Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pamplona Running Of The Bulls - Insane, Risky And Enormously Fun

By Grace Charvin

Spain is a fabulous holiday destination and the fact that a few years back it was the second most visited country in the world after France gives you an indication of its popularity. Its mild climate, its sandy beaches, its entertainment hot spots, nightlife and festivals ensure Spain remains a sparkling gem in the tourism crown.

Of the many festivals in Spain, it is the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona that pricks my interest the most. Apparently anyone over 18 can jump right in and take part. You just have to understand the few simple rules and abide by them.

I wasn't really sure before going to the Pamplona Running of the Bulls whether I would have the guts to actually run, but I thought I would look first and make my decision later. Nevertheless, it is something that I've always watched on TV and thought "This looks crazy!". Well once I made my mind up to go, I guess there was no going back, so when we booked the trip for the whole San Fermin festival between July 6 and July 14 I knew I would have to give it ago.

One thing that I didn't realise is that most towns and cities across Spain have an annual festival that involves a morning Bull Run. However, it is the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona that everyone wants to go to. I fortunately did my homework and discovered that during the Pamplona Bull Run accommodation can be very expensive. If you want to do things on a bit of a budget then there are a few camp sites close to Pamplona. There is also tour operators that do Pamplona tours, where they plan everything for you, including transport, bed and breakfast. I certainly wasn't on a low budget for my Pamplona Bull Run trip, so we were booked into a hotel known as Gran Hotel La Perla. This hotel had a great location with a balcony that looked over the road where the running of the bulls took place.

The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona is a totally chaotic experience, some would say it is for the insane. I wanted to be insane just this once, envisioning the faces of friends and family back home when I relayed the events. One thing is for sure, my friend and I were intending to be part of the week long party and the ongoing flow of traditional sangria.

I will keep you guessing on that question as there is plenty to do in Pamplona during San Fermin other than run with the bulls. The whole town seemed to be in just one long party mood and it started early in the day and lasted well into the night. There are heaps of bars in Pamplona that are pumping during San Fermin. I really enjoyed going to tapas bars in the afternoon for a few snacks. Tapas is the perfect way to keep you going during San Fermin in between countless amounts of Sangria! The bars and restaurants open late in Spain, but I guess you also have to realise that everyone has a siesta after lunch, so a lot of Pamplona will be closed down in the afternoon. Day and night there was parades going on. Oh, make sure you catch the fireworks one night too. They are on around 11pm every night.

When it finally came time for me to run with the bulls, well lets just say that I sort of chickened out! However, I must say I was appalled to see people simply pounding over others who had tripped or fallen in front of them and opted to just be a spectator. I mean people have died in these runs you know. My friends and I stayed for the full seven days, which ended with everyone gathering at the City Hall and singing a song called "Pobre de Mi" or "Poor Me", indicating that the San Fermin Festival was over for another year.

Pamplona is a great place to walk around and soak up the music, the people, and the atmosphere. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona should be on your bucket list if you, like me, want to be part of something that is utterly uniquely Spanish and above all, enormous fun.

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