New Orleans Mardi Gras Carnival Weekend 2015

February 13th, 2015 by Nancy Fournier

krewe-du-krakatoa

Krewe du Krakatoa

We are moving into the big New Orleans Mardi Gras Carnival Weekend. There were parades last weekend but starting on Thursday the 12th with the rolling of the Krewe of Chaos and Muses, things really take off and build with respect to the size and ornateness of the floats, the variety of throws and the increased size of the crowds. It is so hard to describe what it is like to watch a parade and the thrill of the visual spectacle. The big weekend parades all roll at night along St. Charles Avenue which is just a block from Sully Mansion.  Streetlights provide halos of light against the backdrop of the gaslit Victorian mansions of the Avenue and men walking the parade route with six sconce torches (they are called Flambeux) provide additional illumination as your eyes are drawn to the floats and the masked riders who throw all types of trinkets for the crowd.

st-charles-avenue-mardi-gras-parade

St. Charles Avenue decked out for Mardi Gras

We usually camp out on the same corner every year, along with friends and neighbors and friends of neighbors who come and go, sharing drinks, dancing to the marching bands and walking dance troupes and sharing the bounty of the throws from the floats. When it is wonderful, a kind crowd mentality takes over, we all pull each up on to the curb when a large marching band of ten across and tubas come by, share the coveted throws which comes flying out from the floats and may bounce off the fingertips of the person in front of you into your arms. We have affixed lawn chairs atop our eight foot ladders so while we are in prime catching position, you cannot lunge for something coming, falling right outside your grasp. It is a night-long party and you make new best friends with the parade watcher standing next to you. When it is over, the last marching band has passed, the lights of the floats are seen in the distance rolling their way towards Canal street. You fold up your chair, lug your bag of beads and head home for the next night and the next parade.

New Orleans Mardi Gras History

January 31st, 2015 by Nancy Fournier

mardi gras flag

The Mardi Gras Flag*

Mardi Gras celebrations typically take place about two weeks before and through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French), the day before Ash Wednesday. One major parade usually takes place each day (weather permitting); though on many days, several large parades take place.

The earliest reference to Mardi Gras “Carnival” appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.

By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Gaslight torches, aka “flambeaux,” lit the way for the krewe’s members and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity. In 1856, six young Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, invoking John Milton’s hero Comus to represent their organization. Comus brought magic and mystery to New Orleans with dazzling floats (known as tableaux cars) and masked balls. Krewe members remained anonymous, and to this day, Comus still rides!

In 1870, Mardi Gras’ second Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed. This is also the first recorded account of Mardi Gras “throws.”

The parades in New Orleans are organized by Carnival krewes. Krewe float riders toss throws to the crowds; the most common throws are strings of colorful plastic beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins usually impressed with a krewe logo), decorated plastic throw cups, small toys, and handmade theme-specific trinkets.
The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers.

Mardi Gras Parade Krewes
Each Mardi Gras Parade Krewe has a unique history and theme. Some have been around for decades, while others have been in existence for just a few years.
Krewe members are assessed fees in order to pay for the parade or ball. Fees can range from thousands of dollars a year per person for the most elaborate parades to as little as $20 a year for smaller marching clubs.

*Mardi Gras Flag:
Purple: Justice
Gold: Power
Green: Faith

New Orleans Garden District Home Tour December 13-14

December 12th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

View of Sully Mansion in the Garden District

This weekend, the Garden District features its 39th annual Holiday Home Tours, which lets participants visit seven historic Garden district homes on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13-14th. This is a chance to view the interiors of several stately and historic homes in the Garden District.

The tour is self-guided with headquarters at the Trinity Episcopal Church 1329 Jackson Avenue. There will be live music at every home, some featuring music of the season, while others will feature less traditional holiday fare.

A guide will be at each of the homes on the tour, who will touch not only on the architectural features, but also the restoration each home has undergone.

The seven houses on the tour will include several on St. Charles, Second St., Fourth St., Seventh St., Prytania, and Harmony.
Tickets for the tour of all seven home is $30 for members of the Preservation Resource Center (PRC) and $40 for non-members. Proceeds from the event support PRC programs which promote restoration well as funds to renovate blighted houses and sell them to low income families.

New Orleans Krewe Readies for Mardi Gras

November 24th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

Mardi-Gras-Krewe-du-Krakatoa

The Krewe du Krakatoa Tiki Culture at Mardi Gras

Most mere mortals living anywhere other than new Orleans, are slowly thinking about their Christmas decorations. Here in the Crescent City, many of us are already deep into the planning and decoration design – not for Christmas but for Mardi Gras. If you are in a Krewe (a “Krewe” is like a group) that is involved in fashioning their own floats. (the things you ride in or pull ) and “throws,” (the trinkets you toss to spectators) no doubt you have had a number of meetings, gotten your membership straight, and have worked out your theme and signature throws, some are even working on their dance routine to break into when there is a stop in the parade.  We are part of the Krewe du Krakatoa, which rides (that means you are a member of a larger krewe and it is the group you parade with) with Krewedelusion and are one of many of their sub-krewes.

Krewe-du-Krakatoa-throw-tiki-cup

Krewe of Krakaota Tiki shot glasses

Krewe du Krakatoa

Our Krewe du Krakatoa is a new krewe, (although we did parade last year as Krewe of MuuMuu but had to change our name.  First rule of these smaller krewes is the inter drama can get very intense because the stakes are so small!) ANYWAY, we have gone from an all-women to co-ed krewe, and we celebrate all-Polynesian with a view to resurrecting the tiki culture in New Orleans. You can learn a little more about the Krewe du Krakatoa on our Facebook page. We are busy making one of our throws which are little shot glasses with a tiki mask on the front. Like all Krewes, the fashioning of throws is just an excuse to get together, craft, have a beer and socialize while working. It is one of the wonderful cultural pastimes in New Orleans, and a deep part of the Mardi Gras tradition.

If you’re planning to come to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, look for Krewe du Krakatoa. Let us know you saw the blog post and hopefully we can throw some swag your way!

Thanksgiving in New Orleans 2014

November 17th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

The Square in Vieux Carre ~ New Orleans

Thanksgiving in New Orleans

At Thanksgiving time, in addition to those traditions you celebrate with family and friends each year, New Orleans has its own set of unique Thanksgiving customs, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the Crescent City over the Thanksgiving Holiday, treat yourself to some of the top highlights.

There is no shortage of  great restaurants and hotels open on the holiday, most offering a special Thanksgiving Dinner.
Check out this restaurant list on Open Table

After proper Turkey Day sustenance, take in the Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade from 3:30 – 6pm. The Parade showcases floats, marching bands, military units, Alumni krewes, motorized units and other elements of Louisiana’s African American culture such as multiple elements from the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which is New Orleans’ oldest predominantly African American carnival krewe. It starts at the Superdome, ends at the French Market, and features the talented marching bands of both Grambling State and Southern University, whose rivalry culminates each Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend in the Bayou Classic football championship. There are a lot of other activities surrounding the Classic, including a battle of the bands and a golf tournament.

Celebration in the Oaks

Celebration in the Oaks at City Park

On Friday, after a New Orleans-style, Black Friday shopping bonanza, take in the spectacular Winter Lights Festival, Celebration in the Oaks at New Orleans City Park with lights adorning 25 acres of the park, including the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens. With over 165,000 visitors each year, purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.

How To Be A Great Innkeeper

August 23rd, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

be a great innkeeper

A welcoming smile translates across all languages

We have come back from  a three week trip to Spain and Morocco. There were many fascinating elements of the trip, which I will not focus on here, save to say, after nine years as an innkeeper, it is a useful exercise to put oneself deeply in the role of the traveler, in order to help you remember what the weary guest needs to feel welcome and happy. It is from our experiences in a foreign land, with a different language, new customs, and exotic culture, that we draw these lessons to apply to our work here at the Sully Mansion in New Orleans.

  1. Our initial greeting makes all the difference when you open the door.  A big smile and sincere welcome erases the frustration of getting lost finding the inn, late airplanes, being hot and tired, and generally wondering why you have left the comforts of home.
  2.  Help with suitcases – No matter how well those wheels on the luggage are working, it is nice to have someone else carry your possessions for you, even if for a few feet.
  3. Read their mood – It is easy to tell from your travelers’ faces if they want to get to their room and take off their shoes and use the bathroom,or if they would prefer a glass of water/iced tea and take in their surrounds. Taking cues from the guest makes the arrival go smoother.
  4. Show them how everything in their room works – We know where the switch is to the lamp but the newcomers do not, the air conditioner seems self explanatory but maybe not. Wi-Fi can confuse those who are not used to traveling. If they need to just decompress for a little bit, they would rather know how everything works rather than have to come back downstairs to ask you.
  5. Pace the delivery of information – If your guests have been traveling all day, they may be on overload and cannot take in lots of new information initially. Ask them when they would like to look at a map, get suggestions for shopping or eating or music or whatever. A good host allows the guests to set the pace.
  6. Be available – If the guests disappear into their room and end up taking an unexpected nap, it is important to be available when they wake up and are full of questions.
  7. Share your knowledge – In ways large and small, guests want to take advantage of what you know as a local. They may have read about attractions and restaurants but they always want to know what you suggest, (however refer back to #3, read their mood to gauge if they want to know if their plans make sense).
  8. Keep your hospitality going throughout their stay – Some travelers need a day to get comfortable and get their sea legs.  Those who are shy on day one, can be very interactive after a good night’s sleep. The same level of interest, information and assistance is welcomed through their stay.
  9. Take care of your personal business during your personal time – Waiting for the innkeeper to finish texting, looking on the internet, talking on the phone with a friend (you can tell even if you do not speak the language) is incredibly off-putting.  Most people are pretty patient but it is easy to misunderstand the host’s pre-occupation as not wanting to be available or helpful.
  10. Your interactions influence the guests’ perception of your city – If the guest feels cared for at their accommodations, they see the town as friendly and caring. If they feel ignored at the place where they sleep, they experience the town as callus and uncaring.

As innkeepers, we really have tremendous power to make or break a guest’s vacation, and it is so easy to make their time memorable in a good way.

Follow Your NOLA: Create Your Own Interactive Map and Guide to New Orleans

August 15th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

follow-your-nolaFollow Your NOLA, (created by The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation), is a customized, interactive webspace for you to add all your favorite New Orleans spots to your own personal map. You can select your favorite spots in town to eat, drink, dance, shop and just soak up all that this city has to offer. The more you explore and discover about New Orleans, the more places you can add to “Your NOLA.” Share your account with friends and family, post your account link to your Facebook page, as well as discover the favorite spots of other “Follow Your NOLA” users, including chef Anthony Bourdain and Bryan Batt (Salvatore Romano of Mad Men fame).

follow-your-nola-walking-mapCreate a free account, and start adding your favorite places right away. Incoming Tulane freshmen, seasoned NOLA visitors, as well as long-time locals have created amazing accounts that you can find and follow. The interactive map lets you view a walking guide and neighborhood location of the sopts you’ve added to your account. It’s a great way to discover New Orleans restaurants, music, museums and more!

Satchmo SummerFest 2014: A Celebration of Louis Armstrong

July 23rd, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

satchmo-summerfest 2014

Attending Satchmo Summerfest in style in New Orleans

As one of New Orleans’ most celebrated music events. the 14th annual Satchmo SummerFest takes place in the historic French Quarter. Free to the public, the festival features two main stages, dozens of food vendors, and numerous seminars and other special presentations. The celebration is “dedicated to the life, music and legacy of New Orleans’ native son, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong,” and offers unforgettable fun for all ages.

The four day event kicks off on Thursday, July 31, and runs through Sunday, August 3, where the 2014 Satchmo SummerFest will  offer music and seminars, featuring performances by Wycliffe Gordon, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Glen David Andrews (to name just a few).
happy-birthday-louis-image-derek-bridgesSave Friday at 11am to celebrate the birth of Louis Armstrong with a birthday bash at the old US Mint! Keep up your strength for the next round of events by dining on Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Fish Beignet, Creole Hot Sausage Po-Boy and many other culinary treats.

Satchmo SummerFest is organized by French Quarter Festivals, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting New Orleans’ musical, culinary and social traditions. In line with previous years, over 25,000 attendees are expected over the four day festival, which will be manned by volunteers, as well as funded by generous corporate and independent sponsors.

To view the full line-up of performances and seminars, visit the Satchmo Summerfest website.

When: July 31 – August 3
Where: French Quarter – on the grounds of the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint
Tickets: Admission is free.

New Orleans: The Cost of Being a Hip City

July 16th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

New Orlean's French Quarter

New Orlean’s French Quarter

The changing face of New Orleans has received tons of media attention in the last year. Like the Denver of the 1980’s, Austin of the 1990’s and Portland of the 2000’s, New Orleans seems to be the ‘it’ city of this decade. There is much good which comes from this new energy with idealistic, hard working 20/30 somethings coming here to make their mark. Those who have lived here for years before it was cool, (when it was dysfunctional and devastated) have a love/hate relationship with these new-comers, and the city’s new status as a hip place to be.

With these new folks comes a revitalization of many neglected areas from apartments, more vegan restaurants, expanded options for poetry slams, and live dance performances(a good thing) as well as an explosion of hamburger restaurants, increased rents and this buzz growing a shared economy (not such a good thing).

New Orleans is a tourist town for better or worse, and while the base of its economy is expanding, tourism to sample our architecture, culture food and music has always been a mainstay of how we make a living. These new arrivals to the city know that too, and have been busy buying up property and renting out one side of their shotgun-style homes and spare bedrooms on sites like AirB&B, HomeAway and VBRO, and making a little bit of extra cash on the side and giving folks an alternative (and what they tout as ‘authentic”) place to stay for less money. All of it sounds great, but in New Orleans, short term rentals are illegal, and alas, there is no lodging police to make sure that rules are enforced.

As innkeepers we do not feel threatened by the growth of these alternatives, as we believe we fill a different niche (and are no less authentic), but there are two elements of this shared economy which give us great pause.

Saint Charles Street Car

Saint Charles Street Car

In New Orleans, neither those renting out their accommodations, or the alternative lodging sites charge or pay any type of city tax on their rooms. This does keep their lodging prices low for the guest, but those guests then use the streetcar, walk the sidewalks and expect the police and fire department to be readily accessible. Sadly though, they are not doing their share to pay for those services.

The second, and more troublesome problem is there are neighborhoods in the city (specifically the Bywater and Marigny; our hot hip neighborhoods) which have been so overtaken by short term rentals, that the fabric of those neighborhoods are diminished. The rhythm of seeing your neighbors while walking your dog is replaced by a gaggle of bachelorettes coming for the weekend with little regard for the noise or clamor they make. When whole streets turn into weekend-end getaways, the very uniqueness and close-knit fabric of the neighborhood is reduced to a bohemian resort village.

We want people from around the world to come and visit this fabulous town, we just want them to respect the treasures they find here and in their small way, do their part to ensure those treasures remain. To be honest, we are ready for the next hot city to be discovered, any suggestions?

Southern Decadence 2014: NOLA’s Gay Mardi Gras Festival!

June 25th, 2014 by Nancy Fournier

southern-decadence-new-orleansSouthern Decadence is all about the extravagant costumes, rainbows and partying that accompanies the holiday, and one that has been nicknamed the “Gay Mardi Gras.” This year the event will celebrate 43 years in New Orleans with its usual non-stop street party in the French Quarter, with ‘Ground Zero’ for the action at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann streets. The festivities will start on Wednesday, August 27 and pick up steam as the event nears the big street parade on Sunday, August 31, at 2pm.
The theme this year is ‘Under the Big Top,’ and the colors are Canary Yellow, Turquoise Blue, and Pearl White. The 2014 Official Charity is PFLAG, an organization comprised of family, friends, and straight allies of GLBT organizations.
The celebration will then wrap up on Monday, September 1 with the Southern Decadence Closing Party at the Bourbon Pub. For an event that started as a mere costume party, it’s grown into one of the most famous gay celebrations in the world. At the intersection of elaborate costumes and high fashion, we say: ‘Let the partying begin!’
Sully Mansion is a great place to relax after a day at the festival. We offer modern amenities in a classic Garden District location. We welcome your booking or inquiry.

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