Photos: Mardi Gras floats on
New Orleans is on a roll! Fresh off the Saints' first-time win at the Super Bowl—which got its own raucous parade last week—came Mardi Gras, still America's craziest street party.
We sent photographer Michael Mohr out to capture the wild costumes, impromptu parades, and energetic, bead-hungry crowds. See the results in our slide show, and look out for photo #9 of couples in clothes and hats made with iconic plastic beads and doubloons.
Michael grew up in New Orleans, and one of his fondest memories, as a boy at Mardi Gras, was getting a prized Zulu coconut. His family and friends lined up along parade routes each year as early as 4 a.m. to claim their territory. They came prepared with tons of food: red beans and rice, Zapps potato chips, jambalaya, beer, and two boxes of Popeye's fried chicken and biscuits.
"There is an energy about Mardi Gras that is beyond explanation," Michael wrote me. "You have to be there to feel it and understand it." True, but his photos get you close!
Readers' Choice: Ultimate dream destination?
We're giving you the floor! We recognize that our readers are true experts, so we want to hear your thoughts on all sorts of travel topics. Our October 2010 magazine issue will be devoted to what you tell us. Let us know your ultimate dream destination—and why—by posting a comment below. The more details to make your case, the better! PLUS Best value destination? Favorite island getaway? BudgetTravel.com/readerschoice
Live from Rome: Snow!
Snow has been falling steadily over the Forum, Trevi Fountain, and the rest of Rome today for the first time since 2005—and at its heaviest in 24 years. The snow (la neve) has naturally thrilled Romans and tourists alike; Reuters reports that the Pope himself was spotted peering out of a Vatican window. Like D.C., Rome isn't used to dealing with more than a few flurries, so roads are backed up with traffic. Buses and the metro are running with limited delays, according to BusinessWeek, and the Colosseum is temporarily shut. Ciampino airport was closed this morning, but has since reopened. You can see photos submitted by locals to the Rome-based newspaper, La Repubblica, here. Rome's coolest vantage point for these kinds of storms? Inside the Pantheon, where you can watch snowflakes falling through the oculus, a round opening in its dome.
Vietnam: Dinged dong means deals
We recently named Hanoi one of the top budget travel destinations for 2010, and in the past week, it became an even more attractive spot for American travelers. This week, the Vietnamese dong was devalued by more than 3 percent, on top of an cut of 5 percent a few months ago, and the dollar is stronger than ever against it. Compare this to Japan, where the dollar recently fell to a 14-year low against the yen, or Thailand, where the greenback hasn't fared well in 2009 against the baht. Check out our reasons for visiting Hanoi, Vietnam's leafy, atmospheric capital, this year. EARLIER 30-plus readers spill their secrets about Vietnam Tricks for Navigating Southeast Asia's Islands Custom-Made in Saigon
Rome: Fried treats for Carnival
There are two main ways to tell it's Carnival season in Rome: children dress up in costumes, tossing colorful paper confetti in the streets; and everyone, regardless of age, indulges in frappe and castagnole, deep fried sweets. Rectangular strips of dough, frappe get deep fried until golden brown and then dusted with confectioner's sugar. These days, you can also find the lighter frappe al forno (baked not fried) as a concession to the diet conscious. Castagnole are chestnut-sized balls of dough—similar to donut holes—that are deep fried and rolled in sugar. Some are soaked in liquor or filled with cream or ricotta cheese, making this dense dessert even richer. Bakeries, delis, and markets throughout Rome will be selling the baked and fried versions of frappe and castagnole until mid- to late-February. You can't really go wrong, but these shops are among the best: Roscioli (via dei Chiavari 34), Forno Campo de' Fiori (Piazza Campo de' Fiori 22), and Biscottificio Innocenti (via delle Luce 21). Go all out and request "un etto," or 100 grams. PREVIOUSLY Carnival festivities and other great February values in Rome. Roman snacks for any craving