An American Girl in Washington

The bon temps? They rouled.

Posted in Travel by AGinDC on 23 February 2012

No, I’m not talking about True Blood. I’m talking about Mardi Gras y’all!

This weekend I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and had an absolute blast. For those of you who haven’t been,Mardi Gras in New Orleans is amazing. The parades are incredible, the beads are flying, the people are friendly, the hotels and restaurants set up outdoor bars with hurricanes and gumbo.  My first NOLA Mardi Gras was the year after Katrina and it was amazing. I fell in love with Bacchus Krewe (Krewes are the clubs that put on the Mardi Gras parades and balls) themed their parade “The Wizard of Oz” because it was all about a little girl coming home after a storm. Needless to say, it was amazing and moving. That year I also fell in love with Orpheus Krewe because it was started by Harry Connick Jr. and he is just the cutest thing ever.

This year I missed Bacchus because I went back to Opelousas (see next post) where I taught with Teach for America. I hadn’t been back since I left in ’07 and it was amazing. Instead, we drove up to NOLA on Monday morning, just in time for the awesome parades that happen on Monday and Tuesday.

Before the parades though, we checked into our hotel. It was amazing. We stayed at The Saint which is brand new and is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. O.M.G. It’s right on Canal Street (we had our own grandstand, avec cocktail waitress, for the parades) and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Besides the location, which could not have been more perfect, the rooms were beautiful, the toiletries were enough to make me commit gross maid’s cart theft and the restaurant was absolutely delicious. Did I mention the amazing live band at the bar and the fact that I watched a parade from the window of my hotel room? Yeah.

The floor at The Saint. I liked the tiles.

Angels in The Saint

The room key!

The first thing we did, of course, was eat. We headed to the Hard Rock Cafe because they have one of the best balconies in the Quarter. The food was mediocre, but the view was amazing and we wanted to sit in the sun and check out the scene before diving in.

Horrible picture of me and a cosmo on the balcony

Then we headed to Cafe du Monde for beignets. Mmmm….

After stuffing ourselves like silly we headed to our own private grandstand for the parades.

Selina waiting at the grandstand.

The parades were as amazing as usual, but my favorite was Orpheus, if only because of HCJr. Sadly, I was using the camera phone on my pathetic 3GS and I was right in front of a street light so forgive the shoddy pics but this is what you get!

First we started with cocktails in The Saint’s Burgundy Bar. You can’t see it, but apparently it was Bacardi Gras.

This float is a giant dragoney-fish thing of some kind…

Another fish. I think this was Prometheus and the theme was Neptune something-or-other.

This was supposed to be Hinduish I believe.

Orpheus’s floats were flowerlicious this year.

This train was insanely long. It had like six cars full of people throwing beads. We really didn’t think it would make it around the corner.

The dragon! This thing was amazing! It even had a little baby dragon in the back!

The dragon continues…

The dragon’s tail.

The parades ended well into the night and Selina and I, being old, went to dinner and then bed. The next morning was Zulu, which is one of the most famous parades, and which is notable for a) being an African American krewe, b) because they actually make their own floats unlike the other krewes who pay professionals and c) because it’s the krewe of the Indians who you may or may not have heard of/seen on Tremaine. Sadly, I did not take any pictures because we weren’t on the grandstand and I’m short. Sorry. You’ll just have to go next year and see it for yourself!

Before Zulu we got breakfast at Royal Palace on Royal:

On the way we passed an awesome street band:

After the parades we went to Mena’s Palace for lunch:

I had the friend chicken and red beans and rice…

Then we followed everyone else and headed to Bourbon Street. For anyone who has never been to New Orleans, Bourbon Street is a sinner’s playground on the sunniest of Sundays (Larry Flynt has not one but two clubs in the Quarter) but on Mardi Gras? Forget about it. It’s hedonism at it’s best. Even describing it is NSFW and since children (and mothers) are reading this, I won’t go into detail. But trust me. You will see things you never imagined. Selina was walking through with her eyes wide open the entire time. For better or worse, almost nothing shocks me anymore and even I saw a thing or two that made me turn my head. These things are best approached with a daiquiri in hand.

One of my favorite things about public spectacles is that both the saints and the sinners come out to play. Mardi Gras is no different and, this being the South, there were plenty of holy soldiers from the church doing battle with evil. The funny thing is that these people never seem to get that they are actually part of the festivities. In DC, I always know winter is over when I see my first guy with a megaphone and a picket sign. They’re more reliable than Puxatony Phil. Mardi Gras is perhaps the pinnacle of this phenomenon. At strategic points throughout Bourbon Street men (only men) in black hoods stood in circles with unintentionally hilarious signs that said things like, “Repent!” and “Party Cancelled Due to Lake of Fire”. As they shouted about Jesus and repentance the  sinners in question posed for pictures, threw Mardi Gras beads at them from balconies and generally included them in the fun, whether they liked it or not. They reminded me a lot of the guards outside of Buckingham Palace. I don’t know if they saved anyone, but they certainly earned a few heavenly brownie points for keeping straight faces.

After walking up and down the streets laughing and cringing and shaking our heads, Selina and I headed to our Saintly rooms and went to bed. Or at least, we tried. Because the one downside of sleeping on Canal Street during Mardi Gras is that you’re the only ones in town trying to sleep…

I love New Orleans, and I love celebrating Fat Tuesday. My goal is to make it out every year from now on, both to party and to see my friends in Opelousas. And, of course, to eat beignets.

Laissez les bon temps rouler indeed.



One Response

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  1. […] I know, I know, I didn’t write last week. But I warned you. Mardi Gras, yo. What’s a girl to do? I won’t go into the bon temps here, but if you want to know all about it, you can read my blog. […]

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