The highlight was beginning Greg and my New Orleans adventure today, with Marie as our guide. First we had to get to New Orleans via the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The causeway is an elevated road on pilings, similar to the road through the Atchafalaya swamp. It's 38 km long, straight as an arrow, and travels over the middle of Lake Pontchartrain.
Once we arrived in New Orleans, Marie took us to the French Quarter. The French Quarter is a 13 block by 6 block area and I think we walked all of it. What an experience. First we went to the market. This is a huge area of artisans, eateries, and music
. We watched our first second line dance, where people wave napkins above their heads and snake their way among the tables. We had planned on trying some beignets (sort of like a doughnut) but the lineups were too lengthy. We strolled down streets that looked like they belonged in Paris: ornate buildings with ornate balconies. We walked along the levee separating the city from the Mississippi. We lunched at a fine restaurant with incredible décor and ate seafood gumbo and alligator boudin. We visited Pat O’Brien’s pub and shared a Hurricane cocktail, a mixture of rum and passion fruit and New Orleans’ signature drink. We stopped at a small jazz club: The Spotted Cat Music Club and listened to local music. We walked into another club and listened to traditional Cajun music called zydeco, complete with accordion. We passed by street performers and musicians. We also found the crowds. Many streets were blocked with people exploring this area of New Orleans but with Marie navigating Greg and I felt very safe. Being Mardi Gras season, there were people on balconies throwing beads and interacting with the crowds. Music was everywhere. We walked down the 'seedier’ area of the French Quarter and saw scantily clad men and women, and drinks and cocktails for sale from windows. It is perfectly legal to walk on the streets of Louisiana with a glass of wine or beer. Oh my.
It was getting late and we were heading back to the car when we could see a Mardi Gras parade in the distance
. So the question was, do we stay or do we go. Of course, we stayed, and watched this incredible parade, our first night time New Orleans Mardi Gras parade. This parade was from the Krewe of Endymion and its grand marshall was Kelly Clarkson. Marie explained to us that each parade is organized by a group (the Krewe) who pay for the parade and the bands and the throws. The throws are the beads, toys, and other paraphernalia that is thrown by the people on the floats. The night time parade floats are lit by LED bulbs and the effect is quite spectacular.
After the parade we had a late supper: seafood jambalaya, red beans and rice. Then the causeway ride home. We were tired.
Greg and I started the day at the local market in Mandeville. This market had mostly crafts, some fresh vegetables, and some foodstuffs. Nothing too unusual.