Today we spent some time in the National Museum of Louisiana. The weather is a bit cloudy with a few sprinkles in the air, so it was a good day to be inside. The crowds of the Memorial Day weekend were gone and we walked along the streets with no difficulty. The first stop was a National Historical Park and Preserve Center on Decatur Street on the edge of the French Quarter. There we learned even more about Hurricane Katrina and the reasons it was "the perfect storm". This same site gave us more information on the history of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. This was quite the deal for the US. We paid 15 million dollars for just about all the all of the west and northwest. The picture shows the commemorative banner that was made for the occasion.
We walked down the street to San Luis Cathedral which the bulletin says is the oldest cathedral in the United States. This building was constructed in the late 1700's and re-built several times thereafter.
The highlight of the day was a visit to the "Presbytere" which was next to the Cathedral Although it was built as a residence for the priests and bishops who served the French Colony of Nouvelle Orleans, none ever lived there. The building was used from the beginning of its construction for other purposes, both during the French and Spanish colonial period.
Today it contains the State Museum of Mardi Gras, from its beginnings in the parades of Europe and the ritual processions of Africa. Throw in the Creole, Caribbean and Native American cultural experiences and you have 12 days of Mardi Gras as it is celebrated today.It was a very enlightening day and told us far more than we ever knew (or wanted to know)about this annual Carnival. By the way, did you know that the word "Carnival" comes from two Latin words: "carne and valle" meaning "Farewell to Meat" That's why Mardi Gras (meaning Fat Tuesday in French) comes on the days before Ash Wednesday.
As you can see from the picture, Mardi Gras is serious business (about 1.5 billion each year in tourist dollars) and much planning is needed for every year's celebration.
In 2008, Mardi Gras is February 8!