Day 64 – Pamplona

16 June

No cycling today. Previous ferry trips have just been a case of rock up, get a ticket, and get on board – there’s always room for a bike. They’ve also allowed foot passengers, and provided aircraft-style seats for those who don’t want a cabin. The ferry service from Santander and Bilbo (both run by Brittany Ferries, the only company running ferries from these two ports) don’t allow foot passengers on some service to the UK, and insist on a cabin for all passengers too – which means that they fill fast; I booked my ferry yesterday, expecting to get one on the 20th of June – first available was the 26th.

So I’ve got lots of time up my sleeve – Pamplona to San Sabastian, then along the coast to Bilbao, and then Santander, is around 300 km.

I booked an extra day here in Pamplona, leaving on the 17th.

Up early, showered and ready to explore by 8:00 am. Breakfast in the hotel was a ridiculous 10 euro – as it has no restaurant, it’d be the usual croissant and coffee at best, and that’s available at any cafe for around 2 euro. Armed with my tourist map, camera and wallet, I set off. To the right of the hotel is a huge pedestrian mall, which runs the length of the town, down to the Plaza de Castillo, a massive square lined with cafes and bars. I had a glass of OJ, a coffee and croissant for 3 Euro.


I threaded my way North through the narrow lanes of the old town to the river Arga, which throws a lazy horseshoe loop around the old town; it’s about a 20 metre drop from this side down to the river, and it’s a fortified wall all the way around to the right, passing behind the Bull Ring, to an old fortress. There’s a free pedestrian/bike lift there, which takes you down to the river’s edge; this strip is the “beach”, and has canoes for hire, a couple of pools for swimming, or, as lots of people were, you can swim in the river.


Back up in the lift. Not much to see in the fortress; it’s just a stone blockhouse, no museum attached.


Onto the Bull Ring.

I got my jubilados discount and walked in, down the wide path the bulls follow into the arena. Just before the arena, he main door shuts, and you turn to face it; white-painted walls and the door become a sound and light show, immersing you in the Running Of The Bulls. All that was missing was the smell of bullshit – it was quite a thrilling show. Well done, Pamplona 🙂


The arena seats 19,000 people. When it was built, in 1924, Pamplona had a population of 30,000.  And bull fights sold out in minutes. Wow.


The holding pens for the bulls have narrow fissures along all the walls, so small that I found it a tight squeeze to get in them – these are the places that the bull teasers hide when the bulls get cranky – and they rile them up a fair bit…..

Onto the Matador chapel, and the museum with the suits of lights, some ripped and badly blood stained (the bulls win, now and again), through the hospital, another sound and light show of a couple of bull fights, and out. The matadors certainly strut; they reminded me of exotic birds, prancing around, flashing their capes – but there’s lots of teasing, lots of stabbing that goes on first, lots of tiring and confusing the animals first. Gotta feel sorry for the bulls – not something that should be allowed any more. They still do have bull fights here, though many places have banned them.

More walking, more sight-seeing. I’m saving the old town and the Castillo for tomorrow, so I strolled the parks and the pedestrian areas. The Spanish are masters of casual water management; fountains everywhere, along with small water features and trickling runs of water everywhere. Given the Summer heat, and the general dryness (I’ve had 2 wet days in the past 64), they do their best to provide little oases. probably the Moorish influence helps too.



I had a late lunch/early dinner around 4:00pm. No grog – I’m not really a beer drinker, and I had several with Roger yesterday, and I was just a touch seedy all day today…. 🙂


An early night, and I’ll do more tomorrow.

See you down the road.



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