holidays / Sitges / Spain

Carnaval in Sitges: Cold, Crazy, and a Whole Lot of Fun

I’m checking my watch, pacing back and forth, and cross with myself for forgetting my cell phone. What if they’re not coming? Did I get the time wrong? They’re half an hour late. Should I just catch the next train home? Still no sign. Well, I’ll wait 5 more minutes. Why did I forget my phone?

I sigh and pick up my bag of beer, sandwiches, and costumes. Damn, I really wanted to go to Sitges to celebrate. But as I’m walking out the door, I take one last look back…and it’s them! It’s them!

Yep, after a whole hour of waiting around in Estació de Sants, I’ve finally found my friends and we’re off to the craziest costume party in Spain – Carnaval! One of the best places to celebrate Carnaval in Spain is in Sitges, a pretty little beach town south of Barcelona that’s famous for both its beautiful beaches and its wild gay party scene. So a holiday that involves feathers, glitter, parades, and a big party naturally goes over quite well here.

Sitges-Carnaval-2013-Spain-party

The best way to get to Sitges is by train. Ours is full of commuters, sighing when they see us take out our neon wigs and plastic bottles of home-mixed…well, something, anyway. We zip along the Mediterranean coast under the glow of the setting sun until we hear “Propera parada, Sitges. Próxima parada, Sitges.”

We join the swaying crowds decked out in everything from feathers to sequins. The confetti-papered streets aren’t bursting yet, but they will be soon. We head straight to the beach, where the salty sea air whips straight through to your bones. Somebody suggest going to a bar for a while, so we wind our way back through the cobblestoned streets.

With the music pumping out of every building, it’s impossible to hear members of our growing group introduce themselves. Luckily, you don’t have to remember names tonight, only costumes. The Pope’s Resume is attracting a lot of attention for his well-timed and hilarious costume.

Sitges-Carnaval-2013

Eventually we decide to brave the cold beach again. It’s warmer now that all the crowds are here to watch the desfile.

A whirl of feathers, sparkles, hats, music, and laughter goes by. Pirates, Smurfs, flamenco dancers, birds of paradise, and monsters stomp by in big groups. 

Sitges-Carnaval-2013

One of my favorite costumes! I wish I’d gotten their heads in the shot too, but my flash took forever to fire.

After some sandwiches and beers, everyone is starting to feel pretty good, and somebody has the brilliant idea of joining in the parade too. Getting up close to a towering drag queen in all her feathered glory is definitely worth a minor talking-to from security, so we leap the barrier and start dancing.

Sitges-Carnaval-2013

More floats. Life Aquatic, Indians with false noses (that one would not fly at home), Vegas, Vikings…

We have company. Four little Catalan women are there to watch one of their daughters perform. They point and cheer excitedly when she dances on by. “Isn’t she beautiful?” “Yes, very beautiful!”, I answer with a big grin (I don’t even know which one she is). “She’s spent weeks working on her costume, you know.” “Oh wow, she made it herself?” “Yes, they all do! She’s worked so hard.”

Suddenly, the Pope’s Resume shrieks “Madonna! We have to go see the Madonnas!” Off we go, doing our own backwards parade next to all the performers. Somehow, we still haven’t gotten in trouble with security.

That’s where my night shortly stops being fun. I want a group picture, and ask a stranger to take it. Grins, bright flash, giggles. Thank…smash. Oh.  My camera slipped. I scramble to the floor. It’s broken, and I can’t find all the pieces. Somehow my party mood is gone, so I say my goodbyes and head to the train station.

My amiguito who broke my camera took a selfie - my camera's last photo. Anyone know him?

My amiguito who broke my camera took a selfie – my camera’s last photo. Anyone know him?

The next train to Barcelona is at 1:30″ snaps a police offer.”What???” “Next…train…to Barcelona….1:30” “But it’s only midnight!” Silence. He points to the line, which is already winding down the street.

I join the queue of fed-up revelers. It’s cold. I’m grumpy. Drunk American girls try to push past me. I shoot them a nasty look from under my hot pink wig. I’m not in the mood to be tangled with. But I get a spot on the misty, crowded, and chilly platform. My night is pretty much back where it started – waiting around frustrated in a train station.

Finally, after over an hour of waiting, the train is here. As soon as it stops, the crush begins. I’m afraid I’m going to get pushed off the platform onto the tracks beneath. I squirm through to the front, cling on to the door handle, and brace all 5 feet and 2 inches of me against the pushing crowds. I finally get an opening and squeeze in, claiming a spot on the floor.

Sitges-Carnaval-2013

Ah. Of course. This train always stops at my stop, but the first train tonight is a special exception. At this point, I could have stayed at the party an extra two hours and would still arrive home at the exact same time. 

Eventually, the train stops in Barcelona. There’s no night bus in sight, so I just start walking in hopes of finding one.  It’s misty and the temperatures are literally freezing, and I suddenly realize I don’t really know where I am. I’m tired, cold, grumpy, and just want to be in bed. It’s past 2 a.m. There’s no bus stop in sight…or available taxis.

After 30 minutes of pavement pounding, I’m around the corner from my favorite bar. They’re closing. I’ll imagine I just went there and walked home. That cheers me up a little. Just three streets to go now. Two. One. Finally!

I push open the heavy door, sigh with relief at the warm air, and head straight to bed. One quick wailing Skype call to my family and a fiddle with my camera (it’s definitely broken), and I’m ready to call it a night…over three hours after I decided to leave the party. Carnaval, you weren’t my favorite this year but it was good while it lasted. 

Luckily, the actual party was great; maybe next time I’ll have better luck on both ends as well too.

Did you celebrate Carnaval this year? How? What did you dress up as? 

Besos!

-Jess

25 thoughts on “Carnaval in Sitges: Cold, Crazy, and a Whole Lot of Fun

  1. Pingback: Where in Spain Wednesday: Sitges’ Wild Carnaval Celebrations | ¡Hola Yessica!

  2. Sorry to hear your night got ruined by your camera. Broken cameras are the worst. My camera stopped working for some reason while I was in Spain and I bought a new one before a trip to Lisbon. I got to Portugal only to remember I didn’t buy a memory card! A quick trip to FNAC remedied that but the entire time before that I was freaking out because I wanted to take pictures of my trip.

    And your train ride sounds like my Metronorth commute some mornings to Grand Central haha! I had a train ride like that the morning after the snowstorm in February.

    • Ah well it’s okay – I managed to replace it just fine. 🙂

      And I can’t believe the train thing happens to you regularly. You must be brave! Haha though I guess the alternative of going in the snow isn’t very appealing…

      • I mean it’s part of the NYC commute. I also have a transfer at the the Times Square subway stop which is always crazy (I always laughed at Madrilenos when they told me Madrid was such a bustling and crowded city). Luckily we are moving into a new office very soon and I’ll be able to walk (and avoid Times Square, no hell in way I will be walking through that mess).

  3. We all have those days, but you were lucky to have another “once in a lifetime experience” I know it sucks when your camera or expensive item breaks, but you were there to feel the beats, see the costumes, eat the food, drink, so remember those times. You can replace your camera, but not the memories. I know how this feels as I recently spilled green tea on my laptop. I am literally typing this up on a new laptop that cost $1200. I freaked out because I have 7 or 8 years of photos on my laptop and suddenly thought they were all lost! You have your blog, your photos and memories. Just know that you can go get another camera, you might have to be frugal a bit, but you will get one. As for the train thing, go to Tokyo during rush hour or a festival, they have professional train shovers outside shoving you in to the train 🙂 Hope all is replaced!

    • Yes, exactly! I’m not too sad about the camera (and I got it replaced), but I was not very happy at the time, especially when the guy literally ran away. But I had a good time at the festival!

      Haha I have seen photos of those train shovers…they definitely could’ve used one in Sitges!

  4. When I let people take my photo with my camera, I often worry about that happening. So sorry! In 2010 while touring six countries in Europe, my camera stopped working, so I know how it feels. Anyway, glad you had fun and took some nice photos!

  5. Next year you should try Torello’s carnival! It’s quite crazy and wild, but not at all like the one in Sitges… On friday night all the men in town dress up at ladies and it’s called “Senyoretes” night. It’s fun to see!

  6. I am a serial camera loser/breaker and frankly amazed that I’ve managed to hold on to my current one for longer than four months! If I ever need to ask a stranger to take a picture I always make sure the strap is wrapped round a wrist or neck! (I don’t strangle them with it).

    Sucks that your night was ruined though. I’ve been there before. I’ve also been to Sitges before – when I was like 15. It was a rather colourful yet mildy terrifying experience as I recall…

  7. Oh I hate those nights where you’re so ready to go home but transport and crowds don’t work in your favor and only make you grumpier and you don’t get home for hours…sorry to hear about the end of your night! By the way, I love this line: “Luckily, you don’t have to remember names tonight, only costumes.” 🙂

  8. Wow those photos look amazing! I would love to go to something like that; have an amazingly fabulous costume that would outshine Strictly and do all my hair and make up all done crazy fabulous =D

    Sorry to hear about the trains- I haven’t had to use them in a while but they can be a right pain! >.<

  9. Pingback: It’s My Barcelona Birthday! Reflecting on 2 Years in the Catalan Capital | ¡Hola Yessica!

  10. Pingback: Where in Spain Wednesday – Summer in Sitges | ¡Hola Yessica!

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