Huge beach boulevards that smell of sea and fried fish. Tanned cops popped out from a 80s movie show, featured by sideburns or dark moustache. Snowstorms one day and clear sky the day after. French phrases sometimes enriched by some Italian expressions. Casinos, cocktails, roaring luxury cars and, yes, Russian cathedrals. That’s what Nice is, a crossroad of cultures, desires and people.
This French city, which is also the capital of the so called “French Riviera” (or as the French people call it in their classy language, “Côte d’Azur”), has a special and unique celebration known as “Nice Carnival”. This exciting event, held annually in February, features a huge parade with satirical characters on carts, masquerades and several competitions. When you see it for the first time, it looks like a blend between a Brazilian Carnival and a fashion parade: funny and grotesque characters animate the streets with music and dances, while models, dressed with beautiful costumes, throw flowers at the spectators. This latter practice is called “Bataille des Fleurs” (“War of Flowers”), during which 100 000 flowers are thrown to people. During the last night of Carnival, the “King”, which is the main featured character of the celebration, is set on fire. People of Nice like to emphasize the short durability of power.
However, there has been a slightly annoying problem this year. The celebration was held in a confined space, delimited by huge barriers and walls restricting the view. For the first time, people, and even citizens of Nice, had to pay to see it; fees ranged from 5 to 26 €. A festivity set up for the pleasure of partying all together was thus “killed” according to citizens. “I can’t stand it! It’s all a business now, it’s all for tourists and the rich!” muttered one man at one of the gates. I was astonished too when I had to circumvent the long array of walls, by heading north of the city, during one of my runs.
But why all these ugly walls are covering and hiding one of the most colorful festivities of France? Nice deputy of Tourism Rudy Salles highlights it’s all a matter of security, since people wouldn’t come to it if they didn’t feel safe enough. The fear of the 14 July 2016 attack that killed 86 people and wounded 458 in the “Promenade des Anglais” is still present. A huge army has been thus deployed to control the celebration and maintain a high level of security: 200 police officers at the entrances, 50 cameras, several elite snipers on the rooftops and many groups of soldiers and elite forces scattered around the perimeter. Indeed, all of this had been made with a considerable cost. That’s why you have to pay now to watch and enjoy Nice Carnival.
But is it worth it?
When I was there, peeping through the holes of the walls, I didn’t see so many people inside. Also, some of the seats of the grandstands were empty. Was it really a success? Putting high barriers between the crazy party and a city that is struggling to recover from a dramatic event, seems like a way to deepen the scars and the dissatisfaction of the people.