Subject: Mardi Gras in New Orleans - long
Flavio and all,

Just recovering from a wonderful Mardi Gras here as well. Only our celebration lasts for two weeks and other than a few showers, we had beautiful warm weather. My favorite days are the Sunday before Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras day itself.

On Sunday, we start about 9 AM at a friend's house on the route for the Thoth parade. This is a rather small parade (20 floats, with high school bands and marching groups between each float) that is very family oriented. Lots of family groups with grandparents, moms and dads, and kids everywhere. The krewe members are very generous with their beads and all the kids get lots of trinkets. Our friends invite about 50 people for King Cake (A ring shaped pastry decorated in purple, green and gold with a small baby doll inside. Whoever gets the baby in their slice is supposed to bring the next King Cake - this applies mostly at offices, where starting Jan. 6, there are King Cakes almost everyday. That's why we're the fattest city in the US...) and then lunch after the parade. There's lots of beer for the adults and lots of juice boxes for the kids.

After lunch we walk over to Audubon Park where a group of neighbors, who live adjacent to the park, have been throwing a party in the park for years. They have a band, a beer truck, red beans and rice and jambalaya. It's another party for everyone, usually 200 or so people - with strollers and wheelchairs and everything in between. Lots of dancing, frisbee games, croquet, etc. Lots of people bring lawn chairs, play pens, blankets, etc. We hang out and visit with friends for several hours, and about 5 PM we head home.

Mardi Gras itself is such fun. We start early, about 9 AM, at a friend's home near the French Quarter. I always costume, although my husband won't, and this year three of us went as Tina Turner - get it??? The Three Tinas - sort of like The Three Tenors, only a little different. Neither did anyone else, but we loved our Tina wigs and thought we were wonderful. After breakfast and visiting, we headed off to the Quarter where all the action is. Lots of great costumes - some of them I could tell you about, but some use words that can't be written on the Travelzine. My favorites are always the families - 6 Dalmatians or 10 clowns or a posse of cowboys. There's Moss Man, a guy who covers himself in Spanish moss every year and the fantastic creations of the gay community. This year there was an older lady with a small keyboard on her lap, sitting on a bucket, singing (not too well) at the top of her lungs. Lots of folks stopped to sing and dance with her. Bourbon St. is always too crowded, so we stick to Royal St. We like the Krewe of Cosmic Debris parade through the Quarter, so we always look for them. About noon we (usually 12-14 of us) head for the Royal Orleans Hotel where we have reservations for lunch. We have the table for the day, so we can come and go as we please. And, we have a restroom at our disposal - always important at Mardi Gras. With a million people in the streets, where to pee becomes a major concern.

Zulu and Rex are the important parades on Mardi Gras and go down Canal St. We watched them for a short time, but the crowds were so large that it was hard to see, and impossible to catch anything. Back to the Quarter for more people watching, and home about 6 PM.

Can't wait for next year,

Callie in New Orleans