Every winter, Nice has this festival called Carnaval for three weeks. There was a lot of hype leading up to it, but none of my assistant friends, nor myself, really knew what it was. All we knew was that there is a big warehouse down the street from my apartment that had a ton of Carnaval decorations and stuff in it, and that huge bleachers were being put up in la Place Massena and along the Promenade des Anglais (along the ocean).
My boyfriend got here on the 14th of February and as we were walking to my apartment after the bus from the airport dropped us off, we turned onto my street and this is what we saw:
Why yes, that IS two huge floats you see blocking the entire road. As I mentioned, the warehouse is just a couple of blocks from my apartment on the same road, and they were getting ready for the opening event of Carnaval which was to be the next day. The warehouse was open so we were able to see inside as we walked by, which gave us a hint of what was to come during the next three weeks of Carnaval:
The next day was the opening night, and it was free to sit in the bleachers (usually 20 euros! Yikes!), so Nick and I went and met a bunch of my friends there. Boy, were we in for an experience! There were tons of people dressed in crazy clothes and facepaint, confetti thrown everywhere, silly string sprayed freely, and kids dressed in white robes. I soon learned that the kids were dressed like that because grade schools from all over the city were participating in the performance, but at first it looked really creepy and KKK-esque.
The first part of the event was… interesting. There was a big white hoop with pictures and videos being projected on it, then it got raised up in the air by a crane and had like five men on bikes pedaling around in a circle. On a platform above each bike was a woman doing interpretive dance to the music that was playing. Sound weird? Yeah, it was… here are some pictures to make it make more sense.
After awhile (like 20 minutes of this, seriously), the hoop dropped down and picked up this lady in red, who was singing opera. Picture below.
After she sang for awhile, a ladder dropped down and she climbed down from under the skirt and kept singing/doing acrobatics, while another woman popped up from somewhere and continued singing. Yes, it was just as strange as it sounds. I only got one washed-out photo:
That white blob under the red skirt is the lady singing/doing acrobatics. Oh and see all the bluish/whitish crap in the air? That’s the confetti that they were throwing out. There was normal confetti that was just bits of paper, but also bigger tissue paper cutouts, like hearts, dots, flowers, etc.
After that part was FINALLY over (it took like, 45 minutes), it was time for the kids’ performance. This whole time, they were chillin’ in the middle between the two bleachers, watching and spraying the opera-singing lady with silly string every time she dipped low enough to reach. You can see them all in the background of this picture of Nick and me:
The different groups took turns singing/dancing to different songs. The theme of this year’s Carnaval was “King of the 5 Continents.” Which two they left out, I’m not sure, because last time I checked there were seven continents. But whatever, I digress. Each group of students had a different country and the music they chose was slightly related to their country, as well as their costumes. As my friend Jack put it, “Carnaval is basically 21 days of racial stereotypes” and he was right, which you will see later. Although maybe “national stereotypes” is more accurate. For example, the group of kids representing Italy was dressed like this:
Look at the bottom row of kids. Yes, those are pizza boxes on their heads. After the kids’ performances, the mayor of Nice spoke, then they brought in the huge guy and gal that we saw on my street the day before.
During the parade the announcer guy kept saying, “Don’t leave! We have a surprise for you in just two minutes/one minute/a few moments/etc!” The surprise ended up being fireworks!
They were actually pretty good- the best part of the night, for me. So that was the end of Carnaval opening night! We didn’t go to any more events because you had to pay a ridiculous amount of money to have a seat and we were gone most of the time, and then it was raining during the free closing so I decided not to go. We did have to deal with a lot of crazy people running around throwing confetti, big crowds, and silly string everywhere, which got kind of wearing. Three weeks is a long time! We also happened to see the USA float, which my roommate had told me about. It’s pretty bad, but don’t get the wrong opinion; every country’s float was incredibly full of stereotypes, not just the United States one. It did offend me a lot though. Here it is:
There was: a fat Statue of Liberty holding a Coke and a scale with a crown made out of ice cream cones, standing on a cheeseburger; behind her where you can’t see is an astronaut; King Kong; a totem pole; Uncle Sam holding a thousand dollar bill; a Native American riding a horse; and then in front where you can’t see there were Marilyn Monroes and Uncle Sams. Oh and I believe the car is a Corvette. You can’t make this stuff up.
So that was Carnaval 2013! It was quite the experience. I’m glad we went on the free night and I was able to see what Carnaval was all about, but it definitely wasn’t my thing.