Rock ‘n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles du CarnavalWhilst England shivered France’s fourth largest city laid on unseasonably warm and sunny weather across several days of the city’s annual Carnival and for its inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles du Carnaval road run. Nice’s Carnival centres on the city’s historic association with flowers. For most of the year its flowers are sold fresh, pressed into perfumes or made into pricey conserves and bon-bons, but during Carnival they find another use as decoration for the Flower Parade of floats, bands, horse-riders, acrobats and some strange (was that really a half-man, half-scorpion?) helium-inflated floats that strut their vivid and fragrant floral stuff along the Promenade des Anglais. The procession circuits the Promenade for a couple of hours until mid-afternoon whereupon the guys and gals aboard, knowing that their decorations will wither before their next showing, cast off their assorted gladioli, lilies, roses and probably a ton of mimosa into the clamorous crowd. It’s like supermarket sweep in a florist’s. Everyone gets at least a stem whilst the more determined leave with whole armfuls. Carnival also shows itself after dinner with the boisterous (there’s confetti cannons, streamers and miles of silly string) Parade of Lights through Place Massena. The good people of Nice display a score of paper-mâché effigies, many satirising the politics of the day such as European leaders in a sinking boat named ‘Euro’. The pint-clutching, cigar smoking Bulldog is unmistakably our very own George Osborne.
Where the Flower Parade dates from 1876 the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles du Carnaval is a new event on the block. A flat ten miler along the road fronting the Bay of Angels out to the airport and back, with the final three miles taking runners around the Vieux (Old) Port before returning to the start close by Place Massena, this is not a demanding run. But then it doesn’t have pretensions to be a running challenge. The spirit of Carnival is the spirit of collective celebration and this is a run rather than a race that rewards involvement and engagement - notwithstanding that several participants, deluded that they were somewhere else, set off like greyhounds out of the traps. It’s about a large measure of fun with a shot of frivolity and a dash of foolishness and not at all about taking oneself seriously. The Medoc Marathon aside (and Medoc specifically set a costume theme and asks runners to dress accordingly) I’ve never seen so many runners in fancy dress - as is only right and proper for a carnival-time run. In all, 3,000 people from 37 countries set off. There were several runners sporting inflated sumo wrestler suits, a trio of fancy dress prize-winning punk rockers, an Ark’s worth of assorted animals, a chef (how tres French), not a few men dragged-up as nurses and more than a few men dragged up as surprisingly attractive women. And so on. I didn’t see many women attired as men, though perhaps their cross-dressing skills were such that they were there but I took them to be what they weren’t. I do know that the ginger-wigged, kilt-wearing ‘Scotsmen’ spoke fluent French, so don’t doubt that they were from Glasgow.
As befits a rock-and-roll race there were bands en route. There was an especially energetic and colourfully attired group of drummers at mile three (and there again at mile six on the return) belting out their percussion sound which, as it faded away behind the runners, was taken on by another band ahead. On the crest of the short hill before the descent to the Old Port a group of very young musicians displayed more enthusiasm than obvious talent: if I didn’t look at them I could imagine that the PG Tips chimps were on guitar and drums and Katie Price on vocals. But hey, it’s Carnival and the sun is shining and everyone is happy - so Gawd bless ‘em I say! After the run and snacks and medals for everyone there is the opportunity for the more hardy to take the plunge in the Carnival Bath. Not a few runners showed that they had the pluck for a February dip in the Med. Arriving after everyone else has exited the water it was touch and go whether I would have the nerve to enter. My wife looked to me for leadership but before I could man-up another Brit, drying himself from his dip, made us an offer we could hardly refuse: he would go back in if we did. So Lisa stripped to her swimsuit and I to my Union Jack leggings and in we went. Next morning’s Nice Matin newspaper reported that the water temperature was 14o Celsius but I was able to report within a minute that it was two-inches cold! It’s very nice this Carnival in Nice. And nicer now that there’s the opportunity to run off a party hangover whilst most of the city sleeps off theirs!
Nice for Visitors
■ In 2014 the Nice Carnival will take place between 14 February and 15 March. Tickets cost from Euro 10 and can be purchased from www.nicecarnaval.com.
■ The next Rock’n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles du Carnaval takes place on 16 February 2014. To enter, visit www.rocknrollnice.com.
■ The Cours Saleya flower and produce market where visitors can buy locally-produced olive oil, candied fruit, fragrant soaps and perfumes - and, of course, fresh flowers.
■ Old Town Nice and panoramic views from Castle Hill of the gentle sweep of the Bay of Angels.
■ The Marc Chagall National Museum and Matisse Museum. Find out why the south of France continues to inspire artists to this day.
For more information on Nice, visit www.nicetourisme.com .
To enter a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, visit http://runrocknroll.competitor.com .
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