February 16, 2012

It's Carnival Time

So as not to keep you in suspense one minute longer, I’m excited to report that Tim and I did everything tonight that we missed out on last night.  Hard to believe, but true!  We had a wonderful dinner this evening at a restaurant serving authentic Creole and Cajun dishes. We then participated in our first Carnival parade and have quite a collection of beads to show for it.  Now, I’ll tell you a little more about how it all unfolded.

Our campground in New Orleans is located just a block from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, and we started our day there.  Cemetery tours are especially popular in New Orleans, since cemeteries in New Orleahere ns are unique in that all of the tombs are aboveground.  We just decided to wander through on our own.  It almost felt like walking through a miniature city, and a spooky one at that, particularly when we happened upon a crypt with offerings laid in front.  The tomb of the city’s most famous Voodoo Queen had to be the most-photographed of the bunch.  Tim claims we only went to the cemetery because his sister Alice got us started looking for dead people when we were in Kentucky.  True or not, I’m just glad we went.

City of the Dead
Offerings to the Voodoo Queen
One of the prettiest places in New Orleans is St. Charles Avenue and its adjacent neighborhoods, and the best part is that the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar will take you there.  We took the streetcar all the way to Audubon Park and then started walking.  We passed by the gated entrance to one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods, Audubon Place, with its fabulous historic houses.  We walked by Loyola University and wandered into Tulane.  Just as Tim asked what Tulane is noted for, he looked at a map and found we were standing in front of the Anthropology Building.  Maybe the archeologist in him just knew it was there.

St. Charles Avenue Streetcar
Gateway to Audubon Place
One of the Houses in Audubon Place
Anthropology Building at Tulane University
Loyola University
Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans travel down St. Charles Avenue, and we saw people already staking out their spots for the parades this evening.  Chairs, tarps and ladders lined the avenue.  Maybe I just haven’t attended many parades in recent years, but the ladders were a surprise.  Some even had a seat attached to the top to make viewing that much more comfortable.  We saw evidence everywhere of the beads that had been thrown the night before.  I wonder if someone cleans up the ones that end up hanging from trees and power lines.

Ready to Watch the Parade
We returned to the French Quarter to attend a jazz concert at the Old U.S. Mint Performance Hall.  As it turned out, we probably heard more jazz at several impromptu street performances than we would at the Mint.  The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park sponsors daily concerts, and the one this afternoon was to feature works by some of the rangers.  Unfortunately, the main performer was off today, so the lone ranger who showed up mostly gave us a talk on the history of jazz, illustrated by a few bars or songs on the guitar.  The park has some very talented rangers on staff, and Tim and I both had such a great time today and yesterday chatting with several of them.

A Musical Ranger
Street Performers
We had an early dinner at The Praline Connection, a restaurant off the beaten track that serves authentic Cajun and Creole dishes.  Tim and I shared the “Taste of Soul” platter, which was divine.  The gumbo, jambalaya, fried chicken, catfish, ribs, red beans and rice, greens, cornbread and bread pudding were delicious.  But the best part of the meal was chatting with our server and the large, extended family that arrived shortly after we were seated.  The ladies who sat closest to us had arrived in New Orleans for a baptism, and they were such a hoot.

The weather had held up for the day, and we wondered whether the predicted thunderstorms would rain on tonight’s Mardi Gras parades.  Should we attend?  Were we too tired?  In the end Tim made the decision that we should just go.  We walked over to Canal Street and waited with several hundred other people for over an hour for the parade to arrive.  Once the parade began, we had a blast.

We discovered that “crowd participation” parades are much more fun than just watching floats go by.  As you probably know, float riders in Mardi Gras parades throw scores of beads, cups and other baubles to the crowd.  Tim and I found ourselves getting caught up in the action, vying to catch the beads that were being tossed from the floats.  Tim even accused me of being too greedy!  He was probably right!

Arms Outstretched to Catch the Throws
Please Throw One to Me
The parade we watched was put on by the Knights of Babylon.  The floats were very traditional in design and have changed little in more than seventy years.  The floats were just beautiful, although it was a bit difficult to appreciate their elaborate designs while focusing on catching the throws.

Long Live the Queen
Beautiful Floats
Although there were two more parades to come, we decided to call it an evening and returned to the RV with our loot – scores of beads and a cup.  We may never make it to Mardi Gras again, but I’m so glad we bit the bullet and enjoyed the party this time.

Some of Our Loot
Dressed for Carnival
Some People Just Don't Know When to Call It Quits


  1. Wow, what a day! It all looks and sounds like so much fun. I could feel the excitement just reading the blog. BTW, Kitty looks gorgeous in her beads! LV

    1. LV, Yes, it was quite a day, and we really had a blast. I think we were determined to make up for yesterday! Kitty says "thanks" for such a nice compliment. Sarah

  2. I do love grave yards.so much you can learn. Kitty is beautifull with her beads. So glad you are out of that monsoon. Love A

    1. A, We have had fun traipsing through graveyards. Some of the headstones and tombs have been amazing. Kitty says to also thank you for the nice compliment. Sarah