So my holiday was spectacular! If you haven’t been to New Orleans, then I highly highly recommend going, what a great city!
We started the trip with some Southern hospitality, as a local heard us telling the taxi usher that we were going to Uptown (a newly “trendy” suburb), to which he offered us a free ride in his cab (paid for by his company), because he was also going to Uptown. What a great start!
We arrived at our Air bnb, which was nothing less then beautiful. Cozy, quaint, nestled right into the heart of Uptown, 5 min walk to a bunch of new restaurants, and a 15 min walk to the parades for Mardi gras weekend on St. Charles street.
Right away we dropped our bags and headed out to the parade. On our arrival to St. Charles street we were met with bright neon lights, dazzling beads in kaleidoscope colors, and the roar of the parade in full swing. The floats were pretty epic, and the theme for this parade was “humor in politics”. Example of some floats were: Donald Trump as King Kong and Barack Obama as sheep, pretty funny. We stayed for about 3 hours and caught as many beads as we could (which is like shrapnel sometimes, and unexpectedly hits you right in the face!). After this parade we headed back to the air bnb, which we started calling “home” after about 2 days.
The next couple of days were a blur (drinking is allowed everywhere… enough said). We headed out using the air bnb bikes (it is all flat, great from biking) and cruised around town to a parade in the downtown core (CBD). This was more of a family friendly parade, similar to the night before, but much more children friendly. We then proceeded to Bourbon street when the parade was finished, which made me feel like a sardine, it was packed! At this point we were fairly buzzed, so we headed into Bourbon street looking for some lunch. We happened to stumble upon a Creole-Italian fusion restaurant right at the cross-hair of Bourbon street and Canal (I wish I could remember the name, it was so good!). We ended up getting the table right in-front of the open french doors, which was the best spot for people watching as we ate our super delicious marinated blue crab claws, creole-style shrimp with crusty bread, and crayfish and lobster stuffed ravioli (OMG so good!). After lunch we continued down Bourbon st. to check out the “seediness” we had heard so much about…. which wasn’t that bad to be honest. We stayed well into the night and only saw 3 ladies pull up their shirts for beads, but there was one large breasted woman standing on a second story balcony as bare chested as can be, but other-than that not much else. In general people were having a good time, we didn’t see any vomit anywhere, and no fights, so I’d say it was pretty tame. We wandered and didn’t really like the club scene on Bourbon so we started our way home… at which point we came across street buskers playing plastic pales and metal bowls. This was epic. There were so talented that we danced on the street. There was a large crowd around us and everyone was getting into the trace of this New Orleans scene. It was amazing!
The third day, pretty hungover, we ate some famous Beignets, which are like little delicious pillows of donut coated in powered sugar, mmm mmm. At this point, and this particular weekend, it was one of the biggest weekends for parades, because it was the last weekend before Fat Tuesday, which is the end of Mardi Gras. Once again, we watched a parade on St. Charles. It was good, we caught beads, and started to get a little bored of the parade scene. We traveled back “home”, napped off our hangovers, made dinner, and then started to chat with our next door neighbor. Turned out he was a Frenchman that moved to New Orleans 4 years earlier, who played in a French-style jazz band, and he was an amazing saxophone player (he practiced sometime in the mornings, which was amazing to hear through the wall). So, we ended up chatting with him on the porch for a while, drank some wine and enjoyed the warm night breeze. Before he tucked in for the night he invited us to come to his friends place for the “local” Mardi Gras parade (for the local population of the ART DISTRICT in New Orleans). We were intrigued, because we were not aware of a “locals” parade. So we got the address and a time (830am!) and went to bed anticipating tomorrow (which was Fat Tuesday, end of Mardi Gras).
We excitedly got up, got into our Mardi Gras masks, and headed out on the bikes to the art district, specifically St. Ann’s street. We got to the house and were met by outrageous costumes, cold fried chicken for breakfast and an energy like no other. On Fat Tuesday, the locals all dress in extravagant costumes (the more outrageous the better), start their parade at a locals’ house, and then follow a brass band for about 4 hours all the way through the art district and into the CBD to meet up with the other big parades going on. It was wild!! The costumes were amazing, the energy was amazing, the music was amazing! We followed the crowd and band for about and hour and a half, had a couple very strong drinks at Mime’s bar, and then turned back to grab the bikes. Now, drinking and biking are not the best mix, and I have to apologize to any parked cars that got hurt in the process of me driving back to my air bnb (oops! hahah). Anyways, we made it home in one piece, but not before we biked across the elusive “Black Indians”, which are actually gangs, that dress up in extremely elaborate feathered costumes, and they meet up on random streets to “battle”. The history is that they actually used to fight each-other with knives, but now it is only a lyrical battle (we hope or think), and they talk their beef out with an usher, but it is still all done in the middle of a random local street, and you never know where they are going to show up. It was a once in a life-time experience!
After the hussel and bussel of Mardi Gras we did some touristy things over a period of 4 days, which included; the Insectarium (largest collection of insects on North America, pretty neat), biked to the Mighty Mississippi, did a swamp and air-boat tour to see alligators (very beautiful and fun), and we went to the Oak Alley and Laura (creole) plantations to learn some history of the cane sugar industry/slave trade in Louisiana. All amazing tours and definitely recommended. We paid extra for the air-boat added to the swamp tour, which was much more exciting then the slow boat.
One of our most exciting nights was when we went to Frenchman Street on the edge of the French Quarter. This is where a lot of live music is, and it was amazing. You can literally just walk from bar to bar and listen to some of New Orleans finest! We started with a jazzy-funk cover band, then moved on to a small bar with an amazing blues band, then to a more country creole-style band, then back to the blues because they were so awesome! In the middle of skipping around from bar to bar we encountered an awesome MC by the name of Ray Wimley. He was lyrically amazing! You can find him on SoundCloud at Ray_Wimley, it’s seriously good stuff. What else…. hmmm….
The final day we went to the French Market, which was cool but definitely a tourist trap. You pretty much buy a bunch of crap you don’t need that says “New Orleans!” on it, an over-priced crepe (almost $11 Canadian!), a bunch of cheap sunglasses marketed as “designer”, and then you get out the other side to people already partying for St.Paddy’s day which is 2 weeks away….. haha what a place!
So that about sums up our trip to New Orleans. It was a great time and I am glad I got to see and do as much as we did. Everyone said “be careful”, which we were, but we never felt unsafe and everyone we talked to was lovely. There is definitely a Southern charm to the city and its people. So, don’t just go there to drink! Go see the culture and music, do the touristy stuff (for 2 days max) and get to the swamp!
Check out my New Orleans pictures and add me on Instagram @shans_nat-know_how
Thanks for reading, and be aware and eat with care