Hemingway was so right. Pamplona in July is WILD. San Fermin, or the Running of the Bulls festival was an amazing experience and was so so much fun.
I arrived at Hotel4u (courtesy of aunt Annette – thanks again!) after an extremely long day consisting of two plane rides and three busses. Exhausted, I ordered a sandwich for dinner and ate it by myself while I waited for my friend George to arrive from Italy. While I was eating, an Australian guy from Darwin came over and introduced himself and invited me to hang out with his group of ten or so friends. I ended up getting along with them really well – lots of back and forth and sarcastic humor – and they invited George and I to go with them to the run in the morning. I ended up spending that night and the entire next day with them and had an incredible time – I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much, they were great.
We all woke up at about 5 30 am to get to the city center by 6 30. George went off to find where you line up to run and my new friends and I went to find a good spot to watch and start the drinking festivities. I’m pretty sure the last time I drank that early was for after prom in Seaside so I was a bit out of my element but it absolutely made me appreciate the Spanish for their siesta.
The atmosphere of the festival was awesome – everyone was decked out in the traditional San Fermin garb of all white with red sashes and red scarves. Pamplona just turns into this massive sea of people dressed identically and all amped up for the run – you can practically see the pulse of the city as everyone prepares for what’s next. The police came around and blocked everyone off so we ended up going to the big colosseum where the race ends. From there we were able to watch the race on giant screens when it started at 8 and then watch the after party when they lock the runners in the colosseum arena and let the younger bulls run loose. People got trampled and hit but for the most part no one was seriously injured by the bulls. People did get attacked by the locals though if they in any way disrespected the bulls (holding the horn, pulling the tail, etc), which was crazy but at the same time I thought it was kind of cool. Everyone was singing their traditional song and drinking and talking for the duration of the race.
Afterwards, we found George who had successfully ran and went to a bar to celebrate until about 11 am. At that point we all felt a siesta was in order so we returned to the hotel, napped and reconvened at about 4 to hang out and play cards. They helped me figure out my train to Barcelona and then we made it out to dinner. I was a little disappointed that we ended up getting Italian instead of something traditionally Spanish but the company was good so I enjoyed it all with the exception of the constant interruptions of people trying to sell things.
After dinner, we played drinking games in the park for a few hours until the nightlife picked up and we all went out for a little until the firework show at 11 which was spectacular. George and I were both so happy to see fireworks since we missed the 4th of July. Then we joined everyone else at the festival and partied some more before returning home with the intention of getting up two and a half hours later to watch the race again. Needless to say, not a single one of us made it and George almost missed his plane. I unfortunately checked out without getting to say goodbye to the awesome group that had adopted me but a couple of hours later had Facebook messages from all of them apologizing for not seeing me off and offering a place to stay if I ever make it to Australia. That’s an offer ill absolutely take them up on since they showed me an amazing time. I learned Aussie slang like “knackered” and “horrors” and “thongs” and taught them how I speak “American” haha so ill fit right in if I make it down under. That day will be one I never forget! Pompeii and Sorrento.