March 10-12, 2000
As promised to the Canadian fellow (I´ll use his Spanish nick name: Paco) I arrived in Cádiz, Spain to reserve space for two for the weekend - the last two days of the Carnivale.
It was pretty much a disaster... there were no rooms and I couldn´t find a place remote enough to crash for the night with all my large pack exposed. Unlike the board walks in America, the beach here ends with a concrete wall that becomes the sidewalk above. I figured I´d write a message to my new friend, telling him that I´ll be waiting for him in a boarder town in the South of Spain for our entry to Morocco together.
Things got a little better then... he had been in town the night before and booked space in a hotel for Saturday and Sunday nights! Also, the woman who ran the Internet café allowed be to lock my bag in her office! I smile now beamed on my face. I knew things would fall into place and it did.
A stroll down the beach, led me to sand being blown around like waves in a large lake... a special effect when the sun set and the sand blew just high enough to be caught in the light of the town, while the ground was in the dark. Imagine one of those rock videos with the fog rolling around the ground, except on a beach... that was the stage. I the performer, and the sea, my audience. I was out of reach of the celebrations in the old town and was inspired to write a few lines of poetry on the napkin tucked inside my shirt pocket.
I ended up finding a sand dune on the far end of the beach to sleep behind, hidden from just about everything save a flash of a lighthouse out at sea.
My skin, exfoliated from the constant sand blasting during the night, and feeling a bit exhausted, I cleaned up quickly when a dog spotted me and started barking... the owner motioned me to go back to sleep, but the sun was up and it was time for breakfast. On the way closer to town, I realized I wasn´t the only one who spent the night in the sand. At least three others did, but in much more obvious places. One, cleverly made his post as a guard for his amazing sand sculptures. They looked so real, I thought they were real animals sleeping on the beach at first... he spray painted the sand appropriately and made a tiger, dog and bull all in perfect scale.
I met Paco outside the café where I picked up my bags and took a much needed siesta and shower (although my ears continued to produce sand for the next week). We took a walk around town and saw some children doing Spanish dances and got ready for the night´s celebrations.
We head out about 8:30pm. Not much was happening, but things kept getting busier. Finally, around midnight, people started lining the streets and there was a big parade! Towards the end, Cinderella grabbed Paco and motioned me to join them (the guy had movie star looks, so it´s no doubt there; however, there were plenty of seconds to go around). We pranced for the last few blocks of the parade together and met up with two French Canadian girls who were tour guides (they had hired a guide to take care of their group for the night so they could have some fun). We then also met up with some sailors from France and had our own mobile party filling small pubs if we entered.
My Spanish speaking skills weren´t so great. I could now ask directions to the tourist office good enough, but to hold a conversation outside of, "¿Where is the train station?" I was clearly inadequate. Never-the- less, I´d shake hands and say good by with a kiss on each chick if a woman leaned toward me. There was one señorita that I offended by the look she gave me... she didn´t lean forward, so I said good bye with a handshake, no kiss. I´ll make a mental bookmark of this custom for later.
At about 3am, we split up and decided to check out the clubs. They are all in one strip in Cádiz (the Spanish pronounce it Ca-deeth, BTW. it´s not a lisp, but the Spanish accent, Mexican´s would say it the way you´d more expect). A majority of the crowd here was quite young. Hung the bar, hung a waft of adolescent sweat - a hormonal stew that would simmer until after dawn.
Paco and I both noticed, there was a mature attitude to these teenagers. No one was "too cool" to dance and an open invite to everyone (including us). My energy was on a decline and it was time to expire for the night, so I head back to the room to resign for the day (night?) at about 4am. Paco stayed, but I wen´t back out around 9:30am (he came back around 6am).
People were still coming back from the clubs at 9:30! And other people started coming back out for more before noon! We came to the conclusion that the Spanish don´t eat or sleep during the Carnivale.
Even though there´s all this wild partying going on, it is very family oriented. The late night parades have children of all ages with their parents, all in costume, along side the fire eaters and jugglers. Even the late night clubs had signs for reduced cover charges for under 12 años old after 2am.
The Carnivale, is like the combination of Halloween (the costumes), Thanksgiving (the parade), the 4th of July (the fireworks), and New Year´s (the level of partying, pretty much starting at midnight). The costumes are mostly very well done and they are worn for 14 days!
This was a relaxing day and I decided to go for an ice cream (there are signs for ice cream joints all over Spain). I couldn´t find any! Ice cream wouldn´t be served until after 9pm when the party started; however, I could get a beer anywhere. Speaking of which, none of the people seemed to be out of control with their alcohol. They drink quite a bit, but never enough to have one staggering in the streets.
I had time to read. I pulled out the "New! Tales of the Unexpected (c)1985" and enjoyed it in the old part of town near the hotel. The cover looked just like what you´d expect from an Ian Fleming novel and it felt classic just to hold it. It was one of the few books in English I could find when in Seville.
Paco and I would hit the town late tonight. We head out around midnight. Unfortunately, the last night of the party wasn´t so big, but we did meet some fun loving Spanish in the street. It was like a giant house block party. We joined them to check out some excellent Spanish music (and Spanish versions of some American oldies). I´ll never listen to Macarena the same again.
Again, I retired early, about 5am. In the back of my mind I was glad to know that this was the last night of the party, even though I enjoyed it. Two days were just enough of it.
Paco came in from the night waking me up... "I guess we missed the 7am bus."
"What time is it?"
It was 7:30. I took a shower, and we took the 8:00am to the Southern tip of Spain.