March 3: The accidental carnival-goer

The Nice Carnival is, amazingly, still going strong after nearly two weeks. Twice a week there’s a bataille de fleurs, the flower parade, and another couple of times a week there’s a corso, with floats, giant papier-mâché models, dancers and so on. Each type of parade happens in a different part of the centre of town, which means it’s a bugger to get around if you’re not expecting it, even on a bike. People wear costumes, though for the daytime corsos it’s mostly children who do it (or have it done to them, as far as I can see).. There are some fabulous costumes, I have to admit, and children wear them with such innocent, earnest faith it makes my heart crease. The very young ones are sure that everyone will believe they are a musketeer, or Spiderman, or a whiskery lion. Being human requires you to conspire with them.

Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande on the float with all the other presidential candidates

Each neighbourhood has its own carnival too – mostly schools and local groups. The kids all sing songs from the floats, get dressed up along with the grown-ups, throw confetti, and everyone watches and waves and smiles. Joel rang to say it was all setting up in front of the restaurant, but then suddenly had to go, he said he was speaking to a man with a pink beard. I didn’t pay much attention. I expect things to be a bit surreal now. He’s signed up for another run, a semi-marathon on April 29th, so he does a bit of training, running down past the restaurant and back up home again. If he stops in for a second, Michele usually slaps something in his hand – yesterday he came home with a small slice of foie gras. It defeats the purpose of running, I suppose, but it was a nice surprise.

I watched this man diving into the sea while I was sitting waiting for a shop to open...

The weather feels a bit surreal, too. I got sunburned last week, sitting on the rocks at Coco Beach. I swear I was only there for half an hour, passing the time until a shop opened after lunch, one where I wanted to buy a birthday card for my nephew. Today I went to my friend Nadia’s for lunch (paella!) and, in order for me to  to sit safely on her balcony, she had to lend me a floppy green sunhat in which I looked absolutely ridiculous.

The carnival is seriously surreal. Someone said it was Mickey Mouse, in that all the characters seem influenced by cartoon characters – but they’ve always looked like that, with bulbous eyes and stupid smiles, from well before Walt Disney was even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes. I even went online to search on British Pathe, and found wonderful black and white clips of the bataille de fleurs and the corsos from the 1920s. It’s still all so recognisable! It’s not Mickey Mouse at all – in fact, Mickey could be described as very Carnevalesque. But I’m not going to argue…

The only reason I ended up at the Carnival this week was because I was looking for that birthday card… I had to detour way off my intended path just to find a VeloBleu station with a spot left to park my bike. And then I got caught up in the crowd, covered with confetti, and charmed.


About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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2 Responses to March 3: The accidental carnival-goer

  1. Sarah says:

    That birthday card arrived today!

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