Well, I survived Carnival in Cádiz! Carnival is basically the same as Mardi Gras, and is celebrated right before lent with parades, music and a giant street party. Everyone comes in a costume or dressed crazy. Cádiz, Spain has one of the biggest and most well known Carnival celebrations in the world... I can't even imagine what the bigger ones are like!
I had never been to Mardi Gras or anything similar to this, so I had no idea what to expect! I went in a group of about 200 students through "European Vibe". European vibe is an "entertainment" company in Madrid... they're basically a bunch of promoters who have parties at different clubs and try to get students to go to them. But, they also have different trips that they organize- Carnival being one of them. After hearing details about the weekend I thought it sounded like fun and crossed my fingers that the trip wouldn't be sketchy, or a hoax that had ending up like that girl in "Taken". Every previous experience I'd had with the people in charge of the weekend had been at a club having them trying to get us all to drink more and party harder. I knew we'd have a lot of fun with them... but BECAUSE of how much fun we would be having, I was kind of nervous! I hadn't exactly seen a responsible side of these peeps before. But, in the end I was sooo pleasantly surprised. I was used to them being the people handing us free shots of Tequila, but here they were constantly warning us not to drink too much and to always be aware. Through these crazy, young people who literally party for a living, I could hear my Grandma's voice giving me her usual warnings about keeping my eyes on my drink and not ending up like "Natalie" :) They also took attendance allllll the time. It got annoying, but I definitely appreciated it.
We left Madrid at 8am Friday morning, and didn't get to our hotel in Cadiz until after 7pm. It was one of the longest bus rides ever. I was really happy to see how nice our hotel was. We stayed at Vincci...I bet it is a really nice place to stay when it is warmer out. It was near the beach and had a great outdoor pool. And even with 4 people staying in each room, we were all able to have our own beds. The shower was also a great change from the small and awkward one I have to work with in my apartment haha. My favorite thing though, was the FREE BREAKFAST.
Friday night, European Vibe rented out a club for our group that was not too far away from our hotel. It was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone else and meeting students from Europe and other parts of the US. Buses were coming at a few different times, and we decided to take an early one (1:30ish) so we could save our energy for the big celebration Saturday night!
Saturday morning I woke up for breakfast, expecting it to consist of some fruit, bread and juice (which I would have been more than happy with)... but boy was I wrong! I walked into a room with 3 HUGE buffet counters. One full of meats, eggs & Churros, Another with every kind of fruit imaginable and the last with soooo many kinds of bread and pastries. If you've read one of my previous blogs, you know that I've been kind of deprived when it comes to food variation. I was in heaven... and afterwords we all went back to our room and took a long nap. We had to be well rested for that night!
I spent the rest of the day pretty much just hanging out around the hotel until I had to start getting ready. I dressed up as a devil, because it was the easiest and cheapest costume I could find :) I even brought a pitch fork... and I set a challenge for myself to see if I could get it back to Madrid safe and sound!
We left the hotel at 7:30 and arrived at the center of Cadiz just under an hour later. Driving through the town and seeing all of the people dressed up made me so excited for what was to come! Thousands of people were packed in the streets and plazas. After we got off of the bus, we were led to the main plaza where all of the excitement was happening. I had never seen anything like it. There were just so many people having so much fun. It was ridiculous, and I really can't describe it with words or pictures. It's just something you'd have to experience...I feel so lucky I got the chance to!
It would be very easy to get lost and separated from your group in that crowd. So the 10 or so of us that stuck together for the night had to hang onto each other really tightly so no one would get swept away in the crowd (I always had one hand securely on my pitch fork as well. ha). We would hang around one spot for a while and then migrate to another. It was just so fun to see all of the costumes, and to talk to all of the different people. There was a big stage with performers and food vendors like at a fair. Everywhere you turned there was something funny happening! I didn't take as many pictures as I would have like to, because with all of the people around I wanted to try and keep my purse (which was inside my jacket) closed as much as possible. And, I didn't want to risk keeping my camera inside my coat pocket. I'm happy I was so careful with these things, because many people got pick pocketed/stuff stolen that night.
That night, the buses were leaving to go back to the hotel at two different times. We could choose to leave at either 2am or 4am. We all vowed to make it until the 4am bus... but that didn't happen for me :( One girl in our group wasn't doing so well, and really needed to go back to the hotel. So, I took one for the team and went back with her. I wish I could have experienced a few more hours of Carnival in Cadiz, but I REALLY enjoyed the hours I did have. And a positive thing that came out of leaving with her, was that one of the most memorable parts of the night came out it. While waiting in line for the restroom in Burger King with her, I ended up having a really long conversation with 2 girls from Poland who are studying in Valencia. I was talking to them about how I want to visit Poland at some point, and they were talking to me about wanting to come to the US, and we were talking about studying in Spain... they were just really nice and great to talk to. And, it was funny because I realized the pressure completely comes off when I'm speaking to someone else in Spanish who isn't a native speaker.
We finally made it to the bus, and I got back to my room around 3:15am. My roommates arrived 2 hrs later (obviously waking me up again-haha). So, we all went to bed around 6:15... and woke up 2 hrs later for breakfast. That buffet is motivation enough to get someone out of bed in ANY circumstance. I consumed more breakfast foods than I ever have in my life, and then slept again for a few hours.
Our bus rolled out of Cadiz around 2:30, and a few stops and a few movies (which translates to about 10 hrs) later we were in Madrid. My pitchfork and I both made it back in one piece.