It seems that Mardi Gras is one of those things that I've wanted to experience at SOME point, just for the experience, but never really made the push to be down there for all the craziness. This year, however, we were actually at the right place, at the right time and with the right friends!
We were parked in St. Augustine, Florida, which is actually the oldest city in the country, (Karen's blog post on that HERE) and were lucky to run into our friends and fellow full-timers Shonda and Michael. We stayed in the same RV park and explored the city together while we were there. It was then that we learned that they were headed to Mardi Gras after leaving Florida. We hadn't really thought about it, but after looking at the map and calendar, we figured it was a convenient time to do it, and heck, we'd be with friends! We were in!
Now I'm not really sure how to explain Mardi Gras, because it's one of those experiences where if you haven't seen it for yourself, words and photos might not do it justice. It's crazy wild.
We arrived a few days before Fat Tuesday and set out for Bourbon Street one night, and at 8 pm it was already packed with people in costume, street musicians and women lifting their shirts for strings of beads tossed from streetside balconies. Karen and I had to hold on to each other's shirts just so we wouldn't lose each other, which could easily happen in a split second amongst those masses.
What's interesting though, is that we ended up finding our happy place NOT on Bourbon Street, or in the French Quarter, or on the main parade route. Instead we hit up Frenchman Street and found it to be like a breath of fresh air in comparison. Now, mind you, it was still Mardi Gras and it was crowded. But it was crowded with locals and funky, more eclectic parades. We visited a few bars/restaurants there and they all had such a unique and local flavor, and it was all classic New Orleans, from the decor style, to the music, to the people.
On Fat Tuesday, we ventured out really early. And of course, at 8:00 am, there were bars open, with customers drinking outside. We had tickets for a venue called the Eiffel Society, which had a private building with restrooms, a bar, food, etc. It also had a private grandstand so we were able to watch the parades without having out toes stepped on. All in all, the right choice for watching the mahem!
In the end, we were really glad that we went, and now that we know the SERIOUS craziness can be avoided and traded in for a more local and interesting experience, we'd probably do it again!
Next stop: Texas (and Vintage Bus updates)!