Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

"It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he as seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans." -- Letter to Pamela Moffett, March 1859

Happy Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras always reminds me of the one and only trip I've taken to New Orleans. We went in the fall '04 and had a great time (pre-Katrina). Chris had a business meeting and we stayed one night at a really cute boutique hotel (The Omni Royal Crescent -- we actually recently remodeled our bathroom based on the beautiful bathroom at the hotel). The next 2 nights we stayed at the friend of a friend's little "love shack." She's an artist who owns a shotgun house a few blocks off Bourbon Street and has a little studio/cottage in her courtyard that she rents to people she knows or who are recommended to her. It was very romantic. French doors opened to her courtyard where she had a big fountain w/ a little cafe set to have a bottle of wine after dinner. The studio had an exposed brick wall , a little kitchenette, small washer & dryer, and a small bathroom. It was perfect for a romantic weekend get away. While Chris was in his meeting I spent the entire day by myself walking the French Quarter. I had a mani & a pedi first thing in the morning and I spent the rest of the day exploring the French Quarter. I walked all around Jackson Square, the waterfront, went to the Imax movie, discovered some antique shops, etc. I had one of the most relaxing, wonderful days of my life. Chris & I met up w/ my cousins, Tommy & Arianne and had a blast w/ them. We went to some dumpy bar and had way too many Hurricanes. The next day we had beignets at Cafe du Monde and met up w/ Tommy & Arianne for one of those cemetary tours.
It rained the whole weekend we were there but that just added to the fun. Stomping in puddles on Bourbon Street, wearing flip-flops so I wouldn't ruin my good shoes, etc. Chris went back after Katrina for a lax tournament and he said I would have cried my eyes out seeing all the devestation. I guess that was 6 or 7 months after the floods and he said there was debris and garbage everywhere. Buildings boarded up, homeless people wandering around, very depressing and horrifying.

What is Mardi Gras? Literally, it means "Fat Tuesday," the day before the season of Lent begins. For centuries, people around the globe have sowed their wild oats in preparation for the Christian season of fasting and repentance prior to Easter.

What are krewes? Krewes are private social groups that put on parades throughout Mardi Gras. Here are some of the names:
Krewe of Bacchus
Krewe of Lake Pontchartrain
Krewe of Zulu
Mardi Gras Indians

The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans on Feb. 24, 1857. The Krewe of Comus began the tradition of presenting parade floats followed by a masquerade ball for the krewe and their guests. A century and a half before, in 1699, French explorer Iberville threw a celebration on "Mardi Gras Island" near New Orleans.

The "king cake" is another Mardi Gras tradition. The cake is named for "les trois rois" or three kings and the feast, Epiphany, that is celebrated on Jan. 6. The cakes are a party staple for the duration of the Carnival season. The person who finds the plastic baby inside the cake (a bean was once the "prize" placed in the cake, but the dolls are more popular now) is crowned king, and custom says they have to buy the next cake and/or host the next gathering.

The official Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold. These colors were instituted by Rex, King of Carnival, in 1872. The colors have meaning: purple -- justice, green -- faith and gold -- power.


“Please, mister! Please, mister!”

"N'Awlinz: Dis, Dat or d'Udda"


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great Mardi Gras primer! And thanks for your comment on my blog. I'm sorry about your sweet puppy.

kristie said...

that was great info on mardi gras. your trip there sounds wonderful and the little cottage very romantic.

Heather said...

I loved New Orleans. I was there at the same time, I think. Maybe a few weeks earlier? Anyway, the beignets are so good! I have a Cafe du Monde postcard on my office door and I think about those doughnuts every morning. Yum! My friend Erin and I enjoyed a self-guided walking tour of both the French Quarter and the Garden District. For sheer silliness we went to the Mardi Gras Museum and had the most fun! It was an excellent trip.

monkeyseemonkeydontdo said...

Cafe du Monde......the best in the world!!!! They have one in the Underground in ATL well they used to, don't know if it is there anymore.....the chickory coffee OMG!!! We went there with my parents as kids and then I have been back once after a track meet....very much a memory!!!!!! Your cards are on the counter at work....hope you are feeling better!!!

Unknown said...

am loving all the mardi gras info. laura and i were trying to remember the king cake story. i'm glad you have it on there. i was in new orleans about 4 weeks before katrina. i didn't get to the french quarter as i was babysitting my niece and nephew but it was an interesting city that's for sure.

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