With the final day of Mardi Gras upon us, we’ve been looking at how the world’s most famous carnival goes way beyond the stereotype. Our Deputy Editor Sam Johnson has a few tips on how to party like the locals and laissez les bon temps rouler…
If you had to choose your last proper meal for 40 days, what would it be? Fish and chips? Pizza? A haute cuisine tasting menu? Personally, I’d ram raid a McDonalds, but people with better taste than me have been doing it with slightly more creativity for years.
The term Mardi Gras is literally the French for ‘fat Tuesday’ (for us, thanks to Domino’s, that’s every Tuesday), which is the final day of fun before Lent, when the Catholic Church established a month of fasting in the lead up to Easter.
The most famous of all Mardi Gras happens in New Orleans, or NOLA if you’re in the know. Back in the day, Creole settlers celebrated carnival season with masquerade balls, with nods to those in Venice and Rome in the 17th and 19th Centuries. French explorers graced the southern settlements and founded Fort Louis de la Louisiane (now Mobile County in Alabama) – the home to the very first Mardi Gras in America. There’s actually a Mardi Gras museum in NOLA for those who care for a more cultural visit.
Nowadays, Mardi Gras is celebrated in the two weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday, so when we’re all tucking into our pancakes, the Americans are waking up to one severe hangover. Mardi Gras is serious business and it takes the combined efforts of several ‘Krewes’ to organise. The formation of krewes began in Mobile County but transcended across to New Orleans in the early 1700s. Tourism operators Abercrombie and Kent have experts in New Orleans to showcase Mardi Gras like no other, from access to exclusive krewe balls and after parties in mansions, to prime location carnival watching from one of the infamous Bourbon Street balconies.
First time Mardi Gras goers are often overwhelmed by the velocity of it all, and seek temporary refuge in quiet spots around town. Abercrombie and Kent offer a break from the crowds with one of their mixology experts in private courtyards to watch the festivities in comfort. They’ll also teach you how to make the best Sazerac in Louisiana.
Head to the tree-lined Garden District to really immerse in the true spirit of Mardi Gras. Communities come together to enjoy ‘throws’ and celebrate through the festivities with Cajun delight. Abercrombie and Kent can put you right in the centre of the action to enjoy the local way of life, and even participate in one of the parades yourself.
Check out abercrombieandkent.co.uk/usa/deepsouth or call one of the experts on 01242 547717 to get the ball rolling for Mardi Gras 2018!
Images courtesy of New Orleans CVB.