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Escape Mardi Gras: Finding solace during New Orleans’ biggest fest

JENNIFER FODEN WILSON, Contributor JENNIFER FODEN WILSON, Contributor

Some people long to visit cities when they’re at their liveliest: Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, Munich at Oktoberfest or New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I get it — the parades, the feathers, the beads, the dancing. They no doubt throw one hell of a party.

But maybe you’re like me, and can only handle the crowds for so long. You want to experience quintessential Mardi Gras, but you want some time to escape the chaos too. Or hey, maybe you’re not even in New Orleans during its biggest festival, but you’re looking for a break from all the tourists and neon lights of bawdy Bourbon Street.

Explore hidden courtyards. In the late eighteenth century, New Orleans faced two devastating fires, which brought rise to private, walled courtyards. Curbside, it looks like classic Spanish colonial architecture, which makes up most of the French Quarter. But if you meander inside many hotels, shops and restaurants, you’ll find a quiet, green urban oasis. Take the opportunity to retreat from the festivities outside and take a peek inside Le Jardin Glass Art on Royal Street or Bacchanal Wine Bar on Poland Avenue.

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Eat homemade biscuits in bed. Stay off Bourbon Street and the main parade routes when booking your accommodations. Find a hotel that is quaint and full of character. Soniat House, located on Chartres Street (on the eastern edge of the French Quarter) is just that. The beautiful antique furnishings, the courtyards (!!!) and the amazing homemade biscuits are almost like travelling back in time — and a welcome retreat any time of year. So eat breakfast in bed and forget about the festivities happening just a few blocks away.

hotel

Escape the city. There is so much to explore just outside the city. Louisiana backcountry offers plenty of history and natural beauty, from plantation visits to swamp tours. My automatic response is to escape into nature, so I found myself exploring the small waterways of Louisiana on a covered boat. It’s something out of a fantasy novel: where trees are rooted underwater, moss covers the forest and swamp shacks line the shore. There are many swamp/bayou tours about 30 to 60 kilometres northeast of downtown.

swamp

Jennifer Foden Wilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and magazine editor who has written for Canadian Living, Outpost, Travel+Escape, DreamScapes and more. Follow her on Twitter @jdfowil or check out her website at www.jdfodenwilson.wordpress.com.


Date Added: January 12, 2015 | Comments (0)

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