- Category: JA SlideShow
- Published on Wednesday, 15 December 2010 06:54
- Written by Super User
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Flowers, fantastic floats, gigantic balloon figures, sticky silly string and nearly naked dancers all are a part of carnival in Nice. And so is sunshine, something often missing in carnival celebrations in northern Europe.
We lived in Germany for years and often attended Fasching celebrations, from the Black Forest to Mainz to Düsseldorf. The weather usually was bleak and cold, making standing outside for hours watching parades a drag.
Last year in Nice was a treat. We basked in warm, sunny rays (common in southern France throughout the year) as we watched daytime parades. There was not even a chill in the air during the nighttime Parade of Lights. The weather was glorious, and we enjoyed this seductive Riviera city as much as its carnival.
Nice’s carnival is the largest in France, with roots going back to 1294, when the Comte de Provence Charles d’Anjou told of "joyful carnival days" spent in the city. Modern carnival did not get under way until 1873, when a festival committee was formed to bring new life to the festivities with floats and viewing stands.
Nice’s festivities go on for two weeks, this year from Feb. 12 to 28. A king (a gigantic parade figure) reigns over the festivities, which have a different theme every year. Last year was the "King of Masquerade," this year it’s "King of the Blue Planet." The king is accompanied by a queen, but he is the dominant carnival character.
Parades are the highlights. Some 20 elaborate floats interspersed with bands illustrate the annual theme in the parades on several afternoons during carnival. The nighttime event is spectacular, with streams of colored light focusing on gigantic creations in the dark. Huge balloon figures tower over the masses, swinging and swaying in beams of light as they slowly drift by to cheers and shouts of happy revelers. It’s like a drug-induced fantasy.
The Battle of Flowers parade, an afternoon event, is indeed that. Floats decorated with millions of colorful blossoms make their way along the Promenade des Anglais, the Champs-Élysées of Nice, running beside the sea. In between the flower extravaganzas, dancers from around the world (mainly sexy females and many wearing very little) strut, jump and tap their way down the boulevard.
Photographers have a field day — until the fight for the flowers gets under way. Those riding in the flower floats toss bouquets into the crowd. You’d think it was gold as spectators push, shove and jump over barriers to catch the bounty. Too bad if you and your camera are in the way.
Along the parade route and on Nice’s streets, vendors peddle masks, crazy hats, confetti and spray cans of silly string. They obviously do a big business with the latter. You can’t escape Nice carnival without getting plastered with this gummy mess. Fortunately, it’s easy to remove.
The Place Massena, the heart of the city, is carnival central. It is where the huge king and queen figures reside when they’re not in the parades and where blasting pop music inspires revelers to dance all day long. For those who can’t find a place on the street to watch the parades, all the action can be viewed on the mammoth TV screen in the square.
Carnival comes to an end when the king is taken out to sea and burned, accompanied by an elaborate fireworks display. But let it be known, the king will return next year and festivities will start all over again.