Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

I recently got back from a vacation to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast with my father. We took the City of New Orleans down and brought our golf clubs along. In an odd stroke of luck the week I had picked back in December happened to coincide with the lead up to Fat Tuesday in the Crescent City. This wasn't intentional on my part - I was simply looking for a free week with no conflicts with home hockey games or shows. We were even more fortunate to get a hotel room in NOLA on Monday night, and we were smart enough to get out of town first thing on Tuesday morning. Here are a few photos from the trip.

This is one of my favorites. My father and I passed most of the time on the train playing cribbage. The trip ended with me leading 26 games to 18. This shot is from around Yazoo City where the train was stopped waiting for the line to clear ahead of us. There was a huge chemical plant nearby and the hopper cars all had a wonderful patina. I took this shot out the window of our sleeper car while my father was dealing cards.

Once we managed to pick up our rental car and make our way to our hotel room in the Central Business District, an experience that took more than an hour with the crazy traffic and our slight confusion as to the myriad one-way streets, we walked up Baronne Street to Canal and the parade route. We walked up and down Canal for a while and followed the route down St. Charles where we found a nice corner (and a shop selling cans of Abita Amber) and waited for the parade to come by. The floats were spectacular and the high school marching bands were in good form. We both caught some beads and at one point I impressively snagged a doubloon on the fly.

The floats in New Orleans are the most extravagant on the Coast and the parades are the most famous, though there are hundreds of parades and celebrations in the weeks before Fat Tuesday up and down the Coast.

After an hour or so we made our way back to Baronne and decided to look for someplace to grab a late dinner. We found Cajun Mike's Pub & Grub up the road from us, where we had a few delicious beers (Bayou Teche LA 31 Bière Pâle & NOLA Blonde) and excellent food. Afterwards we caught the back end of the parade on Canal.

The next morning we were up early to beat the congestion and made our way over to Ocean Springs. We spent the rest of the week (Tuesday - Friday) at Gulf Hills Hotel where we'd gotten the golf package and played 18 every day. The weather started off a bit cloudy on Tuesday but the sun came out later and I ended up with a bit of a sunburn. The following days were more cloudy, culminating in a bit of rain on Friday but nothing too serious.

The course was in good shape for the season though the region had received a lot of rain prior to our arrival and there were more than a few soggy spots on the course. I hit my fair share of poor shots, having just gotten a new driver over the holidays and experiencing a few accuracy issues with my swing. There were a few houses right off the course that received a shelling that week.

We may have spent our days golfing but at night we visited with our relatives and friends in Ocean Springs. This is from the deck of my aunt & uncle's place on the bayou. The gnats chewed me up a bit as I sat outside drinking Dixie beer listening to my father and his brother bullshit each other over 40 year old stories.

Saturday morning my father and I awoke early and made our way back over to New Orleans to catch the train home. We had a few hours to spend in the French Quarter and bought more souvenirs than expected, as we had to stuff a few cans of Cafe Du Monde coffee in our golf bags as the suitcases were stuffed. Luckily we'd both lost enough golf balls in the course of the week that space was not an issue.

We also had time to get lunch in the Quarter. After a few of the options I'd mapped out proved to be too busy or not yet open we took a flyer and stopped by the Chartres House Cafe. This proved to be a good choice, as I had one of the better roast beef po-boy sandwiches I've ever had. It was messy but worth it.

And then it was time to bid farewell to New Orleans and board the train. As we made our way northward we played a few more games of cribbage and enjoyed a bit of Bushmills, as all too soon the next morning frosty roofs and iced-over water could be seen.