Let´s go to Pamplona, Lisa said!

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
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Trip End ??? ??, 2006


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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We hummed and Hahhed about where to head next - there are so many choices! Decide to head off to Pamplona then hit the beach in San Sebastian and have a relax after hectic Barcelona. After all, Pamplona is the city of San Fermin (the running of the bulls) and Ernest Hemmingway chose to write a book there, so must have something going for it, right?

It was a six hour train ride, across the north of Spain, but we were both looking forward to just sitting back and watching the world go by for a while. We made it to the train station in good time for the 12:30pm train, sauntered up to the counter: ´Two tickets to Pamplona please!´. The ticket seller gave a non-chalant shrug of his shoulders as only gallic people can and replied ´there is a train strike today, next train is 12am tonight´. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Deep breaths! We walked away with dejected looks, and tried to figure out what the hell to do next. Fortunately, I decided to go back and ask again. ´Do you think we can go to somewhere else that is close to Pamplona?´. He stared at me for while - ´Oh , you want go to Pamplona?´Now, this shouldn´t have come as a shock to him, as I had only asked him this question less than 5 minutes ago. ´You can go to Pamplona, the strike is for Bilbao´. Right. ´May I have two tickets for Pamplona please´. ´Yes, of course. he replied. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Not to worry,the train was running on-time, contrary to expectations, as I had read a few stories of Spanish trains being a wee bit unreliable. After settling in, and travelling along the sparkling Mediterranean coast for a while, along came the ticket inspector. You are in wrong carriage! Despite the fact that the carriage had plenty of seats, we happily grabbed our bags and headed off to the right carriage, one further down, also half empty. As someone was actually in our seat, and wanting to see the view, and also sit together we sat in the seat behind. Along comes the ticket inspector again, and after a flood of Spanish, and a lot of waving and pointing of arms, he is happy when he has made everyone move, and Mick and I are both ensconsed next to snoring strangers. I could no longer see anything, as the person next to me had pulled the curtain, so our idyllic site-seeing trip was looking a bit doomed. Thereafter, everytime he passed us, there would be another flurry of excitable Spanish, some happy sighs and he would points to our seats and nod with satisfaction. Glad we made his day! Deciding enough was enough, I snuck guiltily back into the now empty seat beside mick, and had to pretend I was asleep everytime the ticket inspector passed us for the rest of the journey.No-one ever did come along and take the seat we hadn´t been allowed to sit in.

The train ride itself felt like travelling through the Mexican Badlands. It was very dry and dusty - almost desert like, with big Mesas and canyons and red clay dirt as far as you could see. Way cool! It had a feel a little like western Queensland, with small, isolated towns with what didn´t appear to be much in between other than the occasional abandoned stone cottage. I had to wonder what on earth people were doing there, there didn´t seem to be much to keep them there. But western queensland towns don´t have rust-coloured, clay fortresses in the middle of them, or the snow-capped Pyrenees in the distant background.

The approach to Pamplona didn´t look all that promising - it seemed to be a city of 10 storey high-rise apartments. Where were the cute white-washed narrow streets you see in the pictures of the festival? A little concerned Pamplona might turn out to be a dud, we stepped off the train and looked around for some information. Mmmmmm. No map, no information centre, no signs to town, no-one to ask. Uhh- ohh. Quick, can we still turn around and jump on that train? Well, I did want to get away from all the tourists, and e had certainly done that! Fortunately, in our moment of despair, along comes a lovely taxi driver who takes us to a hostale in the middle of town, and even rings the doorbell and takes our luggage for us. Phew! Having purchased a room for the evening that I would describe as belonging to someone´s long lost Spanish grandmother (lacy curtains, cream embroidered bedspread, overpowering lavender posies smell), we hit town.Ole!

Spain had redeemed itself once more, as sat around the old town square sipping our beers in the setting sun, and wandering down tiny alleyways chock full of crowded tapas bars and people drinking. We ate the best field mushrooms and calamari we both agreed we had ever eaten. Pamplona wasn´t so bad after all.

The next day however, the city was like ghost town. We have come across this everywhere we have been in Spain. During the day, very little seems to happen. The places only come alive at about 9pm when everyone heads out to party. Meanwhile, Mick and I spent the day vainly wandering around town trying to find something to do. The tourist office could only direct towards ´a beautiful church´ or ´a roman wall´. Hmmmmm. Thanks, but I think every town in Europe could probably lay claim to at least one, and probably both of these. I was keen to take a trip into the mountains. ´You want to go to the mountains?´I get a shrug of the shoulders and a quizzical look ´there are no trips.Maybe bus, but there is only one a day´. MMM. That went well.

Oddly, Pamplona has more mullet haircuts than you would find in Caboolture!

Never mind. San Sebastian tomorrow.
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Comments

prenzler
prenzler on

I am so Jealous!
Hey Guys! Seems like you are having a great time. I have always wanted to go to Spain! I am so JEALOUS!!

Scott Prenzler.

Erin on

Mike and Lisa,

Pamplona is a really great city. I know you all went in April but you should really trying hitting it up in the summer next time. If you go during the San Fermin festival (http://www.sanfermin.com), you can participate or watch the Running of the Bulls. It is LIFE CHANGING!

I have no desire to run and I'm not a big fan of the crowds. There are people that will let you rent out a space on the balcony of their flats and houses to view the run from. People do this all along the bull run. This site is helpful: http://www.pamplonabalconies.com.

Hope to see you in the summer time! Happy travels :)

Best,
Erin

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