Earlier this month I visited the city of N’awlins for Mardi Gras with 3 of my closest gal pals. It was an amazing experience to visit a city that none of us had really experienced before. The culture was so different from what we have here in the DMV that we decided to really open our minds and try new things on this trip — and it didn’t fail us. The sites were beautiful, the food was amazing, and it was refreshing to actually get away.

I won’t front though, we are usually grandmas when it comes to vacation (we like to sleep in and take naps). But there is plenty to do in New Orleans besides sleeping. We kept hearing so much about the Zulu Parade that we had to get up and see what all the hype was about– and we were not disappointed. Who knew people would be up, excited, and drinking at 8am? We had to catch the end of the parade (because like I said we like to sleep in) but it was so long that we barely missed anything and were still outside watching for almost 4 hours before deciding it was time to eat.

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Zulu Parade going down Canal Street

Food is my favorite part of everyday life so I was extremely excited to be in a city that takes so much pride in their cultural cuisine.  I had red beans and rice as a side with just about every meal (Addiction is real cause I’m still craving it!) We ate somewhere different everyday and I tried plenty of new things: crawfish, maque choux, étouffée, char-grilled oysters. We even tried alligator sausage and fried alligator which were both pretty good. People usually say everything tastes like chicken but the sausage tasted more like turkey kielbasa to me. And the beignets from Café Du Monde–amazing! They were like powdered sugar covered heavenly pillows of dough (too much?) I’m pretty sure they use cream in their hot chocolate because it was very rich and smooth.

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We also tried Absinthe –the alcohol from the 1900s that was banned in America until about 10 years ago. It’s supposed to make you hallucinate but that may just be a myth (or maybe we didn’t drink enough). The bartender only mixed it with water and a sugar cube so the taste of black licorice hits you immediately! We started to feel tipsy about 20 minutes later — we’re avid drinkers so that’s pretty sudden after 1 drink — but that didn’t stop us from wandering into Fat Tuesday’s next where they were offering Patron shots for $2.50 (they know how to keep the party going).

Bourbon Street was hype day and night. Even grandmas were out there showing their tig-ole-bitties for beads with no shame in their game! It smelled really bad in certain areas which is to be expected when high volumes of people do extreme drinking. But at the end of Mardi Gras –aka midnight on Tuesday aka the day before the start of lent– cops rode down the street with a cleaning vehicle to hose down the ground with soap and water “for a fresh start.” The next day, the street was pretty clear since most of the visitors had went home so you could finally see that Bourbon Street was basically just a strip of bars and restaurants. But that doesn’t stop it from being the hottest spot in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras (and probably any time that the weather is warm).

Once everything settled down after the holiday, we decided to take the trolley to see more of the city. We also took a tour so we could see areas outside of the French Quarter. It took us through a few of the different wards that were affected by Katrina. We saw houses that had been rebuilt and houses that still had markings on them from when the authorities did checks for people after everything had passed. It was pretty heartbreaking to realize some people still haven’t been able to put their lives back together almost 11 years later.

We also got to tour a cemetery which was very different than those we have up north. In New Orleans (and I’m pretty sure some other southern states), they bury people above ground so that in the case of flooding there aren’t bodies just floating around. The nice part about it is that you can buy a tomb that would fit your whole family instead of buying separate headstones. Our tour guide said most tombs can hold 150+ bodies and can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $1 million depending on how fancy you want to get with your remains.

The last spot on the list was the Garden District where Aunt Bey and Uncle Jay, Peyton & Eli Manning’s parents, and Sandra Bullock are all said to own homes. And I can see why because the homes were beautiful and big with a little Spanish flare.

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I can definitely say we had a great time in NOLA. From the southern charm of all the locals to the amazing food and sites, it was definitely and unforgettable trip. I can’t wait to see where my need for exploration takes me next.