Mardi Gras & Ash Wednesday in NOLA

I knew, since 2009, that Mardi Gras would fall on my birthday in 2020 and I´ve literally been avoiding New Orleans until now because of that. Turning 33 isnt a big deal really, but having 3 wonderful women and close friends fly in from all around the world for it was a big deal to me. Coincidentally, I also knew someone thru work thats from NOLA, and an Icelandic friend happened to be visiting NOLA at the same time for Mardi Gras, so I can say I had 5 special people to share time with.

feeling blessed with this company

I haven´t even been to Louisiana before, and I was excited about the weirdest things like oysters and Tabasco sauce. Both of those were great things, in fact the fresh oysters I had at Crescent City Brewhouse are the best I´ve ever had, and the other touristic thing to must-do was sail on the Mississippi on a steamboat. Unfortunately the Natchez was docked for some repairs so a horse-drawn carriage ride thru the French Quarter was the most touristy thing we did.

our carriage was actually dragged by a mule

Then of course there was Mardi Gras. We missed the weekend before, which is a highlight for many, but arriving on a the Monday night before Fat Tuesday was already completely and utter culture shock. We followed Krewe de Poo from Rosalia Alley around Bywater, with drums and music to parade to, stopping occasionally for shopping cart wars. As you do.

straight out of my dreams

Mardi Gras day we watched the truck parade come down canal street and meandered down Bourbon Street trying to find the coolest beads. You usually had to flash 3 sets of boobs for a good necklace, so we had to be content with our normal beads. I settled for a yellow, green and purple feather boa and some face glitter, and when we had king´s cake in the Musical Legends Park, I got the baby!

king´s cake and the baby

I felt like I was on drugs just from watching the festival goers around me, but keeping a buzz all day wasn´t hard with the fishbowl cocktails. At midnight Bourbon street emptied from some chaotic scare (someone pulled a gun?) so we rang my birthday in at a bar on lockdown with a few tequila shots.

riding the street cars around, just for fun

Ash Wednesday was recovery day, and my wonderful friends took me to the Ace hotel rooftop for rosé and fish tacos. We went out that night to the oldest bar in Louisiana, Lafitte´s Blacksmith Shop Bar, and the first stand up bar in the country, Tujagues. The music and architecture constantly surrounding us was so memorable everywhere – it felt like I was in Disney themed park for an imagined New Orleans. The cajun food was delicious, since I love anything spicy, but I can´t quite figure out why King´s cake is so bad. And the baby really is a choking hazard.


Buenos Aires, take three

I had been to BA twice before, the first time more than ten years ago at the end of a two and a half month South American backpacking trip, and the second time in 2011 before flying to Patgonia and boarding a ship to Antarctica. I remember loving BA and Argentina as a place I’d happily call home – the mix of horses, music, dance, meat, wine, European and Latin American culture too good to be true. I wanted to become a tango dancer and speak Spanish after my last visit, and both are more or less functioning today, so I felt warmly welcomed, especially in the late summer season when Carnival would also hit our neighbourhood of San Telmo.

Carnival street performer

We were 5 gauchos and gauchas, meeting in an Airbnb affectionately called ‘Bohemian Apartment’, only a few blocks from the San Telmo market. We ate steak and wine, chorizo and more wine, except for little Jana, our token vegetarian. We walked the entire neighbourhoods of San Telmo, La Boca, and the fabled cemetery de la Recoleta, and I ran a few kilometres every morning in a different direction to keep up with my marathon training. We saw a tango show, and I tango danced in the milonga that followed with men I never had to open my eyes for.

La Boca

We learned that Carnival in San Telmo meant buying pressurised soap foam and attacking kids in the street before they showered us first, and failed to get close enough in the crowd to really watch the main event – hordes of marching bands and beautiful, feathered and sparkling dancers paraded down Av. de Mayo street while we kept the eyes on the backs of our heads open.

the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo, and us, in our hats and shoes

Nearly all of us bought a cowboy hat, some cowboy boots, and two of us, a boina hat and alpargatas slippers in true gaucho fashion. The smell of leather in some shops felt like we had already walked into the stable, but we were headed northwest to Cordoba province for our 6 day riding trip, 120km away from the Cordoba airport to a slice of heaven called Ongamira valley.

dinner at Orilla with Mr. Trocca himself

After eating our way through the San Telmo Market and the wonderful kitchen of Fernando Trocca at Orilla, we also stayed a night in Palermo near the large, green parks and modern highrises that felt no different to upper eastside New York. The weather was perfect in March, and the constantly fluctuating peso was always cheap, so leaving was hard, but a polo and horse festival trip for Januaray 2020 (Festival de la doma y el folclore) is already in the works – you want to join?

Argentina in High Season

I´ve been in Buenos Aires about a week now, and the first thing I noticed when I got into the city at 2 pm was the sleepy streets. This has both to do with the fact that siesta starts between 2 – 3 and locals lock up to nap in the afternoon heat, and also because it is mid January, the tourism high season for Poretños (residents of Buenos Aires) to go away to neighbouring Chile or Uruguay or somewhere further north. Alot of shop fronts are closed and the streets are filled with about as many non-locals as locals.

The first day and night here I spent with someone I met thru couchsurfing. He is a Porteño, but doing his PhD in Philosophy in Oxford so benefited me greatly with his excellent english and spanish fluency. We shared great conversation over a martini at a famous bar called Milion, rated to be one of the top 10 nightlight spots in the World, and topped the night off with an Argentine cigar and red wine from the Mendoza region.

The next day I had a glimpse into suburban life, as we visited Pablo´s (the couchsurfer) best friend´s country home, complete with afternoon tea and an outdoor pool. That night, my travel partner arrived into Buenos Aires – Steve from Berkeley – and we frequented the cozy streets of San Telmo – one of the many neighbourhoods comprising Buenos Aires. We stayed together in one of the coolest hostels I´ve ever seen, our room being an old medical library from the University of Buenos Aires, complete with texts on testes to steroids. We could hang my travel sized hammock from the balcony, and smoked the portable hookah I decided was worth taking up a third of the space in my backpack.

Together we couchsurfed the next few nights with Fernando, an excellent host with a comfortable apartment newly equipped with a much needed airconditioner. The second night there we went to Tigre, a town on an intriquate water delta 1 hr north east of the city, and toured around the water ways with some $1 road beers. We didnt actually make it home that night, because we randomly decided at 10 pm to bus 3 hrs north to the popular party town of Gualaguyachu, where Argentinian Carnival happens every saturday night for the month of January and February. We arrived sleepy at 1:45 am to catch the last of the parade, then went to a 2000 person capacity nightclub to greet the sunrise – complete with a band of 20 drummers who played an excellent outro to the long fiesta.

We slept a few hours on a dock, stretching out over the most beautiful, serene river I´ve ever seen, and woke up to the blistering sun to meet 2 friendly stray dogs who ended up following us around the rest of the day. We finally made it back to Fernandos the next afternoon, and still have yet to convince him that any of this actually happened, since we had no working cameras to capture any evidence.