A few weeks ago the wide gravel path beside the Cathédral Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes was filled with colorful swings and churros smothered in whipped cream for the Carnaval de Nantes, one of the oldest and largest festivals in France. 

Carnival lights outline the sharp edges of the cathedral in blues, reds, and greens every night for a few weeks each year, drawing crowds of Nantais and visitors from afar to enjoy the festivities. The carnival is especially busy on nights when elaborate parade floats bump and roll over Nantes’ cobblestone roads. Each year the carnival parades follow a certain theme, and the assignment for 2022 was humor.

The parade floats were a sight to behold! One float would be a gigantic octopus waving its tentacles with its brain on display while the next would be Abraham Lincoln as a DJ. Whose sense of humor was behind the float of Dracula’s graveyard or Santa Clause’s workshop? It had to be that of many people because the parade floats were massive and their mechanics were even more impressive!

Many of the giant characters could move some part of their body, from arms to heads. I won’t lie, some of the floats (a.k.a. the clown float) might have drawn inspiration from a vivid nightmare— if I had been one of the many children in the crowd, I would have been just as frightened as I would have been amazed. My favorite part was the confetti fluttering around the floats, landing in everyone’s hair and the creases in their coats.

Of course, a carnival would not be complete without some rollercoasters and fried dough! After the parade, my friends and I munched on an American-sized portion of churros (the likes of which I’ve not yet seen here in France!) and braved some amusement rides. Never a fan of anything that involves swinging back and forth, I was the courageous soul who volunteered to cheer from beside the ride. However, I did take a spin on swings (one that only went in circles, not back and forth!) that rose high above the cathedral and nearby château. The bird’s-eye view of Nantes’ historic landmarks, from the Lieu Unique to the Château des ducs de Bretagne, was breathtaking. I can see why people come from near and far to enjoy the Carnaval de Nantes!

Published by rachael.grochowski

Class of 2022 English Literature and Japanese Studies Double Major, French Minor IES Nantes, France

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