As spring arrives on the Côte d’Azur, towns and villages across the region come out to play. Fêtes and celebrations of all sorts take place, heralding the end of winter and the arrival of the good weather. Last year on Easter Monday we went to the Fête de l’Oranger in le Bar sur Loup, a village festival all about oranges. This Easter with family visiting with young kids we thought it would be fun to try out the Easter Carnival on the French Riviera which takes place in Vence, a family-friendly affair.
Carnival is usually celebrated just before Lent but in Vence, a mid-sized town inland near Nice, it takes place as part of the Easter weekend festivities There is a full programme of events from church services, traditional folk dancing and singing, to ceremonies paying respect to local well-known figures and of course the carnival.
The Easter carnival in Vence is a flower carnival, known locally as a “bataille de fleurs”. The most famous “flower battles” are at Nice Carnival a month or so earlier where the floats are made of flowers and flowers are thrown into the crowds as the procession goes along. In Vence, however, the “flower battle” doesn’t take place until the end of the parade, when the spectators are invited to raid the floats decorated in flowers. With the young kids in our gang getting restless after one loop of the parade (and several more to go) we unfortunately didn’t stay till the end but the parade itself was fun.
Vence carnival (I can’t tell you how much auto-correct wants to turn that into Venice carnival!) surprised me by being a much smaller, amateur event than I expected. Somehow I thought as it’s a reasonably big town the carnival would be big but it was a very manageable occasion. There were a dozen or so floats decorated with flowers (mainly carnations and gerberas) by local sports clubs, professional, cultural and trade associations. Whole families seemed to be involved with plenty of children taking part having heaps of fun, squirting (the dreaded) sillystring and catching confetti.
In between the floats there were majorettes, drumming troops, pipe bands, couples in period dress and some skimpily clad girls in bikinis and feathers. Somehow they looked rather incongruous in such a down-to-earth setting but they were having fun which is all that matters I guess!
Despite being a smallish event there seemed to be more sellers of sillystring, confetti and vastly over-priced helium balloons than at Nice carnival. Parents beware, your little kids will be sorely tempted by the trolleys of tat, including such carnivalesque necessities as plastic replica automatic weapons and everything “Frozen”. We managed to come away with some confetti (obligatory at carnival), a “Hello Kitty” balloon, a bee shaped balloon, a plastic gun that wasn’t too too realistic and plenty of sweets to add to the Easter loot! Anything less and we would have been harsh parents/aunts and uncles indeed!
Having said that the atmosphere was relaxed and jolly, and there was plenty of space to watch the parade go by without being stuck behind crowds of people, and of course, unlike the Nice flower battles, this event was free. It was easy to find a place to eat on the square before the start of the parade as the crowds didn’t appear till just before everything kicked off. As a stress free way to see a local carnival if the vast numbers in Nice put you off, this is a good option.
This year was the 89th flower battle or Corso Fleuri at the Easter carnival in Vence, so I imagine next year, 2017, will be a big one to celebrate the 90th anniversary.
I’ll leave you with a couple of questions and some more photos. Do you like this sort of town festival? Are you a carnival fan? I’d love to hear from you.
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