Mardi Gras - 2/2010    

The Mid-City parade in New Orleans is famous for its shiny foil adorned floats.

Statistics:

Dates: February 11-16, 2010;  4 parades in one long 5 day weekend.

 

Areas Explored: Mississippi Delta, New Orleans, Gulf Coast

Transportation: 2009 Grand Caravan

New Frontiers: First time at Mardi Gras, lots of new food

Cast: Scott, Jessica, Andrew, Mike

 

Trip Notes: Day 1: Drove overnight from Chicago to Natchez along I-57, I-55, and the Trace. Saw Mardi Gras parade at Natchez and ate BBQ. Day 2: Made it to the Baton Rouge Spanish Town Parade and then explored the Atchafalaya Basin before heading back to Baton Rouge. Day 3: Saw three big parades in Uptown New Orleans before heading by foot to the French Quarter. Left my nightfall and ended night in Biloxi. Day 4: Drove across Gulf region to Pensacola Beach before heading north to Decatur, AL. Day 5: Drove back into winter across Nashville and Kentucky, stopping at various points along the way to Chicago.

Click to see next year: Mardi Gras 2011!

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This was NOT our route to Mardi Gras.
I can't believe that we made this trip with a toddler and still managed to have fun!

If it wasn't for Sam's thoughtful Christmas gift of a DVD player, we'd have big trouble. I was happy to find that Mardi Gras was for the whole family, not just topless drunk coeds.


I got the idea for this trip while I was buying energy drinks from a gas station near the Pontchartrain Bridge while I was on the way home from Florida in January. There on the counter was an beautifully illustrated Mardi Gras guide. I picked it up as a memento of our passing through New Orleans, not imagining it was possible for me to return for "the party." Then Lincoln's Birthday, President's Day, and Mardi Gras freakishly aligned. I had the time, but was it child abuse to bring a baby to the festivities? The more I read about Mardi Gras, the more I realized it wasn't so bad. There are a lot of things about Chicago that outsiders have prejudices about and I found that for Louisiana, Mardi Gras IS NOT what others think it is. True, there are plenty of drunk people walking sideways and a few sexually suggestive parade floats, but all in all it was a great experience for everyone including the little boy.


Parade 1: Phoenix Parade - Natchez, Mississippi

The snowstorm that hit the Delta the day before we drove down was quite strange. A local woman told me it almost never snows down there.

A confused flower pokes through the snow along the Natchez Trace near Jackson.

Mike built Andrew a Snow Daddy.

Owens Falls is usually dry, but was flowing due to the melting snowstorm.

The Natchez Trace is an old road maintained by the NPS.

Tree carvings along the Natchez Trace.

It was still EVERY holiday at this house in downtown Natchez.

We bumped into this parade while we were trying to find some authentic southern BBQ in Natchez.

It was cold so there were not big crowds at the Krewe of Phoenix Parade..

Natchez parade participant.

Natchez took its parade seriously. The TV that night was broadcasting Krewe balls.

The Krewe of Rowdy Friends.

Parade floats were pulled by tractors. This one reminds one of the casino in Natchez.

Mississippi pulled pork sandwich and baked beans served on a door.

I tried to be artistic in the BBQ.

This restaurant was filled with blues music and delta culture.

Palms and snow?! Why? I came South to get away from the snow.

A southern snowman and snowbabe enjoy the Mardi Gras season.


Parade 2: Spanish Town Parade - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Big crowds and helicopters (we're all looking at one of those) preceded the parade in Baton Rouge.

The 30th Anniversary Spanish Town Parade theme was XXX, hence this "interesting" float.

The Spanish Town parade participants were experts at smashing me in the head with beads and this frisbee.

The crowd got very quiet when this sacreligious float went by. WWMD? Seriously?

"Throw somethin', mister!".

"C'est la vie" is why I love Louisiana..

My two favorite parade-goers.

Spanish Town disco themed float.

Although it was a very long route, the parade was probably a lot of fun for the parade particpants.

Mommy and Andrew compare their cache of beads.

The crowd excited for more throws.

Parade-goers press up against the police barricades.

The Joker took over this float obviously.

On our way west toward Atchafalaya, the festivities continued on the rear-view mirror.

The boardwalk through the Atchafalaya swamps.

The sun sets over the bayou near St. Martinville.


Parades 3&4: Okeanos & Mid-City Parades - New Orleans, Louisiana

We were lucky to find somewhat affordable parking near the parade route in Uptown.

The Okeanos parade particpants were much better throwers than those we met in Baton Rouge.

A hot dog themed float in the Okeanos parade.

Beautiful Okeanos float winds through the warehouses of New Orleans. Beads flew everywhere.

This float made me hungry.

The king of the Mid City parade.

We parked along the sidewalk and tried not to move too much. We were not totally sure of Mardi Gras etiquette.

Andy and Mommy and their beads..

After the parade we walked to Jackson Square and the Farmer's Market amidst a sea of humanity including this prophet.

The cathedral in Jackson Square, formerly Plaza de Armas, in the French Quarter.

When I was standing here, I thought to myself: "This must be how God sees us."

Trying gumbo for the first time at Jimmy Buffet's. Not bad at all.

Who dat? The Saints Super Bowl victory had N.O. in a pretty good mood.

We escaped Bourbon Street and the French Quarter before things got too crazy for the boy.


Parade 5: The Long Way Home - Along I-10 & I-65

We spent the night not too far from these shrimp boats in Biloxi.

The first time I visited Biloxi, it was torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. It was recovering nicely in 2010.

The U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile Bay. Check out the blimp.

Andrew poses at the Alabama-Florida border. It was finally warm.

Then he ran off into the landscaping.

Pensacola is the home of the Blue Angels. I previously only knew them as a place to get food at 3 am.

Andy and Daddy on the white sands of Pensacola Beach.

Gull prints at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida.

Late afternoon on the Gulf of Mexico.

The famous beach ball water tower of Pensacola Beach.

Peg Leg Pete's is quickly becoming my favorite restaurant.

The entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

Turkies parade through the woods of southern Kentucky.

The lame monument built atop the supposed birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. I am unimpressed. It was leaking.

Replica log cabins at Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky.


Photos copyright 2010 by S. Plencner or J. Bezold All other content copyright 2010 by S. Plencner