Where in the world are you today? If you’re lucky, somewhere that celebrates Mardi Gras in style. I’m in rural England, which doesn’t really go in for wild carnivals, so I’ve had to content myself with making a load of pancakes, but this time two years ago, I was in Spain, and boy do the Spanish know how to throw a party. While not on the scale of Rio, the usually sedate town of Oviedo (my favourite place in the world, if you didn’t already know) came alive in an explosion of colour and sound for Carnaval.
Bagpipe players, a mainstay of any Asturian celebration, kicked off proceedings with a rousing rendition of the regional anthem and marched off toward the cathedral, where we would all be gathering later. Then, as crowds lined each side of the main street into the Old Town, the parades began. Various groups get together and spend weeks desigining costumes, coreographing dances and coming up with themes. There’s a prize for the best group in the parade, so things get serious, in a vibrant, high-spirited kind of way. The groups came thick and fast, to the sound of drums, music and laughter. Whole families take part, from grandparents to the smallest infants. Even children not in the parade get dressed up and in their costumes, they are just too adorable for words.
Finally, when all the participants had gone past, the crowd followed them to the cathedral, where bagpipers and folk dancers were already waiting. Soon, the square was full to bursting with people, in various costumes, traditional dress and everyday clothes and the judging began. Once the victorious group had recieved their trophy and shouted a lot, the bagpipe players struck up once again and the folk dancers danced to the rhythm of their castanets.
After a while, everyone dispersed to take a siesta and to get ready for the evening festivities. The daytime had been for the children, but the night was for the adults, so after dinner we dressed in our own fancy dress costumes and headed to the Plaza del Sol for the most rowdy but good-natured botellon of my life. I was greeted by an incredible hulk and many, many guys in drag. You could be forgiven for thinking that hundreds of people ready for a party crammed into a square with alchohol freely flowing sounds like a recipe for disaster. In fact, the general air of bonhomie and the fact that a Spanish night out is a marathon rather than a sprint, meaning that it’s wise to pace yourself, as far as the booze is concerned, meant that it was just joyously mad and happy, rather than drunk and disorderly.
By the time the sun came up, I was more than ready for bed, but that is how you party in Spain. Although I like pancakes as much as the next person, after experiencing Carnaval in Spain, I can’t tell you how much I miss the cries of ‘Fiestaaaaaaaa!’