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Fine dining is one part of what makes New Orleans and Louisiana appealing to family travelers and couples on romantic vacation. Partaking of a meal isn’t just a meal, it is an event.
Breakfast at Brennan’s is always a treat for me. I always order the Three Course Prix Fixe which starts at $36US. It is customary to start with an “eye-opener” while perusing the menu. My favorite choices are a Brandy Milk Punch, a Mimosa, or a Mr. Funk of New Orleans. There are many other eye-openers to choose from, in typical New Orleans style. The meal itself is an event, taking at least two hours. The purpose is to enjoy your meal in a luxurious setting while visiting with friends. I ended up choosing the New Orleans Turtle Soup (with a splash of sherry), a split of Eggs Benedict and Eggs Shannon, and a grand finale of Bananas Foster, which was invented at this restaurant. In my mind, of course, I’m imagining that the Eggs Shannon was put on the menu just for me. There is an extra charge for the turtle soup and the banana dessert, but it is soooo worth it.
Local editor and author Errol Laborde came to the meal and presented us all with a copy of his book, KREWE, a history of early New Orleans Carnival. It can be purchased on Amazon.com. Only a few of us managed to get up from the table and continue on for the day. We walked through the Mardis Gras museum located next door to St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.
The rain began and as I strolled down Bourbon Street, a walking parade made its way past me. It was the Krewe of Cork, which pays homage to the vines. After the parade passed, I stopped into my special place, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest bar in the US.
The rain poured down even more and the evening parades were cancelled. I made it back to my room at Harrah’s and met the group for dinner in the casino. I was so glad at that moment that I was at Harrah’s Hotel, because there is an underground tunnel that leads to the casino, keeping me out of the cold rain for the night.
A) He lets me drive him around.
B) He doesn’t mind me singing at the top of my lungs.
C) He smiles all the time.
D) He never wears a shirt.
There is something about driving a vehicle, with the landscape quickly passing by, and learning to just live with you. As a mama, it is hard to find that quiet time to talk to yourself or think about your first kiss, or that time you look REALLY rocking in a particular outfit. Road trips are just wonderful and this is something any mama or a group of mamas should really do at least once. Maybe we secretly desire to be Romy and Michelle or even Thelma and Louise (without the ending).
This particular road trip ended up at Harrah’s new hotel in New Orleans. I’ve met up with a few old friends and I’m making some new ones. We are checking out the hotel, a few restaurants, and definitely going to a few parades.
I was excited to get into my room and pleasantly surprised by the lavish digs that are considered standard here. The colors were toned down rich colors of Mardi Gras, such as aubergine and a creamy mustard. The bath even had a soaking tub with separate shower. I did my “hotel detective” check and found that even the area behind the toilet was immaculate. I give thumbs up for Harrah’s New Orleans.
Dinner last night was in the hotel restaurant, Riche, due to the late flights of most of our group. We met up with Arthur Hardy, who is the voice of Carnival season in New Orleans. He has published the Mardi Gras Guide for the past three decades. He entertained our group with stories of Bob Hope, Sandra Bullock, and many other celebrities who have enjoyed the season in the area.
It was a pleasant start to a full weekend, which includes brunch at Brennan’s, one my favorite restaurants in the entire world.
New Orleans is just one of many places that celebrate Maris Gras. Cities such as Mobile, Pensacola, and Baton Rouge offer family parades full of fun.
I’ve been invited to spend a long weekend at Harrah’s New Orleans, a new hotel/resort on the scene. I’m going to eat, drink, and be merry during a time of parades and partying. The first Mardi Gras celebration may have occurred in Mobile, AL, but New Orleans made it big. Other places around the Southeast U.S. celebrate this festive season in their own special ways and they all provide a family atmosphere (even NOLA).
Mobile, AL – This is where the first Mardi Gras was celebrated in 1703. They throw beads and are known for throwing Moon Pies.
Pensacola, FL – These parade participants throw beads, candy and Moon Pies. They offer a family atmosphere and poke fun at New Orleans and Mobile Krewes in a punny way.
New Orleans, LA – Like I stated earlier, they made Mardi Gras big.
Baton Rouge, LA – This capital city is the host of such parades as the Krewe of Mutts and Spanishtown, which features pink flamingos placed in various spots throughout the city during carnival season.
New Roads, LA – They host the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana outside of New Orleans. It is also one the the nation’s oldest African-American sponsored event.
Mamou, LA – Masked riders ride horseback from farm to farm to collect the ingredients for a gumbo. This is an old tradition and the climax is the chasing of the chicken.
Lake Charles, LA – This is the center of Southwest Louisiana, which hosts parades in small towns and villages in the area.
This is just a sampling of the many places in the U.S. that celebrate Mardi Gras.
Parades and the revelry of Mardi Gras has attracted tourist and visitors from all over the world. Make sure you don’t break any of the cardinal rules of Mardi Gras. First timers may not know the traditions, but this quick primer will help you weave your way from parade route to parade route, no matter if you are in New Orleans, Mobile, or Galveston.
Mardi Gras translated means Fat Tuesday. It originally began as a Catholic celebration day to enjoy the things that a person would give up during the Lenten Season. Lent, is the 40 days before Easter that symbolizes the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert before his arrest and crucifixion. Catholics fast on certain days and also give up something that is important to them. Many people give up candy, others quit smoking, and some people try to give up relations (if they aren’t married). It starts on Ash Wednesday, the day following Mardi Gras.
Through the years, the celebrations have expanded from one day to an entire season, consisting of weeks of revelry beginning on The Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. Mardi Gras dates vary from year to year. Many revelers will argue that there really are no rules to Mardi Gras. As a lifelong resident of South Louisiana, I beg to differ. There are rules, and then there are the RULES.
The King Cake Rule: I can give a detailed explanation about the origins of the King Cake, but that might be boring. Suffice it to say, the King Cake is a big round cinnamon roll topped with icing and colored sugar. The colors are green, purple, and gold. A plastic or gold baby is placed inside the delicacy, so be careful when you take a bite. You don’t want to break a tooth. If you get the baby inside your slice, guess what? YOU get to buy the next King Cake. And don’t try to slip it back inside the King Cake when no one is looking, because Karma will come back and get you in the form of an party-goer who will regurgitate on you at your next parade.
The Parade Rule: There are invisible lines surrounding the area of a family who has staked out their spot on the parade route. Do not think that you can wait until the parade starts to stand in the area in front. You will get injured by an inebriated mother wearing a feather boa should you block her child’s area of the curb. Your lesson: Get there early and find your own spot.
The Bead Rule: There are beads and then there are “good” beads. When good beads are being thrown, get out of the way unless the person on the float makes eye contact. Yes, this is the Bead Rule. Eye contact and pointing means the person throwing the item will aim for you. Oh, and don’t catch beads intended for a child. Should you make contact with these beads, then act like you “meant” to get it for the kid, and then hand it off to them.
The Don’t Be Offended Rule: Mardi Gras is considered a family event in many areas, however, this does not lesson the satire or adult tones of parades. If you are easily offended, just don’t go. You will see the obligatory family ice chest filled with beer and juice boxes. Every once in a while someone still flashes “the girls” so don’t look or at least be aware of your surroundings during the parade, keeping your hands ready to block a view from your child’s eyes. Stay away from Bourbon Street and find the family areas along a parade route.
The No Business Rule: Mardi Gras is an official state holiday in Louisiana, so don’t even try conduct business with someone from that state from the Saturday before Mardi Gras through the afternoon of Ash Wednesday.
These are just a few of the rules of Mardi Gras posted for your entertainment and education. Any additional rules can be posted in the comments. And remember, if you attend a Mardi Gras parade, the ultimate rule is to HAVE FUN.