Living it Up in the Big Easy

By Mona Malacane

For some grad students, “doing something different” means trying a new recipe, going hiking in the limestone quarries, playing in the snow, or taking off on an exotic trip in the summer. But last week, Gabe Persons went on what I would call an enviable pre-mid-semester-vacation to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. A far cry from hunting and baking bread, on Friday the 13th Gabe and Isaac Knowles drove 13 hours and 800+ miles to Louisiana to Baton Rouge where they stayed with some of Isaac’s friends for the first leg of their trip.


Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

After a day and a half in Baton Rouge, Gabe, Isaac, and several of Isaac’s friends headed to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras festivities. But this isn’t your usual Mardi Gras story people – Gabe swore to me that he did not once expose himself to procure colorful plastic baubles. He also made explicitly clear that this trip was not about visiting the numerous daiquiri bars that populate New Orleans (but he did enjoy tasting a few). For him, it was about the food, music, the experience, and checking off an item on his bucket list.

“It’s been on my bucket list for a while for a number of reasons … what you hear about is always the party stuff but that’s not what’s intriguing to me. I like the music side of New Orleans, I like the food side and while the party atmosphere itself is not what drew me, I think it indicates something about the nature of the people there and they were generally a friendly bunch of people.”

Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

Some of the most memorable moments from his trip were from the famous parades that occupy much of the Mardi Gras celebrations. “The very first parade I saw in New Orleans was very interesting. It was not like any parade I’ve ever seen. The audience is constantly interacting in a way that you don’t see at other parades and the floats are huge and pulled by semi-trucks.” Some fun things Gabe et al. received from the float “throwers” included a fedora, a pair of glowing hand-cuffs, lanyards, and footballs. But other than to watch the parades, the group Gabe was with avoided Bourbon Street (and the hordes of tourists that flock to it for Mardi Gras). “We were on [Bourbon Street] briefly just to get somewhere else and you could barely move, it was just a sea of people.”


Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

While in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Gabe, Isaac and friends, visited some delicious restaurants and even got to cook a good ol’ low country boil. Gabe explained, “I really like Southern food. I don’t like the weather but I love southern food.” In fact, their trip back to Bloomington was slightly longer than the trip down south due to the obligatory (hungover) Waffle House brunch stop. While WaHo is undeniably a Southern tradition, I strongly recommend Cracker Barrel next time.


Trust me, I'm from the South: Cracker Barrel > Waffle House

Trust me, I’m from the South: Cracker Barrel > Waffle House

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