With the city’s most acclaimed holiday – Mardi Gras – right around the corner, Ladyhattan is bringing you a few Nola highlights that cannot be missed on your next trip down to the Big Easy. This post features an insider look at participating in the Second Line, followed by some specialty shopping in the French Quarter and the tastiest brunch at landmark restaurant, The Original Pierre Maspero’s.
The Second Line
Second line is a tradition in brass band parades in New Orleans. The “main line” or “first line” is the main section of the parade, or the members of the actual club with the parading permit (so the band itself). Those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the “second line.” The second line’s style of traditional dance, in which participants walk and sometimes twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air, is called “second lining.” The Second Line has been called “the quintessential New Orleans art form – or in other words, a jazz funeral without a body.
Heralded by the blare of an approaching trumpet or thump of a tuba, these colorful, vivacious parades appear and completely take over one or more blocks at a time, seeming to come from nowhere like a sudden downpour from a sunny summer sky, and disappearing almost as quickly around the next bend. Hosted by neighborhood organizations and composed of progressive generations of friends, family members and neighbors, they are nevertheless in most cases open to anyone who can find and keep up with them. A second line, by its very nature, invites crowd participation.
Second line parades traverse major city roads only briefly, with their routes usually meandering the crowd of people through back streets of neighborhoods. While dancing down the streets with the Second Line, you might pass antebellum mansions on one block and public housing projects only a few blocks later. Also, the parade routes can change from year to year, and news of their schedules is usually spread on a grass routes level. Consequently, it can be difficult for visitors to find information about upcoming second lines. But see, that’s where being a nice lady comes in handy. When you arrive to New Orleans you will immediately feel the warmth and hospitality of locals, eager to ensure that you love their hometown just as much as they do. So don’t be afraid to ask local folks if there is a parade scheduled over the weekend. You will be sure to get the information you need to find yourself in the Second Line. There is truly no better way to “tour” the neighborhoods of New Orleans. So get up girl, follow the sound of the music and go shake what your mama gave you on the Second Line!
Boutique Shopping in the French Quarter
After joining the Second Line, I marched and danced my way all the way down to the French Quarter. Once my girlfriends and I realized we were back inside the bustling tourist district, we went right to our favorite hobby – shopping. New Orleans is full of fantastic shops featuring antiques, clothing, novelties, collectible items and more. As many of you know, I collect Christmas ornaments around the world from all of my travels. It is the easiest way for me to collect, save and actually utilize souvenirs that I buy. The shot glasses and postcards always seemed to get lost in the shuffle as junk. During this trip, I grabbed a few awesome Nola-themed ornaments and of course, dozens of amazingly hysterical Mardis Gras beads (photographed below)! For your shopping pleasure, I have created a list of my favorite shops in the French Quarter – be sure to check them out on your next visit down south.
Favorite Shops in the French Quarter
- Fleur de Paris (custom designer hats)
- Trashy Diva (fun retro clothes and accessories)
- Fleurty Girl (accessories)
- Merry Christmas and All that Jazz (ornaments)
- Goorin Bros. Hat Shop (men’s hats)
- Frenchmen Art Market (arts and crafts)
- Milk Studio (gift shop)
- Bourbon French Parfums (fragrances)
- The Little Toy Shop (children)
- Moss Antiques (antiques)
- Greg’s Antiques (antiques)
- Antiques de Provence (antiques)
- Arcadian Books & Art Prints (books and prints)
- Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo Shop (voodoo retail)
- Feet First (shoes and handbags)
- Hemline (clothing)
- Shops at Canal (high-end mall with all the big name stores, including Saks)
Brunch at Pierre Maspero’s
After dancing and shopping up an appetite, I was ready for some hot Cajun cookin’. With so many stellar options for dining in New Orleans, I decided to stick with a classic restaurant that has been around for years – Pierre Maspero’s. Located in the heart of the French Quarter in a historic atmosphere, a lady can enjoy classic Cajun cuisine in a comfortable landmark property. Sit back and enjoy the people-watching from the corner of St.Louis and Chartres while you enjoy savory southern dishes. Try the flash fried alligator, chicken and waffles, blackened jambalaya, or crawfish etouffee and you will not be disappointed. If you are eager to get a taste it all, Pierre Maspero’s offers the Crescent City Sampler which lets you try a sample of several signature dishes, including my favorite – the red beans and rice. But whatever you do, do not leave here without tasting the famous house-made bread pudding. Whether you participate in the Second Line, shop for some beads, earn the beads (you go girl), or indulge in a tasty brunch, you are bound to discover a good time down in New Orleans.