Spain Snapshots: The Carnavales de Cádiz

If andaluces are considered Spain’s most affable folk, it’s believed that the gaditanos, those from Cádiz, are blessed with the gift of wit. At no time in the year is this trait so celebrated as during the Carnavales de Cádiz.

Based (very) loosely on Venice’s extravagant Carnivale, this pre-Lenten festival is a huge tourist draw in Andalucía in which choirs, called coros, entertain city dwellers from flatbed trucks around the historic center. There’s also a song competition between chirigotas, or small, satirical musical groups who compose their own verses about whatever happens to be controversial each year.

But because it’s before Lent, why not add a pagan element to the festivities? Cádiz’s city center fills with young people who dress in costumes and carry around bottles of booze on Saturday night.

My first Carnaval experience was insane – partying with my Erasmus friends from Seville and Huelva, dressed up as an Indian with a kid’s costume I bought for 8€, endless amounts of tinto de verano and strong mixed drinks. I even ripped my shoes up on the broken glass that littered the streets.

Returning home at 6am and pulling into Plaza de Cuba just before 8, I slept the entire day, waking only for feul and a groggy Skype date with my parents.

Carnaval, you kicked my culo (but I blame the cheap tinto de verano).

For the next few years, I happened to always be out-of-town for the festivities (though I did make it to Cologne for their classed-up Carnival). In 2011, I joined a few friends, this year dressed for the weather and better rested.

The serpentine streets that wrap around town hall, the port and the cathedral held even more people than I remembered, pre-crisis. Like the chirigotas, revelers dress in sarcastic guises, or something that pokes fun at politicians or current events.

In 2011, everyone was hasta el moño with the government limiting freedoms, like pirating music and driving too fast on the highway. My personal favorite? When costumes are scandalous and obnoxious. Case in point: 

Being smarter this time around, we spent the night making friends and reliving our college days. No broken glass, lost friends or cold limbs!

Interested in attending the Carnavales?

March 1st and 8th are the huge party nights in 2014. Be sure to reserve travel and accommodation as far ahead as possible, as the city of Cádiz is quite small and everything gets booked up quite quickly. It’s not advisable to go by car, as parking is limited. You could also get a ticket with a student travel company and stay up all night.

Bring enough cash, as ATMs will run out of small bills, and you’ll probably be tempted to buy something to snack on from a street vendor. Dress for the weather – the nights will get chilly along the coast.

You can also consider attending a less-chaotic carnival in other towns around Spain, like Sanlúcar de la Barrameda or Chipiona. Plus, the choirs and chirigotas are a treat, and there is plenty of ambiance during the daytime.

Love festivals? Check out my articles on other Spanish Fiestas:

Spain’s Best Parties (Part 1) // The Tomatina // The Feria de Sevilla

Seville Snapshots: The Real Escuela Ecuestre de Jerez

It may be summer, but here’s a quiz: Spain:Cat::Horses:Cat’s mom.

I grew up spending Sundays at the barn, learning to care for horses and riding my mother’s docile giant, The Pudge. My mother tried in vain to have my sister and I share her love for ecuestrian arts, but Margaret and I didn’t have much interest in playing with even My Little Ponies, let alone the real ones.

Coming to Spain and learning to categorize the morphology of the long-snouted Andalusian horses sparked my interest in los caballos, long after the days when my Girl Scout troop earned our Horse Lovers badge. Trips to the pueblo often include a trip to the farm and the sound of cantering seems to be synonymous with Seville.

When my mother hopped a flight to Spain (more like sweet talked her way onto one on standby), I had very few plans for her. Those that I did make revolved around an Andalusian pony fantasy: hanging out in the Novio’s village, San Nicolás del Puerto, a horse ride along the beach in Mazagón, and taking in a show at the Fundación Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre Andaluz in Jerez de la Frontera.

On a sweltering Tuesday, we drove an hour south to Jerez. Lush gardens and a stately mansion were surrounded by yards of stables and practicing grounds. We watched as riders hosed down strong, white stallions, working them out in a ring adjacent to the exhibition grounds. Despite the heat, Nancy pulled me from one ring to the next barn, asking me how to say words in Spanish related to horses.

The show itself was something else – the Novio and I had seen the Lipazzaner stallions while in Austria, but the Andalusian stallion show was exceptional, showcasing the strength and agility of the beasts. For my pony-loving mother, it was one of the highlights of her trip and an alternative to the sherry-soaked tourism in Jerez.

If you go: The Real Escuela is open daily and includes several museum exhibitions and workshops. The celebrated show, ‘Como Bailan los Caballos Andaluces’ is only on twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday at noon, and some select Saturdays. You can nab tickets from their website, and I’d recommend sitting in the front row, if possible. Student cards or carnet joven will also get you a hefty discount. 

Have you been to the Real Escuela in Jerez? Did you freak out like Nancy and I did when the horses got on their hind legs and jumped?!

Seville Snapshots: Arcos de la Frontera, Cádiz

Having just arrived in the southwestern Spanish village of Arcos de la Frontera with a government grant to teach English, the first two thoughts that I crossed my mind were the following: This Andalusian town is stunningly beautiful, and These Andalusian women are stunningly beautiful. As a photography enthusiast (and perhaps at the risk of discrediting myself), I have to admit that taking impressive-looking pictures in any of Cádiz’s pueblos blancos is, ahem, just about a sure shot.
When I started dating Esmeralda, a preschool teacher at that school and who is now my wife, it was springtime in southern Spain, which is of course feria season. While Sevilla’s April Fair is by far the most famous, nearly every village, no matter how small, boasts its own week of colorful festivals, and within a couple weeks of each other, both Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María each throw formidable (and fully open to the public, as opposed to in Sevilla) spring fairs.
Needless to say, the first time I saw Esme in her flamenco dress at one of these fairs, I was floored. I told her that I would love to do a photo shoot of her in full feria garb on my apartment building´s azotea (rooftop area of most Andalusian residency buildings, mostly used for hanging clothes to dry), which had a privileged view of the village, with the San Pedro and Santa María churches, and the Moorish castle, crowning the almost proto-cubist stacks which form the medieval white Old Town of Arcos.
These photographs are just two of a series which carries a great deal of emotional, and aesthetic, significance for me. I no longer live in Arcos de la Frontera — we moved to the Sevilla area a little over three years ago — and my understanding of this region and this country has grown far more complex over the last few years. But they say that first impressions can last a lifetime, and I’m determined to hold on to this vision of Spain’s simple luminous beauty as long as I can, especially during one the darkest period’s in this country’s history.
You can reach Lincoln by checking out his text and photo blogs:
I also want to give a shout out to this Antena3 initiative to defend Spain’s image in the fallout from the infamous NYT article: http://www.antena3.com/noticias/sociedad/buscamos-fotografias-espana-que-publico-the-new-york-times-participa_2012100300098.html
If you’d like to contribute your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. There’s plenty more pictures of the gorgeous Seville on Sunshine and Siesta’s new Facebook page!

Carnaval: A Photo Essay

Since Katie thinks my photos are ok, Elizabeth already did it, and simply because there aren’t enough words in the world to describe the pre-Lenten debauchery of Cádiz Carnavales. Imagine the entire historic part of Europe’s longest continually inhabited city full of people in ridiculous costumes, toting bags full of alcohol and singing all night. Then, they get up during the day and watch chirigotas, or groups which sing about pop culture and satire in equally amusing costumes.

If anyone knows Catholicism, it’s the Spaniards. But they also know how to party.

Three Blind Mice, Three Blind Mice…
 Hello, you don’t know me, but I’m your period
The Town Hall Square, full of party-goers
Like I said, Spain knows how to be holy and unholy at the same time
Onward and forward, says Jeremy
Crossdressing in Spain is as normal as jamón legs at bars
Costumes for every taste. Really.
Excitement and more people around every corner
Eagleman had to have been one of my favorites
 If Pulpo Paul were to predict how I’d end the night, he’d say the following:
Ciega stands for both blind and drunk.
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