Hey, look, we are back! Sadly, no, we have not decided to chuck it all and start PigFish Round 2. But we did spend an entire week in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras before I go back to work. We figured go out big, right? And it doesn’t get much bigger than a week in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Ok, maybe it does. We also decided to go to Bogota this weekend (yes, seriously, for the weekend) to eat ajiaco and arepas. And because our passports were feeling neglected. Yes, we are certifiably insane. But, enough about Bogota, this post is about New Orleans.
In all honesty, we were both a bit nervous about being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We both expected insane crowds, belligerent drunks, and a bit more “party” than we enjoy. (You all know we like a good party. But we don’t care for underage drunks vomiting on the street). And, we no doubt could have found that if we had spent more of our time on Bourbon Street. Indeed, simply setting foot on Bourbon Street during the day was more than enough for us and we can’t even imagine the mess it becomes at night. But, by avoiding Bourbon Street, what we found was an absolutely delightful weekend with plenty to see and do.
The parades, of course, were the highlight. There are parades every single night and many day parades as well. If you want to be a bit removed from the crowds, you can buy grandstand tickets on St. Charles Street – we did that and would highly recommend it for a parade or two as we had a great view and caught plenty of throws. If you want to be right smack dab in the middle of the crowds, you can watch the parades on Canal Street. We caught a day parade there and had a blast. And, if you want to catch plenty of throws, you can position yourself near the end of a route. We did that a couple of times – not as many people and the riders are trying to get rid of their throws. We did not head outside of the Quarter/CBD, but our understanding is that there are plenty of fun places outside those neighborhoods to watch as well.
Each parade was different, but we enjoyed each and every one of them. We saw some amazing floats.
And some float riders wearing some pretty scary masks.
Some of the floats carried famous people. We saw Harry Connick, Jr. (of course) and we caught beads thrown by Harry Shearer. We got to see what we presumed was a very drunk Solange Knowles (who, apparently, managed to lose her wedding ring during the parade). Plus, we got to see Nathan Fillion. That is him on this float. Sadly, we didn’t catch any of his beads even though we were the only ones screaming “Slithers” and “Firefly” when everyone else was screaming “Castle.”
By the way, we understand the riders in the big parades spend thousands of dollars on throws each year. And it is insane how crazy people get about catching beads and other throws. On the other hand, it was also nice to see people giving beads to people (not just kids) that didn’t have many yet. It is also insane how hard the riders throw the beads at the crowd. I “caught” beads more than once with my face (and ended up with a bruised eyelid) and we read a news article begging people to put their phones away so they didn’t get injured by flying beads. At the end of the parades, the streets were littered with dropped beads and plastic bags. But the streets were spotless by the next morning. Interestingly, there is also an entire industry devoted to recycling the beads for use next year – our hotel had a bin set up and some school for disabled kids sorts the beads for use next year.
Another highlight of the parades was the marching bands. This strange-looking marching band was from (if memory serves) Switzerland. But we also saw a ton of college and high school marching bands. If you ever get a chance to see the Talladega College marching band, go. Trust us on this one.
There were also plenty of dancers. We saw people in motorized Lazy Boys. We saw middle-age guys with porn mustaches dancing in tight baby blue shorts – they call themselves the 610 Stompers.
And, we saw the Pussy Footers.
We saw plenty of people on horseback who had no business being on horseback. I’m not sure if this individual knew how to ride or not, but the vast majority of riders looked like they did not have a clue what they were doing. In fact, I truly scared one rider when I pet his horse while they were stopped right in front of me– although the horse seemed to love it and the stable hand guiding the horse was completely fine with me petting the horse and looked at me like “thank the maker, someone else who actually knows horses.”
We also saw some very small parades marching through the streets of the French Quarter. Here is the Grand Boobah at the Bosom Buddies parade.
In addition to the parades, we spent a morning watching the “greasing of the poles.” Yep, a hotel on Bourbon Street has a contest to see which young “lady” can best grease the poles of the hotel. Apparently, it is a 40 year tradition designed to stop drunks from climbing up the poles. I’m pretty sure this one was the winner, but the PA system wasn’t working well so we didn’t stick around for the results.
And, before the greasing of the poles, we saw a plushie somehow affiliated with the New Orleans Saints. (Hey, don’t laugh, we only watch “real” football and, occasionally, the Packers. We have no idea who this character is, but he was having fun.).
We also spent a ton of time just relaxing and enjoying New Orleans. We visited several of our favorite restaurants and managed to eat several beignets. Here we are visiting a bar in an unsuccessful attempt to meet up with a waitress who used to work at one of our favorite Chicago bars. Even worse, the bar had cheese curds on their menu but it turned out they were out of them.
We saw crazy decorations on the streets.
We got our picture taken with the “big ass beer” sign. Yep, this was another one of those “now you need to give me a tip” moments, but the picture was worth a dollar.
We spent one afternoon watching a plane write messages in the sky.
We wore strange things on our heads.
And, we saw some pretty good street musicians.
Bottom line, if you have any interest in visiting New Orleans, just go. It is still one of our favorite cities in the world.