A stroll around the garden suburbs, a ride on the Charles Street Streetcar and finally a successful visit to Mardi Gras World followed by drinks at Bacchanal, the definition of which is “a wild and drunken celebration” and ending up in the French Quarter.
The Garden Suburbs were quite a way from us so we took public transport to our starting point, an 88 bus followed by a street car which don’t display their correct number as far as I can see. They do have where they are going on the front though and there are only 5 different routes.
The route we went on was a green tram and a very touristy route as there are many beautiful large mansions along the way to view. Some people just get on the tram in Canal Street and ride the tram to the end of its route and back.
We got off and walked across a few blocks for a walk down Magazine Street which was supposed to be the shopping street. We couldn’t see any shops when we got there except for some cafes where we had breakfast. A sandwich with way too much meat in for me but TP loved it.
They did make tea ok though and it wasn’t hard to give the excess meat to TP. We happened to be next to a doughnut shop which was mentioned in The Lonely Planet, TP’s bible, so we thought we had better share one for dessert. It was sangria flavoured and very palatable.
We walked down the street think that it wasn’t what we expected and then we came across a few shops which we browsed around. Being Mardi Gras time purple, gold and green decorations are everywhere.
There were some interesting junk/antique markets which had a few shops under one roof. They were permanent. After that block we decided we had had enough shopping. There was no way we were going to find a bargain. I heard a lady saying later that there were groups of shops every few blocks. It sounded as though it would have been a good idea to take the car but then we couldn’t have riden the tram which we continued to do.
We walked back to Charles Street and continued the tram trip. There certainly were some beautiful houses in the Garden District. This is an old district as is the French quarter so they were not affected by flood as the newer lower lying areas were after Katrina.
We didn’t know how far it went so we tried to jump off and then back on the one going the other way but it didn’t work and we ended up getting back on the same one as it returned.
TP wanted a burger which are pretty good in America, at least the ones I have had have been. We got off the tram at the nearest point to Mardi Gras World that we could which was about a 20 min walk away. There was an Irish Pub there which had a burger on the menu so we had that and indulged ourselves with a sticky date pud.
Our efforts to get onto a tour at Mardi Gras World were worth it as we learnt more about how the parades are run and who pays for them.
There are no corporate sponsors, the members of the Krewes pay for the floats out of their dues. They may also pay to ride on the float and the ride could be 6-7 hrs, which is why the floats are constructed with rest rooms on them! The float riders also pay for their own throw. Traditionally the riders throw items to the crowd. ( see “New Orleans Museums” for some examples).
70% of Mardi Gras Worlds work is for the parades in NO which start on 6th Jan and continue until 42 days before Easter. In other words, they indulge themselves until Lent! All riders wear masks so that prominent people can also indulge themselves without it coming back to “bite” them. It is written in law that rider must wear masks but once the Carnival season is over, no one is allowed to wear them.
We saw how they joined sheets of polystyrene together to form blocks and then cut the shapes from those blocks. A few are made from fiberglass but these are generally not for floats because they cannot be reused. The polystyrene ones can be reshaped whereas fiber glass ones can’t.
They are moulded and sanded and then paper mache is applied so that a good painting surface is achieved. After that comes the painting and installation on a float. It is a year round job. Once the parades have finished, preparation for the following year begins.
We caught the shuttle and got dropped off at the outlet complex. I had seen a glass there in Mardi Gras colours and I wanted one.
We then power walked to catch a bus, only to find we had to wait 15 mins for it! We walked to the next stop and then sat and watched the people while it came. It dropped us right outside Bacchanals, our next stop.
I noticed that the definition of bacchanal is “a wild and drunken celebration”, appropriate for a wine place.
We arrived in time to get a table outside and I got the wine while TP found a table. Other people shared it later which was fine. The second lot of sharers included a 70yo lady.
We chatted to her and she told us she wasn’t about to get old. Her name was Ruth and she was a social workers. She was there with her husband and they had planned dinner at 9pm and then another music venue after that.
After 2 bottles of wine we walked back to French Street as we had been told it wasn’t as touristy as Boubon St which maybe it wasn’t but it was really busy. We walked down a bit and found somewhere to eat. I can’t remember why but we had burger again which was really good. We sat outside and watched the passing parade.
We then headed off to try and find another bar which had live music but was not too busy or too loud. A big ask!
We stopped at Mollies but by this time we had had enough of wandering the streets looking for somewhere so we headed home. TP wanted to go by Uber so I called one. We found it, the driver was from Russia and had been in NO for 18 months. He complained at me as my phone kept saying busy which of course it would as my Aussie sim doesn’t work overseas.
Anyway, I found him and we went home. It was after midnight and we both just went to sleep.