It's Mardi Gras! I've never experienced it, though I did get a tiny (very tiny) taste of it when I was in New Orleans for St. Patrick's Day many years ago. That was quite an experience on its own (yes there were plenty of beads and the like!), so I can imagine how overwhelming (and exhausting) Mardi Gras can be. And in the spirit of the day, I thought I'd share a little about why I love Louisiana, and New Orleans so much.
Part of it is the rich history. The Louisiana Purchase was a huge step toward the growth of the United States of course. The port of New Orleans was a hotbed of political contention for years. It was where the United States defeated the British once and for all.
Jean Lafitte had a huge base of operations there, though he ultimately moved to Barataria. He was one of my favorite kinds of people. Not only a pirate, or a privateer as he preferred to be called, but he was both a villain and a hero, the latter for his part in defending New Orleans during the War of 1812.
Okay, enough with history lesson. Exploring the surrounding area is always lots of fun. The restored plantation houses that run along the Mississippi River are phenomenal. We toured several of them and it was such a thrill to immerse ourselves in the past. It felt like we walked with the original residents as we peered into the elegantly appointed rooms. There were aspects of the Antebellum way of life that still hold a very romantic feel today.
What I like particularly about the area is the magical, supernatural feel. Not just New Orleans, but deep in the bayous, where all sorts of dangers lurk, and not just alligators and other predators. There is definitely magic in the air, in the very essence of the land. The people who did settle brought all sorts of beliefs with them and they melded perfectly with the atmosphere. Maybe because the natural mysticism of the land enhanced the ability to practice their brand of magic. I love pondering the possibilities.
I set the Bayou Magiste series in the New Orleans area for just that reason. The original Magiste settlers recognized the power found there and how it could be used to their advantage. It made sense to build their new society in that area. In fact, I patterned the Whispering Winds plantation after Oak Alley, possibly the most famous of all the plantations still in existence. The fame comes not only from the oaks that name the place, but the fact that it's been in several movies. I have a beautiful artist proof print of Oak Alley in my dining room, and I find myself looking at it a lot. It inspire me. Maybe I should move it to my office.
So, in keeping with the festivities of the day, Laissez les bons temps rouler!