It was 6:25pm when I arrived in Pamplona, and being November, it was already dark outside. I was only going to stay a single night in the city and then leave in the late afternoon the next day, as there were only a few things I wanted to see. Pamplona is best known for the annual San Fermin Festival, during with the Running of the Bulls takes place. Since I was there in November, long after the festival, (I believe San Fermin is in August) there weren’t too many other travelers in town, and I would instead be doing what you could call the Walking of the Tourists. Pamplona is also one of the cities on the Camino Santiago pilgrimage route, so if you visit you’ll probably see a few backpackers with seashells attached to their backpacks (the seashell is the symbol of St James, who supposedly came out to this part of Europe and walked from the southwestern corner of France, across northern Spain, and finished at the place where the city of Santiago de Compostella now stands). After checking into my hostel I walked around town and scouted out the area and grabbed a meal. Being Sunday night, just about everything was closed, but our good friends, the defenders of the American Way, Burger King, were open for business. The guy at the cash register recognized that I was American, which always becomes obvious whenever I open my mouth, and asked which state I was from. I told him I lived in Colorado and he told me that he had visited America awhile back, but not Colorado. After eating I did a little more walking and then returned to the hostel.
During breakfast the next morning, I was talking to a Canadian and we decided to meet up for a late lunch of tapas. Being near the end of my time in Spain, and having never had tapas before, it seemed like a good opportunity to finally check that item off the list. I would only have a few hours in Pamplona before and after the meetup, but there were only a few things to see so it wasn’t an issue. The day’s sightseeing started at Plaza del Castillo and then went over to Pamplona’s cathedral. The cathedral has a neoclassical exterior and a gothic interior, a combination you don’t see too often. It also has a small museum in the cloister. After the cathedral I walked to the White Horse Ramparts that look out over the modern part of the city. It had been a foggy morning and the fog still hadn’t totally lifted, so visibility was limited. From what I read, on a clear day you can see all the way to San Sebastian from there. Near the ramparts is the France Gate, which is the traditional entryway into the city for pilgrims on the Camino Santiago. I then walked over to the pen where the bulls are held at the start of the Running of the Bulls. A short distance ahead is the spot where the humans start their run. On the day of the festival, the humans get a short head start before the bulls are released, and then it’s a crazy and dangerous half mile sprint to the arena. There are small signs on buildings that indicate the path of the run, and I walked the entire length of it to the arena. It is possible, though highly unlikely, that a human could outrun the bulls all the way to the arena. I’m not sure if you get a prize or something for doing that, but I imagine you would need to start at the front of the group of people and then just run like Usain Bolt. There’s a bust of Hemingway outside the arena, and as you can imagine, he’s something of a local hero. Interestingly, (or sadly, depending on who you ask) all the bulls who run in the festival will later that day be killed in the arena during bull fights. When I finished up at the arena, it was time to meet the Canadian and I went over to the Pamplona Tourist Information office, where we decided to meet. I got there first but only had to wait a few minutes for the Canadian to arrive. We spent the next hour or so checking out different bars and trying a few things. The tapa that I remember most looked like a very small cake with some sort of fish inside it. When we finished the Canadian did me one last favor and got a silly photo of me posing with the Running of the Bulls monument near Plaza del Castillo. We parted ways and then I had a little more time to explore Pamplona before it was time to grab my backpack and head to the train station. Like the Running of the Bulls, my time in Pamplona was short, but I had accomplished what I set out to do. I was now on my way to the finale of my time in Spain, the great city of Barcelona.