It was all of a sudden that I got some leave from my job in the second week of February. As I was alone and had nothing to do during the week, I decided to take a trip to New Orleans and spend the week there. I had been hearing a lot about the Mardi Gras carnival held in New Orleans which is supposed be the grand daddy of all festivals and wanted to see the festival for myself. I finally got a ticket from New York to New Orleans after bit of asking around. It seemed everybody was making a beeline for the festival. I was already late as the festival had started a few days back. That wasn’t a problem as the Mardi Gras festival carries on for a couple of weeks and I was going in the middle of the festivities.
The first thing that impressed me on landing at New Orleans airport was the warmth of the people there. I found everybody trying to help me have good fun as soon as they heard that this was my first visit to this place. The first day there made me feel like being on the top of the world. Though I had missed the first parades, there were still many more to go and I had an opportunity to see one as soon as I walked into the streets. The streets had already taken on a beautiful hue with people dressed in various multi colored costumes, masks and head dresses. There was loud music accompanied by people dancing in the streets. Floats depicting the history of New Orleans were on display. Bands playing Jazz music accompanied the dancers along the way.
True to the tradition of New Orleans there were all kinds of people in all kinds of head wear to be seen starting from the traditional gaudy Creole head dresses to jokers to skulls and many more. The people were talking in all kinds of languages from French to English and others. The city really seemed a true melting pot of the different cultures like French, Spanish, British, German, Creole and African all mixed together.
The bars and the restaurants seemed never to be closed and I tried out different delicacies as advised by my hotel manager. The parades were serpentine and were huge with people filled from one side of the street to the other, jostling, laughing, singing, dancing and having the best time of their lives. Have you ever seen or heard of an entire city spending days on partying? If not, then you should come down to New Orleans during the Mardi Gras festival and I can assure you that you will have a lifetime experience. But you have to be a partying type to enjoy the atmosphere the Mardi Gras festival creates on the people.
I enjoyed the days of Mardi Gras festival thoroughly until the festivities ended with the final parade on Bourbon Street. I felt sad that the festivities had ended so soon. But I had a few more days to go yet and decided to enjoy my vacation as much as possible. I wanted to hear some real Jazz music and see how the bands performed there. My hotel manager who had become my local guardian advised me to go to the Frenchmen Street to get a taste of true Jazz bands and their music. So off I went to the Frenchmen Street with the locals helping me on my way with directions on how to reach there.
There were a large number of bars located on the same street and I could hear the music coming from inside as I passed by. I went into the bar which had been recommended to me, found an empty table and called for some food and drink. The music which I was entertained to was really fantastic and ethereal. It might sound a bit loud to some people but I simply loved it. I listened to the music as I had my drink and food which I felt was quite cheap. After finishing my food I decided to walk down the street before catching a cab back to my hotel. As I walked down the street I popped into a few more bars to get a varied taste of the music there. I was delighted to find each of bands performing in their own individual styles and treating people to the best of Jazz music.
The next day I got up early and went to see the Audubon park. It is a very beautiful place, well kept with lush green scenery. The pathways are wonderful and the park is an ideal place to have a walk during the evenings. Security is provided round the clock from dawn to dusk so that the visitors can move around freely. The park is full of statues and small water bodies where you can feed the ducks and the swans. The park also has a golf course where I spent some time too. I found the park extremely relaxing and suitable for walking at any time of the day. I found some bikers there who were also enjoying their bicycle rides.
I meandered along the various pathways until I reached the zoo. I found the zoo very clean and well maintained. I always loved animals and was overjoyed to see the different animals up close in the zoo. The number of different animals in the zoo was quite large and I got to see the alligator that is found in Louisiana only and probably nowhere else in the world. I spent quite a few hours there looking up the animals which you can rarely come across in the cities. There was also a water park and joyrides available at the park. I tried out some of them and had a wonderful experience overall.
I had food at the restaurant in Louisiana section and found it not that cheap. On my return back to the city I took the streetcar with the signboard St. Charles Street which I had taken to go to Audubon Park in the morning. The streetcar ride was also very exhilarating as it followed a route through the garden area. The open windows of the streetcar allowed me to have a glimpse of the beautiful houses and buildings that dotted the roads on either side of the streets when it entered the city. The architecture reminded me of the different phases of history that the city had gone through from the time the French first landed in this area, through the Spanish era and then ultimately when the city became a part of the United States.
The free ride on the steamboat of the Algiers ferry from the foot of the Canal Street which I took next day to the opposite bank of the river gave me a chance to see the city skyline from the other side of the Mississippi river. The ferry ride was a great soothing experience for me. There were a large number restaurants situated on Canal Street and I could get a bite and some coffee as I roamed about in the streets.
The next day I got a return ticket home as my vacation was just about up. But I will carry the experience I had in New Orleans with me for a very long time.