New Orleans: A City With A Heartbeat | Uday Balaji

The first time I went to New Orleans was back in 2008 for Mardi Gras. I’d always wanted to go to the city and especially for Mardi Gras, but quite frankly didn’t know what to expect. Friends who’d been there for Mardi Gras had varying reviews including over the top debauchery, just a heck of a party, too much to handle and so on. I just had to see for myself!

Yes, there is an incredible amount of drinking, partying and of course a never ending flow of topless women, and if you’re unlucky enough to look, the odd bottomless man! What struck me though, was the spirit of the festival… a bunch of normal folk like me just getting together to let their hair down and party for a few days before returning to their normal lives at home. Although the party rages on in Bourbon 24/7, the highlight during the day time is the parade of the floats that the different Krewes drive through the city throwing out necklaces.

As night falls, all roads lead to Bourbon Street. It’s time for the necklaces collected during the day to be exchanged. The most common exchange would be the guys giving the ladies necklaces to flash them. Anything else, as they say is upto negotiation skills! This could be on the street or with the hundreds of people on the party balconies. I’ve tried to keep these images as PG as possible!

And, of course, where there’s debauchery, there are those to save us from hell!

While everything on the street is good fun and in the right spirit, Bourbon, be it on Mardi Gras or any normal day has it’s fill of sleaziness as well.

Although Mardi Gras was a lot of fun, I always wanted to go back to actually see the city and I did, the next year for Thanksgiving. And, what a trip it was! The best part about New Orleans is getting completely lost in the city, away from Bourbon and Canal streets and into the real neighborhoods.

No trip to New Orleans or Louisiana would be complete without a visit to the bayou. While we didn’t see any gators, the bayou was a different world altogether. It’s a stark contrast to the frenetic city and has a certain quiet eeriness. The next picture is of the first bund that broke when Hurricane Katrina hit.

New Orleans is a city that is so about music, that its airport is named after the inimitable Louis Armstrong. Personally, the music was the highlight of both the trips. During Mardi Gras, we ducked into a small bar to get away from the party madness and discovered Fritzels, the oldest blues bar in New Orleans! For a true local feel though, one needs to head down to Frenchman Street with fantastic jazz clubs and restaurants.

And, finally, the food! The Po’ Boys (Sandwiches), Jambalaya, Gumbo, Beignets at Café du Monde and my favorite, Andouille sausage are a small slice of heaven.

The food will pretty much ensure that you need to stay sitting for a while, stuffed, watching life go by in Nola!

Uday Balaji is a recent MBA graduate from IESE Business School, Barcelona. He is an avid traveler and amateur photographer. He is currently a freelance travel writer while searching for work in the field of sustainable tourism. He hopes to live, learn and work in South America for a few years before returning to his home country, India.

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