10 November 2014
We both slept well, we had a king sized bed, that keeps us from waking each other up with our alleged snoring. Continental breakfast was at the hotel. They had raisin bread which was a treat for me.
First stop today was the post office. We had borrowed a guide book from the crew of Reunion and I wanted to get it returned. I’ve also been lugging around the cruising guide to the North Channel that I had promised to send back to our friends on Katya Looking in Canada. The post office I picked was in the Federal Building. Which means we had to go through a metal detector, etc. to be able to get into the post office. I think I would have cut a new door into the Post Office part to save the hassle.
From there we walked to the French Quarter, our destination Cafe DuMonde. When we got there we saw a huge line of people waiting to get in for beignets, and a longer “to-go line. We decided to pass, we would go on Tuesday.
We continued on into the French Market with a ton of little stores and galleries. Lots and lots of tourists looking for things to take home. Past the stores is a flea market where vendors have stalls that they sell out of. Almost anything with New Orleans on it could be purchased. Since we are touring and will be touring more in Florida I picked up a new belt pack. It even has a place for a bottle of water!
Walking away from the river we went to the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest in the city. It is very beautiful inside with lots of stained glass and ornate sculptures.
From the Cathedral it was time to walk the famed Bourbon Street! It was just like the pictures, bar after bar for blocks and blocks. The pictures don’t really show how narrow the streets are. It’s a one way street, with not a lot of room to park on one side. The streets were semi-crowded, and almost everyone but us had a drink “to-go”.
One of the things to eat is a muffalato, a sandwich with ham, salami and cheese. What makes it special is the olive salad and the bread. The place to go is the Central Market, but they are closed on Monday’s. So the second best place is Napoleon’s. We met the crew of Mara Beel and had muffalatos for lunch. Very good, very tasty!
After lunch the two boat crews split off and we headed for Arnaud’s to see the collection of Mardi Gras costumes. Arnaud’s is a famous restaurant that has the exhibition in the back. But they are closed on Monday’s, so we missed out. Or maybe not.
Susan had seen a sign for Mardi Gras World, she called the shuttle and they came and picked us up. The driver had a cajun accent, luckily we had spent time with the captain of Moondance so we could understand him. He gave us a short tour of the area and suggested more places to go.
Mardi Gras is HUGE in New Orleans. Because of the number of Krewes that have floats and the number of floats there are 5 different parade routes in the city. In the 12 days before Fat Tuesday there is a parade every day on every parade route. Each krewe fields 14 or more floats for their parade.
The Blaine Kern Company makes floats for 12 of the krewes. They have almost two dozen warehouses across the city. They give tours of their design, sculpture and painting center. They call it Mardi Gras World and it is something to see. (www.mardigrasworld.com)
The first part of the tour is a chance to try on costumes and get your picture taken with some of their sculpture. (Think of getting dressed up for the Renfaire). Susan was purple and gold and mine has silver with a red cross on the front. We got some great pictures, and yes of course there were hats involved!
They show a movie that explains the history of Mardi Gras and how it has grown across the years. Surprisingly the major cost of a float isn’t the basic infrastructure ($20-40,000) or the cost of renting the decorations ($8-12,000) but the beads, doubloons, stuffed animals, cups, etc. that get thrown to the crowd. A single float will toss over 4,000 lbs of beads out.
After the movie we get slices of King Cake and go on tour. The sculptures are made of sheets of Styrofoam that are cut with knives and animal curry combs. The foam is then covered with a layer of paper mache to give a smooth paintable surface. Paint is a latex paint for the base white and the colors, then a clear coat to give it a shiny surface.
The reason the decorations are rented is that Kern removes, stores and then reuses the larger objects when possible. We saw an example of a head from a few years ago that had a “Napoleon Hat” added for a naval themed float for this year. The warehouse we were in had one krewes worth of floats under construction and thousands of decorations from prior years. It was really amazing. When the official tour is over, they let you wander through the warehouse. I could write pages about everything we saw, take a look at the pictures.
After all of that we were pretty beat, so we took the trolly back to the room and rested for 90 minutes. Then it was back to the French Quarter to “Irene’s”. On the trolly we caught up with the crew of Mara Beel our dinner companions.
“Irene’s” was a suggestion from one of Susan’s co-workers that lives in the area. It was an excellent choice. All four meals were great. Susan had escargot stuffed mushroom caps and soft shelled crabs papardelle. I had lasagna which had layers of sausage and veal parmesan with a bolognese sauce.
After dinner Susan and I walked down to Frenchmans street and the Maison Jazz Restaurant. There was a combo (drums, guitar, trombone, trumpet, soprano sax) that played old style New Orleans Jazz. We managed to get a table front center so we had a great view. We stayed for their first set and called it a night.
Rather than walk to the trolley, we opted for a $10 cab ride. We were back in our room just before Looper Midnight. Our second day in the Big Easy was a great success.