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Spain 2010 – Day 4: Pamplona

Is it Day 4 already? Time flies when you’re having fun! Today we leave Zaragoza and head for Pamplona, the site of the world-famous running of the bulls. After we tour the city and have lunch, it’s on to San Sebastian. Let’s see what wonderful sights are in store for today…

First of all, let me introduce you to our tour guide, Sam. He’s about my age and originally from Australia. He came to Spain through traveling with friends, loved it, got a job teaching English, and decided to stay. He’s lived in various parts of the country for seven years now and speaks fluent Spanish. And now he’s our tour guide. I consider ourselves lucky as his English is excellent (naturally) and he’s also quite knowledgeable about the areas we’ve been visiting.

Our Go Ahead Tour Guide, Sam Frew. He's originally from Australia but now lives in Madrid and speaks fluent Spanish. I wonder if his Australian accent is as noticeable to Spanish speakers...

So we loaded up on the bus and headed out of Zaragoza. A short ride later, we were in Pamplona, which is also a candidate for European Capital of Culture 2016. When we got off the bus, we walked towards where the running of the bulls is traditionally started. Along the way, I noticed a series of small plaques in the street with shells on them. These are markers for the Way of St. James which is a thousand year old pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela that travels all over Spain visiting other significant cathedrals along the way. The pilgrimage is often marked with plaques in the ground or signs by the streets. The markers usually use a shell symbol of some sort to identify them as pilgrimage markers.

A marker in the street that indicates this path is a part of The Way of St. James.

Soon we arrived at the town hall of Pamplona which is the starting location of the running of the bulls. To locals, the fiesta is called Encierro which loosely translates to “the fencing in” which refers to the fact that the bulls are guided to the bull ring and corralled there.

The town hall of Pamplona. The running of the bulls starts just down the hill to the left of this building. One of the main alleyways where the running of the bulls occurs. Imagine the balconies full of spectators watching 6 half-ton bulls chasing down the brave few who dare run in front of them. A restaurant in Pamplona. Notice the ample supply of pig legs aka "Jambon," the meat of which is quite popular in Spanish dishes. You can see rows of Spanish tapas to the right. Most of the running of the bulls is enclosed naturally within narrow alleyways. When it goes into plazas or streets, they erect fences to control the path of the bulls. The giant plates in the street are where the fence posts are set in.

From the town hall, we walked the entire path of the running of the bulls to where it ends at the bull ring. The bull fights are held there later in the afternoon. The running traditionally happens early in the morning around 8am. Because of this, the locals normally vacate their homes to avoid the noise and crowds and instead rent their apartments to tourists who will pay as much as 50 Euros per person per day just to stand on the balcony during the 30 or so minutes the bulls are run.

The bullring in Plaza del Torros where the bulls end up at the finish of the running of the bulls. They are then used in bull fights staged later in the afternoon. Me posing with a section of Encierro fence. This fence stretches through all of the open areas used in the running of the bulls.A monument dedicated to Ernest Hemingway located in front of the bull ring. Hemingway is considered a friend of Pamplona because "The Sun Also Rises" is credited with growing the popularity of Encierro internationally. 

After checking out the bull ring, we walked a few blocks to take a look at the Encierro sculpture. I had a little fun with it…

A statue dedicated to the running of the bulls, known as 'Encierro' to the locals in Pamplona.Ahh! I'm being trampled by a half-ton bull!

Then we were on free time so we went to lunch. I had a Menu del Dia which is a three course meal offered at a fixed price which can be chosen from a limited menu of two to three items per course. For the traveler, it’s an excellent deal and a lot of food! Most Menu del Dia prices I’ve seen range from 10 to 15 Euros in price and that includes wine!

A view of the main square in Pamplona where we ate lunch. Lunch in Pamplona. I had a Menu del Dia which is a three course meal selected from a limited menu at a reasonable fixed price. I had risotto, roast beef, and rice pudding. 

After lunch, we walked back to the bus and rode to San Sebastian. Sam offered to take us on an optional walking tour of the city, but I decided to pass in favor of taking a breather and working on my blog. Don’t worry though, I’ll get to see plenty of San Sebastian tomorrow. For dinner, we ate in the hotel and had a traditional Basque type meal. It was… ok.

Dinner at the Hotel Amara in San Sebastian. We were treated to Basque style food including fish stew (blech), a beef main course, and some sort of yogurt dessert.

Today was a pretty leisurely and relaxing day. I even had time to squeeze in a short nap! That’s a good thing too, because these trips can be go-go-go so you have to take advantage of the down time when you can.

Tomorrow, we tour San Sebastian. Did I mention that there’s an international film festival and many Hollywood types including Julia Roberts are in town? Tune in for Day 5 and see what happens!

One Response to “Spain 2010 – Day 4: Pamplona”

  1. on 23 Sep 2010 at 3:31 pm Jann Adams

    Thanks Mike – I like the picture of you and the bulls!

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