February may be the month of Lent, which is known for all the things you are supposed to give up, but it’s also the month of the parties that lead up to it. After all, you need a last hurrah of sorts before the sacrifice begins. We have participated in the two biggest celebrations that lead up to Lent: Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio is a city with incredible natural beauty. There are gorgeous beaches that are miles long and beautiful Sugar Loaf Mountain which you can ride up in a cable car to get a panoramic view of the city. Then, of course, there is Christ the Redeemer, the giant statue of Jesus with outstretched arms that stands as a welcoming beacon on Corcovado Mountain and is visible from many parts of the city. Rio is also known for its street crime and is the only place we’ve ever visited where the hotel staff cautioned us not to even wear our wedding rings out on the street. Carnival itself is one massive parade that is held inside an outdoor stadium. One samba school after another, parades through in colorful costumes and on giant floats, dancing in a whir of non-stop action. It goes on for hours and after a while we found it to be rather repetitive. It was an experience we enjoyed but probably wouldn’t go back to do again.
Mardi Gras needs no explanation however we didn’t go to a typical Mardi Gras; we went to the first one following Hurricane Katrina. There had been talk of not holding it that year since it was only a few months following the hurricane and the damage was so widespread, but when they made the decision to hold it anyway we decided to go and show support in some small way. The French Quarter had been spared for the most part during the massive storm but a lot of restaurants and hotels were struggling because there were no tourists. Mardi Gras was toned down that year but still colorful and fun to witness. What wasn’t fun was seeing the immense devastation. We took a tour of the hardest hit areas and it looked like a war zone. We saw mile after mile of complete destruction and it actually brought tears to our eyes. We’ve been back to New Orleans since then and it has come a long way. It’s one of my favorite cities. There’s a lot to love about it: the food, the music, the French Quarter, the people and certainly the spirit.
Ann & John Cinnamon are the owners of a CruiseOne franchise. Reach them at: 317-813-4670, www.thedestinationstation.com or email@example.com
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