parade during Mardi Gras. I think they fulfill a purpose outside of Mardi Gras but I am not really sure. NOLA is not the only place in the area that celebrates Mardi Gras. Mobile Alabama was actually the first to celebrate
in the US. Many of the small towns around this area will also have parades and celebrations of their own.
In NO, the French Quarter hosts only walking parades as the streets are quite narrow. The parades that have large floats are conducted in a number of areas of NO. The ones we attended were in Uptown New Orleans. They use mainly St Charles Avenue and Canal St. Parade routes are often different for each Krewe. Fortunately there is an app (of course there is always an app) that tracks the parades.
We attended our first parade (that ended up being 2) on Saturday morning (10 Feb). The Krewe of Iris ran the first parade. The second parade that kind of blended with the first one was run by the Krewe of Tuck. We arrived at a spot on Canal St (on the last part of the route) at about 10.30 – which was 30 minutes after the parade started out. I thought it might take about 45 – 60 minutes for the parade to reach us. Oh no… it wasn’t until 12.15 that the first floats reached us. I grabbed a cocktail to help me through the
long wait. There were people everywhere. The smart ones brought their collapsible chairs. We watched the parades until the end – at about 1.45pm then we joined our Mardi Gras walking tour. In all we were on our feet for about 5 hours; my feet were very sore by the end of the day. I had about 17,000 steps on my Garmin.
One of the things that surprised me was what is called “throws”. It seems that it is common that the people on the floats throw stuff into the crowd. It is mostly beads but it can be pretty much anything at all. I was able to catch a few things. It was great fun trying to get the people to throw stuff to you. Sometimes I wrestled with other spectators to get the item. Sometimes I won the battle, but sometimes I lost. Sometimes the beads broke and no-one won. I cannot imagine who cleans up after the parades. There is so much rubbish on the streets. The next day, most of the stuff is all gone, ready for the next parade.
On Fat Tuesday – which translates to Mardi Gras – almost everyone gets dressed
up for the occasion. Some in crazy costumes, others in Mardi Gras colours of purple, green and gold. It seemed to me that everyone was having a ball. The happiness is infectious. We donned a few bits and pieces to blend in with the locals. We both put some Mardi Gras apparel on our heads, wore the beads we had caught at our last parade and I had bought a yellow Mardi Gras T shirt. We were set to have some fun
We booked ourselves into a stand for the 4 parades on Tuesday. The schedule had them all starting early-ish, from 8 am and I thought they would finish about 1pm but boy was I wrong there. They would go all day – until about 4pm apparently.
We found a spot on the stand at about 8.30 and waited and waited. We go to talking to a couple who were from NO and had attended every Mardi Gras in their lifetime. They were very helpful and shared a lot of information about Mardi Gras and NO.
The first parade got to us at about 11. It was the Krewe of Zulu. It was followed by the
Krewe of Rex (which is the oldest Krewe still parading). There were 2 more to follow Rex, but we did not last the distance. We got very tired and missed the last 2 Krewes when we headed off at 2.30pm.
We had a great time interacting with the crowd and watching the parade and fighting for the throws. Some people are pretty selfish and seem to hoard great amounts of stuff, while others shared their booty with the others in their vicinity. We shared our stuff, and were lucky to have others share with us too. It was nice to be part of that small group, however brief and transient that connection was.
We headed off to the French Market to pick up a Muffaletta to have for our dinner. The Muffaletta is a Sicilian style sandwich – very good to eat. I have checked out the recipe and will be making this at home. (The secret is the Olive Salad I think.)
We saw the next day that there had been a shooting at Union St (2 streets from where we were) about an hour after we left the area. It kind of reminds you that
in the USA guns are quite prevalent, but for a while I did not really think much about it.
We decided to visit Lafayette on Sunday 11 Feb. We visited the Vermilionville Historic Village. This area is a tourist attraction, showing how the Cajuns and Creole people lived in the 18th
centuries. The people who worked there were dressed up in the clothing of the era and were able to share some very interesting information with us. I now have a much better understanding of the differences between these 2 cultures in food and architecture. There was also a 3 hour dance session scheduled. I expected it to be a demonstration of dancing from the earlier times. No – it was a dance for anyone - with a live band belting out the tunes. It looked as though everyone was having a lot of fun. The whole scenario was quite foreign to me. I cannot think of anywhere in Australia that this type of activity would be going on in a tourist attraction. In fact we don’t do a whole lot of dancing outside of clubs, which aren’t really welcoming to people beyond a certain
age. A bit sad really as the people at this dance were having a great time.
Food Tour of NO
We enjoyed a walking food tour of New Orleans on Monday 12 Feb. Again had a great time, tasting a wide variety of food specific to the city, but from various countries of origin. We had food that was of Cajun origin (Acadia – Nova Scotia – French Canada), Creole origin (Spain, African, Native American) and Sicilian. We finished off the tour with a praline. It was all very delicious. We stayed in town that night and enjoyed some live music on Frenchmen St.
We checked out Bourbon St on many different occasions over the 4 days and it was always busy, loud and colourful. The lady I met at the Mardi Gras parade said that come midnight on Mardi Gras night, all the bars and partying stops… it is now Lent and the city goes into a period of sacrifice – seriously!
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