Our first post of call was Bella Terra; a really spectacular RV Resort in Foley, Al. Really bad weather was in the forecast for the weekend so we headed into Mobile on Friday to see our first Mardi Gras parade. We walked around downtown Mobile, a lovely town with beautiful, balustrade balconies on most buildings along the route of the parade. Before the parade we had dinner in the Battle House Hotel a historic old hotel, beautifully restored while keeping all the decoration of the anti bellum era. General Andrew Jackson used as his headquarters during the 1812 war; and you know those men always knew which were the most comfortable places in town.Watching the parade we stood beside a family group and the little ones were astonished we were enjoying it so much as the adults in their group were there so the children could enjoy the parade. Columbus was the theme for the parade which started with floats of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria followed by floats representing different Captains - Captain America, Captain Crunch, Captain Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Nemo and many, many more - they just kept coming. The costumed people on the floats threw colored beads, cookies and toys into the crowds, as we were in the front row we kept the beads and gave the cookies and toys to the children. The parade went on for hours and we stayed for the whole parade.
Our next stop was New Orleans (N'Awlins to the locals) and as luck would have it we were able to arrange to meet Adele's cousin Fran and Alex her husband from Vancouver BC, who were traveling west to east on I-10. Tom drove nonstop to ensure that we could spend as much time together. We parked the RV and headed into town on the shuttle to meet Fran and Alex at Starbuck’s in Harrah’s Casino – couldn’t be easier than that. N'Awlins was just heaving with thousands of people watching parades, walking around and generally enjoying themselves. For the most part the French Quarter is pedestrian only.We watched the parades, collected more beads, had dinner and then walked down Bourbon Street; this is where the real action is - pub after pub, strip joint after strip joint, people fully clothed and partially so - both women and men, throngs more on the numerous balconies throwing beads indiscriminately. In summary - adult fun! Amazingly, everyone remained very well-mannered and polite even when drunk or perhaps it the police presence! We all felt very safe and enjoyed the day together, afterwards Alex and Fran drove us back to our RV where we had a civilized cup of tea, biscuits and talked well past midnight.
Monday we headed back in to N'Awlins again - we just couldn’t get enough of the parades. We had promised each other we would not shout for more beads - we would need much longer necks if we added more; we collected more, just couldn’t resist the temptation! That evening we dined at an upmarket restaurant Dickie Brennan's on Canal Street which had been recommended to us for its desert Banana Foster which the waiter flambéed right at the table - it was scrumptious - the rest of the meal delicious.Next day – Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras. It was an early start for us as the parades start at 8.00am; we noticed that there were far more people marching in the parades on Fat Tuesday. The first parade was the Zulu parade which was magnificent, followed by the Parade of Kings - any King (yes, Elvis included) from anywhere, we lost count of the marching bands. The final parade comprised all the branches of the Armed Forces, needless to say the uniforms, music and marching was terrific. Then unscheduled, about 100 trucks floats came by. Interesting trivia, banks and shops did not close on Presidents Day but closed for Mardi Gras enabling all the locals not participating in the parade to watch and enjoy!
On Ash Wednesday we took a Grayline city tour – the subject for our next blog.