Fiction in Real Life: My Week As Tiana From The Princess and The Frog, Day 4

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Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Day 4: In which our clueless heroine meets Lottie, lives as a Mardi Gras queen, and finds Tiana’s Palace

Tiana would never be this lazy, I think guiltily as I roll out of bed, scandalously late in the morning. But I couldn’t resist sleeping in. Today’s the first day I don’t have something official on my itinerary, and I was up late last night making a friend: my new roommate, Anna!

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Okay, okay, so Anna isn’t a lot like the unhinged Charlotte “Lottie” LaBouff…aside from being super warm, friendly, and game for adventure! She tells me about her home in Singapore, and we giggle over our shared love of Korean dramas. I tell her about my Princess and the Frog project, and mention that I saw a restaurant called “The Palace” on Canal Street. We make plans to meet there for dinner. Tonight, Tiana’s restaurant fantasy will come true!

In the meantime, though, why not make the most of my lazy spirit? I’m feeling awfully indulgent today, and since I’ll be spending the evening as Tiana…I decide to spend the daytime as Lottie!

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I change into a girly pink sun dress, spritz up with perfume, and snap up lacy white parasol. Then I flounce outside to catch a streetcar, deciding to emulate Charlotte’s iconic event: a Mardi Gras parade wedding.

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It’s past Mardi Gras season, but New Orleans has a famous museum dedicated to the event’s most decadent floats and artwork. The last bus to Mardi Gras World doesn’t leave for a while.

So I tour Royal Street as I wait, making a few frivolous purchases to honor Tiana’s spendthrift best friend. Royal is parallel to Bourbon Street, and the revels of last night still cover the pavement. Service workers sweep up broken glass, and New Orleans natives walk through piles of confetti like it’s the most ordinary thing in the world.

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I get so absorbed in shopping that I almost miss the last bus to Mardi Gras World. I’m the only passenger, and when I arrive the tour group is quite small– guess that’s what happens when you sleep away half the day!

Elaborate plaster statues and enormous float decorations rise around the warehousey museum, which also serves as a workshop.

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A slightly arrogant tour guide explains the history of Mardi Gras parades, and of Krewes, the exclusive wealthy societies that sponsor different floats in the parade. Charlotte LaBouff would definitely have belonged to one of these.

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New Orleans has a tradition of crowning a Mardi Gras King every year, and in The Princess and the Frog, this honor was given to Charlotte’s sugar baron father. I snagged a picture with this plaster float king to commemorate it!

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*Charlotte voice* Bless my stars- that makes me a real live princess, don’t it? WHERE’S MY PRINCE, DADDY?

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Enormous ceiling fans beat on the cavernous ceiling, toiling to keep the warehouse building cool– and threatening to blow up my sundress skirt! I find myself only half listening to the tour guide, transfixed by the larger-than-life sculptures that loom around us. It feels a bit like being Alice in Wonderland.

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Since mine is the last group, the museum closes shop around us as we browse, casting shadows on the plaster faces and lending a strange, haunted feeling to the abandoned floats. Many will be stripped down, whitewashed and re-carved, over and over for countless Mardi Gras to come.

I feel Lottie’s levity leave me and Tiana’s thoughtful seriousness set in. There’s so much history, likely both blessed and cursed, hidden in these bright colors.

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When at last I leave the Mardi Gras World museum, the afternoon heat puts me in a lethargy. I travel home by streetcar, nap, then change into my favorite Tiana attire of this trip so far:

The Palace Dress.

This outfit is interesting because it exists entirely in Tiana’s fantasies, and never appears in the film during her real adventures. A sleek white gown adorns Tiana when she dreams up the Palace restaurant in “Almost There,”  and the gown returns again when Dr. Facilier mimics her fantasy, using her ambitions to tempt her into betraying Naveen.

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The mirage of Tiana’s Palace is a beautiful, sensuous scene, and when Anna and I arrive at the Palace Cafe in New Orleans I almost tear up at the fairy-taleness of it all.

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It really does feel like dreams come true in New Orleans.

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I insist on taking a picture of our fabulous Palace Cafe server, whose warm beautiful smile reminds me of Tiana instantly. Over a delicious (though brow-raisingly expensive) dinner, Anna and I chatter about careers and past romantic flames. I feel like I’m glowing from head to foot. It’s part joy, and part the, er, substantial Godiva-laced mocha I have as a dessert drink.

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Anna is the best sport ever about my Princess and the Frog project, and offers to take pictures the entire evening. Even when I feel like I’m going overboard she hums, “Are you sure you don’t want a picture? It’s your only chance!”

And she’s right, after all.

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Though I already feel like I’ve lived several happy-ever-afters, our evening isn’t over yet. Filled to the brim with delicious food, Anna and I don elaborate masks and head over to Bourbon Street, ready to find the heart of New Orleans nightlife.

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Revelers cheer at us from balconies above, tossing beads and bracelets. There’s almost something Shakespearean about it. Grinning, I catch a golden necklace and motley bracelet. I know you can get them in any souvenir store, but these feel special. Everything about tonight does.

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As far as Bourbon life goes however, we’re both pretty low-key,  and are perfectly content in a small, exclusive bar with awesome live music.  After listening and grooving from our seats, we escape up to the second floor and hang out on the balcony.

“You should toss your beads– find a handsome man!” I tease Anna.

“There aren’t any,” she snorts in reply, and I laugh and point out candidates.

“Look, that one’s in a suit. Guys look amazing in suits.”

“Only if they know how to wear one.”

She has a point.

Though to me, everything looks rosy right now.

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Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being hard-working Tiana, chasing her real world ambitions. But tonight I live in her fantasy.

When we head back to the hostel in a buzzed, exhausted haze, the music of Bourbon Street slips into my dreams. I think of novels, of princes, of endings. And I mumble: almost there.

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Thanks for keeping up! Read the End, Day 5, here.

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