Date of stay: 3 nights, July 2011
Where you stayed: Tour Accommodation
Travelled with: Busabout
Tour or pre planned: Tour - Pamplona 4 day mid-festival
Lying in the Basque Country is Pamplona, home of the San Fermin Festival where ever year thousands of adrenaline junkies and onlookers come to watch the notorious 'Running of the Bulls'. The bull run is something I have wanted to do since first arriving in London and should be on every self respecting antipodeans travel itinerary!
Busabout offers both camping and hostel accommodation options, the advantage of staying in the hostel is that we got two see two Spanish cities, Pamplona for the festival and the picturesque city of San Sebastian on the northern coast. Each morning the coach brings you to the heart of the festival in time to do the bull run and returns to San Sebastian that night. We were also provided with a history of the region and the festival.
We were given a chance to explore San Sebastian on arrival and had an opening party and purchased the traditional bull runners costume, white trouser, white shirt with red scarf. Everyone in Pamplona dresses like this during the festival so be sure to join in! After the pre-party we got a few hours sleep before heading to the bull run itself...
It's hard to put in words the scene of devastation we saw upon arrival at 5am. People in various states of drunkenness were strewn throughout the bus depot, on the streets, in the park and of course still partying in the bars! The guide took us down the route and showed us the best places to start the run.
The bull run itself - was exhilarating and scary at the same time, immediately losing the group I was with it was literally every man (and a few women) for themselves. The danger was more from the sheer mass of human panic rather than the bulls themselves, which can be avoided by keeping to the sides of the cobbled road. After an initial rush of four bulls, the race was to get into the bull ring as they close it off shortly after the bulls complete the run. By this stage you may think you have had enough action for the morning, but no – one at a time six bull calves are released to wreck havoc throughout the crowd massed in the ring. After this we caught a bull fight and partied the night away. Watch out for being sprayed with sangria as it won't come out!
The tour concluded with a chilled day out in San Sebastian, enjoying the last of the Pinxos and local restaurants, with a climb up to the Statue of Christ overlooking the city to enjoy the view.
Points to highlight:
- Pintxos - Tasty treats you can get from any Northern Spanish bar.
- Sangria – Can be bought as little as 1 Euro a litre. Pay more in the bars for better quality.
- The San Fermin Opening Party – described by our tour guide as the best party in the world, unfortunately we missed it, don't make the same mistake!
- The Bull Run – Carry an absolute minimum of valuables with you. If you are caught with a camera as a runner, the police will remove you. When in the bull ring, do not touch the bull calves horns, or you will assaulted by angry Spanish locals! (it is considered disrespectful). During the run, do not enter the ring after the bulls or you will be heckled by the crowd.
- Bull Fighting - Be warned, Bull Fighting is not for the faint of heart and you have to recognise that this is an ingrained part of the culture in this part of Spain. If you want tickets to the evening bull fight, it's much easier to buy them the day prior.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your tour: Yes
Would you recommend your hotel/hostel: Yes, Lolos Enjoy San Sebastian
Overall rating: 4 out of 5