Mardi Gras at New Orleans

New Orleans Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 18 › view all entries
Where all the action happens.. all year round. In preparation for the festival.

Having experienced air travel, a cruise.. and even a bus ride, I decided it was time to see what Amtrak was all about! And so, we decided to head towards New Orleans for Mardi Gras.. on a train! The trip started off on a nice note when the train arrived on time.. and we settled in for an overnight journey to our destination �" New Orleans .

I had downloaded some reading material on the city and so we learnt about the history of the city as we approached it on the train. New Orleans was supposedly famous for this French heritage… and the majority of the residents there were called Creole �" which basically means Franco-African.

The historic district of Algiers
And Mardi Gras is the famous festival that they have… wherein they create these huge floats based on themes and then people dress up in various costumes… and these floats are paraded through the street. The crowd gathers up on the parade route.. and the best part is �" the people who are on the floats throw goodies like bead necklaces, masks, bags… all kinds of stuff �" to the onlookers! And the people on the streets are supposed to catch the goodies that are thrown their way!


So armed with all this knowledge, detailed maps of the city, and an itinerary chalked out to catch the parade, we reached the city.


The hubby had all the routes mapped out on his cool gadget.. and so we just followed the map on that and reached our hotel. We had selected a quaint little European hotel. It wasn’t anything jazzy or fancy.. but it was located in a lovely neighborhood and  had a nice old world charm to it.

Jackson Square
So much so that there were actually cracks in the walls and in the bathroom! But we loved it! For the first time during our stay in the US , we were in a room that had solid brick walls!!!  The Hubby tapped on it in delight to hear the familiar sound of a brick wall. :)


Once settled in, we decided to head towards the route of the parade for the day. It wasn’t very far from our hotel. So we just walked it. And we were surprised to see the number of street hawkers! There were trolley-wallas displaying their wares on the streets… junk food vendors… ice cone machines… really colorful streets! And people had gathered up all along the parade route with their chairs and little picnic baskets! Kids had brought out their toys and were playing on the streets as they waited for the parade to approach.


And then it began… One after the other, the floats passed by.

The lovely marketplace that housed Cafe du Monde
.,. with people in delightful costumes… all themed. Either on King Arthur and his era.. or on some other mythical creatures.. everything was based on some European legend or story… Kings.. queens… magical beings.. all decked up and looking quite grand!


At first I just kept admiring the work of the artistes who must have created those floats… they were just so magnificent.. and so colorful!! I believe the artistes work all year round to create the designs for this parade. So I was just spellbound! And I just kept trying to get ahead of the crowd to get a good shot on the camera… And then once I found myself right in front of the float.. and people around me were screaming joyfully…asking the costumed folk on the floats to throw them some goodies… and the people on the floats were scanning the crowds to find some lucky person to throw something to. And The Hubby urged me on to scream out for something too. But I felt too shy!! And so I didn’t… but I just stood there and looked at them.. And this one guy on the float saw me and pointed to me and threw me a beaded chain!!!!!  :) I was so thrilled!! The Hubby out it around my neck.

Street Performers
. and then from that time on, there was no holding either of us back! We kept running up to the floats and screaming and stretching our hands out.. hoping to catch some nice goodies! And we got so many chains!


We found a couple with a black lab.. and they were putting all the chains they caught around the doggie’s neck! And the dog was wondering what all the colorful beads were and kept trying to pull them off! Very cute.


So that was our first experience at New Orleans .. the parade was supposed to be on Saturday as well as Sunday. Having seen the Saturday parade, I was even more keen to see the one on Sunday as well.


We called it a day after the parade ended �" all the excitement of catching the beads had really worn us out!!


Having decided to wake up early the next morning and head towards French Quarter, we had a nice peaceful sleep in our little European cottage-hotel!


The next morning we caught something called a Street car.

What colors!
It was a one bogie train that ran on the streets! Rickety old thing that has been on the streets of New Orleans for ages now. It took us straight to the heart of the French Quarter. Then we walked down to the banks of the Mississippi and took the ferry across the river.. We saw some lovely little houses across the river… quiet little neighbourhood..


Then we returned to the bustling French Quarter. We had a few hours to kill before the parade for the day began. So we walked around the streets.. taking in all the French architecture… the street performers… the Jazz music…

The street performers were really fantastic. We were walking on the street and there seemed to be a statue of a lady built right in the middle of the street… And it really didn’t strike me that it would be odd to have a statue built there. Until The Hubby realized that it was a real live woman!!! She was posing as a statue.

Looks even prettier at night..
And so well!! I was stunned! We came across several others like her. Each better than the previous. Really marvelous.


 And then we went to this street called Bourbon street which was supposed to be a famous one. We realized why it was so famous the moment we stepped onto it! It was strewn with pubs playing live jazz.. to karaoke bars……………… strip clubs!!


In New Orleans , drinking in public or on the streets is allowed as long as you carry your drink in a plastic cup with a lid. And so instead of the usual coke cans that people in the rest of the country carry all the time, everyone here had big plastic cups of beer or some cocktail or the other! The Hubby and I picked up some too… I think we both had more alcohol that day than we have ever before! And The Hubby seems to have picked up a liking for tropical cocktails called daiquiris… fruity drinks with crushed ice and some rum poured over it.

My Mardi Gras catches!
He kept experimenting with various flavors … strawberry… mango…!! Then we went for a snack to an open restaurant with musicians playing catchy jazz numbers… that was nice too..


Then we saw a store called “Hustlers”.. I didn’t know what it was but The Hubby saw it and recognition and excitement, both flashed across his face in the same instant! He enlightened me on the name and told me that it was a very famous sex magazine like Playboy �" only much more explicit!

To see a store of that name got his curiosity heightened. Again, I was hesitant and shy to enter the store… especially after we got closer and I saw nude pictures splashed all over its windows and doors!! I imagined it to be a sleazy joint where decent people do not go!! But then I was curious too. So finally, mustering up all the guts I could find, I told him I was ready to see what it was all about. And we entered!


The place was nothing like I had imagined it to be. It looked just like a regular departmental store! Brightly lit. Men and women … old and young.. walking around.. checking out the stuff like they would at any other store. Nothing shady.. nothing dingy about it. Growing bolder at this sight, I started looking around too. And The Hubby and I were so amazed at the kind of stuff they had stacked. Everything imaginable and so much more! We were really stunned! And kept giggling like two kids who’ve suddenly been exposed to the world of sex!


Soon we realized that it was almost time for the parade. So we rushed to the parade route and settled down to watch the show.


The parade started with school children marching through the roads… cheerleaders cheering.. school bands playing…. And then the floats started coming in. And the throwing of goodies began!


This time I was less shy and everytime I saw a special goodie in the hands of someone on the float, I would scream out and try and catch his or her attention! And I managed to get some really unique catches! I got a nice mask.. a bag full of beads (which I handed over to a kid standing next to me �" who looked at me most pleadingly and asked if he could have them!)… Some fake silver coins…all kinds of stuff.


After the parade, we decided to walk through Bourbon street again. And this time �" we decided to be even more daring!!! And so, we went into a strip club! Since it was fairly early in the evening, the club was absolutely empty! The bouncer at the door assured us that the crowd would soon come in.. and so we waited inside. Soon a stripper came onto the floor… seeing that we were the only audience; she came right up to us and asked The Hubby if he would like to dance with her. The Hubby was so startled! He said “who? Me?!! No way!” … hahahahah… that was funny!! Anyways, seeing that we were just there for the show, she asked us if she could sit down and talk to us till the crowd came in. We said sure.. and then we had a nice long chat with her.. She told us about herself and her family… (she had two kids…)… about how she went through a dance school and now has opened up a dance school of her own where she coaches kids. It seemed like such a regular conversation that it didn’t even strike us that we were sitting with a stripper… clad in nothing but a small undie strip…!! It didn’t strike us that she was anything irregular or uncommon. She felt like just another person! And the fact that she was naked seemed to fade into the unimportant.


Soon some guys arrived and she went off to the stage to dance and entertain them and all.. and then after a while returned to us and continued the conversation. She told us about the music she liked and the food she recommends we try out in the city… And all the time she called herself a “professional dancer”.. I realized that she felt absolutely no shame in her profession and treated it with as much respect as any of us treat our profession. She talked about it very matter-of-factly and told us how she had to keep track of the tourist season because that was when the best money came in and all that.


Later The Hubby also told me that he didn’t find her nudity and the whole strip dance and all either sexually exciting, or anything extraordinary. In fact, it seemed very natural to him.

We left that strip club since we didn’t really see the crowd gathering there… and we went to another club which seemed to be bustling with people. This one seemed to be getting more action than the first club we had entered. The audience (men and women alike..) was really enjoying the strippers.. I enjoyed some of the performances too. It was a unique experience. It was a thrill… of being there.. and watching all that… but nothing more than that. The Hubby also did not seem to find it sexually stimulating or anything. He said later that he found the nudity quite natural… and didn’t understand what the whole hype was all about!


Anyways, it was an experience!


Tired from all the excitement, we headed back to the hotel and called it a day..


The next day, we were to leave the city in the afternoon. We had had such good food during our stay there that we decided to have one last good meal before we set off. We found a dingy little local breakfast joint and ordered eggs with bacon, liver and mashed potatoes…!! Grimy slimy and oh so yummy!!! :D


I have realized that The Hubby likes these run down cities that have a lot of cultural influences from other lands… and that are slightly mucky and slightly desolate! He really enjoyed the Texas trip.. and this one beat that vacation hands down!


Another really good snack we had was at one of the oldest French coffee houses in New Orleans (Café du Monde) . They called the coffee �" café au lait �" and it was the best coffee we have had in this country! Along with it came a sweet thing called beignets. Really delicious.


So that was what our trip was all about…


I packed up some of the beaded chains to bring back as a souvenir of our experience of the Mardi Gras!


When we returned from the trip, we were both so exhausted.. and so relieved to be back to our mundane routine!! We’ve decided that we’re not going to go anywhere for atleast a month! We need to save up some money for the summers. Because that’s when the best experiences will come. We intend to go sky diving!!!! I want to go scuba diving too. But after The Hubby’s experience with Snorkeling he isn’t that keen on it. He wants to try bungee jumping and sky diving!


So we’ll save up for all that and wait for the summers!


wagslikeadog says:
Great blog entry! Cheers!
Posted on: Apr 29, 2011
anupa_rk says:
Thanks Connie. Yes, it was an interesting and exciting experience!
Posted on: Mar 16, 2010
Connie says:
Congrats on your feature! It's been so interesting reading about your experiences as a first timer to the US. It sounds like the two of you are having a blast!
Posted on: Mar 16, 2010
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Where all the action happens.. all…
Where all the action happens.. al…
The Missisippi
The Missisippi
The historic district of Algiers
The historic district of Algiers
Jackson Square
Jackson Square
The lovely marketplace that housed…
The lovely marketplace that house…
Street Performers
Street Performers
What colors!
What colors!
Looks even prettier at night..
Looks even prettier at night..
My Mardi Gras catches!
My Mardi Gras catches!