Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Nice Carnival

Our trip to Nice was fantastic. As you can probably tell by the two blogs before this one, Carnival was a real highlight. What a wild festival. I don’t think it was just me when I say things got more lawless as the weekend progressed. Once you got past the idea that spraying silly string directly in a performer’s face was rude, you had arrived. Adults behaved like children, spraying each other silly and racing around through the crowd. Some of the performers balanced on the fences around the stands while people threw things at them to knock them off. Yet, strangely, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and very few people looked angry about excessively rude behaviours.

I tried to imagine getting permission for this kind of parade in Canada and could practically hear the outraged environmentalists. There were bags of confetti thrown endlessly everywhere. A whole troupe of performers carried leaf blower type machines on their backs and sprayed rolls of tissue into the air while a comrade with a cannon shot small tissue circles everywhere. Pounding dance pop music blared from speakers while costumed crowd pleasers danced interspersed throughout the stands. Every so often they would simultaneously all shoot coloured bits of foil into the air from exploding party makers. Many of the spectators were costumed as well. On the whole, chaos was the theme.

We started blandly enough with the Bataille des Fleurs on Saturday. This parade was held on the Promenade des Anglais, along the beach. Bleachers were set up on the beach side though, so you couldn’t actually see the water. Not that you were looking for it. The parade was awesome. Huge beautifully decorated flower floats went by, each one covered in real flowers. The “flower” girls on board were dressed like fantasy princesses and tossed the flowers to the crowd over the next few hours as the floats did loops around the route. At the end, the floats were completely stripped of flowers. Nice is the flower capital in France. Their flower market here is the biggest one but knowing how much flower bouquets cost, this city must go into debt over this carnival. They do the parades at least three times over the three weeks.

This parade had more costumed performers, marching bands and dancing troupes than the others. I think Tom’s favourite were the girls from Brazil who were wearing mesh outfits covering strategic points minimally. Some of the costumes were just fantastic. The girls dressed as brightly coloured flowers were stunning. The costumes were welded together with wheels on the bottom to make supporting the weight easier. There were many characters on stilts, some of whom bounced on what looked like pogo stilts. I particularly liked the insects.

The kids have posted movies of the evening parade. It was spectacular. Keep in mind we had just seen the Flower Parade a few hours earlier and were awed then. This parade is when they pulled out the big floats for the first time. Two of the floats had been on display. One was the Sun God that you saw in the movie. It was jaw-dropping watching that thing move. They moved very slowly because unlike the Flower Parade, during this parade there were no fence barriers to keep the standing room guests contained. We all stood along the parade route and some of us stood ON the parade route. These floats were absolutely HUGE yet people just stood right in front; usually to get a picture. It really only was getting started in the evening, too.

The next day was the final “Carnival Parade”. We’d seen most of the floats before so I guess the only thing left was to ramp up the chaos. During this parade people flowed around the floats as the floats progressed. They moved slowly and the crowds parted for them but we were perhaps 3 metres away, able to touch some floats that were wide and we were at the back of the crowd most of the time. Rhys and Julia were right at the front, armed with silly string and covered in confetti.

Each float had a theme and many of the Mediterranean countries were represented, although not all of them. Several middle Eastern countries were missing and a few north African countries as well. I can’t see Muslims being particularly tolerant of many of the antics so perhaps they declined the invitation. Italy was highlighted because it was the 150th anniversary of their becoming a unified country. They had several floats, one of which included several men dressed in drag with huge balloon breasts. This apparently wasn’t enough as the men were about as raunchy as you could ask for, lifting their skirts, grinding their hips, making lewd gestures at the crowds. They were very funny and more than a bit scandalous. The most interesting thing was that on the same float further along were five and six year old children. The kids weren’t dressed in drag but it did create an interesting picture of the Italian way of life.

We did wander the streets of Nice a bit but most of our time was spent at the Carnival. We return to Nice for a few days when we drive from Spain to Italy and I am looking forward to seeing the beaches and feeling the warmth of the French Riviera on our return.

1 comments: said...

I love the picture of Rhys and Julia with the flowers...I feel like I've been to the parade with all the writing and pictures. Thanks tons for sharing this. Love Mom Happy BIrthday Tom!