Well, I didn’t make it to Croatia this year but instead I made it to Spain, and that worked out absolutely great :). This time the reason for going was the 1st ZoukDevils and Friends Summer Weekend (more about the AWESOME event itself plus all the pictures here), and this is how the trip went:
I landed in Barcelona in the afternoon of July 25th and finally had some time to do my nails while waiting for Rosalinde to arrive :D. We then caught a train to Barcelona Sants and changed lanes to Mataro and here’s one useful thing we had learned: when you leave through the tourniquet from the platform, to which the airport train arrives, your tickets will no longer work to let you back in to the other platforms. You’d need to come to the personnel near the next set of tourniquets, show them the ticket and they’d let you through. At the exit of the final destination, you’d also need someone to let you out.
Because Google Maps seemed to show that the hotel was very close to the Mataro train station, we decided to walk – a pretty difficult thing to do in the summer heat with a shitload of luggage! It turned out slightly further away than we expected (about 750 meters in total), but we finally made it and settled down. We ran into Arnoud and Shaana downstairs and decided to have a dinner in the city together… so we walked pretty much just as far back as we just came from…
The food was lovely and Sangria was very good as well. Having refilled our fuel tanks, we walked back to the hotel… (if you’re keeping track, that’s walk number 3 over that distance on that same day).
We had only little time to change and get ready before venturing out for the first day of Les Santes celebrations (the city day of Mataro), so we (thought) we prepared for everything that awaited us (at least what we understood from the explanation about what the future held for us that night 😀 ) and… walked back into the city (that’s 4)! Rosalinde and I kept singing all the silly songs we could remember that had to do with partying… All that fun coming from two absolutely sober people!
Once in the city, after a long wait we finally joined the rest of the Zouk people who arrived earlier and walked into the city center (make that 5 because it was a pretty long journey yet again!) for part one of the night.
Part one of the night consisted of listening to brass music for a while, bonding with Clara (a type of refreshing light beer with lime that seems to be very popular over there), then listening to that one particular brass band melody – Bequetero – that went on and on on repeat and had a part to it when everybody counts to 14 (in Spanish) while going down into a squat, then jumps up at 15 (i quinsa!!!) and sings “oe-oe-o, oe-oe-o, oe-oe-o, oe-oe!” It makes zero sense whatsoever to try and describe it in words, so here is a small demo.
The silly part about this particular ‘tradition’ of the fest is the fact that it isn’t traditional at all. The chant and the going down/jumping stuff were, apparently, spontaneously ‘invented’ by some random city people rather late in the 20th century (In the 1980’s). Somehow it grew popular over time and stuck to the festival, having now become its ‘traditional’ part that one cannot imagine it without!
Here’s a short summary of the festival:
July 27 is the day of the patron saints of the city of Mataró, St. Juliana and Holy Semproniana. Hence, the festival has taken the generic name of “The Saints” or “Les Santes”. During the days of the festival Mataró is filled with live events, the constant presence of ‘the giants’/les gegants (giant figurines of the Robafaves family) and a crowd of locals and guests of all ages who enjoy the celebrations with great intensity.
The first night of the celebrations is kicked off with the official opening ceremony named ‘The Call’. Various rituals and celebrations continue all day, but the craziest part that we ended up experiencing – the night of July 25th, appropriately named “Crazy Night”, begins in the evening. After traditional music groups concert and the Mayor’s address to the people urging them to join the party, the figures of the giants begin to ‘dance’ and move with the rest of the crowd from the Plaza de Santa Ana towards the City Council.
The second part of the celebration is called the City in Black Night. It is the biggest and longest firework session of the year. As the giants reach the City Council building, figurines appear of the Momerota, the devil and the Dragon, as well as other ‘invited’ figurines from Catalunya and a bunch of people dressed up as devils. All of them have a load of fire sprinklers attached to them and they light them up right over the crowd’s heads!
For us, part two of the night was watching a bunch of nutheads run around under the fire-sprinklers that the devils and figurines were swinging around… The coolest thing about those people was that they were all properly dressed up and covered from head to toe – apparently participants pride themselves in keeping it safe. But it was still crazy – definitely something to do next year :D. If you want to take part, make sure to wear several layers of non-flammable, thick clothes, hide your hair and, if possible, it is advisable to cover the face and the eyes too. We didn’t follow the procession all the way (which saved us that extra chunk of walking) but waited at the Town Hall Square instead where it all finished with a spectacular major outburst of more fire sparkles.
The night is still crazy even as the fires are all out. The crowd begins to walk again to the rhythms of the drums. This part is called ‘Rise tabalada’, but for us it was just a long ass walk number 6 :D.
The third part of the night was probably the craziest. That is, once we finally made it all the way to the Central Park, because it took foreverrrr!!! But it was definitely worth the effort because we arrived to a MASSIVE RAVE, and I mean a MASSIVE RAVE with a huge structure above that had water sprinklers on it… So basically imagine several thousands of people all squished together on a huge field, being watered from above, dancing to assorted music, taking their clothes off and stuff… If you can :). This was by far the most insane gathering I had ever attended! If you want to check it out for yourself, here are a few tips:
1)Wear a bikini top (girls) and shorts if you plan to get under the sprinklers. Alternatively, you may keep warmer if you wear some clothes made of any fabric that doesn’t breathe much – it’d soak wet, of course, but it will also capture some of your body heat that would otherwise escape if you have nothing on.
2) Girls – if you absolutely must, then any make-up is probably best to be waterproof.
3) Have a fully waterproof bag with you for dry clothes (you may seriously freeze if you walk around in the morning breeze in soaked clothes/underwear), money and whatever else you may need. A light-weight, thin (light travel version) waterproof backpack is optimal – it’d be an ordeal trying to keep any other type of a bag in your hands as you’d be making your way through the crowd.
4) Your shoes will soak with water and sand no matter what they would be – the water will be both on the ground and streaming down your legs from above you. It’s hard to say what footwear is best for this madness, but I’m thinking maybe something like Crocks that have somewhat of a platform and actually have a band around the heel to keep them on (you will lose them otherwise, as you are very likely to lose flip-flops or anything like it too). Going barefoot is dangerous – you might end up stepped on or you may step on a stone or a piece of glass. Any sneakers would be full of water and dirty sand in minutes, so unless you’re ready to ruin them and then walk back home in shoes full of sand (not the most comfy activity) – opt for something else. Crocks (or something similar) at least will let most of the water right back out. If you wear socks, too, it’d prevent blistering. When you leave, they’re easy to rinse from the sand with a bit of water and if you pack a pair of dry socks too, you’d have a very comfy return to wherever you’re staying. Streets are closed for transport that night, so don’t plan on catching a taxi – you’d have to sport it :).
Had we both slept properly the night before (and we hadn’t), we would’ve stayed at this awesome event till the end, but we gave up the fun closer to 5am and (you guessed it…) walked all the way back to the hotel (that’d be 7+8, distance-wise). I (thankfully) had some dry clothes with me, but Rosalinde did what half of the city seemed to have done: went back in her underwear alone :D.
Half way through we ran into a bakery that was (miraculously) open at that hour and bought some fresh pastry. They didn’t seem to mind serving semi-dressed party survivors :). A bit of an aside: I’ve eaten a fair share of chocolate-filled pastry in my life, some good, some not so, but I don’t think I ever had anything as magic on my tongue as that bun! I kept repeating “Oh my god!” every time I took a bite of my pain au chocolat so many times along the way that Rosalinde asked to try a piece because she couldn’t believe it was really THAT good. Needless to say, when she took a bite, her reaction was “Oh… my… GOD!!!” :D. The stuff was NUTS! I’ll be revisiting that particular small experience in my dreams in the future, mmmmmmmm… Foodgasm…
Despite the tasty refill, we were a miserable sight when we finally arrived to the hotel and rang up the night receptionist to let us in :D. But it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed by a hot shower and a crash-landing onto the bed :D.
26th was the chill day after last night’s madness – we woke up late and spent the whole afternoon relaxing on the beach, drinking strawberry slushies for some brain-freeze :D.
We also decided to be totally lazy and ordered room service instead of going anywhere for dinner – the food at Ibis was pretty good and reasonably priced. That won us a couple more hours of laziness before the off-set of the 1st ZoukDevils and Friends Summer Weekend, to the first party of which we have arrived after an impromptu photoshoot session with a random car on our way :D.
The afternoon beach session was repeated on the 27th as well. We spoiled ourselves to another meal at the hotel, albeit downstairs this time, geared up for the Zouk’n’Roll party and kicked it off with – you guessed it! – another improvised photoshoot :).
The 28th kicked off with a paella near the beach and a little bit of Sangria – just enough to knock one out in the summer heat :D. This was the only time I actually swam because on all other days the water was way too cold for my liking. The refreshing dive and fun rides on the crushing waves were followed by lazying in the sun until the evening.
Around 7pm we all went to Barcelona to the Salsa bar for the Zouk party. We arrived when there were still no people inside, so we grabbed a tea and walked along the stretch to check out Zich. On our way we saw some of the most brilliant advertisements for a bar ever! Check them out:
We also saw a pole in one of the bars on the way and fooled around there a bit before making it back to Salsa for the great night.
Had we known in advance that some of the crazy Zouk people would still be staying in Mataro after the weekend, we would have stayed as well. Unfortunately, we already arranged to stay in Barcelona for the last two days, so we had to check out.
We extended our time in Mataro by going to the beach there, climbing a kids’ ‘spider-net’ tower all the way to the top and back and having a surprisingly nice dinner at a restaurant on the promenade before we collected our luggage and set off to Barcelona.
We arrived to our hostel shortly before the latest designated check-in time (midnight), found out that nobody great was out in Barca on a Monday and decided to go to bed early for a change :D.
It turned out to be a wise decision, as that beauty sleep came handy on the 30th. At first we went around a bit and got ourselves some breakfast and a treat of yummy macaroons from a candy store that could kick your socks off just by the mere aesthetics of the stuff on display!
Of course, we then spent the day at the beach. I was trying my best to finish the never-ending contents of my sunscreen bottle (it just seemed there was always more in it every time I tried, even though it was almost empty when I brought it to Spain… Magic!) but I think there was still some left when I finally gave up and decided to leave the damned bottle behind. Unlike the rather quiet and uncrowded beach of Mataro, Barcelonetta was beaming with people, life and vendors of all sorts, who ducked behind the sunbathers any time they saw police go by :). Apparently, any such vending is illegal on the beach – which doesn’t seem to affect the beaming commerce the least bit :D.
We allowed ourselves to be absolute tourists and got a very nice full-body oil massage from a lovely Thai lady for 10 Euros per body.
We stayed until late, watching people (including one oil-glittering super-fit dude in tiny speedos who was acting like a super-star slash porn-star and was very fun to observe, as well as his friends) and enjoying the warmth, then made our way back to the hostel.
The plan was to meet some of the weekend survivors at Paco Moreno club for some Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba (to which, as we all know, one can very well dance Zouk too 😀 ). However, when we arrived, there was no one we knew there. This affected our plans in a way that made the sleep hours accumulated the night before come very handy: we headed to Shoko club.
The reason we even went there was because some girl at the beach gave us free tickets to get in before 1am. We took a taxi there and discovered that it was a very cool club with lots of people and really good music. The slightly funny and, I guess, somewhat flattering trend that night was that it seemed every under-18 person in the club tried to chat us up :D. I wonder what it was about us that made us appear to be teens 😀 …
Apparently, Tuesday nights are also “Crazy Nights” in Shoko! We had front-row view of the night’s live acts. There was a really good singer (we really liked her shorts too 😀 ) who opened the night’s performances, a few pretty good dancers and two really cool beatboxers.
We had a really great time dancing until the morning, met some fun people, chatted on the beach almost until the sunrise (insert a mental picture here of 4 party people on the beach at 5am), then we went on without sleeping to have breakfast and basically stayed up until it was time to go to the airport…
I’m glad I planned to arrive to the airport earlier, because I missed the airport train by 1 minute and the next one was arriving in half an hour! Basically by the time I made it to the airport, then to T1, then to the counters, it was about 2 minutes before the end of check-in to my flight. I skipped most of the security line because otherwise I would have missed the boarding and even had a minute left to get a bite-to-go before collapsing into my designated seat.
A few hours later I was back to Prague with yet another set of amazing memories behind my belt… I love you, Spain! And (Terminator voice) I’LL BE BACK!!!