Before we begin, let’s go over a few things:
1. This is a more or less accurate description of everything that happened (that I can remember) from that weekend.
2. While reading, you should listen to ten straight minutes of the saxophone bit from “Talk Dirty to Me.” It helps you to a) get into the mindset of carnaval weekend and b) imagine what it sounded like on Saturday night when we had our kazoos.
Now that we’ve got that out of way, may I present cArNaVaL wEeKeNd!!!!!!!!1!!!
Thursday, 6 March: 11 PM
After 48 hours in Huercal-Overa, I’ve taught 7 classes, washed all my clothes, re-packed my suitcase, paid my bills, and I’m off again. I’m hoping that somewhere in the next 24 hours I can find a beret to complete my carnaval outfit.
I arrive in Almeria around 11 PM, around the same time as Laurel. Since I only had 48 hours, I didn’t have the foresight to go to the grocery to buy snacks and food for dinner and the train trip tomorrow. Laurel, on the other hand, always travels with food; one time she showed up in Almeria with a whole chicken. I eat a pastry, Laurel eats a salad and a carton of strawberries she dropped in the street. We compare costumes with the girls and head for bed.
My costume: girl with toast and moustache.
Friday, 7 March: 8 AM
The train for Cadiz leaves at 9 PM and around 8:15 we make our leisurely way down to the station. There we meet Colin and print out our tickets. Laurel tries to purchase her ticket but the train is full. We leave her behind.
This is something that can only happen with a certain group of friends. There’s no muss, no fuss, no drama. We ask if she has a plan (take the later train), Macy passes off a key to the apartment, and we wish her luck. If I was traveling Europe with anyone else, this would be a Major Incident that we’re abandoning our friend in another city but this is Laurel, so we wave goodbye and part ways.
Friday, 7 March: 9:42 AM
I have a migraine. When I say migraine, I don’t mean that I have a really bad headache. I mean that the edges of my vision start to go blurry, then I have searing pain, then I throw up. On a well-lit, 7 hour train, this is a nightmare.
I engineer a head wrap, borrowing a sweater of Kristen’s to wrap across my eyes and tie tightly behind my head, creating a blindfold and applying pressure on my temples. I pop a few Ibuprofen and attempt to sleep through it.
Only later do I realize that the old couple across from me probably doesn’t realize that I have a migraine considering I look like a hungover vagabond. Not yet, señora, not yet.
Friday, 7 March: 14:19 PM
After a transfer in Dos Hermanas, it’s time for train 2. My migraine is more or less gone. As I board the train, Popeye lounges by the open door, smoking a cigarette. I am officially en route to carnaval.
Friday, 7 March: 16:10 PM
Popeye should’ve tipped me off but it doesn’t take long to realize that I’m on the Bro Train. There’s a whole pack of them sitting in front of me, shouting and singing and talking in Spanish. They keep looking back at me but I’m more or less absorbed in watching Justified on the guy’s iPad next to me, who’s passed out with his English subtitles on.
I fall asleep and when I wake up, the train is empty and it’s just me and the bros. “Donde vas? Donde vas?” I tell them Cadiz. They get very excited and we take many pictures together (I’m still waking up) before the train stops and we, sadly, must part ways.
I never got to see any of those pictures from the Bro Train so I thought I’d share the time that we busted out the Photobooth.
Friday, 7 March: 18:30 PM
No sign of a beret. We’ve checked into our AirBNB and stocked up on supplies, i.e. Aquarius (Spain’s Gatorade), cookies, and Pringles.
Friday, 7 March: 10:45 PM
After tapas and pre-gaming at our AirBNB apartment, Laurel arrives and manages to pull together a fairly convincing sushi costume. We take some prom-esque pictures on the stairs, pack a few beers for the road, then hit the streets.
The girls’ costume picture. Featured, from top to bottom: “French toast”, sushi, dos fresas, and a pirate.
The guys’ costume picture. “How do I stand?”
Friday, 7 March: 11:30 PM
There is no game plan. We head in the general direction that the crowd seems to be moving but don’t make it more than a block before we’re stopped by chirigotas (barbershop quartets meets parade floats) and the crowd listening to them. So instead we follow a pack of Dragon Ball Z characters in the opposite direction.
You can’t make this stuff up. Spain wins for best costumes.
Most often when you go out in Spain, the horario is: tapas at 10, bars by 11:30, discotecas at 3, bed by 6. But for carnaval, you put on your costume first thing when you wake up (maybe you never took it off) and you do your shopping at the market, your besitos on street corners, your jugando a la pelota en la plaza, all while dressed as Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. By the time we made it out, the party had been going for some time.
I expected carnaval in Cadiz to be something like Mardi Gras in New Orleans (or Halloween in a college town, considering the costumes). A family holiday, sure, but something completely different once night hits the streets of a
city country that (from what I can tell) doesn’t seem to have much by way of open container laws. But there are no slutty pumpkins, or beads for boobs campaigns, only men dressed as Cruzcampo bottles rolling around in a six-pack.
So we take a left, then another right, then another left. There is no plan. I’m not entirely sure we are. We meet matadors (bankers from Madrid by day, matadors on the weekends) and bulls and baroque gentlemen and a hoard of Marvel superheroes wearing pink feather boas and Rachel and Joaquin’s creepy BlahBlah Car drivers, one of whom compliments me on my height (“You’re tall. I like it.”)
The first time I’ve been bought a drink since being in Spain (it’s not a common practice here; everyone was duly impressed). Protip: make friends with bankers.
The party starts to die down around 1. There are still chirigotas out singing but, since we can only understand about three out of every ten words they sing, (and we keep getting shushed by the audience every time we speak) and Joaquin is cold in his guiri outfit (cargo shorts, bro tank, sandals with socks, sunglasses), we head home sometime around 1.
Saturday, 8 March: 10 AM
Christina Facebook messages me to know if I’ve found a beret yet. I reply in the negative.
Laurel, Kellie and I lounge about for a bit before getting dressed and heading for the open air market near our house.
Saturday, 8 March: Noon-thirty-ish
Open air market purchases: hot dog and dusty Sprite.
Saturday, 8 March: 1 PM
Kellie, Laurel, and I wander the confetti-filled streets of Cadiz and land up in the plaza by the cathedral, teeming with people. I pop into a quick pickup game and take a shot on goal, hitting the “crossbar” and hurrying away before my triumph can be contested by another shot. In the center of the plaza there’s a makeshift ring filled with torreros and men wearing inflatable bull costumes. Parents buy tickets (? We could never confirm this, otherwise I would’ve hopped into the ring as I so desperately desired) to have their children fake-gored on the steps of the Cadiz cathedral. They even have a fake, inflatable ambulance to pick up the children after they’ve been gored.
Fake goring by fake bulls.
The important part of all of this is that, on this walk, I made one of the most important purchases of my time here in Europe: a commemorative kazoo.
I can do a pretty snazzy rendition of Talk Dirty to Me on the kazoo that’ll take your breath away.
Saturday, 8 March: 3 PM
Eating a whole chicken while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean ain’t too shabby of a way to live life.
Shoutout to Rachel for having the foresight to take plenty of daytime pictures too.
Saturday, 8 March: 7 PM
Christina DOESN’T bring my beret.
“But you never responded!”
“You messaged me at midnight on the first night of Carnaval and you left the next morning at 7 AM: you expected me to responded for 11 AM?”
Laurel and I decide that our respective food costumes were failures and commandeer the bedsheets from Airbnb apartment for toga time.
Ingenuity, the hallmark of Americans abroad.
“You know that’s not actually how Greek women dressed, right? The only women who were togas like that were actually prostitutes.” Well, thanks Joaquin.
I am anxious to hit the streets earlier than we did last night, that way to have more party time. If this were a novel, this would be foreshadowing.
In my anxiety, I forget to eat dinner.
Group photos before the one of the Best Nights Out. (Christina’s hand?)
Kristen and I went for a swim.
Saturday, 8 March: 10 PM
When we head out for the night, we go in the opposite direction of the way we went the night before. I don’t know if this was fate or just planned. We head for the cathedral and as we step into the plaza, my jaw drops. It’s one giant botellón and the cathedral plaza is filled with people in costumes. We’re like kids at a carnival (GET IT?! BECAUSE WE ARE!) and we hop around and take pictures and carve a path for the cathedral steps where we’re meeting more people? (Hold on, folks. Details are about to get real fuzzy.) It doesn’t matter what’s going on because everyone is happy happy happy and I’m feeling fanDAMNtastic.
So many people!
“WE ARE THE KINGS OF CAMPUS.” (Pitch Perfect reference that I may or may not have shouted because I felt like the spirit of the sentiment really applied in that moment.)
Communicating becomes a whole lot easier. I like to start out with a few words I know, shouting in top-volume Spanish, then I kind of trail off as I remember I don’t actually speak very good Spanish, then I just pantomime the rest or run away.
There are a lot of pictures taken. To date, I feel like I’ve only seen a handful of the actual pictures that were taken. You will be treated to some here.
The kazoo band. We serenaded everyone and their mother on Saturday.
I haven’t actually seen a picture where I’m facing the right way so I might be grinning at no one.
Don’t know when this was taken but I do know it’s a darn good picture with some darn good people.
At some point, I remember standing on the steps of the cathedral with my pal, KayJo. Our group has more or less disintegrated by this point–Laurel and Christina went in search of kebabs, Kellie ran off with some friend from Alabama, I don’t know what happened to Joaquin, Collin, or Rachel the rest of that night–and KayJo and I have our arms around one another as we look out on hundreds of Spaniards, having a heart to heart about our good fortune.
And despite the hangover that comes the next morning or the fact that I can’t remember what exactly we said, this is the best part of this weekend and of my time here in Spain. I live in Spain with some of the best friends imaginable and we’re drunk on the steps of a cathedral. It’s one of those things that I can’t fully explain because it’s a feeling more than a travel anecdote and it’s one of my most treasured memories from that weekend.
Heart to hearts and friends in purple wigs (whose names you don’t remember) (or never knew?)
But such happiness was not to last. All that I remember after that was running through the streets (I don’t think we were actually running. I was wearing a very tightly wrapped toga so there wasn’t much leg movement to be had.) and coming across a couple in matching Miley Cyrus costumes and singing ‘Wrecking Ball’ for them with KayJo and Kristen. And then, by 1 AM, I’m down for the count.
There’s a video, too.
Sunday, 9 March: 10 AM
It is now 10 AM and I would like to die. I have a delightful 12 hours of travel to look forward to (train to Malaga, metro to Malaga airport, plane to Amsterdam) and I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before. But like true champion travelers, I’m packed and ready to go and more or less respectably dressed by 10:30. I grab some churros and tostadas with friends before heading for my 11:30 train.
And what do you know, Popeye and all the bros from Friday are on the same train.
A Sunday morning, post-carnaval gem.
Cadiz, you’ve been swell!