Off to Spain I go to See the Running of the Bulls
Review: Air France Business Class, IAD to CDG to BCN
Review: Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
Review: The Gran Hotel La Perla, Pamplona
The San Fermin Festival
The Running of the Bulls
Review: Renfe Alvia Train, Pamplona to Madrid
Review: Gran Melia Fenix, Madrid
Live from the chaotic streets of Pamplona, Spain, I’m at the Chupinazo opening ceremony for the 2014 San Fermin Festival. In a nutshell this is the “real deal” running of the bulls, and bull fights.
It’s hell here. The streets are packed with Spaniards dressed in their famous white pants, white shirts and red scarves. There’s hardly area to move; it’s a sight worse than that of Times Square in NYC on New Year’s Eve!
Luckily, I’m staying at the Gran Hotel La Perla, which is not only the nicest hotel in the city, but also the most centrally located. I’ll have a review on the hotel itself later. The hotel, situated in a corner of the Plaza del Castillo, has view of the running of the bulls on Estafeta Street. The opening ceremony itself is located on a nearby plaza by the town hall, but video screens within the Plaza del Castillo help the overflow crowds be able to join in on the excitement.
I spoke to the bellman at the hotel and he said today is the craziest day of the festival, with the opening ceremony at noon and the bull fights at 6:30…and partying in between. If you like sangria, this is the place for you. The revelers pour the red stuff all over the place, there’s champagne flowing, and pieces of fruit being tossed in the air like volleyballs.
Be advised, this event isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re going to come to San Fermin here’s what I recommend:
- Leave your passport and all valuables in your hotel room. Don’t carry any bags, purses or backpacks.
- Purchase some white pants, a white shirt and scarf at a nearby store – you can find them easily here. Without it, you’ll stand out like a sore thumb.
- Wear sturdy shoes – ones that can walk over broken glass.
- Don’t wear anything, or bring anything you wouldn’t mind getting damaged. If you’re going to bring a camera, I suggest a waterproof disposable one.
As far as logistics in attending the event, here’s what I recommend:
- Come the night before July 6, if you intent on seeing the opening ceremony at noon. Stay at a hotel outside the city for cheeper rates.
- To get to Pamplona, take a Renfe train from Barcelona or Madrid. Or, fly from Barcelona or Madrid (Vueling and Iberia‘s regional affiliate Air Nostrum are your only choices). Don’t drive, or take a bus, though they may be cheaper.
- I highly recommend staying at the Gran Hotel La Perla if you intent on watching the opening ceremony or the running of the bulls. It is the only hotel with any sort of view of Estafeta St. where the bulls run, and coincidently, is the nicest property in town. Getting into town is a nightmare, so being in the action, for a price, is a benefit.
- If you’re concerned about noise, you may want to stay outside of the city.
- It’s next to impossible to do any of the touristy things here in Pamplona during the San Fermin. If you’re here for the festival 1 day, or 2 days is plenty. But don’t expect to see any museums during your stay.
The Chupinazo is the opening ceremony, held at the Town Hall at noon on July 6. A rocket into the air signals the start of the San Fermin Festival. This is where the partying begins, and the droves of crowds come. There’s tons of police, so from the looks of it, it looked well secured.
According to the official San Fermin website, sanfermin.com:
“This moment is marked by a rocket – the “Txupinazo” – which is set off to announce the start of the Fiesta. All morning, crowds gather in the “Plaza Ayuntamiento”. It is often a hot day and there is not an inch of free space in the packed Square. The passion and intensity grows every minute until it reaches a crescendo at midday. At that point the Mayor and members of the Council step out onto the balconies of the Town Hall to greet the crowds. A nominated person shouts the announcement; “Pamploneses, Pamplonesas, Viva San Fermín! Gora San Fermín!” (people of Pamplona, long live San Fermín!) The crowd responds with cries of “Viva!” and “Gora!” and the rocket is launched into the sky.At this moment the Square erupts as hundreds of bottles of Champagne are uncorked and sprayed liberally over the crammed crowd. The smart, clean clothes of the excited people take their first, but not their last soaking from the jets of spraying Champagne. All over the city the same collective madness bursts out and a whole new atmosphere reigns in the town.”
Here are some pictures from the opening ceremony, as seen from the Plaza del Castillo:
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