Mardi Gras was finally here!! This is the day that had been building for weeks with parades and celebrations culminating in today before people starting their fasts on Ash Wednesday. Therefore this was the climax for the parades. Zulu – the parade we were going to – started to roll from 8a.m. but having experienced a few parades by this point we had learnt how slow and delayed they can be and so woke up at 8a.m. and had breakfast before chilling out in the room with the parade tracker. We were planning to catch it at the street behind our hotel which was nearer the end of the route and so we waited until 11.30a.m before heading out. Although the sun was shining, the wind was blowing hard and it was certainly not within my definition of warm. We grabbed a spot next to a family just as the first safety truck went by to check the power lines were high enough.
One of the best things about this parade had to be the Zulu warriors all dressed in full costume with head dress and traditional skirt. Each of the warriors that walked best had completely different costumes and so it was really interesting to see each of them. Otherwise the parade took the same form as the others with a dance troop and band in between all the main floats. The other big draw of Zulu is the elusive coconuts. The Krewe decorate these coconuts for an entire year and usually have around 100,000 coconuts to throw for loot. It is said that you haven’t done Zulu unless you have caught a coconut and so of course this was our main aim. It wasn’t going to be easy though, everyone wanted one of the coconuts and at the slightest flash of one everyone went nuts and started jumping up trying to get it over the next person.
It was such a nice family atmosphere where we were standing and we were right next to a family with two young girls who were both also desperate for coconuts. They were really nice and I had some great chat with the youngest girl about her favourite animal – the unicorn obviously, and her toy panda called Oreo. The kids both caught coconuts and so when they were at their 4th they took pity on us and gave us one. Finally, we had achieved the impossible. Carolyn then went on to catch another so we had one each in the end. The parade lasted a couple of hours and so after we walked back down Canal Street to see a bit of Rex (the other parade) before heading right down to the river. We had planned to do a walk along the river stopping off at a couple of places to pick up some famous local food and do some shopping but what we hadn’t bargained for was everywhere being closed due to Mardi Gras. The river walk was still pretty nice regardless, and only a few mins walk from our lunch stop – Johnny’s Poboys. Poboys are a New Orleans institution and are basically a HUGE sandwich filled with a bunch of different things. I opted for the famous Shrimp poboy with a side of seafood gumbo which was pretty fantastic. The shrimp was deep fried and had a lovely mayonnaise, pickle, and salad on the sandwich with the spicy seafood gumbo setting it off perfectly.
Feeling very full we slowly wandered along the edge pf the French Quarter. Stopping in to try some famous praline brittle (yum!) before making our way to Frenchman Street. We had been told by a lot of the local people we had met that Frenchman was the place to listen to live music and so we had thought it would have a lot of nice small music bars. While it may be like this normally, during Mardi Gras it is a mildly tamer version of Bourbon Street and after walking along and taking in the general craziness we wandered back to our hotel to rest for a few hours after the hectic morning.
After a short disco nap we headed back into town in the hope of getting some oysters. Acme, our oyster tip was closed and so we wandered around a little before coming across Oceana, a way more commercialised oyster and seafood restaurant which we managed to get seated at pretty quickly. We had an oyster platter with…… Champagne. Or at least that is what we ordered. What we ended up with was ‘Californian Champagne’ aka sparkling wine with the words Champagne on the bottle. If this had been Europe a bunch of people would be getting fined a lot of money at this point but we sipped our wine, it was actually nice and light, while slurping our oysters as well as some blackened crayfish. The meal was great and while I am sure nowhere near as authentic as the independent oyster bar would have been it was still good food. We wandered back to our hotel for the last time full and happy. Tomorrow – roadtrip!