For most of my life I have been inclined to see fancy dress parties as a royal pain in the @ss. Choosing who or what you are going as is the first hurdle, then going hunting for whatever you need round every second hand store in town (or your mum’s wardrobe if you’re lucky enough to not have been kicked out of the parental nest… ah those were the days!), then coming home trying it all on and realising you have just spent 50 GBP to look like a prize tw@t. At least, in this scenario, no could accuse you of not making the effort, whilst the other alternative – to turn up with a sheet over your head with two holes cut out, or possible a sword and eye-patch made out of the back of a cereal packet – guarantees you the social acceptance of a known sex offender.
More recently however I’m coming around to the exact reverse way of thinking… I can only assume that because I go out a lot less, making the effort for one big night seems less of a hassle. I’ve even started enjoying putting together a costume (I like to think of it as a creative challenge) and I understand now that the effort and expense you put in before a fancy dress party are all part of the anticipation – the build up! That’s why I was really looking forward to the Sitges Carnival this year, and I must say it didn’t disappoint. Yes, there were a few lame devil horns and plastic forks, but by and large the costumes on display were fantastic. Babies were a popular theme, as were air hostesses – the best ones for my money being the cross-dressed ones, and a wag in a Zapatero mask proved a big hit with the cameras. Others went to further extremes, coming as giant-sized multi-coloured clothes pegs, Barbie dolls still in their boxes, 1980s rally drivers, or a troop of Flintstones, complete with the iconic foot-powered car (which was a bit of menace in the narrow streets of Sitges!).
If you’ve never been to Sitges Carnival then there’s really not too much to explain. It’s basically a big piss up on the streets of Sitges, just down the road from Barcelona and is pretty much considered the best place for Carnival in Spain, after Santa Cruz in Tenerife and Cadiz. Everyone descends on Sitges en masse, usually via train from Barcelona, and trawls the streets booze in hand shouting and singing and laughing at one another’s costumes. Whilst there was no denying the party spirit here in Catalonia, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of official entertainment. In our, admittedly limited, wanderings we didn’t come across any live music or DJs, although of course all the bars and clubs were open and improbably dressed drunkards stumbled between them all. If I were to go next year I’d probably choose either the Sunday, which boasts the enticingly named Rua de la Disbauxa (‘The Debauchery Parade’) or the closing night, which falls on Tuesday. The Tuesday is marked by the Rua de l’Extermini (‘Extermination Parade’), another huge affair this one known for it’s proliferance of drag queens… and I did see some nice flamenco dresses when I was out second-hand shopping…
Some quick tips for those thinking of going to the Sitges Carnival in future years…
1) Aim to get there about 11pm, this is when things start going
2) You can catch the train from Sants Station in Barcelona. Buy a return ticket (6.30 euros in 2011), the police were out in force at the station.
3) The train timetables can be found on www.renfe.com. I think the first one on a Sunday morning left around 5am. We got one at 5.30 or so.
4) Dress warm. It may be Spain/Catalonia but it’s still February/March time… I was wearing a helmet, gloves, leggings, and four layers and still got cold after a couple of hours of being outside. Mind you there were plenty of guys dressed as Baywatch Lifeguards who seemed fine in just a red swimming costume, blond wig and pair of fake tits.
5) Bring your own supply of booze… but not in glass bottles as police will stop and search you at the train station and glass not allowed. I recommend a carton or two of Don Simon sangria available at all good supermarkets for around 1 euro.