New Orleans is full of life, great food, and natural disasters. Two of those reasons were why I made my third trip down there to celebrate Mardi Gras. I feel I went at three very crucial points in my life that allowed me to experience the city in dramatically different ways.
I was 18 years old the first time I went to Mardi Gras. I am fairly certain that all I packed that year was my fake ID and a duffel bag full of beads acquired at a local party stop. It truly was a college kid's paradise, however it is important to remember a college kid's paradise can also be bought dirt cheap. We camped about 40 minutes outside of New Orleans, where it rained constantly, and our tents floated from campsite to campsite. During my first night there, I sadly was victim of a pretty bad car accident (not due to inebriation) which left me toothless (just front 4 teeth?). However, this did not stop me from making the most of my time there. I spent the rest of the trip ignoring doctor’s orders and pretending I was a mute as I sucked down Hand Grenades. In spite of losing my teeth (or maybe because of it), it was the craziest experience of my life up to that point.
My second trip was when I was 21, following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I went down with a smaller group with no set plans other than hoping that we would be able to make the most of it. We were lucky enough this time to stay at a friend’s house in Baton Rouge. We soon realized that even after one of the most destructive events to occur to their city, everyone was still in high spirits and celebrating as much as ever. Being 21 opened up a plethora of new things to explore. We were able to go into bars without fear, we had some semblance of an income so we could actually afford to buy drinks without wondering how we were planning on paying next semester's tuition, and we were more aware of what was going on and conversed with people to find out the best places to go and the best parades to check out.
I don't think I saw a single parade the first time I went to Mardi Gras. At the time I was more focused on trading beads with young uninhibited women. Now I am 28 and this experience was even more distinctive than the other two. This year, I rented a house for myself and my friends in New Orleans and did not have to worry about a designated driver as we planned on taking cabs everywhere with a credit card that would get plenty of use. I was able to experience some of the best food New Orleans has to offer and probably every drink as well. On top of everything, I had the honor of attending a wedding down there afterwards that truly exemplified New Orleans culture.
There is no place quite like New Orleans. The variety of sights, trom the French Quarter, which closely resembles a frat party turned loose on the streets, to Frenchman Street, where you can hear some of the best live music possible, to day-trips to places like Jackson Square and City Park, makes New Orleans a truly breath taking city. I know my liver is very upset with me so I will be taking some time to detox after such a long excursion out there, but I can say without question it was (and always will be) worth it.