Friday 27 February 2015

So you went to Carnaval in Cadiz?

Welcome to Cadiz!

Last week I wrote about my trip to Carnival in La Rinconada, 10km outside of Seville. Well this weekend marked the last weekend of carnaval and to celebrate we went to Cádiz, the capital of carnaval and (apparently) the only place where the dictator Franco failed to squash carnaval celebrations.

The most important thing about Carnaval is you have to dress up. I saw some American students on the train from Seville to Cádiz who had made very poor effort. One of them was wearing normal clothes with a Spanish football shirt on. I shook my head at her in disdain. I imagine she saw me... I say this because everybody on that train was staring at me. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was not sitting with my friends. Which meant I was sitting in a coach of people dressed in normal clothes, dressed like this...

Me and Harry Potter
I know, I know: we look fabulous! There were three other girls in flamenco dresses too. As we were walking from our flats to the train station in Seville, people stopped walking in the street to watch us. A taxi driver got out of his car to try to take a photo of us (rude.) An old man shouted "ENJOY YOURSELVES FLAMENCAS!!!!" Actually a few people shouted that; they used a phrase that I actually thought meant "enjoy your dinner" (buen provecho) but in that context I assume means "enjoy"...

So anyway, we thought we looked great. Our aim (obviously) was to be sexy Spanish senoritas. And if we were in any other country, I think this would have been a convincing costume. However, because we were in Spain people know what Spanish ladies actually dress like. And apparently they do not dress like this. Our Spanish teacher (who was a MASSIVE fan of the costumes by the way) explained to us that flamenco dresses are the only type of folk dress that change with fashion. And ours are old. He was very clear to emphasise that they were old ... and apparently, not in the good "oh my Grandma wore this and I'm a vintage princess" way that we'd hoped, but in a like "Jesus Christ where did you even find that monstrosity" way.

We actually found them in a charity shop called Humana on Calle Feria, and the tags said they cost 15 euros but that day everything in the shop was 4! Four euros! Who would even try to resist a bargain that good!? I bought two! (I also wanted to buy a pair of lemon yellow cotton dungarees but didn't have enough change. and had to choose between those and another dress that has massive green sleeves that look like a cabbage...obviously chose the latter.)

So I guess people in Seville thought we looked pretty crazy because we were so out of fashion. But in Cádiz people weren't that concerned about the vintage of our dresses but the fact we were wearing them at all. You see, Carnaval is insanely important in Cadiz, and it doesn't exist in Seville. In Seville they have Semana Santa (Easter week...hoods that look like the KKK etc etc) and Feria. Feria is a couple of weeks after Semana Santa and the girls wear beautiful (more fashionable) flamenco dresses and everybody spends a week drinking and dancing all night, every night.

Cheeky Cathedral
Apparently there's a bit of a rivalry between Carnival in Cadiz and Feria in Seville. So when the people of Cadiz saw the dresses, the first thing they thought was "SEVILLE!!!!", and they said things like "its not Feria, girls!" or "You're a bit early!" or simply "Sevillanas! Sevillanas!" I thought that was a bit pedantic but there you go. (It also reminded me a bit of the time I wore my traditional Austrian dirndl to Vienna to celebrate Austria Day and realised, the only people who wear dirndl in Vienna are waitresses. Both outfits make me feel like a princess. Both outfits were an absolute bargain and it transpired I wore both of them on inappropriate occasions).

So apart from the dresses, what was Carnaval like? Well, firstly I was struck by how beautiful the city is. Its on the coast with a humongous cathedral and beautiful views over the ocean. The promenade reminded me of the malecón in Havana, which brought back lots of happy memorise, and we sat there to watch the sun go down...

The Atlantic Ocean
During the whole of carnaval there is a great singing competition where local people form groups and write satirical choral songs. They then perform these, in full costumes, on floats and on street corners. For example we saw a bunch of nuns singing and a van full of 'samurai' soldiers.

The nuns singing on a street corner

As it gets later the singing stops and Spanish people do what they do best - hang out on the street drinking. This seemed to be the main activity going on (OBVIOUSLY we joined in). We also found an outdoor concert but I actually missed the concert because I wanted to eat pizza (priorities!).

Crowds outside the Cathedral
After dinner we were wandering around and found a group of people with percussion instruments. They started playing samba beats and walking around so we started a parade behind them, dancing alone and feeling extremely excited. As it got later it got much, much colder, so we spent the early hours in a friendly bar and then a club, until we finally made it back to the station for the first train home at 6.40. There was a big group of us there, and we inevitably ended up separated, but thankfully everyone made it to the station on time.

I felt horrendous all of Sunday and very sorry for myself. Even worse was I found out there had been a firework display at midnight which I totally missed! AND I LOVE FIREWORKS! But overall it was a wonderful experience with all my new friends. And that's the end of my very long post about Carnaval. Two more photos of weird things...

A couple of locals selling seafood I imagine they just caught from the ocean. They gave me a little snail to try but I spat it out when they looked the other way because I didn't want to risk being POISONED  

All nationalities were welcome. In fact, throughout the night I didn't meet that many people actually from Cadiz: mainly Malaga.

Chao for now xxx

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