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Laissez bon temps rouler

By Aliza Sena

Section: Arts

February 27, 2009

 

 

Last weekend I traveled to New Orleans for the celebration of Mardi Gras. The holiday, which translates to “Fat Tuesday,” acts as the final party before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It is celebrated in cities all over the world, notably Brazil’s Carnival. In New Orleans, the festivities begin about a month before the actual Fat Tuesday and attract thousands of people every year. As a former student at Tulane University in New Orleans, I am a Mardi Gras veteran.

One parade I particularly remembered was of the Krewe D’État who skewered well-known pop culture and political icons. A large float emblazoned with our president’s face in green was introduced as “OZ-bama,” and an oversized rifle-toting Sarah Palin winked furiously at the crowd. The Krewe also tackled some local issues, referencing New Orleans’ infamous Mayor Nagin and having a “Sh**ty Hall” building on one of the floats. Of course, the non-stop festivities make it extremely hard to pay attention to the parades. The uptown parade route on St. Charles was filled with families, locals, tourists, and, of course, many fraternities. At night, the streets along the parade route became semi-abandoned ghost towns of people who didn’t want to lose their parade spot and fraternity pledges responsible for sleeping on the parade route to guard the port-o-potty, the tent, and most importantly, the precious kegs.

Of course, in New Orleans, the party doesn’t stop after the parades. Tourists crowd Bourbon Street in search of the potent “hand grenade,” which boasts to be “New Orleans’ most powerful drink,” or head to Pat O’s to gulp down the original “Hurricane.” Unlike Boston, bars can stay open all night long, making it very hard to call it a night. By far, the most popular college bar is “The Boot” which stands directly across Tulane’s campus and offers drink specials for every night of the week, much to the delight of the students (and teachers) there. People usually start to pour in around 2:00am, also known by many as “Boot-O’Clock,” but for Mardi Gras, the bar is open and busy 24 hours a day. Filled with tacky décor, this hot spot has been visited by celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan.

After a long night out in New Orleans, nothing hits the spot quite like a po’ boy. These sandwiches of crusty French bread usually have fillings such as fried oysters (my personal favorite), fried catfish, fried shrimp, fried chicken…you get the point. These are eaten either “dressed” with mayo, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes, or simply plain. Other typical dishes include beignets, boiled crawfish, gumbo, and jambalaya. While New Orleans is definitely not a city to diet in, sampling the spicy Creole fare is one of the best parts of visiting.

Though I unfortunately had to come back on Sunday for school, the parties raged on. It is impossible not to fall in love with the charming city and the friendly, fun-loving people who live there. For anyone who has doubted the recovery of New Orleans after Katrina, the city looks fabulous and is definitely back in action. Without a doubt, Mardi Gras is a celebration that everyone should experience at least once.

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