Be in Santoña, Spain: "Carnaval"
This past weekend, I went to Santoña for a Carnaval celebration. You can find Santoña on the coast, two hours from Bilbao. To get to Santoña, I needed to take two buses from Bilbao. I even had a 55-minute pit stop in a city called Laredo. What I later found out, is Santoña is not part of Basque Country. Santoña is in the State of Cantabria. Funny enough, after the fact, I found out Carmen, and her friends also went to Sontoña.
Carnaval is equal to Halloween, which means dressing up. For those who know me, I'm not a fan of buying costumes for just one event. With that in mind, I felt anxious about purchasing something for Carnaval to wear. I did not want to spend 20 euros on something I was most likely going to wear once. So I bought eye make up. Feeling anxious that it might not be enough or feeling uncomfortable I then picked up a cheap red mask at a china shop. China shops here in Spain are pretty much tiny Walmarts, and you can find the most random supplies you might need. I then impulsively wanted to add to the costume, so I bought a children's cape at another place during my stop-over in Laredo. Laredo seems like a fun place for another day trip.
Looking back I wish I only bought the mask. It was a rookie mistake driven by ignorance. At the end of the day, it didn't matter what I was wearing, surprise surprise. I even took it off at some points.
That morning I ate a pretty big breakfast to keep me full for my travels. I even had a slice of tortilla with a coffee at a bar down the street from my apartment. The problem was, I arrived at an awkward time when all the main restaurants closed their kitchens for the day. After three hours of travel, I was pretty hungry. I knew I had to eat something because I knew I would be drinking. So I went for the classic Kabab and for less than five euros, I became stuffed.
Walking around people watching was very entertaining. There is a beach in Santoña, but it was located relatively far from the festivities. I knew it was going to be a long night so I walked around familiarizing with the party zone. After walking, I positioned myself in a great spot to get photos during the parade. The parade's grand marshal was dressed as the Monopoly Man and followed a gold-fish and sardines. An important symbol of Carnaval in Santoña. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the night.
After the parade, I made my way to the supermarket for a classic cheap way to party. Instead of spending money bar hopping by myself, I opted for the more economical approach by buying box wine and cola to make kalimotxo. The caffeine was necessary because my bus back to Bilbao was not until 10 a.m. Additionally, there were two stages set up with, so it made the most sense.
I came by myself, but throughout the night I joined a few groups of locals and other English speakers. When you are solo traveling, and you hear others speaking English, you can't be scared to ask, "hey where are you from?" Keep the conversation friendly, and it's likely they will ask for you to join. I advise not to be pushy and read the situation. Other times looking like your having fun even by yourself dancing is an easy way to be asked to join a group. Having positive body language can go a long way if you find yourself in an awkward situation where the conversation or vibes take a turn to be ready to exit. Festivals are easy to lose a group on purpose. My favorite approach is leaving for the restroom. Say thanks for the company and move on. If the vibes continue to feel comfortable, you'll know it and bam you have some new friends for the night. Locals in Spain are relatively friendly, and I spent most the night with a group of 19 and 20-year-olds.
After the events ended and the group of locals went back home, I made my way to the few remaining bars that were open. I finished the night at a bar that was blasting Alternative music from the U.S. I had a fantastic night, but it was time for the dreaded wait till my bus back to Bilbao. I made my way to the bus stop with the other unfortunate ones with late buses back home. My bus finally came at 10 a.m, and I was finally able to get some sleep. To be honest, it would have made sense to get a, but I did not want to have a repeat of Paris and miss the bus.
This week I am looking forward to going to some of the final Carnaval celebrations in Bilbao and Algorta. I am also looking forward to the Sailing festival, which starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday. Additionally, Friday, March 8th is Spain's feminist strike/protest for International Women's Day. Last year over 5.3 million people participated in the strike. According to some people I've met, they have said Bilbao broke a world record for the number of people in the street at the same time.
Be curious. Be courageous. Be chivalrous.