Mardi Gras – New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Today is February 10, 3 days before Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, plenty of time to check out NOLA before the big day.

Ralph drove us to the outskirts of town where we found an $20 secured all day parking spot just west of the French Quarter.

Ralph, Lois, Lynda and I spent the next two days exploring the French Quarter enjoying free outside music venues, bar entertainment, and traditional Cajun Food.

The food was amazing, our first sample was a seafood platter. Crab cakes, shrimp, craw fish, catfish, alligator bites, and jalapeno hush puppies all deep fried and served with various Cajun styles and sauces.

We found it strange the menu described the food as fried not deep fried.

Besides Cajun seafood we also enjoyed Gumbo beef soup, Muffuletta, a bun with three deli meats, two cheeses with an olive salsa. Jambalaya rice with sausage, chicken or alligator.

The food was delicious although the flavors were different eating alligator was a bit outside my comfort zone.

On the way back to our vehicle we toured the French Quarter Market on the banks of the Mississippi. A combination of fle market, food court, clothing stores, restaurants, bars and street musicians………..a great time.

Lynda & Lois, French Market, Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras Parade, New Orleans
Mardi Gras Parade, New Orleans

Feb.  13 – Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)

We planned to arrive in NOLA late morning, watch the parade, do lunch, enjoy the festivities, have dinner and head back to camp early evening.

We’d heard night time partying gets out of hand, nudity, public drunkenness complete with vomiting, fights, robbery, assaults and public sex acts are some of the entertainment.

It was a group decision to end the party early, at our age we don’t need that kind of stimulation.

Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, New Orleans

We began our Mardi Gras experience in the French Quarter at the French Market. The New Orleans French Quarter is the historic heart and the oldest settlement in the southern US, founded in 1718.

After wandering through the French Market, we headed three blocks north from the river to world famous Bourbon Street…. party central.  Bourbon Street is lined with two story buildings with steel rail balconies, jazz clubs, Cajun eateries and raucous bars serving potent cocktails.

It seems we arrived before the party, Bourbon street was near deserted. We headed west to Canal Street to find a good vantage point for today’s parade, touted as the biggest and best of Mardi Gras.

Parade route streets were blocked as well as much of the French Quarter. Police presences was obvious with strange looking mechanically elevated cubicles providing a view of Bourbon Street, not unlike a prison guard tower.

We arrived at Canal Street and found a spot along the temporary fence. Lucky we arrived early, the crowd gathered quickly filling in the spaces along the fence and layered several deep behind us.

After an hour or so wait the parade began. There were numerous floats each with a different theme, some with live bands playing jazz, marching bands from all over the US, synchronized acrobatic marching teams, motorcycle drill teams, rifle drill teams, and many other attractions, one of the best parades I can recall.

Mardi Gras parade, New Orleans
Mardi Gras parade, New Orleans

Parades are sponsored and organized by Krewes. Each parade has several hundred entries and the float occupants toss strands of plastic beads into the partying crowd.

Tossing strands of beads began during the early 1800’s, it’s believed a person dressed as Santa wore and tossed the first beads.

Catching Mardi Gras Beads, New Orleans
Catching Mardi Gras Beads, New Orleans

Traditional Mardi Gras beads are purple, green, and gold. The purple color symbolizes justice, green represents faith, and gold signifies power.

While watching the parades one needs to stay alert, several strands of beads are thrown at once and if you get hit, as Ralph did, an injury can occur. Ralph ended with a unique NOLA souvenir, a cut above the brow.

Ralph's Mardi Gras souvenir, New  Orleans
Ralph’s Mardi Gras souvenir, New Orleans

The tradition of showing one’s breasts to receive beads seems to be fading although some inebriated ladies continue the spectacle. The tradition may have distracted Ralph.

After the parade, we made our way through the crowd to Bourbon Street for a drink and a bite of lunch.

We stopped at an open-air deli for lunch, sharing interesting delicacies of Cajun gumbo, spicy jambalaya, and muffuletta. As we enjoyed our lunch the skies opened hurling heavy rain.

The deli shade tarp protected us from the rain. Other patrons were not so lucky, the warm rain quickly drenched them.

After lunch, the sun reappeared as we continued our Bourbon Street tour. The street was packed, a slow stroll was all that was possible. Music bellowed from small sidewalk bars and strolling jazz bands. Horse-drawn carts full of inebriated partiers pushed through the crowd.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Mardi Gras, New Orlean
Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans


Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Our Mardi Gras experience is difficult to describe, shocking, unbelievable, and outrageous are some of the words that come to mind.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Ninety percent of the revelers carried drinks and wore costumes ranging from religious symbolism to giant parts of the human anatomy never seen in public.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Naked body tattooing, naked body painting, and piercings were some of the outrageous spectacles. Beads were continuously thrown from the balconies into the crowded street.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Bare-breasted women hung over the balconies taunting the crowd to follow their lead.

There were sights that could not be unsee, sights we had never seen before and sights that would not fade from one’s mind.

The farther along Bourbons Street we moved the more crowded and more outrageous the sights became. Imagine being slowly pushed into a man wearing nothing but a roosters head on his private………..freaky.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

It was time for us to retreat from Bourbon Street……… we’d had our fill of crazy. The crowd lessened as we headed towards the French Market.

We found a quiet bar to have a refreshment and give our tired feet a break.

After a bit more wandering, we stopped at a sidewalk cafe for an early dinner and headed back to camp. Leaving early was a brilliant decision, we had seen plenty during the day, I can only imagine what goes on after the sun goes down.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

My next article -continuing our North American RV Tour west.

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Gord B.

Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, New Orleans

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