Mardi Gras is Coming!

It has been a whole week of Mardi Gras celebrations here in Louisiana, culminating in the big day itself, Fat Tuesday, on Tuesday, March 5th. It’s been an amazing week full of fun, friends, food, music, parades and all that jazz. It’s also the kind of week that you’re sad to see end, but know your body sees differently. It was great to be back in Louisiana for Mardi Gras this year as the last time I was here for Mardi Gras was 2015.

After I wrote last week, I did not, in fact get out of New Orleans. It is way too easy for me to get stuck here, and that is exactly what happened. But in a good way, for sure. Wednesday night after I finished up last week’s post, I went out to see the Nyx parade which was a lot of fun. One of my friends was riding in it, so she dropped me a hand decorated purse, the prized throw from that parade.

Krewe of Nyx

Thursday I recorded my podcast, which will be done and published by this time next week. After that, I relaxed for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. It was nice to just relax at my friend Luke’s house and watch TV and take a nap. I don’t get a lot of days like that out here on the road, and I knew a big weekend was coming, so I took advantage of it. I did make it out to the Muses parade in the evening though, which is always a lot of fun.

Mardi Gras Friday in the Quarter

Friday, Luke’s son Oscar was off of school, but Luke was not, so the two of us spent the morning together. We went for some donuts at Blue Dot Donuts on Esplanade and then made our way into the French Quarter. We wanted to see the Krewe of Bosom Buddies Parade, but it turned out to be incredibly short. With some extra time on our hands, we ducked into the Historic New Orleans Collection museum for a bit. It’s funny going to a museum like that with a kid, because you hear all kinds of interesting stories from the docents who want it to be interesting for them. We especially enjoyed seeing some of the old guns and military uniforms, and a painting of the burning of the St. Charles Hotel which was painted over another painting which you could still see if you looked closely. When we were finished at the museum, Oscar took off to one of his friend’s houses, and I took off for Baton Rouge.

Getting Ready for Spanish Town Parade

I got into Baton Rouge just before dark, and found a good place to get a much needed salad in the midst of all the good eating I’ve been doing. Then I went to meet up with my friend Jason and his girlfriend Maia at their friend Gene’s house in Spanish Town. Jason and I went to Penn State together, and you may remember me meeting up with him at the Little C Music Festival in Canton, Ohio back in September. He was in Baton Rouge to promote another music festival he had planned for next month here in Louisiana. When he went to a meeting about the festival, the whole thing was promptly cancelled by the Lieutenant Governor. It seems that he was afraid if it didn’t go well it would affect his reelection campaign. I don’t know when or how we reached a point where reelection has become the end-all and be-all of elected office, but apparently it has. I was sorry to hear about the cancellation, as much for the people of Louisiana who will miss out on a really good time as for anyone. It wasn’t a happy night for Jason, but it was still good to see him and hang out. Their friend Gene had a wonderful back yard, with a propane fire and lots of comfy seats. There were lots of friends and family in town for the big Spanish Town Parade which was happening on Saturday, so we all stayed up late telling stories and having a good time. Gene was also kind enough to offer me a bed for the night, which I happily accepted.

Spanish Town Parade in Baton Rouge

Saturday started early with cocktails and preparation for the big parade. People and food started to arrive, pots of gumbo went on the stove, and everyone was excited for the noontime parade. I went for a walk around to take some photos of the parade route and the floats lined up in front of the State Capitol. This was definitely going to be a more laid back kind of parade than you get in New Orleans. There were 87 floats in the parade, some well decorated, some not, but all there to have a good time. Before the parade began, I headed back to Gene’s house which was right on the parade route, had some wonderful food and got myself ready for the big Spanish Town Parade. It really was a fun parade, with lots of throws and music and good times. It was interesting to see another non-New Orleans parade and see how the rest of Louisiana celebrates Mardi Gras. I got a lot of good beads, and we all had a really good time laughing and shouting and chasing beads and stuffed animals around the yard.

Ready for the Big Parade

After the parade, we walked around a bit and then I think a lot of us took a much needed nap. After another afternoon wander, we ended up going to Poor Boy Lloyds downtown for some dinner. This is an old spot that’s been around for a while, and while all I wanted and needed was a salad, everyone else’s food looked pretty good. When we finished our dinner, it was about time for bed after a long and enjoyable day in Baton Rouge.

We were up early on Sunday, because Jason and Maia had an early flight and I was going to take them back to the airport in New Orleans. We had a nice ride down and got them there in plenty of time. I headed to the gym for a bit and then made my way back into town and headed back to Luke’s place. We left soon thereafter to the parade route to catch the Krewe of Bacchus Parade, which is also really good. The floats are big and beautifully decorated, and it’s definitely a good parade to catch. After the parade, Luke and I stayed up late talking and debating. I always enjoy hearing his perspective on things and hearing a different point of view.

Amazing Costumes

We slept in a bit on Monday, and then I headed down to try and find a good spot near the French Quarter to park for the night to be in a good spot for Tuesday morning. I wanted to be able to walk to the French Quarter and not be too far away, and I also didn’t want to pay for it. I found a good spot on Orleans Ave. just about a 10 minute walk north of Rampart Street and parked there. From there I headed down to the French Quarter and wandered around a bit, taking photos and enjoying the cool, sunny weather. Then I met up with my friend Jay who has worked for the same tour company I do for a number of years. We headed out and wandered around together for a while chatting and drinking some beers.

‘Twas the Night Before Mardi Gras at the Erin Rose

At some point, I decided to head over to the Erin Rose to catch up with my friends Mike and Kristy. The place was packed, but we had some drinks there and then headed on to Fahy’s for a few more. While we were there, it started to rain - a cold, miserable rain which I just hoped ended before Mardi Gras began (it did). Mike and Kristy invited me to spend Mardi Gras with them, which was really kind of them as otherwise I would wandering around by myself. I knew they would have a bunch of different things on their plan too, so I knew I would get the photos I wanted if I was hanging out with them, thus accomplishing all of my Mardi Gras goals at once. We all called it an early night to get some sleep before the big day.

Mardi Gras Morning

I slept for a few hours and then around 3 a.m. I started hearing car doors slamming. A lot of car doors slamming. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I opened my blinds for a look. Apparently it was time for Mardi Gras to begin, and people were out staking out their spots on the “neutral ground” (the wide, grassy median) for the day. They were setting up tents and firing up grills and all kinds of great things. I just didn’t expect them out so early. At some point after 5, I managed to get back to sleep for a bit, but I was up again at 7 to head out into the day.

I met Mike and Kristy at their friends’ place in the Bywater neighborhood. It was a really cool old house with very eclectic yet tasteful New Orleans decor. It was really a cool place to start the day. There was food and drinks and conversation and music, and people were arriving in their wonderful costumes to begin their Mardi Gras. We were there for probably an hour or two, and then we headed off to join the St. Anthony Ramblers for their rambling Mardi Gras walking parade.

Our Mardi Gras Krewe

We wandered through the Bywater and the Marigny with them, and eventually crossed Rampart Street and made a stop in front of Sydney’s Saloon on St. Bernard. It was there that we crossed paths with a group of Mardi Gras Indians. The tradition of the Mardi Gras Indians dates back over a hundred years to a time when African-American communities didn’t feel they had a part in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras traditions. Instead of the traditional “krewes”, they instead created “tribes” and paid tribute to the Native Americans who once helped enslaved people escape. Their parades route are kept secret and are usually up to the Big Chief of each tribe. Mardi Gras Indian costumes take the entire year to prepare and are all hand sewn and beaded, and truly a remarkable thing to see. I really enjoyed taking photos of the Mardi Gras Indians as they marched up St. Bernard.

Mardi Gras Indians

From there, we headed off to the Marigny and then broke off from the parade for a few drinks at different bars around the Quarter. We eventually ended up back at Fahy’s with many of the people we had started the day with. A some point, I headed out to go take some more photos while the sun was still up. I enjoyed walking around and seeing so many wonderful costumes, and even headed to Bourbon Street for a few minutes to see how the tourists were enjoying their Mardi Gras. There were plenty of people on balconies throwing beads, and a lot of people on the street. Spirits were high, and everyone was enjoying themselves, but it’s a shame that so many of these people miss the really good parts of Mardi Gras. To each their own, though. Finally, I headed back to my van and made my way back to Luke’s for a long, good night’s sleep. It was a great day. More on my Mardi Gras and tons more photos to come this week.

Today, I’m just taking it easy. Trying to catch up on some work and then be able to spend some time with Luke and his son this afternoon. The day after Mardi Gras is usually a quiet one around New Orleans, so I don’t feel like I’m missing much.

Good Times

This coming week, I will definitely be leaving New Orleans, although I have a wedding to go to on Saturday so I won’t get too far. After the wedding though, it’s off and running for me. I have a lot to see this month and my time is getting shorter and shorter. I haven’t really come up with a plan yet, but I imagine I will head across the south of the state and then make my way north and around before passing back through New Orleans on my way out of Louisiana. I hope to be well on my way by this time next week, but I don’t know where I will be, so you’ll have to stay tuned for more on that. I do hope to start sifting through some of these photos though. I plan on getting some great Mardi Gras posts up over the next week, so you can get a better picture of what Mardi Gras is all about. Until then, I hope you have a good week and do some celebrating of your own. I will be keeping it low key for a while in the celebration category, although St. Patrick’s Day is less than two weeks away. Have a great week, y’all and we’ll see you back here next time.

Happy Mardi Gras!!