Everybody loves a Nice carnival
Many a town and city is rightfully proud of its annual carnival – the celebration of all things local attracting residents as well as visitors from further afield. However, not many people understand the origins of this well known event and even less so its historic association with some of the most glamorous and sunny holiday destinations in the world. One of those destinations is the southern French city of Nice on the Cote d’Azur.
Taking place during two weeks in February leading up to Mardi Gras, the city explodes into lively activity and colourful celebrations. The carnival processions, prestige soirées, rock and techno concerts, entertainment and fireworks attract approximately 1.2 million people each year to the Mediterranean city. It is the biggest winter festival along the French Rivera.
The carnival is also a very flowery celebration, characterized by the Battle of the Flowers (Batailles de Fleurs). Twenty huge floats parade up and down past the public along the famous Promenade des Anglais that overlooks the sea. Each float has a team of men and young women who throw 80-100,000 flowers out to the watching locals and tourists, before the celebration comes to a crescendo in the Place Masséna in the plush city centre. 90% of the Carnival de Nice flowers are grown locally and include gladioli, tokyos, mimosa, gerberas, roses, carnations and daisies. By night the flower laden floats give way to spectacular illuminations and on the last night an incredible fireworks display.
The history of the carnival is intertwined with the history of Nice itself. The word carnival originally means ‘carne levare’ or ‘away with the meat’ and is based on the tradition of fasting or living on a restrictive diet during Lent. The practice of large Lenten celebrations and street parties with spectators wearing huge masks dates back several centuries, with the earliest records in Nice dating back to 1294.
Before fasting for forty days according to the Catholic tradition of Lent, the inhabitants of the city enjoyed rich, plentiful cuisine typical of this bountiful region of France. The people used carnival as an excuse to eat, drink and make merry before undergoing an austere 40 days deprived of all carnal pleasures. Despite this heritage however, the practice was in danger of dying out around 200 years ago when Napoleon banned such events in 1797. The modern Nice carnival dates back to 1873.
The Nice Carnival has a history of influence across the world. It can be credited with the birth of the giant model, which has cropped up in other carnivals and festivals such as in the burning man festival held in Arizona. Such huge figures, which caused consternation when they were first introduced, have been a regular feature at the Nice Carnival for over one hundred years.
‘The Blue Planet’ is the green theme for this year’s celebration (which starts on the 12th February), with more than a million people expected to participate including many of France’s most avant garde artists and designers. The warm Mediterranean climate allows the early timing of the event and ensures that visitors to the city are spread more evenly throughout the year. This means February, March and April become a popular time to visit as just before and after the carnival the city isn’t so crowded.
Kirkor Ajderhanyan, Owner of Agence 107 Promenade says, “The Nice Carnival really is the most wonderful celebration. Not only is it a hugely impressive and spectacular event, it also serves to remind visitors of the numerous attractions associated with Nice and the Cote d’Azur, such as its bustling markets, charming narrow lanes, art, museums, food, beaches, harbours, baroque churches and stylish buildings. All these things can be found within walking distance of the Place Masséna, a beautiful and palatial part of the centre of Nice where the crescendo of the carnival happens right in front of your very eyes. And where better to enjoy the carnival than from your very own apartment? A beautiful and modern 2 bedroom apartment overlooking the Place Masséna with a 35sqm terrace costs €560,000, an excellent price for such an historic location.”
Mr Ajderhanyan continues, “If sea views beyond the festivities are what you’d prefer then the Promenade des Anglais is the place to live; apartments and penthouses here are hugely desirable and attract the attention of buyers across the world. Events such as the Nice Carnival further add to the appeal of living and owning property in Nice, especially along the famous ‘Prom’. Currently on the market is a modernised and affordable 1 bedroom apartment for €365,000; this apartment makes an excellent investment purchase, accommodation demand increases dramatically around the carnival so you stand to earn an income from your seafront property too. Or for bigger budgets €680,000 will get you a spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with priceless panoramic Mediterranean views.”