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   Destinations - Reader Reviews

The following reviews were submitted by a fellow TravelPage.com reader.

USA: Louisiana - New Orleans

For the 300th Mardi Gras, my brother Andy, his girlfriend Brenda, his friend Steve and I flew down to New Orleans, Louisiana. We were there between Saturday February 13th and Thursday February 18th. Technically we were there for Carnival and Mardi Gras. The Carnival season begins on January 6th or Twelfth Night (Kings Night) and runs until the beginning of Lent - the Easter season (Ash Wednesday). Mardi Gras day is always the day before Ash Wednesday.

Getting There
We took United Airlines from Dulles to the airport in New Orleans. It was a typical flight. Not remarkable or horrible in one way or another. It didn't have any connections, which was great. From the airport, we took a cab to the hotel - "Touched By An Angel Cab Company" which turned out to be one woman who owned one van and although was very friendly had no clue where our hotel was. Oh the way she told us great advice. The two phrases that stick out are "Don't shake anyone's hand" and "Stay out of the projects." She had a lot of character. We gave her a nice tip.

We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel New Orleans (535 Tchoupitoulas), a great hotel with real charm and right off the French Quarter (were all the action is). The street the hotel is on is Tchoupitoulas but just an FYI for you it is pronounced something like chop-pa-tool-liss. People don't know what road you are talking about if you call it anything else. Over all we were very pleased with the Ambassador. It had just about everything you would want out of a hotel. It was clean. We felt safe. And it was close to where we wanted to go, the French Quarter. A couple cool bonuses about the Ambassador were Wrought Iron 4 Poster Beds and Hardwood Floors.

Food and Service
I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about the food in New Orleans. We ate and ate and ate.

Mother's, 401 Poydras St. at Tchoupitoulas
Great Food. Right near out hotel. Always a line. We went there twice. They specialize in breakfast (amazing biscuits) but their jambalaya was particularly good. Yum.

A funny story. We (Brenda, Steve, Andy and I) all sat right near the trash can. There was this busboy that was working there and he came by our table twice asking us to leave our trays so he could clean up for us and to please also leave a tip. I love it. Only in America. We were right by the trash can. In fact when I was done with my "meal", I reached over and trashed everything. Didn't even have to get up.

Olde Nawlins Cookery 729 Conti St. between Bourbon and Royal
This was an interesting place because even though the food was great (Brenda and I had the Duck - Yum) the service was amazingly bad. Our waiter didn't give us silverware, didn't ask if we wanted refills on drinks, didn't bring enough bread plates, didn't bring out any of Steve's food till after ours including his appetizer which he wasn't going to bring out at all till we reminded him.

The River Walk
Because there is no law against drinking alcohol in open outside spaces... And because, no one seems to have a problem with early morning drinking.... I think it may even be encouraged... One early morning, Andy, Brenda and I (Steve joined us later) went to the mall (The River Walk). What do we se right away but this great little stand with yummy alcoholic slushies. Well needless to say, by 11 we were all sloshed.

Mulate's 201 Julia St., Warehouse District
Bad coffee. Good food.

Gumbo Shop 630 St. Peter
This was a great place recommended by a nice woman named Susan who we stood next too for the Mid-City parade. Great food. Good price.

Ralph & Kacoo's Seafood Restaurant, 519 Toulouse
The most expensive place we (Steve, Andy and I) ate but I would consider it worth it. The bill for the three of us for lunch came to $120. I can never afford to eat there again. Great food. Even better drinks. They have a version of the Hurricane that is to die for. Could have stayed there all day drinking those. Also their Pina Coladas had frozen yogurt. Yum. Oh and we had fried alligator as in appetizer. We all agreed, hate to be cliché but well, it tasted like chicken.

The Court of Two Sisters
The atmosphere is what this place was all about. We (Andy, Steve and I) ate there one of our last mornings. In fact I think it was out last morning. The food was so-so. A brunch buffet. But they sat us outside in this lovely court yard with vines hanging all around and they played music. I remember hearing "It's a wonderful world" and "Hello Dolly." We were all pretty bushed and not ready for the whole alcohol thing but if we wanted to we could have had home made mimosas. A lot of people drinking those. They looked great. That place was really a lot of fun.

Overall the main thing about Mardi Gras is the BEADS. I mean they are the whole thing behind the holiday. I have enough beads where if I were to put them all on they would hit my nose!!! My brother actually got a photo of Brenda wearing all of her beads. Very amusing. It got to a point where I didn't even want any more beads. Too funny.

There are pretty much 2 separate celebrations. There are the parades (and probably like 29 of them over 2 weeks) -- we saw the Krewes of Mid-City, Bacchus, Orpheus, Thoth, Rex and Elks. Each parade had a theme. For example Bacchus was a tribute to Jules Verne. Most parades had mock royalty, kings and queens and dukes and duchesses, either drawn from the ranks of the krewe's members or celebrities. Parades consisted of anywhere from 10 to 40 floats carrying costumed krewe members, marching bands, dance groups and the like. All the parades seem to end with a fire truck.

All parade riders throw lots and lots (and I cannot stress this enough - LOTS) of trinkets to the people watching the parade - beads and more beads, doubloons, plastic cups, small toys, candy - from the floats to the crowds. My brother described it best. He said it is like going to a 4 year old's birthday party. Until you've seen this for yourself you wouldn't believe the SHEER AMOUNT of "stuff" thrown. Unexpectedly, there isn't any violent fighting for these toys. Multiple people do grab for them - and multiple people do catch them -- but one person always gives up their prize. I don't think my group was that aggressive in grabbing for the stuff and yet we have more toys then we could ever know what to do with. The guides for Mardi Gras say to only fight for the beads you really want. That seemed to be a good rule of thumb for all of us.

There is something wonderfully charming about the dynamic between the rider and the throwers. You never quite know when some one will throw you something. It seems to help to look really sad and make eye contact with the throwers and be in the first row. And I was in the front most of the time but once when I was standing back a little and wasn't even paying attention to the parade, this guy threw a little plastic airplane to me. And when Brenda caught it, he give her a stern look and pointed a me. It was like, "That was for her!" so she handed to me. It is like you never know what you are going to get and from who. I think, it is all about connections with people. Of course, I was not a thrower, but it always seemed to me that they seemed to have exact targets when they throw.

The other side of this holiday is Bourbon street. This group is much less family oriented. In fact I would say bringing a "family" to this street is well... wrong. The way this street works (and many of the surrounding streets) is crowds and crowds of people push their way through a pretty narrow street while keeping their hands pointed at people who are standing on balconies and throwing beads down.

You get beads on Bourbon too but not as many as you do from the parades. And the people on the balconies will usually ask you to show more then an out stretched arm and a smile for those. I think it is the lucky ones that hang out on balconies and throw the beads down from there. Maybe next year we'll try that. I sort of felt like a peasant on Bourbon street. "Please sir, throw me some beads."

My favorite strand of beads I got on the trip was on Bourbon. Long big beads. 3 colors. We were all together walking past a pretty non-crowded balcony. And my brother looks up and starts making noises. "Oh ohhh throw me some beads." And this woman just drops down this amazing stand for him. So I look up at the same woman. "Can I have some please?" And she drops one down for me. I think maybe it is all about connections on Bourbon street too. It was thrilling to catch them in my hand, yell "thank you" and run up to catch up with the group.

The horrible thing about Bourbon -- and I am not sure how to explain this to you -- is its smell. Bourbon smells like no other place I've smelt before. Raw garbage. And saying that you just have no idea how bad it is. You should have seen the sludge that Steven cleaned off our shoes the evening we hung around there.

Another thing about Bourbon is that in some parts -- and you do get breaks -- the streets are so crowded you couldn't even move yourself even if you wanted to. My good client, Beverly, who is from that area explained it like "You can pick up for feet and still get moved entirely by the crowd." It is amazing.

...get real, we were at Mardi Gras.

...get real, we were at Mardi Gras.


More information about New Orleans and Mardi Gras: http://www.nolalive.com/bourbocam/

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