February 21, 2017

Carnaval de Nice 

Though the largest carnival celebrations may be in Rio or Venice, Nice organizes a family-friendly schedule of celebratory events commemorating the festival.  Ready to explore a significant section of Nice’s history and current claim to fame, I prepared for participation in the fête.

The origins of carnival celebrations are not clear beyond their pagan roots, as there are many explanations for the glutinous gatherings.  A popular possibility, however, is that Christians adopted the parties to precede Lent.  The days of carnival allow for freedom and liberation, peaking in Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  No matter the original reason, carnival is now a time for people to come together and find the fun in society, and more importantly, themselves.

 

Le Roi de l’Énergie

The theme of this year’s celebrations was the King of Energy, and my first event was the Carnival Parade.  Though there are multiple showings of this procession throughout the festival week, I attended a weeknight production with the other students in my program.

Our cheap tickets sent us to a space to stand, closer to the action, while bleacher reservations were available at a higher price.  It may have been the day of the week we chose to attend, but the seated spectators were stoic and dull despite the animated attempts of the carnival dancers to engage the crowd.  I appreciated standing and dancing along the parade route, even though, by the end, I was partied out.

Civically proud, as the French are, many carnival floats portrayed political messages.  Among the displays of the Green Queen’s clean energy and the renewable energy of love, Donald Trump made his way down the street as the world’s new oil captain in a “wind of change,” and the French presidential candidates continued along the route on their ceaseless, election cycle wheel.

 

Bataille des Fleurs

My second carnival activity was the Flower Parade.  In addition to the entertainment that the flower-filled floats would provide, their deconstruction, in which flower bouquets would be thrown to the crowd, was another incentive for attending. Unfortunately, the floats were underwhelming, only adorned with flowers and not composed of them, as I had expected.  And, though it may just have been by chance, but I didn’t get any flowers!  You had to be 6 years old, 60 years old, or have a 6-foot-tall friend to catch a bouquet.

The Carnival Parade is worth the time, with reasonable expectations.  I do not know how past festivals have been celebrated, but because of continuing terrorist attacks in France, Carnival has recently been adjusted to accommodate safety concerns.  The Flower Parade, however, disappointed.  Nonetheless, Carnival hosts many other events over its 10-day duration, so there are plenty of other celebrations to explore.

 

Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Nice,

A.J.H.

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REVIEW: Széchenyi Thermal Baths’ SPARTY

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Spa bath + party = SPARTY.  In order to spend our very few hours in Budapest efficiently, my friends and I bought tickets for the Széchenyi Thermal Baths’ sparty, granting us after-hour access to the famous Budapest baths.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, six American girls with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in an unfamiliar aspect of Budapesti nightlife.  For those curious about a Hungarian sparty, I have done all of the dirty work and outlined everything there is to know about hanging out for 5 hours in a steamy pool with hundreds of your closest friends.  So if you’re planning on one day attending a sparty, or are still not exactly sure what I’m talking about, you can find here the knowledge that I wished that I’d had before my nighttime Széchenyi Thermal Bath experience.

  • We arrived at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths about an hour after opening to avoid lines, because we had not purchased “XPRESS” tickets.  Our wait was only about 5 minutes, indoors.
  • Everyone received a wristband at check-in that could electronically secure any chosen locker.  The lockers are located in the bath house, separate from the outdoor pool.  Spacious and safe, the lockers can hold a few pairs of winter boots and thick jackets without worry of running out of room.
  • Regular entrance to the sparty cost 40€, but my friends and I purchased tickets with drinks included for an additional 5€.  We got two drink tickets each in hopes of avoiding inflated prices of drinks that I’m sure, if purchased directly from the bar, were well above what we paid.
  • We had considered the fact that uncovered liquids in a pool wasn’t the best idea, but once in the baths, my friends and I found that spilled drinks were the least of our worries.  If you think too hard about what we were actually sitting in, it’s a little unsettling.
  • Colorful lights and loud music quickly distracted our young, careless minds from sanitation to remind us that we were at a party!  The lights set a fun, spirited atmosphere, but the music was only mediocre.  One, generic techno beat carried on throughout the night, making us wonder what the DJ was actually getting paid to do.
  • Though it seemed as though the crowd was more male (65%) than female (35%), my friends and I never felt uncomfortable.  In fact, we chatted with a few, very nice people, and even met some fellow Terps!  Additionally, although there was a clear majority of attendees under the age of thirty, we spotted some older couples mixed in the crowd.
  • The Széchenyi Thermal Baths’ sparty website explicitly stated no form of videography or photography allowed, so we left the GoPros at home and phones in the locker.  Silly us for following the rules.  Many people had a drink in one hand and a camera in the other.  We eventually brought our phones out onto the pool deck to capture our experience, but were annoyed that listening to instructions left us without our own sparty footage.
  • The party took place from 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., and we stayed nearly the entire time, talking with each other, enjoying the warmth of the water, and the presence of the crowd.  For college-aged students, attending a sparty is a unique experience that I would recommend to other adventurous adolescents while abroad.

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Destination Locations

 

Nyugalom, Szerelem, SPARTY

A.J.H.