Cooks River Fun Run race review

I wrote this for work, not sure if it will get published so I thought I’d put it on my blog :)

The Cooks River Fun Run is becoming a popular event among Sydney runners, with a record number of entrants in 2013 despite heavy rain on the weekend of the event. Perfectly timed for a hit out in the lead up to the big events on the Sydney running calendar, the run offers a 5km, 10km and 2km kids run. This year, 512 runners and walkers signed up, ready to target their individual goals. As part of my training for the City2Surf, I entered the 10km and was aiming to run sub 41 minutes.

I will never forget the time that as an overly enthusiastic 12 year old, I ran too fast at my Friday Little Athletics competition the night before my region carnival, because I was trying to beat the boys. Not surprisingly, I struggled through my 1500m the next day and finished well off PB pace. Over 15 years later, it seems that I still haven’t learnt my lesson.

Feeling pretty good with where I was at, I pushed my speed session the Thursday before the Cooks River Fun Run. The phrase “quit while you are ahead” couldn’t be more relevant. I remember thinking I should stop before the last few reps, but didn’t listen to my own advice and it definitely came back to haunt me.

The weather watch in the week leading up to the event wasn’t looking promising, but it was fantastic to see that the rain the night before the race didn’t deter many runners. With the sun peaking through the clouds, spirits were high as people gathered in Freshwater Park for the warm up led by Captain Running Man from Anytime Fitness. Anticipation was building as the start time drew closer, with runners excited for the opportunity to run a fast time or qualifying time for another event on the flat, certified course.

The weather held off while the 5km and 2km kids run got underway, and I did a warm up, trying to ignore the lethargic feeling of not being fully recovered from my speed session a few days earlier.

About 170 runners lined up for the 10km, two laps of the 5km course along the Bay to Bay Cycleway. With the only incline being a small hill as the course briefly detoured from the cycleway through Dean Reserve, it was always going to be a fast race.

Despite the muddy conditions, the start was fairly smooth. The only person I saw slip over ended up finishing 3rd overall, so it didn’t seem to have much of an impact on his run! With visions of triumph through adversity (aka delusions of grandeur), I started out competitively (aka too fast), and found myself thinking that I would have run an awesome 5km race that day (aka wanted to stop half way).

Back in reality, encouragement from the friendly marshalls helped me get through 4km, before I was passed by a friend who I can usually keep up with and the mental battle of running kicked in. Feeling like I was running in slow motion, I was surprised to see that my 5km split was just over 20 minutes. Realising that my goal time was still possible, I made it my focus not to lose sight of my friend in front of me and hung on to finish in 41.23.

The competitive male records set in 2012 proved hard to beat, and in 2013 the women were the stars of the show. The top three female finishers in the 10km all went under the previous record, with Elise Baker winning in 38:58. The 5km was taken out by future champion Taylor Porter (19.51) who, at 11 years of age, was only 50 seconds off the race record. In the male events, Jake Stollery won the 5km in 16:39 and Deak Zsombor won the 10km in 34:36.

The entire field in the 10km put in a fantastic effort in tough conditions, finishing the run in a heavy downpour.

For the first time in 2013 the Cooks River Fun Run supported a charity partner, with $5 from each entry donated to Bowel Cancer Australia. A total of $2560 was raised to assist with education and community awareness. Their presence was felt strongly on the morning, with an inflatable super colon on display and runners who had raised additional funds for the charity proudly wearing their Bowel Cancer shorts.

Overall, this was a great event with a fun, community atmosphere. I’m looking forward to participating again in 2014. And the moral of the story is – don’t run too hard at your last training session before you race!

What not to do when you come back from travelling

A friend of mine is coming back to Australia this weekend after almost 2 years out of the country travelling and working. Last time we talked, she told me she wasn’t sure if she is ready to come back – a feeling I have had when each of my trips has come to a close.

Every long term traveller returning home will encounter the question at some point whether they want to pick up and head off again. The answer to that question for me was a definite “yes” before my second and third trips to Latin America, and it’s always an appealing option. But when you choose that option, it’s important to make sure it’s for the right reasons. My “yes” decision before my fourth Latin America trip last year definitely wasn’t. So here are my 10 recommendations of what not to do when you return home from travelling!

1. Don’t confuse a travel romance with a potential real relationship. If the only way you communicate is on Facebook, it’s a travel romance.

2. Don’t hold on to your travel romances, they will never turn into relationships. Connections formed with your fellow backpackers on the road operate in an endless honeymoon period. And I can guarantee that the [insert activity] instructor you had a fling with in [insert exotic country] has met a hundred other girls since you left.

3. Don’t plan to go back and work in a certain city or country if any part of the reason for going is to see one of your travel flings again. I know that you have totally always wanted to live overseas, and you were totally thinking about it before you met him, so it totally wouldn’t be a big deal to pick the dirty, dodgy city in his country over the far more appealing, cosmopolitan capital next door, right? Wrong! Only go if it’s completely for your own reasons.

4. Don’t fork out a decent amount of money for an ESL teaching qualification to create your own reason. (And if you do, at least make sure you like teaching so you can use it at home!)

5. Don’t lie to yourself about 1, 2, 3 or 4.

6. Don’t start dating someone who reminds you of the guys you met travelling. Just because they speak a certain language, like to dance and know all the songs on your playlist, doesn’t make them the right person for you.

7. Don’t rush into booking your next trip. In the few weeks leading up to going home, all you will be thinking about is when you are going back. Another trip might be the right decision, but you don’t need to put your next flight on your credit card just after you come back because there was a sale. If you really want to go, you will still want to go when the travel bubble isn’t clouding your judgment.

8. Don’t actively try to stay in the travel bubble. Just because someone doesn’t speak a certain language, doesn’t like to dance and doesn’t know a single song on your playlist, doesn’t make them less interesting.

9. Don’t be indecisive. Once you have made a decision to go, don’t complicate it by looking for reasons to stay. If there is any part of you that would wonder “what if..?”, you’re not ready to hand in your backpacker card.

10. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you realise how delusional you were for breaking the first nine rules!!

Despite everything, my last trip ended up being pretty awesome :) And funnily enough, nothing on this list was a problem when I came back!

8 things to do in Beijing

This post has taken me so much longer than I wanted it to because life has caught up with me lately, and I combined two topics to make it 8 things. Writing about China actually reminds me of my current travel dilemma; go back to Asia and see some new countries or go back to Brazil for the World Cup. Hard problem to have!

On that note, here are my top 8 things to do in Beijing.

The Great Wall of China

This was the number 1 item on my list for my trip to China. I considered doing the Great Wall marathon because it was about a week before I arrived, but decided against it. In hindsight, it was a great decision. I think I will stick to road running when I do my first marathon.

The Great Wall is truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Only two hours outside of the city, it could have easily been another world. Crowded streets and smoggy skies were replaced with green mountains stretching in every direction and the stone wall running along them one of the only structures in sight. I visited the Mutianyu section, which consists of a 2.5 km restored stretch of wall open for visitors to explore and 22 watchtowers at 100m intervals. This section of the wall was used to defend the capital and nearby tombs. Merlons are built into both sides of the wall, meaning shots could be fired on enemies approaching from either direction. With less visitors than other sections of the wall, we managed to get moments to ourselves for some spectacular photos.

We caught the cable car up, although it is possible to walk, and one reason I don’t want to do the Great Wall marathon became obvious straight away – it’s hot in May. The second one also became obvious very quickly, some sections are very steep. My competitive nature compelled me to climb the steps to the highest point on this section of the wall, though there is no way I would ever want to do that as part of a race. The view was well worth the effort, the Mutianyu section is surrounded by an abundance of greenery covering the mountains and valleys on either side of the wall.

Entry – 45 RMB

Cable Car return – 80 RMB

Ming Tombs

A total of 13 tombs belonging to Emperor’s of the Ming Dynasty are scattered around Beijing. I visited Changling Tomb, the first and most well preserved of the Ming Tombs. Located about 50 kilometers from Beijing, Changling Tomb can be combined with the Great Wall for a fantastic day trip out of the city. Changling Tomb is the tomb of Emperor Zhu Di, the most significant emperor of the Ming Dynasty and his empress. The tomb was completed in 1427, and occupies an area of approximately 120,000 square meters.

The main building of the tomb, Ling’en Hall, is made from a rare kind of wood that has been preserved from the Ming Dynasty. The hall features an impressive statue of Emperor Zhu Di, sitting on a throne decorated with dragons. The room is filled with a collection of objects and photos detailing the achievements of Emperor Zhu Di, including moving the capital to Beijing and constructing the Forbidden City.

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, or Imperial Palace, was home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. You could spend a full day, or more, exploring the city, but my tight schedule in Beijing meant we had an afternoon to fit in as much as possible. Construction of the city began in 1406 when Emperor Zhu Di moved the capital back to Beijing from Nanjing in southern China. The palace was remained the political centre of China until 1912, despite damage to parts of the city during the shift between the Ming and Qing dynasties, and occupation by foreign forces in the second Opium War and Boxer Rebellion. After becoming a World Heritage Site, the Palace Museum commences a restoration project to return the city to its historical state.

Consisting of massive courtyards and impressive palaces, the city seems to stretch on forever. The restoration project means the buildings boast striking colours and detailed patterns that give the site a distinct visual appeal. The gardens at the back of the site offer a shady retreat from the sunny courtyards that was a welcome escape on the 36 degree summer day I visited. Featuring smaller pavilions and unique statues, it is easy to get lost in imagining what life may have been like for the Emperors and Empresses who lived in the palace.

 

Entry – 60 RMB

Tiananmen Square

Across the road from the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square. Both are easy to access using Beijing’s subway, and their close proximity to each other makes for a good day trip. In contrast to the quiet, somber feel when I visited Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City, it’s hard to associate the square with its infamous history. Despite the heat, the area was crowded with a flurry of activity. The Monument to the People’s Heroes stands tall in the centre of the square, with visitors huddled around for photos. Groups of people gathered around food vendor vans and laughter and chatter from the crowd could be heard ringing out across the square. The lack of chairs and trees in the square meant people were lined in the small strips of shade provided by lampposts and flagpoles as they waited for the symbolic lowering of the flags at sunset.

The square is surrounded by a number of important buildings in addition to the Forbidden City. The National Museum of China is one side, while the Great Hall of the People stands on the other. The only indication of the events that have taken place in the square is the heavy security, including the vast police presence and bag scanning at entrance points.

Summer Palace

I almost couldn’t believe it when I was told that the Summer Palace was bigger than the Forbidden City. It seemed impossible that anything could compare with the mammoth stretch of buildings and courtyards that made up the Forbidden City, but it didn’t take long to see that the Summer Palace definitely did. The literal translation of the name means “Gardens of Nurtured Harmony”. I’m not sure why that didn’t make it into the English name, but Summer Palace sounds impressive enough to represent what this stunning site has to offer.

The Summer Palace is a former imperial palace and was later a holiday resort for Empress Dowager, who saw the reconstruction of the palace after it was damaged during the Anglo-French invasion in 1860 and the eight allied nations invasion in 1900. Centered around the man made Kunming Lake, the palace features a collection of temples, houses and bridges, lined with leafy gardens. The picturesque setting heightens the feeling of retreat from the outside world, the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s busiest cities seemingly miles away. Rising above the lake are the site’s most iconic buildings, the Temple of Buddhist Virtue and the Tower of Buddhist Incense. The climb to the top rewards you will views over the lake, it’s best on a clear day.

Entry – 50 RMB

The Gardens of Perfect Brightness

Otherwise known as the old Summer Palace, this was something I will admit to having no knowledge of before going to Beijing, but something that is an extremely important part of China’s history and worth visiting. Like the nearby Summer Palace, the beauty of this location is undeniable. The palace was used by emperors of the Qing Dynasty and contained extensive architecture, lakes and gardens. One of the gardens, the Garden of Eternal Spring featured European style buildings, which were built at the request of the Qianlong Emperor. However the majority of buildings that made up the palace were traditional Chinese style structures.

In response to a group of British and Indian troops being taken hostage and killed during the second Opium War, the palace was destroyed by British and French troops. The garden was set ablaze and burnt for three days and the buildings were looted. The palace was destroyed again in 1900 during the Eight Nation Alliance invasion. Unlike the Summer Palace, this garden was not restored after the attacks, and visitors can see the full effect of the destruction with damaged buildings left in the condition that resulted from the invasions.

Entry – 25 RMB

Beijing Olympic Park

The few weeks leading up to and during the Olympics were in Sydney in 2000 were some of the most exciting I have ever experienced. I was in the torch relay, participated in a “trial run” of the athletics prior to competition starting and was in the stadium for Cathy Freeman’s gold medal run. The Olympics holds a special place in my heart, and a visit to Beijing Olympic Park was a must do for my trip.

The iconic “Bird’s Nest” stadium is as impressive up close as it is on television, and the fountains dancing in front of it make for a great people watching opportunity. The water cube is best viewed at night when its striking blue colour is illuminated. Walking to the cauldron will take you past a long wall listing the medalists from 2008 – searching through the names to see who you can find might be slightly nerdy, but was also a lot of fun.

 

Eat Local!

Watching bizarre foods Beijing the other night was a good reminder of some of the interesting street food in this city. I didn’t go to the night markets, but visited Wangfujing pedestrian street with its famous snack street. The narrow street is tightly packed with crowds and an almost overwhelming mix of wafting scents coming from the countless street stalls and restaurants. Those brave enough to try anything will not be disappointed – seahorses, starfish and various kinds of bugs on skewers were in almost every store. I’ve seen my fair share of unusual snacks in Central American markets, but I wasn’t prepared for the scorpion skewers, with the still live animals wiggling around on the sticks as we walked by.

I went for a much safer option with my street food purchase, choosing a lamb skewer and a fruit skewer that consisted of a small red fruit covered in hardened candy (Tanghulu). My dentist might have been horrified if they saw it, but it tasted amazing.

Another must try item is Beijing’s famous Peking Duck. Served in China since the Imperial times, Peking Duck is known for the crisp skin and unique style of serving where the duck is sliced in front of the diners. The meat and skin are served separately, the skin often eaten with various sauces. The meat is rolled up into a think pancake and eaten with cucumber sticks. There are many restaurants throughout Beijing that serve Peking Duck. We ate at Bianyifang, one of the longest serving duck restaurants in Beijing, currently located in the New World Shopping Mall.

9 things to do in Beijing

Because life has been keeping me too busy to blog as much as I would like lately, I’m going to post a preview of my next post – 9 things to do in Beijing.

It probably goes without saying that the Great Wall of China is high, if not first, on the list. Aside from my brother’s wedding, it was the highlight of my trip. The spectacular views and the picturesque natural landscape make it very easy to forget that you are only a couple of hours from one of the busiest cities in the world.

So my next blog which I WILL finish in the next week, will include this must see destination.

Tips for Shanghai

The amenities of a big city can be a welcome treat after spending time in some more remote places during your travels. But occasionally, when a city is the size of Shanghai, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are my 4 tips to help navigate this exciting city.

1. Catch the Maglev train

Shanghai’s high speed train to the airport gets its name from the magnetic levitation that operates it. Reaching speeds of up to of 430 km/h. The 8 minute trip from the city to the airport would take about 45 minutes in a taxi. A train passing in the opposite direction is a case of “blink and you’ll miss it”. My brother caught one going past on video.

The train in the opposite direction goes past at 1:50

2. Use the Metro

The Shanghai Metro is also almost worth taking just to experience its hectic nature. The system transports 8 million people daily, and is a fantastic way to get around the city. It is well equipped with signage, all of which is in Chinese and English, and announcements operate in both languages. It is fast an efficient, just be ready for a squashy ride if you get on in peak hour.

3. Eat, eat, eat

During my week in Shanghai, I tried dumplings, steamed buns, a Hong Kong style restaurant, traditional Shanghai banquet, hot pot, Japanese and of course, street food. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the DIY cooking in the hot pot restaurant was a lot of fun.

I tried a few different types of street food – mushrooms, something was described to me as “a relative of a pineapple” and my brother was brave enough to sample organs. The most interesting street food I saw had a pretty elaborate set up, almost to level of plastic chairs on the side of the road, Colombian Style. This particular snack looked a bit like a pancake, but included an egg and your choice of other ingredients. When my brother and his wife weren’t around to translate, the “point method” worked perfectly.

Street food

Hot pot restaurant

4. Shop til you drop

There is no shortage of shopping options in Shanghai, with something to for everyone. The Financial District has several malls with popular international brands, and Nanjing Road is one of the busiest pedestrian shopping streets in the world. The prices are reasonable (for someone who has been on a backpacker budget for the last few years), but if you want to save money ask for someone to point you in the direction of a mall that sells knock off items of well known brands.

My guest blog for HI Hostels is posted!

Check out my tips for Iguazu Falls!

http://www.hihostels.com/hostel/2013/06/a-guide-to-iguazu-falls/

The funny English translations epilogue post

Just when I thought I wouldn’t see anymore, some classics popped up on my last day in Beijing!

Steps are a foot ladder and the bathrooms are a sighthseeing ladder?

I’m used to minding the gap, but the hilly road is a new one.

Slack season!

Never leave home without your traffic strategy if you don’t want to get lost!

I would just like to clarify that my brother took this and sent it to me!

3 things to do in Shanghai

If you are looking for temples and palaces in your trip to Shanghai, you are probably going to leave slightly disappointed. In a very different setting to the traditional Chinese architecture situated in and around Beijing, Shanghai is known for its shopping malls, high speed trains and iconic buildings fighting it out for the title of highest in the world. China’s business capital is as much glitz and glamour as it is hustle and bustle, and has staked its claim as being one of the most vibrant, contemporary cities in the world.

I spent 5 days in Shanghai for my brother’s wedding last week. We saw some of the city’s most famous attractions and got a first hand encounter of a few of Shanghai’s quirks. If people watching is your thing, look out for apartment residents using power lines to hang their clothes to dry, young children riding on the front of scooters – smoking, and couples walking their dog across the road – holding its front paws between them like it is a toddler. For sightseeing and exploring the city, here are the 3 things I recommend doing in Shanghai.

1. Go to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Centre (the Bottle Opener)

The financial centre of Shanghai is located in the Pudong district, on the eastern side of the river that runs through the middle of the city. Home to some of the world’s tallest buildings, a trip to the district puts you in the midst of these impressive skyscrapers. A circular walkway brings you past the brightly coloured and uniquely shaped Shanghai TV tower and offers views of the future tallest building, which is being constructed as I’m typing.

The highlight of the financial district is taking the elevator to the top of the current tallest building reaching 492m, the Shanghai World Financial Centre. Continuing the theme of uniquely shaped buildings, the SWFC is nicknamed the “bottle opener” because of the square shaped hole in the top of the tower. The top and bottom of the square form two of the building’s viewing decks. The upper one is on the 100th floor and has the novelty of glass floors. Those who aren’t afraid of heights can look down the 474m to the city below.

Admission to the observation deck is RMB 150 per person, or free if it’s your birthday. Check out the model of the city on the entry level before you go up.

TV Tower

Glass floors of the observation deck

Shanghai World Financial Centre (in the background)

2. Walk from People’s Square to The Bund via Nanjing Road

Above ground, People’s Square is home to the shady People’s Park. Below ground, a maze of shops, walkways and a massive 25 plus exits make up the city’s busiest metro station.

A walk from People’s Square along East Nanjing Road takes you in the direction of the river through Shanghai’s premiere shopping district. The pedestrian mall is lined with department stores and restaurants, offering clothes, shoes, electronics and internationally recognised brands. Like most of Shanghai, the mall has no shortage of activity, with crowds hovering around streets performers and groups of dancers. At night, the already bustling area is electric, with flashing signage lighting up buildings.

The end of the street brings you to the Bund, the famous waterside district located opposite the financial district. Elegant 20th century buildings, built during the British settlement in Shanghai are found in the area, and provide an interesting contrast to the modern skyscrapers on the other side of the water. The Bund is the best viewing point for the Financial District, and the place to take your landscape skyline shots. Visit at night to see the city in its full illuminated glory. The are is crowded, so be prepared to fight for your place next to the wall to get a shot of the skyline with no other people in it. Click fast, because gaps that open up don’t last long.

The Financial District as seen from the Bund

Dancers on Nanjing Road

3. Yuyuan Gardens

If you are looking for traditional Chinese buildings in Shanghai, Old Town is the place to find them. Yuyuan Gardens and the adjacent tourist market feature the ancient architecture China is known for.

The famous Bridge of Nine Turnings zigzags across an artificial lake to a pavillion called the Huxingtang Tea House, which serves tea and snacks. The turns in the bridge are to prevent evil spirits from crossing, as they are afraid of corners. The theory doesn’t apply to the tourists packed in to the area, squeezing through the crowds to cross the bridge is almost as big a feat as squashing into a metro car in peak hour.

For anyone who likes street food, vendors selling traditional snacks are scattered around the area. My brother tried something that we were only told was “organs”.

Bridge of Nine Turnings

Funny Chinese/English Translations

I’m not doing anything new or different with this post, but just for fun here are some of the signs that don’t sound quite right in English that I’ve seen in the last week.

Drugs massage?

I’m not sure how telephone translates to picking machine!

The guy in picture doesn’t help clarify what this one means!

Mounting the Great Wall!

I guess the Sydney Striders won’t be holding an event here!

Don’t scribble

Too many instructions!

This makes sense, it’s just funny.

The fun places? (I realise KTV is karaoke, but if you didn’t..?)

I had to read this one about 3 times before it kind of made sense.

Try saying “uncivil social phenomenon” 3 times fast!

Saw this on the back of a toilet door, convenience wasn’t my first thought!

This seems like a good way to make money.

Have you seen any funny translations in your travels? Tweet me @where_is_bron

Throw me something, Mister!

But I’m not going to flash you for it.

When I told friends I was going to Mardi Gras this year, the most common question I got asked was if I was going to take my top off for beads. Okay, it was really only the guys who asked me that, but it was still an ongoing theme.

I had no idea what to expect from Mardi Gras. My decision to go was made on a whim when I was visiting who lives there in December and she invited me back for it. I have to admit, I was pretty confused about why her and her roommate were getting so excited about catching cups and frisbees. I had no idea why so many people fought so hard over small, shiny coins. And I definitely didn’t understand why she would have left behind any of the beads she caught. But it made a lot more sense after I experienced it for myself.

I went to parades on the last four days of Mardi Gras. I took home a spear, an umbrella, a coconut, cups, doubloons and endless amounts of beads. More beads that I could ever do anything with. I have beads hanging all around my house, I’ve donated them to friends and family, I left three quarters of the beads I caught at my friend’s house in New Orleans. And I still have a bag full of beads sitting on my floor that I don’t know what to do with. I also had a fun moment trying to explain to the lady at customs in Buenos Aires airport what they were when she saw them on the scanner.

My point is, and I’m sorry if this makes me the bearer of bad news, that it’s not necessary to take your top off to end up with an impressive collection of throws at Mardi Gras. In fact outside of the French Quarter, this common Mardi Gras stereotype is essentially non existent.

Instead, you can enjoy the atmosphere of a community street party, with people coming out for picnics, dancing, dressing up and of course catching beads.

Here are my 10 tips for having a great Mardi Gras:

1. Dress up. The people in the floats love costumes, and are more likely to give throws to people who are wearing a unique outfit.

2. Bring kids. The one thing that is more likely than a cool costume to result in good throws is kids. This strategy will usually see you (or them) end up with lots of stuffed toys.

3. Don’t be fooled by old ladies sitting in their chairs, they will fight you just as hard as anyone for a doubloon.

4. Always look up. Unexpected beads hitting you in the head can be seriously painful.

5. Get a good nights sleep. Catching beads can be surprisingly tiring! Especially if you are doing day and night parades. I can almost guarantee you will be ready to sleep for hours in the afternoon after the final float of the Rex parade disappears from view.

6. Be prepared. Bring food, drinks, picnic blankets, chairs and jackets. It is important to arrive early to get a good spot for the parades, which means you will be there for awhile. New Orleans can get cold at night, so bring warm clothing.

7. Don’t pick up beads off the floor. They are often damaged, and with so many people distracted by the floats passing by, you might have your fingers stepped on. Plus, you will catch so many beads anyway that you don’t need to collect off the ground.

8. Be selective with what you catch. After awhile, the beads you were so excited to catch during your first parade will seem too boring and you will want to aim higher. Remember that you probably can’t everything you catch home with you, so if you end up with something you don’t want give it to someone else (kids are always a good option). I don’t know how more New Orleans locals aren’t bead hoarders!

9. Choose your location wisely! What you are looking for from your Mardi Gras experience will determine whether or not you venture into the French Quarter during the event. Most hotels are in that part of the city, meaning a lot of people visiting New Orleans at that time of year end up there simply based on proximity. Because I was staying with a friend, I didn’t go to the French Quarter at all during Mardi Gras, and it seems that many locals do the same. The best part of the celebration is watching the parades, and there are great places to do that in different parts of the city. Most of the parades go along the beautiful St Charles Avenue, which is a great place to watch. Click here for more information on parade routes.

If you do want to bring out your risque side and flash people for beads, then the French Quarter is your place to go.

10. Have fun! Catching beads is addictive :)

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