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Running of the Bulls 7th July 2013

1st day of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain on 7th July 2013. Part of the San Fermin festival.

The day Dan ran with the bulls…


Our tour in Spain

The population of Pamplona, usually at 200,000 people, swells to almost 2 million as locals, travellers and tour groups descend on the town for the San Fermin festival which is opened at 12.00 on 6th of July each year.

We arrived in Pamplona with the PP Travel tour guides, but Dan and I were two of the thousands that squeezed past riot police into the small square in front of the Town Hall to witness the opening ceremony in which everyone wears white with red scarfs and is doused in sangria.

It was overcrowded, exciting and sometimes crushing. Unbeknownst to us, we were in the middle of a political protest for the recovery of the Basque identity, language and culture of Navarre. The Basque flag (green, red and white) was displayed everywhere. Other than a delayed start, chanting and pushy protestors, it was a relatively peaceful demonstration.

The following day we were caught a shuttle to be in town before 7am for the first running of the bulls. The running of the bulls involves hundreds of people (mainly men) running in front of six bulls and another six steers up an 825 meter stretch of narrow streets through the old town of Pamplona. The race starts at a bull pen behind the Town Hall and ends in the bull arena and takes place from the 7th to the 14th of July at 8am. The event is dangerous and 16 people have died during the event since 1925.

Even so, Dan was adamant that he would run with the bulls and he successfully made it into the arena at the end of the seemingly long 4 -5 minute run. The arena was even more intense with the hundreds of successful runners tempting fate as one bull at a time was released into the bullring to run amuck through the crowd. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. After the morning excitement we retired back to our campsite for some rest and relaxation in a nearby creek.

Pamplona, when not overcrowded and dowsed in sangria, is a beautiful town of history and culture. We very much enjoyed our time there and sampled much pintxos (tapas), paella and sangria before we were bused to a new campsite in Zarautz, a 25 minute train ride from San Sebastian.

Zarautz is a sea-side surfers’ paradise. The beach was crowded, the water was warm and the surf was perfect, just like home. We discovered a fantastic pintxos (€1.60 per piece) and wine (€1.20 per glass) bar that was located in the center of the old town square and spent a lovely couple of days relaxing by the beach. We did venture to San Sebastian on one day to check out the beach and ended up hiking to the top of the mountain that hosts the statue of Christ (usually a 1 hour leisurely walk) and provided us with the most incredible view out to see and over the city of San Sebastian.

Our final four nights in Spain were spent camping atop a mountain in Bilbao and attending a 3 day music festival, BBK Live. Across 4 stages we saw bands such as Green Day, Depeche Mode Kings of Leon, The Hives, Two Door Cinema Club, Fat Boy Slim, Biffy Clyro, and Vampire Weekend. It was not nearly as well organized or greatly attended as Glastonbury, but it was fun none the less.

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