Halloween is a big deal in New Orleans, second only to Mardi Gras. In fact, with it’s Voodoo heritage and lots of interesting (and sometimes violent) history, New Orleans has a bit of a rep for being the ‘most haunted city in America’. Plus they throw a big-arse party that involves thousands of people in costume descending upon the French Quarter and nearby Marigny.
So when I realised we were arriving on the afternoon of October 31st, I figured it only made sense to book a private taxi transfer from the airport. And at $45 bucks for a half-hour drive, it also seemed like a fairly reasonable alternative to scrapping with hordes of other tourists for a ride.
Our friendly driver Vincenzo finds us at the agreed meeting point, grabs our bags and walks towards the parking lot, where we see a bunch of different cars, including a stretch limo. Clegg jokes that I booked a limousine for the trip. We laugh.
Vincenzo stops at the limo, pops the boot, throws our bags in and tells us it was all they had available – the taxis were all booked. Then he invites us to help ourselves to the mini bar in the back.
Well, allrighty then (said with Southern-style drawl).
This is how we manage to cruise into New Orleans in a black stretch limo, drinking smooth Louisiana bourbon, playing with the interior disco lights and listening to Thriller on the radio – and to be honest things only got better from there.
Within an hour of hitting the French Quarter we were in an oyster bar smashing a fresh half-dozen with lemon and Louisiana hot sauce and drinking cocktails. At that point the streets were already packed with people, many in costume, but by the time the sun had gone down and we’d made our transformation into skeleton and ‘gothic ghost’ (don’t ask me, that’s what it said on the packet), walking the streets was like walking through the world’s largest and best horror movie set. Except it’s one where all the monsters are giggling and weaving along the footpath holding mint julep roadies (you can get alcoholic beverages to go here and walk along the street drinking them, as easily as if you were buying and drinking a slurpee from the 7-11).
Note: There are standard drinks, and there are New Orleans-standard drinks that set the bar for the phrase ‘generous pour’. My mint julep alone probably could have floored a small horse, or at least had it dancing on table tops and drunk dialling. By the time we call it quits for the evening we’ve visited Frenchmen Street in Marigny, returned to the French Quarter, become acquainted with many local specialty beverages and stumbled into a psychic’s shop (shop? Lair? Other realm?) to have our palms read.
The next morning we return to the oyster bar, this time for recovery bloody marys (marts?). At first I think Brendan is actually so hungover he’s turned grey, but it’s just remnants of the grey grease paint from his skeleton face paint. Not that he looked out of place – about 20% of people in the bar were still in costume. Speaking of costumes, the best-in-show-although-inappropriate award goes to the group we saw dressed as CDC Ebola quarantine workers. In New Orleans, it’s never too soon.