Sunday, March 31, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 7

Mardi Gras World

                New Orleans, is, of course, world famous for its Mardi Gras celebration.

              And Mardi Gras is one of those occasions that’s absolutely amazing. It’s other things, too, of course. Wild, whacky, fun . . . and the city becomes incredibly expensive and crowded and busy. The best way to see Mardi Gras is from a float, but then, everyone can’t afford a float and come up with the king and the queen and the court and the costumes and price and all that goes with it.

                We’ve all heard that people “flash” for beads to be thrown to them from the floats. I’ve never quite gotten this concept since anyone can buy a massive bag of beads for almost nothing, but . . . hey, catching them is part of the fun. Young people will flash and throng the streets and it’s crazy.

                Mardi Gras originated in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A Catholic society gave up eating meat for the period of Lent and thus the day before giving up meat first became known as “boeuf gras,” or “fatted calf.” That meant, kiddies, get it all in before you have to give it all up.  Mardi is the French word for Tuesday, so Mardi Gras became the celebration before Ash Wednesday.

                Rio celebrates massively, and “Carnivale” in Venice is equally huge. Trinidadians get really carried away, too. But New Orleans is our biggest and best event in the United States. Well, of course!

                It was on March 2, 1699, when the French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville made his way to a little spit of earth that was about 60 miles south of New Orleans. He named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" –because he and his men figured out that they had come to the area right when Mardi Gras and Lent were upon them. So tradition goes back—way back! (If you’re in the Quarter, you will find yourself on Bienville Street at some time; the great man will not be forgotten!)

                And the people were French, for God’s sake! They had their customs. And they had, and still have, an amazing flair for beautiful things.

                This wonderful custom has come down through the ages. At first, balls happened—which eventually became the grand balls of today. Then “Rex” headed a parade down the street with a real bull.  

If you do come for Mardi Gras, a great thing to do is plan well ahead of time and rent a balcony on Bourbon Street—you’ll be high above the crowd, watching and enjoying. (Have to admit here; it’s not always a good time to be on the street. Some people party a little too hearty and there’s sometimes a fair amount left on the streets by those who over-imbibed and became nauseated. Yep, throw up, guys!) 

                But, hey! You may not mind to be part of the revelry!

                Now we all know that Mardi Gras itself happens only once a year. And New Orleans is a great place to visit year round. Yes, summer is hot. But since I’m from Miami, it’s not
like it really bothers me. And, hey, I’ve been in New York and Virginia in the summer on days when the heat soared higher than it did down further south. 

But weather is not the point. Nor is an exact date. In fact, the point is that we’re looking at a venue where one can go at any time.

                You can “see” something of Mardi Gras all year round.


 That’s because of Mardi Gras World.

                Artists have always amazed me, probably because I don’t have an artistic bone in
my body. What they can create is mind boggling. Truly, there is little quite so spectacular on that plain than the floats that are created for the Mardi Gras parades—unless it’s the
costumes worn.

       Since 1947, the Blaine Kern Studios have been producing the amazing floats you see in the Mardi Gras parades.  Mardi Gras World affords everyone a glace at what goes on to create the fantastic floats in a venue that is beautiful, artistic -- incredible!
        At Mardi Gras World, you can see old floats and new. You can see the artistry that goes into the creation of the floats. Themes abound and you can learn more about the history of the floats themselves, the parade, and Mardi Gras. 
       They have a shuttle that runs around the city on appointed rounds to bring people to and from the city and if you’re anywhere fairly central, it’s an easy hop over.


      From the detailed to the massive, you can see the work of the artists who create the magic of a Mardi Gras parade. You can be beneath a “star-lit” sky and feel that you’re part of a fantasy world.

                You almost feel as if you’ve been to Mardi Gras! (But then again, remember, there are parades in many of the parishes and cities surrounding NOLA, and if you do happen to be there for Mardi Gras, don’t miss “Barkus!” For my animal loving friends, that’s
a dog parade and it occurs a day or so before the big parades. Pure fun!)

                But again, no matter what the season, you can—and should!—visit Mardi Gras World.

                There’s something new there, too, that just opened in 2012. The Café. It sits right on the river and serves up local specialties at very reasonable prices. You can see the specialized fantasy created by man and then the fantastic created by mother nature—the “Big Muddy” or the “Mighty Mississippi” as you enjoy a cocktail or red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo or many other entrees.

                Just watching the river, with Mardi Gras World in the background, is a true New Orleans experience.

                If you go . . . their shuttle stops at 20 different places in
and around the Quarter and downtown and runs a continual loop. The official address is 1380 Port of New Orleans Place. You’re not far from the Quarter; they are located down at the end of Henderson Street in the Central Business District.

1 comment:

Irisheyes said...

I just want to thank you not only for your amazing books, but also for this blog. I am heading to NOLA for the first time in a few weeks and this has helped immensley in planning what I want to see! Keep writing! :-)