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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 


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The most citric carnival... Menton's Lemon Festival!

Ivan Blanco

Español, por aquí

Sorry Ivrea! Due to lemons' more citric content, Menton wins the battle of one of the most citric Carnivals in the World; read my Ivrea Carnival post to discover the WHY of this citric combat.

Welcome, it's the Fête du Citron!

Menton is one of the Riviera's little gems that far from other more media flared locations, specially within Southern France, is often obliviated as an in between destination or even just a passing by place; having most travellers attired to reach the nearby Italy as soon as possible. However, the last French town before Italy has much more pep to it as it may look like, mostly in Summer and specially during the Carnival period!

Everyone is invited

Thanks to hoteliers and lemons... 1895 sees the birth of the 1st ever Lemon Festival!

Probably a bit influenced by it's neighbouring and popular Nice Carnival, the Fête du Citron grows from an idea of the local hoteliers back in 1895, uniting the region's celebrations, mild climate and the main local produce: lemons! If not a World reference, at least at national level, the most yellow and acid fruit has in Menton it's biggest representation in both production, quality and proud locals. To such an extent, that in 1928 Menton had the biggest production of lemons in all Europe, and a local hotelier had the idea of celebrating this by creating an exposition of flowers, oranges and lemons in Hotel Riviera's gardens. This had such a success that the local government extended this to a yearly event, up to our modern days without interruption (except during the World War).

Oranges and Lemons' beauty

This allegory for the most yellow fruit has its epitome in the parading protagonists that fill Menton's streets with joy, party and colourful mood during the 2 weeks event. Similar to its Niçois sibling, the Carnival of Menton inveils itself with a yearly theme that couldn't be more linked to its cultural origin and geographical proximity... the Italian Cinecittà, honoring the legendary Roman studios that gave us cinematic works of art such as La Dolce Vita, Fellini Satyricon or some more recent productions like Scorsese's Gangs of New York or The Passion of the Christ.

With this diverse cultural universe, yet again, Menton's Fête du Citron was bond to delight even the most culturally nourished palates and cinema lovers. Nevertheless, focusing on the celebratory side, there are two main protagonist that make for its uniqueness: the day & night parades and the most citric garden exposition in the World!

Menton's day & night parades

Similar to Nice’s Carnival, in Menton's case, the Kings and Queens take the shape of lemons and oranges, the main protagonists of this 2 week celebration. Apart of the obvious daytime difference, the Day Parade has a longer parcour, but keeps the colourfulness and energy of its nightly counterpart. The latter bears only a small change in the parade’s parcour, being it shorter. In addition, on the last Night parade once and the only fireworks of this carnival, enlighten Menton’s Bay to everyone's delight.

Menton’s Exposition of citric fruits

Extending in front of the Casino Barrière, Menton's Agrumes Exposition takes over the town’s public garden to create the greatest oranges and lemons constructions in the World. Not a bad time to order a lemonade or some sweet limoncello from the few market stalls that are available there. If the colder temperatures of the Winter seduce you to a warmer option, they also serve lemon made teas and crepes. 

You may visit the gardens almost any day, although if you wish a more cosier, cheerful and unique visit, the Gardens of Lights event during selected evenings, will bring you both a unique visual and musical experience that might even bring back magic childhood dreams.

Well, this fellar is grabbing some delicious Menton lemons and making himself one very tasty lemonade, meanwhile you can enjoy a few more photos of the Festival with the most pep; you may grab yourself a lemonade too and make sure to put on some tunes of Nino Rota. 

Find out more here about the most citric Carnival. 

This post is part of my Riviera Carnival Triangle, stay tuned
on Twitter Instagram for more!

Kings & Queens, Flowers & Socca... it's Carnival in Nice!

Ivan Blanco

Español, por aquí

When it's about Kings and Queens, Nice knows perfectly how to celebrate that: 15 days, night and day parades, flower battles and unique atmosphere unite for one of Europe's biggest carnival festivities! 

How tall do you think was the highest King of Nice?

Rio has big samba parades, Venice is masked with a veil of classic elegance, Ivrea celebrates with oranges in a very particular way and of course, Nice has its unique approach too. Dating back to at least the 17th century, with even some references before that, it can be said that the real spirit of the current Nice Carnival had its main climatic moment with the creation of the Carnival Committee in 1873, lifting up the celebration to a whole new level. The main protagonists are the more than 10 meters high constructions that represent the King and Queen of Nice's Carnival; the maximum height was attained in 2014 with a 20m high King!

Another unique element of this enormous moving chariots are the main theme that sets the guidelines for the smaller chariots and their, usually, satirical point of view. This year we have the "King of Media", who with this journalistic aim, won't let any event uncovered...

The King of Media

With now more than 130 editions of France's biggest Carnival, there are 3 highlights not to be missed for the most festive and hungry ones among you. 

The Night and Day King, Queen and floats Parade

The most relevant event of the Carnival, also called Corso in the local Niçois language, invades the scene of Nice's most famous square, Place Massena, whch offers the leading role of the show to the Carnival's King and Queen who bring awe and excitement to the happy, big and small carnivalieres. At least 90 minutes, packed with dance, music, jokes and sheer happiness will immerse you completely in the most carnivalesque atmosphere. My personal favourite, the Night parade! Filled with lights, colours and confetti that brighten up Massena's evenings as no other show can.

Little tip: disguise yourself from head to toe and you'll be granted free entry to the parade for an utmost carnivalesque experience; no, a red plastic nose won't cut it. 

See below photos of this and last year´s editions:

The Flower Battle

Bird view of the Flower Battle!

When a battle has jazmin, rose and mimosa scents... then it can only be for Nice's Carnival! Held after French lunch time, the entry to this will give you the chance to come back home with more than another parade... Apart of the around 3000 fresh flowers, it enhances the local floral heritage and gives Nice's Carnival the most natural colours to this 2 week event. In addition to the party, and, flower power, it's one good way to surprise your girlfriend ;) After each battle, at the end, the flowers fly away from the floats launched by the its participants as a gift to the public that cheered them during all the event; there's no better way to bring back home a bouquet of the best flowers of the region.

The Socca party

Yummy Niçois Socca!

No real celebration is without a tasty culinary note...the Socca party celebrates Nice's most gastronomic heritage and local proud. Taking place at the Jardin Albert 1er, this very Nice gastronomic star is a kind of crunchy crepe made out of chickpea flour and one of the Provence's most tasty delicacies; little tip, add some pepper and salt, a glass of local rose wine, and you'll be culinary synched with the French Riviera.

Looking for more?

Nice's Sea View

Then put on your bathing suit and be ready for one cold salto: time for a Carnival Dip! Scheduled on the festivities' last day and probably a prelude of that evening's main event... a dip in the benigne Mediterranean Sea is the chance for the most brave locals to get ready for the nights big event. 

The last carnival day is marked by the King's final parade into Nice's most beloved protagonist: the sea. With fireworks and one big celebration, the Carnival's King is incinerated in front of the Promenade des Anglais and says goodbye to one of the Rivieras's most famous Winter events.

End of party!

End of party!

Find here all the info and programme of this year's Carnival.

If you're hooked to Instagram then snap away and tag your pics with #nicecarnaval and #igersnice to win some very carnivalesque prizes, organized for the 2nd time by @igersnice and @nicecarnaval; click here for more info.

This post is part of my Riviera Carnival Triangle, stay tuned
on Twitter Instagram for more!

When orange is a battle: Storico Carnevale di Ivrea!

Ivan Blanco

Español, por aquí

Ivrea! A town that during Carnival includes freshly pressed orange juice as their main treat...

Welcome to the Storico Carnevale di Ivrea, one of the lesser known Carnivals and events of the World, but probably one of the most peculiar, traditional and historic ones there are. Overshadowed by the World famous Carnival in Rio and their neighbouring Carnival in Venice, these may almost be deemed soft Carnivals when compared to the one in Ivrea… Since a picture is worth more than 1000 words, I let you draw your own conclusions with this photo ...:

Yes, this is a Carnival!

As you can see, it is one of those events that doesn’t go unnoticed to anyone who has the chance to take part in it. It is one of those manifestations that perfectly mixes passion, action, tradition and history in a very unique way, transforming it in one of those life-experiences that has to be lived at least once.

What can be said then about one of the oldest Carnivals in the World?

Did you know that the Storico Carnevale di Ivrea dates back as far as 1808?

If we let the local Italians speak: si caratterizza soprattutto per il complesso cerimoniale folcloristico denso di evocazioni storico-leggendarie; it is mainly a complex and dense revelation of the legendary and historic ceremonies deeply ingrained in the regional folklore. That isn’t a blant statement without reason, the historic Carnival of Ivrea dates back as far as 1808, being one of the few with Middle Age origins and still surviving without interruption to our most recent days.

In addition to the typical parade with military dressed locals, generals and orchestra, one of the main protagonists is the Mugnaia (= the Miller’s daughter), who could be seen as the queen of the carnival and is a dream to every local girl since a very young age.

La Mugnaia!

The peak moment of this ancient celebration is however the long awaited battaglia delle arance, the orange battle, which gathers thousands of people on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday during the Carnival period, engaging in one of the most citric battles ever. With a historical background where throwing beans and other objects was a way of communicating dissatisfaction with the parading nobility, today’s representation is transmitted through tireless battles in several parts of the city. The nobles ride on carriages called carri da getto, and the angry crowd, organize into groups and neighbourhoods, who are known as the aranceri.

A tip for the beginners: arm yourself with a red hat, with which you’ll show your your neutrality and, hopefully, will get less orange bullets on your head... Otherwise, the aranceri will show you what a 5€ investment would have spared you...

If only 5€...

... even the kids know better ;)

If you get the chance, do not hesitate, you will live a unique carnival with tremendous energy, full of tradition and where the main costume is the strength and tenacity of the people!

The end of a big battle!

Remember the battle dates:

Every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday during the Carnival weekend, starting every day at 14:00

Click here for more info.

This post is part of my Riviera Carnival Triangle, stay tuned
on Twitter & Instagram for more!