Monday, April 4, 2011

Beignets, Beads & Bourbon Street

With no further adieu I shall tell my tales of a Mardi Gras (MG) spent in NOLA, now that it's been about a month since the trip! First off, I was super excited about this adventure as it's something I've always wanted to do and have had on my life list for a while. I really want to experience all holidays and major events in the cities that are famous for their celebrations. My friend KC, who also went on the trip, has this desire as well. We could be called the celebration chasers!

Anyways back to my main story. I traveled to NOLA with four of my girlfriends from my grad program as well as two of KC's friends from undergrad. We left bright and early the day before MG, and to our surprise my Garmin let us get to the Big Easy about three hours before GoogleMaps told us we would get there. I'm starting to distrust that site. Before we could get there we had to drive through two of the worst states I've ever had to drive through. I apologize if you're from Alabama or Mississippi.

The first adventure was definitely driving through downtown New Orleans, and passing over Bourbon St. on the afternoon before MG. My nerves were out the roof but luckily I had a great co-pilot, AE directing the way. After we made our way through we got to Hotel Monteleone which was absolutely gorgeous and a treat in itself! We got fun writstbands to wear during MG so that they could easily identify sweet!

You could feel the energy on the streets when we got there, we could view Bourbon St. from our hotel room, we were just blocks away! After getting ready we mixed some drinks, hello open container laws, and headed down to join the crowds. We found ourselves immediately covered in beads. And no, you do not have to show your goodies to get beads at MG. We collected quite a few all together sans flashing nasty old men lining the street with cameras.

We got famous but deadly hand grenades, sang karaoke at The Cat's Meow, and grabbed some good NOLA food for dinner. This is where we had our first experience with the cuisine. We had been very excited for po' boys, but we had a little let down. Though I know it's not authentic we had experienced po' boys at other places in our lifetimes and we always remembered the signature remolaude sauce that came along with it. KC ordered one, got no sauce. When she asked for sauce they told us there was no sauce, we were rather befuzzled on how there could be nosauce and go a little worked up. It was a sore subject for the rest of the trip.

Later that night we stumbled upon a little pizzeria and realized we absolutely needed some pizza. This little place was phenomenal. We talked about it the rest of the trip. Dreamed about it too. And the best thing was we always just randomly stumbled back upon it. If only they'd deliver to SC.

Woke up MG morning and headed down to St. Charles to watch the Zulu parade. Half of us went to Mother's Restaurant for some breakfast, and I had one of the best breakfast sandwiches of my life. Crawfish etoufee omelets are now also a fave! After bringing sustenance back to the group we watched the parade, got many beads and other goodies thrown. It was an absolute blast. One of my favorite things was that all of the little kids had these fun ladders with special seats built on the top so that they could view the parade.

We departed for Bourbon St. and went straight to Huge Ass Beers. This was a special trip for me. My friend MBW has a huge ass beer cup at her house that I always use when I'm there, and it's been my personal mission since I drank from it to go there some day and get it for myself. I had finally fulfilled my mission and was as happy as could be.

That evening was a blast! Naturally, we got more beads. I even got a really fun inflatable goblet you can put a cup in, fondly named the "Barcadi Gras." We walked through the streets, visited many establishments, but spent a lot of time at Howl at the Moon. This place was a piano bar and was so much fun! They let us come up and sing and dance for many songs. I finally requested "God Bless the USA" which was a hit and got the entire place standing and singing along with us. Brought tears to my eyes.

We ended the night at Cafe Du Monde with their famous beignets and coffee...yum! This was somewhere else I had wanted to go for quite a while, and was also excited to fulfill this destiny. The beignets were heavenly, the place was charming, although the atmosphere wasn't so much at around midnight on MG.  No worries, we went back twice during the trip.

Wednesday was spent exploring the French Quarter, seeing the Riverwalk, trying Pinkberry, and shopping in the French Market. Before we left for dinner we went to the Carousel Bar in our hotel. It was so cool, the seats and bar top actually rotated around the bar! We had a great seafood dinner that night and then enjoyed delicious desserts at Emeril Lagasse's NOLA.

Thursday morning we grabbed breakfast (a heavenly croissant sandwich) and then got on the road back to Columbia. It was definitely a long ride home but a great feeling of what we'd just experienced!

So the top things I learned through MG in the Big Easy...
Red beans & rice can cure anything
No more than three hand grenades in a night
You can get beads by being classy
You will not get remolaude on your po' boy unless you ask for it
Pinkberry is more expensive and not as good as Yoghut
If you eat beignets late night at Cafe Du Monde, shenangins will ensue, and you will begin fluently speaking French and often referring to the Muzzy tapes from our childhood...

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