Mardi Gras Costumes
I just returned from an amazing five day trip to see my sister in New Orleans, during which I became immersed in the unique culture of the Crescent City, tasted some delicious cuisine, and learned about Mardi Gras Krewes while watching parades and sporting fabulous costumes. I found New Orleans to be a city that is easy to fall in love with –a city of quirky individuality, yet at the same time one with a strong sense of community. New Orleanians are proud of their culture and supportive of one another, despite the many obstacles the city has faced and still continues to face daily.
During Carnival, people of all backgrounds in New Orleans wear costumes of every type imaginable, while still upholding their true sense of self, tradition, and community. Costumes are funny things…and during Carnival, anything goes. Creating and wearing a costume allows us to become whatever makes us happy. Costumes give us the opportunity to not necessarily become someone else, but to become the best version of ourselves.
I arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday night. After seeing my sister’s adorable house in the Bywater neighborhood, we had dinner at a charming little French restaurant, Patois, where we kicked off the extended weekend with King Cake Martinis. Is there anything more delicious on Earth? (No baby Jesus inside, but they did have sprinkles!)
Thursday started off with breakfast at my namesake, Elizabeth’s, where I discovered the deliciousness that is Praline Bacon. After a quick bike ride to the French market (where we purchased my first ever King Cake), we participate in Jivamukti yoga at Swan River Yoga in the Marigny. What a wonderful way to become centered and at peace before a weekend of craziness. The studio was small, but I think it nurtured a sense of camaraderie among the dozen or so participants, and the instructor did a beautiful job of tying together our yoga experience with Mardi Gras festivities and costumes.
One item on my NOLA bucket list was to see the Lower Ninth Ward, the neighborhood hardest hit by Katrina. We had time to drive around this neighborhood on Thursday afternoon. I was difficult for me to picture what it would have looked like in the aftermath of Katrina, but there was really powerful sculpture that was created that depicts the level that most houses were raised compared to the actual water line of the hurricane (nearly over the roof). Many houses are still abandoned since Katrina, and a lot of them still sport the symbols painted by the inspectors who came through months after Katrina, indicating the hazards present in the house and number of people found dead. However, there have also been notable efforts to rebuild the neighborhood. I saw a few of Brad Pitt’s energy-efficient, modern homes, elevated several feet above the level of past houses. Additionally, numerous organizations including Habitat for Humanity have constructed new homes in the neighborhood.
After the sobering experience of seeing the Lower Ninth Ward, it was time to get ready for my first night of parades. We donned fabulous costumes accessorized with feathers, beads, and glitter, then biked to St. Charles Avenue to watch three parades. We set up camp with the mini Krewe my sister belongs to (Krewe of Mariah – Vote Mariah Carey in 2012) and watched Babylon, Chaos, and the fabulous all-female Krewe of Muses roll by. I’ve never see such colossal and elaborate floats! Each Krewe had a unique theme and thousands of throws for the parade viewers. Muses featured shopping-themed floats, and their most popular throws were shoes (but only for the few who were lucky enough to catch one). The after-parade party consisted of late-night pizza and drinks at Balcony Bar, after which I concluded that “Mardi Gras is exhausting!”
We spent the day on Friday exploring the French Quarter and witnessing the constant party of Bourbon Street. I couldn’t imagine living in such a wild neighborhood, but it sure was fun to participate in the excitement and catch a few souvenirs from partiers on the balconies. While venturing through the French Quarter we saw a few walking parades, idiosyncratic entertainers, and – one of the highlights of my weekend – a live street band composed of a few local gutter punks and a brass band. It was so much fun to spontaneously come across live music in the street, and completely embodies how I imagine classic New Orleans culture.
After a trip to Café du Monde for beignets, a quick stop at the Mask Market (while sporting our own masks, of course) and dinner at the Crescent City Brew House, it was once again parade time! We stood in front of Irish House restaurant on St. Charles (an intelligent decision since they had public bathrooms, available for a “wee pee fee”) to watch Hermes, d’Etat, and Morpheus roll by. It was another spectacular evening with intricately-decorated floats and fabulous throws. Following the parades, we attended a free concert by The Revitalists and Rebirth Brass Band, the latter of whom just won the Grammy for