It is that time of year again. When all of New Orleans (or N’Awlins if you are a local) really puts on their party hat and goes at it. Now, there are many times during the year when NOLA throws a party, but this, this is the topper. It is a celebration. And sadly, it is the time of year when many people decide to come to town and get absolutely, positively shit faced and let all of their inhibitions go.
I’ve made it to 2 Mardi Gras and I miss it every year. Thankfully, I have been able to stay with friends, so I get to experience Mardi Gras with the locals. So, my experience tends to be lots and lots of parade viewing/celebrity sighting (they tend to be grand marshalls), house parties, and wandering the off Bourbon Street parts of the French Quarter. That is not to say that I don’t go on Bourbon, I just enjoy most of the French Quarter and not one particular area.
The one food that I associate with Mardi Gras in NOLA is the King Cake. Mmmmm…..King Cake. The plain cake is kind of like a cinnamon coffee cake flavor, but the “fancy” ones include fillings such as cream cheese, chocolate, lemon, apple, the list goes on and on. And then they put an icing glaze on top and some sprinkles (generally green/yellow/purple) on top. Inside each King Cake is a “baby” trinket, which represents the baby Jesus. This trinket was my nemesis! I am not sure how it happened, but out of every King Cake I ate, I got the baby!! Thankfully, my friends were understanding, so they never made me purchase the next one, but I think my king cake debt is somewhere around 5 cakes.
The joy of experiencing life outside of Bourbon Street is that you get to see how the locals celebrate. There are house parties, parade viewing parties, local artists selling their wares (trust me when i say they create some brilliant works of art), and the homes — already a unique combination of architectural styles — are dressed to the nines in such a wide variety of ways. To me, it feels like a city that is already living every moment escapes the boundaries of every day life and scream to the world, “THIS! THIS is how you live every day to the fullest!”
Other than celebrating with friends, and experiencing Mardi Gras through their eyes, the thing that I have always enjoyed the most is the parades. Iactually hit the point in a day where I cannot watch another parade. But, I end up doing it anyway most of the time. Each parade has a different theme, and crazy floats with people on them throwing all sorts of things. I kid you not, one krewe, or parade group, decorates their floats with colored tin foil. You need sunglasses to watch or you’ll go blind! Plus bands, performers, flambeaux carriers, families, friends, and just …… **sigh** There is an energy in the town that is like no other.
On Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the costumes come out in full force. People can spend months making the costumes and they are ….. insane does not seem like the proper word. Fantastical, amazing, brilliant, wonderful, creative…..
I miss it. It has been 5 years now since my last visit during Mardi Gras, but thankfully only 1 year since my last visit to NOLA. Sometimes there is a city that captures your heart, and I am not ashamed to say that New Orleans is one of them.
FYI — Both of my experiences with Mardi Gras happened before I was GF, but on subsequent visits I did not have the easiest time eating “safe”. Hopefully, the “Find Me Gluten Free” app will help, as it was not the easiest thing to do down there.
So, if you are in New Orleans, I’m just going to say “HAPPY CARNIVAL!”
FYI — this is a fabulous website that gives a very in-depth history on Carnival season, a listing of parades, and all sorts of fabulous information.