I had been living in Nice for barely a week in 2011 when the city's carnival burst into life. On the opening night, my new work colleagues and I attended the main parade (which is always free). We stood in Place Massena and admired the many bizarre floats and balloons that made up the event. I stood there, squashed in on all sides by large crowds snapping photos for my Facebook page. I was extremely excited to be getting a touch of culture just days after touching down on the Riviera.
As great as getting some early culture was, the carnival itself was actually pretty disappointing. In fact, it was very disappointing. The theme was 'The Sea' (quite apt for the Cote d'Azur). This meant the entertainment all had a very nautical feel. Primarily, this took the form of giant fish and lobster balloons, and was crowned by a giant float that was decorated as Neptune. In itself, this did not look bad, but it failed to really capture the imagination. It lingered on for almost two weeks, yet never really took off.
As a result of last year's damp squib - if you will pardon my aquatic pun - I was not too excited about the 2012 vintage. However, my girlfriend was keen to go with her friends and wanted me to tag along. Thankfully, I would not be too disappointed. 2012 proved to be far more inspiring both in terms of design and scale.
Things started off I quiet, but impressive style with acrobats performing on large ribbons. This was rounded off with canons firing confetti across Place Massena. Then, things slowed down as local school children performed some songs and the mayor of Nice gave a speech about the city's sporting history. After he declared the carnival open, two giant floats moved slowly through the square. These were the 'King and Queen' of the festival. They were both about 20m high and looked rather strange. The Queen looked rather like a contestant in a figure skating competition (this may or may not have
been intended to link in with Nice hosting the 2012 World Championships). The King - who had a bizarre and almost fiendish expression - was wearing shorts and all different kinds of sporting equipment. The two of them made their entrance accompanied by some rather bombastic pop music.
After the pair had entered the square, things really began to get going. The loud-speaker system began to pump out various sporting themes. This crescendoed with 'We are the Champions' accompanied by a stunning firework display. It all made the fish look rather lame.