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Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

College Station...
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Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

Suppose several of my thoughts might be interesting, helpful, or maybe even entertaining to those contemplating a first visit, or another visit, during the last days of Carnival season. Our 2014 adventure was my eleventh New Orleans visit over those last five days of Carnival including and ending with Fat Tuesday. Since much of what we do involves socializing with those who are becoming our "Mardi Gras Family", a delightful and expanding group, and not of general interest, I've chosen to approach this categorically rather than chronologically.

Blenheim, Canada
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1. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

so start commenting and observing, Kind Sir! :)

College Station...
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2. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

THE WEATHER. Over recent years we (lovely wife and I) have chosen to make New Orleans Mardi Gras visits about 2 out of 3 years. We usually avoid the Mardi Gras visits when Fat Tuesday falls early in the year, say before February 17. The reason is that during the first half of February there is a high probability, but not certainty, of cold and damp/wet weather. Conversely, the late Mardi Gras, particularly those in March, have typically been comparatively warm and dry. So much for weather statistics.

Can't complain too much however. Thursday evening through Sunday evening was very pleasant. Some are saying that 2014 Fat Tuesday was record cold, though I haven't seen the stats supporting that claim. It was very cold and very wet. It was certainly the coldest late February/early March Fat Tuesday I have heard of or experienced. There have been many very cold and wet early (first half) February Fat Tuesdays, but that happening is not a certainty either.

We skipped the early 2013 Mardi Gras. Opted at the last minute to go in for the January 2013 Krewe du Vieux weekend; weather was cool, but not cold, and pleasant and nice. Fact is, mid January to mid March New Orleans weather is very unpredictable. You can play the odds, but that just addresses probability, not certainty.

Edited: 13 March 2014, 22:58
Blenheim, Canada
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3. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

"So much for weather statistics." You can say that again!!!!! Our first one was late February and the weather was MUCH better! Checking the weather station on Mardi Gras day, it was 38 with a real feel of 31 due to wind and sleet/drizzle. If you find evidence that it WAS the coldest...please let us know!

New Orleans...
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4. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

Loop, I was trying to mention various pieces of advice in my live report thread, as they occurred to me, so let me piggyback on your thread and mention the ones I can remember of off the top of my head that I wrote there. Hopefully this first timer's observations will help someone as well.

1. Bike is a great means of transportation during Carnival. As our story demonstrated, though, you need to be even more vigilant about bike theft than usual. A cable lock is no protection in crowds, as crook with shears that can easily cut through these seem to be operating. If you do MG by bike, invest in a solid lock.

2. When looking for best parade viewing spots, places with no barricades will yield better throws. You get best stuff by coming right to the float and being handed things by riders on the lower level. That's how I got the whole set of Muses throws. It's more pleasant being handed things that being hit over the head with them, too.

3. If your friend tells you they are going to be on a float, don't bank on recognizing them. Most krewes wear masks and often wigs.

I'll add more if I think of more.

Edited: 13 March 2014, 23:58
New Orleans...
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5. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

I thought of a couple more:

4. Parades last much longer than you'd expect. If one starts downtown at 6.00 and you are viewing it from further on the route, don't expect to be back in the hotel or out and about doing other things till about 11.

Cold and rainy weather may be an exception, though. Zulu zoomed past in about 3 hours start to finish.

5. They say not to stand by kids if you want to get throws. Scratch that. Kids are going to be there no matter what. If there are none when you first positioned yourself, hundreds will appear out of nowhere once the parade starts. So don't pay attention to that when determining where to stand, just count on your own charm. :)

Houston, Texas
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6. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

According to Nola.com in an article on Fat Tuesday, the lowest recorded high temperature for any MG day (dating back to 1874) was 38° on Feb 14, 1899.

My phone was reading 34° and rain most of the day, which would break that record, but it seemed like it warned up a bit that night. My guess is that it did rise above the 38° at some point in the evening, which would not break the coldest record..... But that doesn't matter because it was COLD!!! COLD!!! COLD!!! Record or not!

Blenheim, Canada
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7. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

No we didn't have the coldest Mardi Gras on record--even though it felt like it. I did find this though and I thought it was prety cool!

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lix/?n=mg_history

Loop it was an absolute pleasure to spend some time with you and the beautiful & lovely Mrs. Loop! Can't wait to see you in October! I'm sure we'll have nicer weather then!

Moncton, Canada
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8. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

As long as you had fun, that's all that counts.

New Orleans...
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9. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

Loop, waiting for the rest of your observations, Sir. :)

College Station...
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10. Re: Mardi Gras 2014 - Comments and Observations

Mrs. Rodent, you are always very welcome to piggyback on anything that I do related to this City we love, and that you skillfully attack with abandon. Lynch, you're right, no matter how we slice it Fat Tuesday was nasty, but we still had a good time after changing out of costumes and into weather appropriate garb. Herm and Deny, Mrs. Loop always so enjoys meeting up with you, and we are both looking forward to October Flokfest. Great link Den; I love that kind of stuff.

FOOD. Will try to keep this Mardi Gras specific.

A pre partying meal, breakfast or brunch, is extremely important to each day of a Mardi Gras visit. Heretofore I have rarely taken a hotel's complimentary breakfast, if any, into account when choosing lodging. New Orleans has so many great and reasonably priced breakfast/lunch opportunities, who wants to waste a NOLA meal on some stale pastry/bagels, canned fruit cocktail and packaged cereal. However, Mardi Gras has made me think somewhat differently. To me, without meat it's not a meal. However, a number of hotels have incorporated breakfast meats (ham, bacon and/or sausage) into their complimentary offerings, along with fresh eggs, hot grits and/or potatoes, and fresh prepared fruit. The sometimes very slow pace of New Orleans breakfast service is accentuated during the last days of Carnival, with both lines to be seated and overwhelmed cooking and service staff. While this year's more than adequate and tasty complimentary breakfast offerings at Country Inn & Suites saved me a couple of bucks, much more importantly, they saved me a LOT of time, turning what would typically have been a one to two hour process into a less than half hour process. Since we typically have mid/late morning and early afternoon scheduled social gatherings, which usually incorporate alcohol, and sometimes costumes, these time savings were very much appreciated.

This year's life saving restaurants were Copper Monkey, Red Gravy and Deja Vu. We went into this year's Mardi Gras without restaurant reservations or plans, other than those directly associated with pre-planned social gatherings. Like several previous MG 2104 Forum posters, there were several times when we realized, probably a bit too late, that we were hungry, truly needed food, and were without plans. Most of the demand is for "popularly priced" casual restaurants. I've seen several very popular upscale and somewhat more formal restaurants only half occupied at 8 PM on a Friday or Saturday night the weekend before Fat Tuesday; but don't count on this - make reservations for your fine dining.

Our first need arose at dinnertime Saturday night. My old standby, Deja Vu (which I'll discuss further), had folks lined up out the door and down the block, as did the special buffet line at Jagerhaus. We walked past Oceana, didn't even hesitate, and there was Copper Monkey. Although within my typical stomping grounds, have never tried it before, but thanks to TripAdvisor knew it was generally well thought of. Bar food, but good bar food. Was able to snag a back patio table; the bartender warned me of a slow kitchen, although it turned out to be not all that slow. Order at the bar and they yell out when the foods is ready kind of place. Thumbs up guys.

We had planned on an early pre parade casual dinner Sunday night, but because Bacchus Sunday afternoon in front of Boondock Saint (and Pat O'Brien's) is just so much fun, we found ourselves outside our hotel (Central Business District [CBD]) later than we expected and without a clue. Charged down to Commerce Restaurant, a CBD standby, very crowded and just not what I'm looking for. But what's this I see out of the corner of my eye, like a beautiful oasis, the typically not open for Sunday dinner Red Gravy. Although Mrs. Loop and I have enjoyed more than several breakfast/brunch/lunches there, it was my first dinner experience, and it was wonderful. Mrs. Loop's BFF's twenty-something daughter is still raving about the burger w/fried egg. Since the lovely proprietress, VeraBlue, who we consider a friend, is still somewhat favorably responding to my Facebook posts, I'm in hope that our overserved presence wasn't too offensive; thanks for your staff's patience and a great meal Vera!

At Lafitte's late Fat Tuesday evening, probably about the fifth bar visited that day. With friends who dress as pirates every Fat Tuesday afternoon (at Lafitte's - get it), a couple Uptown locals who frequently visit the French Quarter (there are some of those), and a couple out-of-towners. Everybody realizes that although we have drank everything from Hand Grenades to Voodoos, nobody has eaten since breakfast before the KOE parade (10 AM), and it's showing. I suggest Deja Vu. Although this was not at a particularly odd hour, other than being on Fat Tuesday, Deja Vu comes to the rescue at some point during each of my Carnival visits. A 24/7, including Mardi Gras, very casual (some would say dive) full service bar with table service restaurant. Only one group waiting for a table in front of us. Good service, especially considering the circumstances, and very good food; about half had breakfast, which they serve 24 hrs. Did not disappoint; first time for the locals, making me look pretty smart.

On a negative note, avoid Dress It in the Omni Royal Crescent. Not bad but supposed to be hot food served cold due to a pleasant but totally incompetent server, even though the restaurant was only 1/3 occupied (I can guess why).

Back on a positive note, SoBou serves so many different functions so well. A shared SoBou SURF & TURF (24 hour smoked cochon de lait, Louisiana crispy oysters, pickled vegetables & grilled tortillas) coupled with a shared CHERRIES JUBILEE & WHITE CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING, and a couple of fancy drinks was just wonderful.