Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

Read Part I here.

We woke up on Mardi Gras Saturday to bright sun and warm weather. So far, the weather had been pretty glum and so we were pretty much beside ourselves that our first full day of celebrating would be under blue skies.

If I were on my own, this would be the point where I’d probably head for the French Quarter along with the other billion tourists who’d arrived overnight. But instead, after a quick brunch in the Garden District, we hopped in my sister’s car and drove towards Mid City. We had been warned it was insane to drive during Mardi Gras but we sailed through with zero traffic and found a parking spot after just over ten minutes of searching. My sister, having quickly adapted to the finer points of Southern living — such as low rent and ample parking — almost lost it over this inconvenience. “If we have to circle the block once we come in complaining that parking was a nightmare,” she told me. Still having a New Yorker’s parking perspective, I rolled my eyes at her and told her she had lost her mind. Ah, sisterhood.

Mid City reminded me of the suburbs of upstate New York where we grew up. Houses with yards, chain restaurants, and every big box store you could imagine. And, on this fine Saturday, prime real estate for watching the Krewe of Endymion roll through.

Our destination was an annual house party directly on the parade route featuring a crayfish barbeque, matching Endymion t-shirts, and beer pong. Like I said, a true local experience.

 

Pretty much every attendee had either grown up in New Orleans or been there to experience multiple Mardi Gras, so they barely looked up from the crayfish table when the parade started rolling through. Unable to contain my excitement, I grabbed two other newbies — a Teach For America friend of my sister’s and her sister — and tried to squeeze up to the front.

While the lighting was dreamy and the view wasn’t bad, the crowd was actually pretty hostile in that area. Feeling fairly unwelcome among the territorial revelers, we didn’t stay long. The girls made their way back to the party, but I was itching for some daylight photos of the floats, so I started walking along the parade route solo, anxiously looking for a break.

I was started to get a bit discouraged — it was packed, and groups were super set up with lawn chairs, coolers, and ladders (or as I like to call them, the VIP seats of the people). Then finally, I found an in.

I saw a group of twenty-something preparing to pass to the other side of the street, which being backed by houses, I could only assume would be at least slightly less sardined. I was right. After jumping in with the group and making my way to the other side of the street, I found a friendly collection of mostly families who were more than happy to make room for one more.

One one side I had a guy with his daughter on his shoulders who told me he’d lived in Mid City his whole life, and who I promised to email my photos from the day when he lamented forgetting his own camera. On the other I had a friendly woman from rural Alabama who by the time the parade wrapped up had invited me to come stay with her the next time I passed through Monroeville. Together we enjoyed our front row view of the floats and marching bands that passed by, and our prime spot for catching throws.

Endymion is Mardi Gras’ biggest parade with over 2,700 masked revelers riding more than 27 floats. While they weren’t clever or political like the parades we’d watched so far, the floats were intricate and beautifully crafted, and I loved being able to see them in the light of day.

Eventually evening started to fall, and loathe as I was to leave my prime spot, I knew I needed to get back to my sister and the party. The evening ended with another special Mardi Gras tradition — being stuck in mind-numbing traffic! The drive that had taken us twenty minutes earlier in the day took over two hours on the way back. Luckily I had amusing company — and lots of happy memories of a bright and colorful day — to ease the pain.

Stick around for my final installment of Memories of Mardi Gras — Lundi Gras Monday and Fat Tuesday!

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
29 Comments...
  • Hannah
    May 12 2014

    Those colours are amazing! I’d love to do Mardi Gras one year, I go to London’s Notting Hill carnival every year, I absolutely adore the festival atmosphere!
    Hannah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      That’s the second time this Notting Hill Carnival has come up! I want to go now, too!

      • Hannah
        May 14 2014

        Notting Hill carnival is absolutely brilliant; full of Caribbean food, rum, vibrant colours absolutely everywhere and music which vibrates the streets. I love it; I would recommend it to anyone.
        Hannah recently posted..

  • So fun!
    Adrienne @ AdrienneAway recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      It was awesome, thanks for commenting Adrienne!

  • Laryssa
    May 12 2014

    GREAT pictures!!

    You’re so right — people are generally very chill and friendly during Mardi Gras, but geez, they are VERY territorial about their spots for Endymion. Glad you found some nice folks and props for sneaking up to the front!

    THE VIP LADDERS SUCK! In past years, people were allowed to have their ladders right up in the front row which was super annoying, but this year they passed an ordinance that made ’em move them back several feet– thank goodness. I wish they’d do something similar for the camping chairs. Then again, I suppose all those obstacles prevent Endymion from being an all-out mosh pit, haha.

    I look forward to reading about how y’all scored a dozen coconuts at Zulu — I need some tips!!

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      Wow, yeah I would NOT have found the ladders so charming if they were in the front row! I think it’s cool that they allow them because I’m down with the hands-off level of rules and regulations, but jeez people common decency please!

  • Looks like a blast! Love you and your sisters dresses. 2 hours traffic though, damn!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      Um yes and considering I was the only sober person in the car it was either hilarious/supremely awful, my thoughts on this wavered by the moment.

  • TammyOnTheMove
    May 12 2014

    This looks like a lot of carnaval parades in South America actually, with the masks and marching band music. I love the look of those prawns by the way. I could bath in that pan. Yum yum!
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      I am a non seafood eater so it wasn’t quite as appealing to me… though visually it was pretty cool!

  • The Guy
    May 12 2014

    Great to see part 2 of the series.

    I love your tale of the parking and the contrast in you and your sister’s approach. Having visited the north and south of the US I can see where you are coming from.

    It looks like another fun carnival day. I particularly like the look of the guys with the orange hats.
    The Guy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      Ha, yup, like I said she got into the groove of easy parking pretty quickly! I hope she never has to park in Manhattan again or she might stroke out…

  • becky hutner
    May 12 2014

    1) Fantastic parade shots.

    2) I heart your sister’s dress.

    3) That crayfish/corn spread looks amazing…and I don’t even like crayfish.

    4) How endearing is southern hospitality? Bet you never expected to make a friend from Monroeville! x
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      No I didn’t 🙂 We couldn’t have had less in common — I told her I was from New York and had just been in California and she couldn’t get over how brave I was or how much I traveled. I was afraid to mention my international travels for fear she’d think I was a mental patient! But we bonded over domestic exploring instead.

      • becky hutner
        May 13 2014

        Hahaha. I totally know what you’re talking about. Once, my british brother & father-in-law road-tripped from LA to New York. Stopping for a subway sandwich along the way, the employee was so floored to be serving 2 foreigners traveling cross-country, she asked them in a hushed voice if they were running from the law!

        • Meihoukai
          May 15 2014

          Haha, yeah, sometimes it is a bit easier to leave some information out. That’s a great story!

  • The colors in these photos are stunning. Mardi Gras sounds like such an experience! I need to start putting festivals higher on my list for the year to come! That traffic though…ouch! But what can you do…besides have a few drinks and try and forget! haha
    Jessica of Curiosity Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      Ha, well once we made it back to my sister’s place I was so emotionally exhausted from the traffic stress I called it a day. But we had a lot of fun celebrating coming up the next morning, so it was all good!

  • These photos make me want to get back to New Orleans so badly! You got some amazing shots! Did you use your 15-85mm for these? Tell me you got a chance to dance to some music at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman St…
    Emily from Let’s Roam Wild recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      I did indeed use the 15-85mm! I was on Frenchman’s Street a few times but unfortunately I can’t remember the names of any of the bars we were in…. many had live music though!

  • Jade
    May 12 2014

    So colourful! Your photos always seem to capture places so well- atmosphere just oozes from them. Mardi Gras looks like a photographers dream.

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      Thank you Jade, that is such a lovely compliment to hear! It is either a dream or a nightmare, depending on your perspective on crowds, ha!

  • Emily
    May 12 2014

    Your photo of the trumpet-blowing float is unreal! Great photos Meihoukai!
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      I love that one too, Emily! Thank you so much!

  • Nick
    May 13 2014

    That looks amazing, Nice work on finding a spot for those photo’s too.
    Nick recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 13 2014

      Like I said, it took some serious searching. But it was worth it!

  • Maddy
    May 23 2014

    These pictures are amazing, thanks for sharing! I feel like I was there… minus the traffic.
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Ha, it wasn’t the worst two hour car ride I’ve ever had, I’ll admit 🙂 I just tried not to think about the fact that it should have been 20 minutes!