We arrived in town Saturday evening and found ourselves staying right along the Krewe du Vieux parade route. Since our cab (provided by the Praise God Cab Company, no less) couldn't take us any further, we followed the mule-pulled floats and marching bands down Chartres to drop off our stuff and then head back to the revelry.
The Krewe du Vieux, from what I understand, is a locally-grown pre-Mardi Gras tradition. This year's theme, Fired Up!, showcased some rather, ahem, adult-themed floats and others poking fun at local politicians like Ray Nagin and Bobby Jindal, all this to the sound of brass bands and repeated crowd chants of, "Who dat! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints!" I think this is the closest I'd ever like to come to Mardi Gras; the revelers were just fired up enough.
That said, with the exception of Sunday's (men in) Dress(es) Parade to celebrate the Saints Super Bowl debut, and more, "Who Dat!"-ing, I spent the next few days in relative quiet. I strolled the streets of the Marigny and the French Quarter, wandered over to the Mississippi River, took the ferry to Algiers, rode the St. Charles Avenue streetcar up to the Garden District and toured the "cities of the dead."
Being vegetarian, I felt somewhat left out of the city's fine food tradition, but not completely. A highlight being our Creole-style breakfast of Eggs Sardou and Cala Cakes (fried rice cakes filled with pecans and covered in maple syrup) at the Old Coffee Pot. The beautiful, rose-detailed chandelier and salon-like atmosphere hearkened back to another era, but was somewhat incongruous with the music blasting from the kitchen and the wait staff's intermittent chants of, you've got it, "Who Dat!" Dat said, this spot had character and definite charm. The clincher being a waitress stopping to serenade a little boy with the most soulful rendition of Happy Birthday that I've ever heard.
So, we wandered and ate. Stopping to scarf-down vegetarian muffulata and eat our fill of beignet buried in powdered sugar.
We wandered and drank. I know a lot of people visit New Orleans intending to drink mind-bending, punchy Hurricanes or Cyclones, but that's just silly in a city with such a deep appreciation of classic cocktails. If I only had one drink in New Orleans, I'd intended it to be the first cocktail ever, Sazerac. When all was done, I had far more than one drink in New Orleans, but two of them were Sazerac. I sipped one at Herme's Bar at Antoine's, the other at the Roosevelt Hotel's Sazerac Bar and both were utterly intoxicating, figuratively and literally.
In the end, there was jazz, jazz and more jazz, I piqued my sense of smell at a centuries-old perfumery and even teased my sixth sense by leaving an offering at the grave of New Orlean's most famous voodoo queen, Marie Laveau. I spent a chock-full three days and sadly, wasn't able to check every item off my to-do list, but that's probably for the best. If nothing else, I've got a reason to return and see if people still, "Who Dat!" and parade around in beads on a random Thursday in April.
I've posted more photos here.