Postcard From Mardi Gras in New Orleans

February 14, 2013

Filed Under: New Orleans, Restaurants
Photography by Getty Images
New Orleans, Louisiana

Becca at Mardi Gras
Becca Hensley
Austin-based writer Becca Hensley’s most recent travel stories have made the covers of Virtuoso Life, Mariner and Holland Herald, KLM’s inflight publication. Becca writes regularly for Washington Flyer, National Geographic Traveler, Toronto Star -- and is a travel columnist for Austin Monthly. Also a published poet and fiction writer, she has lived in Spain, Austria and Norway, and knows where to buy the best shoes anywhere in the world.

I became a writer because: Writing helps me make sense out of life: chew and digest it. I can't imagine doing anything else.

I went here to: Ride a float with the Harry Connick, Jr.'s Orpehus Krewe and to experience the fabulous bedlam of Mardi Gras.

I traveled here with: A bevy of friends.

The best way to travel here is: It’s easy to fly into New Orleans from anywhere.

I stayed at: I stayed 2 nights at the Sheraton on Canal. This was ideal for watching the parades as it sits right on the route. It’s a huge hotel and was full of revelers. Those preferring a more intimate spot would like where I stayed my second 2 nights: The W French Quarter. With chic sense of place, this hotel has a jazz and tarot theme that reflects the history of New Orleans. Ideally situated mid-Quarter, it is steps from Bourbon and Royal Streets, Jackson Square and Magazine Street. Its restaurant, SoBou, takes classic New Orleans cuisine, but amps it up with contemporary whimsey. Cocktails, too, transcend basic to revel in the unique. My favorite had Earl Grey-infused gin as an ingredient. Rooms are commodious, some have balconies and the service is off the charts.

The best way to get around is: Parking in the French Quarter and environs is not easy. I would plan to take taxis, walk and hop the streetcar.

The best thing I ate was: The fried oyster taco at SoBou, the shrimp remoulade at Galatoires, (the icon), the shrimp and oyster po’ boy at Acme Oyster House, the Southern antipasti (housemade charcuterie) and pan-roasted sea scallops at Sylvain (a hip spot in the Quarter that keeps the 5 senses on their toes) and the Perdido Pass Snapper at Criollo which likes to deconstruct the traditional NOLA dining experience.

I wish I hadn't: Had so many cocktails (but that is part of the fun and the Mardi Gras culture of New Orleans). I also wish I would have stayed at the Orpheus Ball all night, but I had to get some sleep.

Don't miss: Antique shopping at Rau Antiques on Royal Street, the galleries on Julia Street, beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, and a Haunted Walking Tour of the Quarter.

Next time I will definitely: Have a consultation with a Voodoo priest.

My favorite part of the experience was: Riding the float and throwing beads to happy children. Seeing Harry Connick, Jr. up close, eating the unique, magical food of New Orleans and people watching -- especially on Fat Tuesday.

My advice would be: Book now for next year. Mardi Gras is a local tradition that loves to include you.

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