So as we all know Spring Break was last week and us students had a week off of school to travel or relax (or do work). A few of my friends planned a trip to New Orleans for what was the first time in a very long time that Fat Tuesday landed on the same week as Spring Break. We were only staying in New Orleans from Sunday to Wednesday so for the other days we were free to go as we pleased because we drove. We left Friday morning with the destination of University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN) in sight.
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE
A friend that was on the journey with us had a friend that goes to Univ. of Tennessee and invited us there for their annual Fraternity Boxing tournament. This tournament has been around for 28 years and raises nearly $100,000 for charity. Now this is no ordinary, give the frats beer and boxing gloves and let them at each other for blood. The event is held at a boxing arena called Golden Gloves in East Knoxville. The tournament is a weekend long event starting with elimination rounds on Thursday and Friday, and the final matches held on Saturday night. The boxers take the tournament extremely serious by using the months prior to the event to train and even drop their weight significantly for the weigh-in which is held on the Monday before the tournament. The students also prepare for the tournament by pre-gaming at their houses, in there yards, as well as crowding the college bars around the campus; It is almost like they were preparing for a football game. I have tried to go to as many of these student/college organized events in the past 4 years I have been enrolled in college. The last event I was at was the Beer Olympics hosted at St. Bonaventure University (Western New York). That was a blast and I am extremely pleased I had the chance to take part of that event. I unfortunately was unable to take part in the actual boxing tournament I did get a seat on one of the buses that went from the bars to the boxing arena and back to the bars for the after-party celebrations, and that was amazing. I have to say the southern hospitality was indescribable. I didn’t see one fight at the bars/parties in the two nights I was there and everyone was extremely nice. I give Univ. of Tennessee two thumbs up from a student’s perspective (without actually engaging in their academic program).
We had reservations at a hotel in New Orleans on Sunday and check-in was 3pm. I cannot say how ecstatic we all were to get down to the Mardi Gras festivities so we left early Sunday morning from Knoxville to make the 9hr journey. Everything was going as planned and we were even ahead of time until we actually got to New Orleans. The traffic was dead stop and my friend and I were getting antsy in the back seat so we decided to step out of the car and venture around the city as our other two friends moved the car about a block every 30 min. Our first impression of Mardi Gras was a parade taking over Canal Street with beads flying everywhere and intoxicating beverages being consumed by large quantities which ended up carpeting the sidewalks. As my friends finally got through the traffic and made it to the hotel we made our way back also. None of us expected what happened next. The room was like something I would stay in with my parents, not 3 other students on a Spring Break road trip, and the location was impeccable. We had a 26th level view of Canal Street (parades) and were a few blocks away from Bourbon Street (the shenanigans). I will not go into too much detail about Bourbon Street as I want to keep this PG but it is not for the weak. To fit in you have to do one thing, get weird. What it means to get weird is an individual’s representation of how you want to take that. The street was littered with beads, bottles, and weirdly shaped cups to fit the drink that you ordered.
That brings me to my next point, the drinks. They have the most extravagant and highly alcohol induced beverages I have ever seen. Hurricanes, Hand Grenades, and Jester’s are just a few drinks to be mentioned that are local to New Orleans. For some reason the creators of these drinks decided to use the highest proof liquors…i.e. Grain Alcohol, Bacardi 151. This clarified all the stories I heard about people coming down to Mardi Gras and ending up with alcohol poisoning. I am happy to say my friends and I did not experience this but I can definitely say I saw people that did. New Orleans is also known for their food so that was definitely on the check-list of things to do. We got to experience some Gumbo, Po’boys, Jambalaya, and Crawfish and it was all delicious.
Bourbon Street is definitely the place to be if you are looking for a party and people watching. Now Mardi Gras starts 12 days after Christmas (January 6th) and lasts until 46 days before Easter, therefore if Easter is late Fat Tuesday (last day of Mardi Gras) is late. Despite the festivities rally on for almost 2 months the craziest time is right before Fat Tuesday, hence the reason we went 2 days before and the day of Fat Tuesday. After going out Sunday night on Bourbon I thought I had seen it all. The bars don’t close, ever, and there seemed to be no laws as long as you were not inconveniencing anyone else. As stated before I was there with 3 other friends but we actually met up with another group of friends that road tripped it down there too. We were both groups of 3 guys and 1 girl which worked out nicely because no one had to go anywhere alone, we tried to stick to the buddy system (not to sound like a children but if you take a wrong turn you will probably weep like a lost puppy and end up at the bottom of the Mississippi). Now that we had a group of eight we had power by numbers which is needed because Bourbon Street got crowded. Every night leading up to Fat Tuesday the street got more and more packed.
Now, Fat Tuesday, how do you describe Fat Tuesday? Get a drink, Get Weird, and have fun. It was by far the craziest of the 3 nights we were there. We all decided to join in on the festivities so after dinner we located a mask shop and accessorized to the occasion. Once we were all suited up we went directly Bourbon Street. Now we heard about a rumor that the street shuts down at midnight because that is when Mardi Gras is officially finished so we wanted to have time to enjoy the mayhem. We got to Bourbon around 9pm and there is no way I can describe my feelings and what actually happened other than telling you to book a flight and hotel for next year. After all the fun midnight came around and the cops actually came down the street on horseback to filter everyone back to their hotels or into the bars. Trying to displace the amount of bodies in the streets into the bars was not happening so we all decided to go back to our other friend’s hotel room. Being the last night we decided to keep the party going do some swimming and then finally making our way back to our hotel. The next morning we had the choice of going to Panama City for another night or two to celebrate Spring Break but the majority spoke. We hopped in the car and headed back on a 20hr excursion back to Philly.