Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler - Mardi Gras 2020

Friday, March 6, 2020

February 16 marked 18 years of wedded bliss for Alan and me. To celebrate, we took a week-long Norwegian cruise out of New Orleans. It was no accident we'd chosen to depart out of Nola; the city is one of our favorites. Because of that, we decided to head down a few days early and soak up some Mardi Gras fun beforehand.

Unfortunately, when I put this plan together, I'd only performed cursory research (totally out of character for me), and I didn't realize New Orleans is only a direct flight from Boston via Spirit Airlines. Now, I don't know about you, but there are some risks I'll never take, and flying Spirit is one of them. This meant we had a layover in Nashville, and in order to get to New Orleans at a reasonable time of day, we left our house well before dawn. In the middle of a snow storm. Before the roads had been plowed.

Right away, our adventure was turning out to be more adventurous than we'd bargained for.

But all's well that ends well, and later that afternoon we were checking in to the Hotel Monteleone, a place we'd wanted to stay all the other times we'd visited but hadn't for one reason or another. Thankfully, I got a really good deal on it cashing in some reward points to offset the total cost, so we were able to kick off our trip with a little bit of luxury.

After settling in, we stepped out the hotel's front door and into the madness that is New Orleans during Mardi Gras. We'd been before at this time of year, the French Quarter felt a bit different this time around. Maybe we're older, or maybe we were just tired from a long day of travel, but rather than setting out on the same itinerary we've adopted every other time we'd been, we decided to just wander and explore. We ventured in and out of antique stores, marveling at the cost of things, before finally heading over to Pat O'Brien's to meet up with the walking tour we'd signed up for. 

Over the years, we've done a number of walking tours centered around alcohol -- one of our favorites being the cocktail tour in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, and based on the description we'd assumed this one would be similar. Led by a man who was literally in his mid-80s, it was ... not. Not that it was a bad tour, per se, it just wasn't what we'd signed up for. Some of it was better than expected -- a private tour through Antoine's, one of the oldest and largest restaurants in the city -- while our pit stop in a random hotel to hear JFK conspiracy theories (sans cocktail) was just weird. In the end, it introduced us to the a new-to-us absinthe bar and the best damn hurricane we'd ever tasted at May Bailey's Place (one of the first and most notorious bordellos in the red light district and now part of the Dauphine Orleans Hotel), so I suppose it turned out to be a positive experience overall. Oh! And a second line. Gotta love a second line. But with having woken up at 4:00 a.m., we called it an early night around 10 p.m. and made our way back to the hotel.

Day Two

We were very fortunate when it came to the weather for this trip. Almost too fortunate -- all of the clothes I'd packed were for temperatures in mid-50s, and it wound up being very sunny and around 65 degrees. It made sitting outside in the courtyards more enjoyable than it would normally have been at this time of year. And is there any better courtyard than Pat O'Brien's? I mean, the drinks taste like crap, but the environment and the people watching is pretty spectacular.

From here, we walked up to Rampart to meet up with another walking tour group. This was supposed to be a cemetery and Treme tour. For nearly 2.5 hours we wandered around a cemetery somewhat aimlessly. Finally, we walked over to Congo Square, and then on to the Treme area. Got to Treme and bam, the tour was done.  Disappointing, but we didn't let it get us down. Instead, we walked over to the Frenchman Street area and hit up Brieux Carre, a microbrewery I'd read about online. You know Alan and I love finding new beers on our travels, so this was a great way to spend a couple of hours before dinner at Herbsaint later that night.

When we first decided to visit Nola, I was a bit disappointed to see that the "big" parades were taking place in Uptown, so we were quite surprised when we left our hotel to head to dinner, only to find Canal Street closed off and a parade in progress. It was fun walking to dinner along the parade route, and then watching the floats go by through the restaurant's windows. Afterward, feeling in the Mardi Gras spirit, we hit up a few more bars and then eventually made our way back to our hotel with the hopes of getting a seat at its famed Carousel Bar. I'm not even kidding when I tell you people start lining up for a seat at the carousel at 10:30 a.m. (it opens at 11:30). I don't know what kind of karma gods were with us, but we walked in and within a couple of minutes found two seats - where we stayed until last call. 

Day Three

We were supposed to go on another walking tour, but after our late night and lack of success with our two previous tours, we decided instead to sleep in and take it a bit easy. We ended up getting lunch at The Court of Two Sisters, eating outside in the beautiful courtyard. Everything was going great until I took a bite of one of Alan's seafood dishes and started having an allergic reaction. At this point, I'm putting crab on the list of things that will kill me which is a huge bummer since I *love* crab. 

I really wanted to pick up some art on this trip, so after lunch we walked around Jackson Square looking at all of the art on display. Back when Alan was a teenager, he visited Nola with his parents and picked up a Mardi Gras print that hangs in our house to this day. We were hoping to find something similar to add to our (eventual) game room and stumbled upon a woman named Mousie Clark who had beautiful prints for sale. We got to talking about Alan's print hanging back at our house, and she knew exactly which one it was. It turns out that was the last year the artist did them because he passed away and she took up the torch. We bought one, and I can't wait until our kitchen remodel is complete so we can get everything out of our game room and get it set up. I know just the place for this beautiful print.

That night was dinner at Cochon, and instead of taking a taxi over there we decided to walk. I'm so glad we did because we left very early and ended up spending about an hour having a fabulous time at the Krewe of Freret parade. I caught a blow up cow which I gave to a little girl standing next to me, and Alan and I both caught some fun beads.

After an excellent dinner, we passed by the Knights of Sparta parade where we caught even more beads before making our way back into town for a sazerac at Napoleon House (one of our traditions) and another absinthe at Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House (where we learned they cut you off after two).

We found ourselves back in our room around midnight, where we started packing up for the next leg of our anniversary trip adventure. Stay tuned!

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