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.

 

Roadtrip USA

A little big city hopping in the states is always fun, especially in the early spring when everything and everyone starts sparking back to life. Festivals and carnivals start happening again, and the end goal of this roadtrip was Mardi Gras in New Orleans for my 33rd birthday.

NY, NY

I started in New York for a long weekend, staying with a friend in east village. Being half a block away from C avenue, there was plenty of night life, and the Zum Schneider bar was having its final Karneval after their 20 year rental agreement would end. I spent my days running or biking, and my evenings at meditation events with Franck Raharinosy or yoga classes at Humming Puppy.

Welcome to Miami!

My next stop was Miami, where I spent 3 days with a friend walking her dog, working remotely and lounging at the Soho Beach House. I rented a car and drove thru the Everglades to Anna Maria island, where my Danish friend and her family had rented an apartment at the Bali Hai beachfront resort. We waited for turtles and dolphins but a cold front came in and we bundled up for some windy beach walks instead.

roadtrip crew

I met my roommate from 2018 yoga teacher training in Goa in St. Petersburg, where she lives out of her campervan in between fairs and human statue gigs. Only a few miles later over a huge bridge, I finally arrived in Tampa where our roadtrip crew would assemble. Clio flew in from Colorado, Ditte the Dane and I picked her up and drove to my friend Mike´s place to wait for Jana to arrive from Germany. We went out for gin and tonics at the Gin Joint, meeting up with Clint of Travr, and crashed on couches with Mike´s cuddly dog until the next morning.

hiking around the alligator lakes of St. Mark´s National Wildlife refuge

We then drove thru Florida, Alabama and Mississippi to get to New Orleans, stopping for the night at Steinhatchee and Fort Walton. Steinhatchee had some great food and fluorescent coloured cocktails at Kathi´s Crabshack, followed by a live band at the County Line Bar where we made friends with all kinds of Trump supporters.

leaving the parade with beads and mooncakes

We drove through Mobile, Alabama right on time to witness America´s oldest Mardi Gras parade tradition, filling our pockets with mooncakes and our necks with colourful beads. Mississippi was gone in the blink of an eye, but we managed to stop at a microbrewery called Lazy Magnolia.

I often felt rather overdressed

Checking into our Airbnb just meters from the French Quarter was the highlight of the roadtrip, the feeling of finally arriving to the chaos of a fringe culture we were not dressed appropriately for. Our beads and basic clothing were miles away from others´costumes, but at our first Krew Poo parade, we realized noone cares how you look or what you wear, or if you wear nothing at all. The first night ended at a drag bar and some karaoke, and the next couple of days in and around Bourbon street were as much of a shock as many moments I remember from Burning Man.

Eventful Days in Washington D.C.

a snow stroll on Little Seneca Lake

a snow stroll on Little Seneca Lake

Its supposed to be spring in 2 weeks, and we’re much further south here than in Boston, but still a snowstorm came tumbling down on us a couple days into March. After partying into the wee hours of Sunday morning with my best friend Ursula, we spent all of Sunday hosting a brunch for 25 people – not an easy feat when you’re jet lagged, hungover, and have no idea who anyone is. But I knew my mimosas and bloody mary’s just fine so the food turned out great. Sunday night we went to Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election party, someone I had never expected to meet in person after seeing him so often on TV with President Obama.

Me and Ursy by the Washington monument

Me and Ursy by the Washington monument

The snow came while we slept, but everything was decided hours before the first flakes of snow fell and all hell broke loose with school closures and cancelled flights. In the end, only a few centimetres fell, but without enough snow plows or winter tires, everything still shut down. The capital wash an eerie ghost town on Monday, barely a car or person in sight on the mall where we went to check out all the major monuments. We saw Abraham Lincoln, the new MLK memorial, the Washington Monument, Capitol Hill, the White House, and finally the Jefferson memorial where our only company was a stray (or rabid) fox.

Then Tuesday came, not any regular Tuesday, but Mardi Gras Tuesday, and some schools were still closed and flights were still delayed. Me and Ursula had breakfast with her mom, who was on her way to the elementary school she works at, where President Obama would be visiting that afternoon and deliver his budget speech. She sent us minute by minute updates on his whereabouts in the school, had her car swept by security, and later showed us the footage of his visit on the 5 o’clock news. We visited Ursula’s 94 year old grandmother, who was once the Mardi Gras queen in New Orleans back in the 40’s, then went for our own Mardi Gras party with a whole lot of beads and a feather mask.

the rabid fox in front of Jefferson memorial

the rabid fox in front of Jefferson memorial

When Wednesday came, there were no more politicians to meet or flight cancellations, so I headed to Reagan National Airport to catch my on-time flight to Haiti. Since I was flying via Miami, there were a lot of over bookings and stand-by’s from the last 2 days of delayed flights, so I volunteered myself off for a travel voucher. I returned to Ursula for Ash Wednesday, where we broke all the rules of lent, and tried to book her on my new flight to Haiti with the voucher I received. That didn’t work so well, but my feelings of failure only lasted a few hours until Thursday, when I woke up to a phone call from American Airlines that my flight had been rebooked for tomorrow.

Now its Thursday, and instead of flying to Haiti, I walked around the Smithsonian museums all day. I learned a lot about American history and natural science without paying a penny, and saw some of the most beautiful buildings and exhibits I’ve ever seen. At the portrait gallery in the Reynolds Center, I saw images of all 44 American presidents except Obama. I also saw the first piano ever placed in the White House, a beautiful 1903 Steinway and Sons painted grand Piano, chosen by President Roosevelt. Then I saw an amazing 1930’s box piano at the American history museum, followed by a contemporary grand piano smashed to a million pieces at the Art & Destruction exhibit at the Hirshorn Museum. Interesting how history has developed…

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

The most amazing things I saw today included the original, torn and tattered, Star Spangled Banner, the 30x40ft 15 striped, 15 starred US flag hung after the war of 1812, and inspiration behind the American national anthem. At the Air and Space museum, I saw the original Wright Flyer, the actual plane built in 1903 by the Wright Brothers and the first aircraft to ever make a manned flight. Shortly after, I touched a piece of the moon, and felt like today’s accidental day in DC was definitely worth being delayed for. Now I just home that tomorrow comes and brings me to Haiti, since this will be the 5th confirmed flight I’ve had booked to Port au Prince but still never made it on one!