Welcome back to Philip James Travel!
Happy Mardi Gras everyone! Whether you’re in Louisiana or elsewhere I hope your day has been great! My family and I had a fantastic long weekend full of street parties, parades, food, drink and the wonderful camaraderie of people from near and very far and today we spent the day on famous St. Charles Avenue seeing Rex, King of Carnival and his magnificent street procession (parade) that's the beginning of the end of Carnival 2020.
As unique as the Carnival season is in New Orleans, similar celebrations are held throughout the world, where revelers of all kinds, in many different cultures will bring to a close the celebrations (if not outright gluttony) of the carnival season and have their one last hurrah before bidding farewell to the flesh, and the reflective and somber season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
There’s no question that the most famous Mardi Gras celebration in the world happens in New Orleans. But parties on and around Fat Tuesday take place around the world as well. Here are five must-visit Mardi Gras celebrations beyond New Orleans.
The annual Venice Carnival is famous for its masks: every year (since as far back as the 12th century) the northern Italian city has celebrated Carnival season with a slate of parties, performances, and balls leading up to Mardi Gras — all frequented by masked, costumed attendees. Venetian masks range in grandeur and come in several distinct styles, including the ornate, gilded “Bauta” mask, with a pointed chin and no nose; and the more easily recognizable “Volto,” which is stark white with elaborately painted eyes and lips. Typical celebrations include ticketed parties, street performances, and — of course — an annual contest for the most beautiful mask.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If New Orleans is the most famous Mardi Gras destination, Rio is the biggest (literally: an estimated two million people hit the streets for parades and parties every day, which includes an estimated 500,000 tourists and visitors). Live musicians line the city’s main streets from dawn to well past dusk, and the world-famous Samba Parade — as renowned for its music as its elaborate, colorful costumes — draws hundreds of thousands of revelers to the Sambrodomo, a stadium built specifically to accommodate the parade, on the weekend before Mardi Gras.
Like Venice, Binche’s Mardi Gras celebrations are famous for their masked patrons. But here, they all wear the same visage — and have the same name: Gilles. Flocks of Gilles take to the streets on the Tuesday before Lent, wearing wooden clogs, cartoonish masks with green eyes and curly mustaches, and striped orange and red linen costumes stuffed with straw, to create the illusion of a hunched back. Later in the day, the Gilles wear giant ostrich-plume hats and throw oranges to (and sometimes at) the assembled crowds — it’s apparently good luck to be hit with one. The origins of this wonderfully bizarre tradition, which dates as far back as the 14th century, are — somewhat appropriately — unknown.
While most cities celebrate Carnival for a few weeks, Cologne begins on Nov. 11 and keeps partying all the way to Fat Tuesday. Highlights include the burning of a straw figure, a rose parade, and all-night drinking.
This Mediterranean city claims to have the world’s oldest Carnival, dating to 1294. It builds its 15-day festival around blossoms. They do flower battles and flower parades with floats made just of flowers, like the Tournament of Roses in California. Costumed parade-goers even throw mimosas, gerberas, and lilies to the crowds.
Do any of these sounds like an experience you might like to have next year? If so, give me a call and let’s discuss how to make this Carnival trips a reality! For those who may not have ever been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I can promise you something unforgettable in my own backyard!