My great escape: Mardis Gras in New Orleans
Trip of a lifetime
I’ve always wanted to see the world’s most famous Mardi Gras celebration, and last year I finally made it with my husband Bruce and son David.
We landed in a sunny New Orleans that was awash with the carnival colours: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.
The streets near the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter, where we were staying, were crowded with revellers. Laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll) was the phrase on everyone’s lips.
The parades, each organised by a different ‘krewe’, happened all over town and lasted for hours. Elaborate floats were interspersed with marching bands, and the routes were lined with thousands of enthusiastic spectators. There was good-natured competition for ‘throws’—trinkets of all kinds pitched into the crowds—and we got our fair share.
"Let the good times roll was the phrase on everyone’s lips"
We also made time to explore other aspects of the city. A walking tour took us to Jackson Square by the Mississippi River, to the Louis Armstrong Park and to the St Louis Number One Cemetery. A strange choice, perhaps, but New Orleans is well known for its macabre side.
Among the tombs is a large pyramid-shaped one belonging to actor Nicholas Cage (although he is still very much alive) and to Marie Laveau, the famous 19th century voodoo queen. We also visited the small but fascinating Voodoo Museum, enjoyed a free music festival in Woldenberg Park and took the ferry across the river to the historic neighbourhood of Algiers with its pretty clapboard houses.
New Orleans is famous for its cuisine and we were overwhelmed by the choice of Creole and Cajun restaurants here. Unique to the city are the beignets, square French doughnuts, of the Café du Monde: I defy anyone to eat them without getting covered in icing sugar. We washed those down with chicory-flavoured coffee, before later trying out cocktails at Pat O’Brien’s bar on Bourbon Street. I recommend the Hurricane, which combines dark rum with passion fruit and other juices: it’s the best drink in the city.
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