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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 


Filtering by Tag: Party

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!

Day 5: Estella - Navarrete

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

Day 5 and a new chapter of my Camino de Santiago was ahead.

The day before I was reluctant to stay in Estella or continue on, luckily, I didn't leave and had the chance to see the beauty of this town, have an awesome burger for dinner, the best ever alioli sauce and chips (check Restaurante Aljama), a really big beer and I even experienced the first rain drops of my Camino. 

But best of all, one my longest and strongest Camino friendships was about to start.

The Ondiñas Team!

While I was checking the nearby albergues at the tourism office and was almost about to leave, I met there 3 more bike pilgrims, they had just arrived from Ordizia (a little town in the Basque Country) and they were looking for an albergue too. After a quick chat, Maitane, Carla, Marta and I ended up looking for a place together. That's how easy one Basque, two Catalans and one Galician ended up heading together to Santiago de Compostela.

After a good night's sleep, we, the "Ondiñas" team (stay tuned to future posts to discover where this name comes from) left the magnificent Estella in search of some breakfast. Considering we were in Navarra, what better choice for breakfast than some...Wine! Yes, you've read it right, wine!

Keep reading, keep reading!

Yes! A wine fountain!

The Designation of Origin (D.O.) Navarra may be overshadowed by the more popular Bordeaux and Rioja ones, but this region's red wines have nothing to envy them and is actually one of the hidden gems of the Spanish wine growing tradition (more info here). Therefore, there's no better way to show it with... a wine fountain! Yes, you've read it right again, there's a wine fountain for pilgrims and visitors on the Camino, it's hosted by the Irache winery and there's no better start of a day when you're invited like this: "Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness" (click here for more info of this wine fountain). 

Sixth recommendation for the Camino: open up your eyes and spirit, and the Camino will reward you with plenty of surprises!

Following our "toast to happiness" we headed out to Arcos where we stopped for some credential stamps and some refreshment. It was also the moment where I did another photo interview with Carla and where we remembered the moving story of Cliff and his wife and Carla's own one. Keep fighting guys!

Bulls on the Camino

Arcos was also the first attempt to meet a friend of mine who lives nearby, but we had to keep going, so we went on to Viana, where to our surprise, the town was in celebration! Actually, one street path of the Camino was a bit occupied by... bull running! Yes, you're reading right again, bulls instead of pilgrims and bikes. We accidentally barged into the town's annual festivities with the typical white clothing and red scarf dressing, a great party mood where everyone was joyfully dancing, singing and drinking water (see below). 

Happiest drinking child ever

Destiny somehow made it that my friend Mireia called me that instant too and she was heading to Viana to meet me! I couldn't wish for a better place and moment to reunite with an old friend, she even brought me a gift, local homegrown asparagus, mmmm!

"Muchas gracias Mire y espero volver a verte prontico!" 

Having to go on, I bitterly had to leave this nice reunion and continue on my own to Logroño (the bike girls headed out while I stayed in Viana). There, I just did a quick ice cream stop and continued to Navarrete, where Maitane, Carla and Marta had already arrived. I specially enjoyed the ride from Logroño to Navarrete because it was a natural path along the Grajera reservoir and river, ending up through beautiful wine yards that produce, in this case, Rioja's excellent wines (more info on the DOCa Rioja wines here). 

After some strolling around in this marvelous scenery, at some point I had to hurry a bit because some angry clouds started to show up... some people don't like them, specially the grey ones, but I just love 'em, I couldn't do some of my best landscape photos without, check it yourself on the pic below!

Yin Yang weather over Navarrete

Since I wasn't looking to get wet, destiny struck again and made me arrive to the town's Albergue in perfect timing, it started dripping just when I got there. I caught up with the girls, we went to a casual wine and ham tasting held in Navarrete's town square and we went for dinner, just in time to watch on TV the amazing entry of the Spanish Vuelta into our own final destination: Santiago de Compostela! (watch it here and click here for more info of this cycling competition). 

Do you remember the angry clouds?  Well, they finally decided to join the show! And boy did they do it through the big door: thunder, storm, pouring cats and dogs and wind took the scene, thank God we were covered and enjoying our meal!

Unfortunately, once we went back to the albergue, a few surprises awaited for me...

Curious? Then watch out for my next post to check them out.