4 Things I Did Wrong at Mardi Gras in New Orleans

After road tripping from California, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana I finally arrived in New Orleans and I was eager to get the party started – maybe a little too eager.  Julia had miraculously booked a last minute hotel, just a few miles from the French Quarter.  It was called the Crescent Palms Motel, and even though it is in a less than stellar neighborhood, it still felt safe, the price was right, and the staff was great – I fully recommend it.

After pre-drinking at the hotel, we hitched a ride with the hotel manager to Bourbon St (everyone gets VIP treatment at the Crecent!) with giant a bottle of custom-crafted gin and cranberry juice in hand; heavy on the gin.  Things got weird, wild, and hazy very quickly with beads flying, drinks being passed around, and debauchery abound from street corners to bars to art galleries.

All in all, I had a blast, but next time, I’d do a couple things different.

Let my drunken idiocy be your guide.
Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

1 – Don’t Get Lost.

Yeah, that happened pretty much immediately.  We started the night at a gay bar on Bourbon St where we met some lively and awesome folks.  Next, I guess it was dinner time because I remember that we devoured a fried shrimp sandwich at Verti Marte. This place is amazing – they have everything, and it is all delicious. HIGHLY recommended. Somewhere between the shrimp sandwich and oblivion, I found myself wandering the streets with absolutely no idea where I was.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if I could have called any of my friends but…

2 – Don’t Let Your Friend Hold Your ID / Money / Keys / Anything.

I had everything in my pockets.  Everything.  Julia’s phone, ID, camera, and money. So there was no way I could get in touch with her or anyone else we’d be hanging out with that night.  This is really an important tip – Keep your own stuff in your own pockets.  Everyone should have a phone and a hotel key because shit gets wild in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, and chances are, you’ll find yourself drunk and lost at some point in the night, so you’ll at least want to have cab fare back to the hotel.

3 – Don’t Black Out.

While lost and wandering the streets of New Orleans’s French Quarter, at some point, I blacked out. Mardi Gras is a very booze-centric event, so save your “get help” comments for another post.  I was partying a little too hard and I guess my brain hit its limit and went on auto-pilot for a couple hours.  When my consciousness came crawling out of the gin fog, I was standing on an empty street corner, miles from the party in the French Quarter.  I was alone, the street was empty, and I was drunkenly poking at the screen of my phone, trying to get Google Maps to show me the way home, but my fingers just wouldn’t cooperate.  At some point, I dropped my phone, cracked the screen, and lost the battery cover. I was a mess, but I had to get back to the hotel to see if Julia was there, and if she was safe.  There wasn’t a cab in sight, so I walked.

4 – Don’t try to walk home.

There is no way to know for sure, but I probably walked 10 miles that night.  My only memories are vague flashes of me in distinctly different locations throughout New Orleans, and I was always on foot.  I wandered around the French Quarter for who knows how long, before I somehow stumbled outside the party zone and into the adjacent downtown area.  I remember the skyscrapers.  I have a hilarious memory of walking down the center of a divided highway, trying to get directions from a group of prostitutes. I talked to cops, liquor store owners, and strangers on the street, trying to get directions home.  I walked through an abandoned, Katrina ravaged warehouse district and I even thought it was a good idea to wander across a freeway overpass.  I tried everything to get back to the hotel, but I was desperately, drunkenly lost and I didn’t know what to do.

Finally, miraculously, a cab appeared.  He charged me $20 for a 5 minute ride back to the Crescent Palms Motel (I was so close!).  I was too tired to care that I was being ripped off.  I fished my keycard out of my wallet, slipped it in the door, turned the handle, and stepped inside the room.

To my relief, the first thing I saw was Julia, curled up on top of the sheets, sleeping silently.

Things could have been much worse. I was lucky I didn’t get myself robbed or killed out there.  And I was even luckier that Julia was resourceful enough to make friends who took good care of her and even gave her some cash for a cab ride home.  BIG shout out to the folks at the Roosevelt Bar, whose kindness is much appreciated, and I can only hope to repay them someday.  Besides being wonderfully giving and good people, they also run a pretty sweet bar – a classy dive with an uptown vibe and a downtown location with good music and good whiskey.  If you’re ever in the area, I recommend checking them out.

Okay, I like to end these lists of Don’ts with one Do, so here is is.

DO go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

It’s been on my list for a long time, and I’m really glad that I finally got to do it.  Judging from the parts of my night that I can remember (and from the fact that I can’t remember much) it’s a party not to be missed.

Next Year: Carnaval in Brazil? The Calgary Stampede? Running with the bulls in Pamplona?

Whats the craziest party you’ve ever been to?

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  • http://www.justinhamlin.com Justin Hamlin

    NICE!

    Funny, I did that same trip too this year. We got in on Monday night and it was so crazy down town, we could not find parking anywhere even close, so we ended up not doing anything Monday night, but we were out Tuesday morning for a few hours to partake and watch some of the festivities. It was crazy and fun (though, I don’t think I had as much fun as you) but I think the drunk people still out at 10am outnumbered us sober people.

    All in all, a great experience, but that drive from CA to NOLA was by far the most boring part of my trip across the country.

    Glad you had fun! Definitely will be making a pilgrimage back to NOLA again!

  • http://traveledearth.com Mike Lenzen

    Ha ha, sounds like you had fun. I like the solid advice “Don’t Blackout”. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but Carnival somewhere in South America is on my list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JustinWasHere Justin Jones

    Hamilin – Too bad we didn’t get a chance to catch up there! For us, the road trip was maybe the best part! we took about 5 days for the drive each way, so we stopped a lot of places, hiked, camped, partied, etc. I’m going to put together a post about it soon, so check back for that. Cheers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1621038154 Rebecca Watrous

    Here’s some for you: Don’t black out at Pat O’Brien’s prior to somehow ascending the spiral staircase to the bathroom. Don’t wear a white T-shirt prior to upchucking a hurricane. Oh, and don’t wander Bourbon Streets in your socks, because you also puked on your shoes, followed by some weird-ass clown. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience….

  • http://www.facebook.com/JustinWasHere Justin Jones

    Lol – Rebecca, you’re a goddamn legend! :D

  • http://elleswim.net Elle

    All extremely valid points! I think a friend of mine and I are going to to try and go to Mardi Gras next year. Not 100% sold on it right now, because I’m living the sober life right now. We’ll see how sobriety goes first.

  • http://www.theendlessterrain.com Harrison

    Oh man, I want to do Carnaval in Brazil too. I’ve heard that’s one crazy fest. Love how your points connect one after the next … “i did this, but then u shouldn’t do this” haha. But I do miss drinking down some good Hurricanes!