Mardi Gras is, well, a lot. It’s a lot of people, a lot of sounds, a lot of music, and a lot of fun. There can’t be anything else quite like celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
So what do you need to know before you head to New Orleans and kick it like a local? Probably some history of the celebrations for starters! Mardi Gras, in New Orleans, dates all the way back to the late 1690’s. The celebrations take place in the week leading up to Lent. This is a festival about indulgence before period of fasting. Usually spanning about a week in February or March. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is always on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Some people are just there for the parties, parades, and processions. We were here for the experiences, and of course the music.
Heading south and settling in
From Vancouver Island; New Orleans, Louisiana is a sea plane, an international flight, and a transfer away, as well as two hours into the future! The most direct flights will get you to New Orleans in about 7 or 8 hours, but it really depends on how savvy you are at booking flights. After our quick zip across the Salish Sea to Vancouver we set out for Denver, Colorado, where we had a short layover, then it was smooth sailing to the Big Easy! We landed, cleared security, hopped in an Uber and made our way to the hotel.
Next it was time to get our bearings. Bearings, right, can you even get your bearings at a week long street festival with around, oh let’s say 1.2 million people? We’re still not sure! It’s yellow, green, purple everywhere and super over the top! Remember, Mardi Gras is a festival about indulgence before a season of fasting. These folks take things seriously and a lot of thought goes into planning the perfect Mardi Gras. We wanted to make sure we were able to go with the flow and see where our days led us.
The general consensus is: this is one big party. But, if you take a moment to step back, all around you are people in wild and intricate costumes, wearable (rideable, edible, drinkable!) art. The sound of music and laughter fill the streets as the perfect, incredibly loud, sound track to the experience. It might be a party, but what we really noticed was a lot of expression of self. People were using this time to show a side of themselves that they might not let out too often. Free expression is a beautiful thing.
The music here was bold, up beat, and you just couldn’t help but moving with it. The big brassy sounds and the steady rhythm of a drum fit in so perfectly here. Mardi Gras classics like “Hey Pocky Way” and “La Danse de Mardi Gras” were crowd pleasers, but all of the music here has that just-for-fun feel to it. When the marchers weren’t winding their way through parade routes there was music coming from every direction, which we have to admit was a bit overwhelming at times. But what else were we expecting!?
Beyond the festivities Mardi Gras had going on, we visited some incredible monuments, and landmarks. A highlight was visiting Louis Armstrong Park, just a ways away from the French Quarter. The park is dedicated to the New Orleans jazz legend of the same name. We loved the large statue of Satchmo smiling down at us, holding his trumpet for eternity.
Special mention to all of the Crawfish, Creole, and Gumbo we sampled! The food here is that reach for the stars, over the fence, world series kind of stuff. We’ll have to come back to really get to all the little “must try” places another time!
While our crew arrived home from New Orleans mid-day yesterday another crew member headed down to Joshua Tree National Park. Friday we are heading to SxSW in Texas, and Tuesday our interview team is headed to India. See you here next Thursday!