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  • Writer's pictureM.K. Stabley

Mardi Gras, Covid and Everything In-between

Happy Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras and all that other jazz!!

I had the opportunity to go to NOLA at the beginning of February, for an author event that I was a participant in. It was me, my husband and my two friends that embarked on this journey. Out of the four of us, three of us had never been there before.

NOLA is definitely a very interesting place, all around. From its architecture to the atmosphere surrounding the city, it's just a whole different environment than I am used to.

We had one full day that we used to explore as much of the city as we possibly could. That included breakfast at Cafe Beignet, where we took in their delicious king cake beignets, and their traditional ones as well. By the way, we waited in line for over a half an hour to get to the counter, to even order. Our expectations were pretty high by that point, and they did not disappoint.

After our stomachs were sufficiently full, it was time to explore- First stop was The Voodoo Market, of course, because who doesn't need to buy their very own voodoo doll. I kid you not. And, if you're in need of a mask, outfit, beads, or a bottle of hooch, then this place is your best bet, so I thought. Grant it, this was just our first stop.

Our next stop was the infamous Hotel Monteleone, and its original carousel bar. Yes, I said carousel bar. You're sitting around an actual carousel drinking your favorite libation. The hotel is really beautiful, but other places to see and things to experience.

The architecture around the city is so different than what we're used to seeing, we just had to take it all in, in the time we had. The colors of Mardi Gras were everywhere we looked. Balconies were adorned with the traditional purple, gold and green colors, as were every shop we went into. If you were having a Mardi Gras party, any store on Royal Street, St. Ann or Bourbon Street could accommodate your needs, but don't' forget the king cake. Of all the pieces of king cake I tried that weekend, I never did get the baby in any piece that I ate.

Now, as we walked down the various streets around the French Quarter, we would pass a local bar and hear the sounds of traditional jazz, or even the sounds of old New Orleans emanating from inside, and we would take a quick peek inside. But you didn't necessarily have to go inside a bar to hear the sounds of New Orleans, there were bands set up right on street corners playing their tunes for everyone to hear, or in one instance a man would roll his piano down the street and randomly play/sing a song.

In our day of sightseeing, we did enter a place called The Museum of Death - not something you see every day. This place consisted of all things; you guessed it - death. All the ways of death, from baby coffins to letters and artwork from various serial killers. So, if death is your thing, you may want to do the tour, we however, didn't. The storefront was good enough for us.

If Vampires are your thing, well, you'll have to check out the Vampire Cafe. A hearse sits near the entrance, the decor is exactly what I pictured it would be, macabre with blacks and blood red (no pun intended) and some very intricate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling throughout. Don't forget to order your brand of wine in a blood bag to carry around with you, too. I ordered what they called the B+ drink, which had Vampyre Vodka, Blue Caracao, orange juice, sprite and 2 drops of V, whatever that was. It was quite tasty. My one friend ordered an A+ drink, which was a Dracula Sparkling Pear Bellini. They do have a full menu at The Vampire Cafe, too that ranges from shrimp and grits to fried deviled eggs and pan seared salmon. We already had a plan of where we were going to eat later, so I just ordered the chocolate bats. Yumm!

After you're done at the cafe, be sure to take a short stroll next door to the Boutique du Vampyre, for all things, well, Vampire. They have everything from jewelry, stakes, dolls, artwork, books, clothes, bottles of blood you can wear around your neck, coffin nails, to holy water, shrunken heads and even your very own fangs, but I'd leave the spirit board there.

While we were downtown, we had to go to Jackson Square to see the Andrew Jackson Memorial, St. Louis Cathedral, and of course Cafe DuMonde. Warning, Cafe DuMonde is constantly busy, so be prepared to stand in the long line.

As we were walking the French Quarter, we saw horse drawn carriages taking people on their own scenic tours of the city, and the horses were dressed up as well.

We found that the drink, a hurricane, was one that is a must try down there, so we found the one place that my other friend that was traveling with us had actually been to in NOLA, that supposedly had the best ones, and that was Pat O'Brien's. Wow were they ever good, but one is definitely enough, they really pack a wallop.

By the time dinner rolled around, we stopped at a place called Pier 424. They serve seafood, creole fare, as well as a few dishes that people who aren't into the first two could eat, like burgers.

I got the creole pasta that had shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage in a creole sauce over linguine, whereas my husband and one friend ordered the fish platter, and it was loaded with white fish, shrimp and the onion rings, oh the onion rings! So many onion rings, but man were they super yummo. The service and atmosphere at Pier 424 were great, I'd definitely recommend that place.

And then we were informed that one of the many parades of the season was going to be starting at 7pm. Let's just say, I can say I've seen a parade in NOLA, and leave it at that. But, be forewarned, certain things may be legal there, that aren't everywhere, and we were constantly walking in a plume of stinky smoke. That by far, was not my favorite part of the trip. However, when the guy who was rolling his piano down the street and randomly stopping to play a diddy is able to play his piano, sing and roll a dooby, all at the same time, you got to give him props for that, and I can honestly say, I've seen it all, now. Ha! Just kidding. I'm sure there is much more to see in this world, of that I am sure.

The next day was full of meet and greets with authors and readers at the Hot NOLA Carnival Author Event that I was a part of, and I had a great time. I'm in my element when I get to talk to people about my books and get a chance to talk to other authors and learn about their journey. It always fascinates me to hear how other writers got their start. The best part of all of this was being able to share the experience with my dear friends. I am so happy they got to go with us. Their love and support mean the world to me. My Karen's are the BEST!

After we got back home, we not only brought souvenirs back with us, but we also brought the Covid virus back, too. At least my husband and I did. We had gone three whole years of not getting that stupid virus. We even went to Honduras, Mexico, Florida, etc... and never got it. We sat through a packed college graduation and didn't get it. We go to New Orleans and bring back the virus from hell. Thankfully, the two Karen's did not get it, but today, we both tested negative for it, after two weeks. I gotta tell ya, the worst part about it, was the not being able to smell or taste for a week, but we are back to normal now. Kinda makes me rethink going back to New Orleans anytime soon though.

So, that is my tour of NOLA and all the fun to be had, if you dare to check it out for yourself.

More good stuff coming soon. My Etsy store has changed a little recently, now that I have added beaded pens, beaded letter openers and wine stoppers to it. All sorts of fun to be had, coming soon. Go check it out at BeadedBougieDesigns on Etsy. Until next time, keep reading and keep exploring.

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