When my alarm went off at 5.20a.m. I was out of bed and ready to go in under 10 minutes. After all the travelling I was finally almost there! I stopped by TGI’s for some good old American pancakes with bacon (which of course were huge) before boarding my 40 minute flight to New Orleans. The sun was shining when we landed and I walked out into the warmth to catch a cab, or a $40 fancy black car to the hotel. After a quick reunion with my favourite travel buddy it was off to our first stop of the day John and Maurya’s Mardi Gras party.
Heads up to anyone coming in for the festival – transport is a nightmare!! The parades block of a lot of the roads and so trying to get anywhere takes a very long time stuck in standstill traffic which we quickly learnt. We had walked down to the main parade route and crossed over before picking up a cab who managed to get us to within walking distance of the party. Thank you so much to John and Maurya for having us (and to Andrew Steven for introducing us). They had lots of traditional Southern foods for us to try including glazed turkey, cheese strata and the ever famous King Cake. The cake was very sweet and tasty and covered in different coloured sugars. We had a cinnamon one and the tradition is that there is a baby somewhere in the cake and the person who gets the baby has to bring the next cake. You eat the cake for the entire celebration (so one a day) up until Mardi Gras itself so if you are unlucky that is a lot of cake to buy. One of the ladies who got the baby was nice enough to give it to me which was very sweet of her. After some mimosa’s and great chat we headed out to watch Thoth the parade that was passing by a block from their house.
This parade had 36 floats and in between each float 2 bands/dancing groups so it was very long. The basic concept is that as each of the floats passes where you are standing you jump up and down manically waving your hands and try to catch some of the ‘loot’ being thrown which can be beads, hats, feather boas, coins and even a boob (this was the first thing I caught….). Each of the Krewe’s has their own parade and so consequently their own Krewe branded loot and so after float 10 the generic beads become less exciting and everyone tries to catch the rarer branded stuff. By about float 30 the sun had fallen behind the store we were standing in front of and it had become really cold so we watched the last of the floats before nipping into Whole Foods to pick up drinks for later.
Back at the house we tried some more of the amazing home cooked food – including a very tasty Louisiana style Cajun spiced lentil stew with rice which was amazing. After speaking to some more people and just hanging out it was soon time to hop back over to our hotel for a disco nap in preparation for the ball this evening. Unfortunately after being stuck for an hour in traffic when we got back our disco nap plans got infringed upon substantially. We walked along the street to Buffa’s a local style restaurant and got alligator balls, shrimp creole and jambalaya to take out. It was great chilling in bed with our food for a bit although my very short 20 minute nap didn’t quite quell my rising tiredness. We got ready for the ball and in the end because the taxi showed up so early ended up having a last minute dash, to the car.
The Bacchus Ball is basically a ball event that is held at the end of the Bacchus night parade route. Usually reserved only for locals Carolyn’s cousin’s friend Chase was on one of the floats and so had managed to get us a ticket. Because of our early driver we arrived before everyone else at our table so we sat taking in the mammoth size of the venue – this was easily the size of a football field with tables everywhere! We had some wine while watching the Superbowl – Carolyn’s team the Bronco’s were playing – while we waited for the others. Everyone was lovely and when they arrived the ladies did a walk around the humungous venue to see the live band stage and all of the tables stretching out as far as the eye could see. The parades are always delayed and so we waited until 10.30p.m. before they started to roll in. The floats were all lit up really nice and of course we got a tonne more beads and loot. After the final float had rolled and we finished all the wine (no bar at the event, just BYOB) we decided to try and order a cab just after midnight. This was an error on our part since our cab – after saying it would be 45 minutes took an hour and a half to turn up and then because of the terrible traffic couldn’t find us and so took someone else! Meanwhile we were freezing, watching parades in a drafty arena with all of the entrances and exits wide open for the floats is a very cold pastime – even more so in a ballgown with no jacket! We then had to walk around outside trying to flag cabs (it was probably around 5 or 6 degrees at this point (bloody freezing) until Chris came to our rescue and finally found a cab to take us back.
What a night, and what a day! The parades were awesome and I had had a brilliant first day but after being up for 21 hours not taking into account the time difference I was exhausted. Thanks to everyone who helped make my first day of Mardi Gras so special – especially John, Maurya and Chase!!