Spain Day 10 - San Fermin, Take two!
Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
77Trip End Sep 01, 2008
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Ella is a wreck, but Samuel wakes up with tons of energy. The rest of us are dragging ourselves through the motions, but by the time we reach the bus to take us in to town, our spirits begin to lift. The streets are just as busy as when we left them last night and the music and wildly festiveness of everything is contagious.
Before I go too much further in the post, let me note here a couple of off topic things ... first of all a word we hear all the time here in Spain is "vale". Its the Spanish equivalent to "ok", "sounds good", "lets go", "sure", etc. And everybody uses it all the time
And this reminds me of another story I have meant to write about for a while now but I've forgotten each time I've sat down to write, until now. We have this great little inside joke going on in our family. On the second or third day here in Spain, we were on a long drive and were talking to Ella about a bad habit she has of blaming Samuel for everything ... even if he has nothing to do with it. "Ella, who left these shoes in the living room?" ... "Brother did that!" ... After a couple of examples, she started to laugh and each of us took turns coming up with questions and the rest would join in and shout "Brudda did dat!" just like Ella does. ... "Who left this pink blanket in the living room? (obviously Ella)" ... "Brudda did dat!". ... "Who left this diaper on the ground?! (again, Ella) ... "Brudda did dat!". It actually turned out to be a really great game because it allowed Ella to laugh at herself, created a fun inside joke that we've used daily, AND anytime Ella is tempted to say "Brudda did dat!" she gets ashamed and sort of giggles and has taken responsibility for things a lot more often. "Ella ... who broke the cows legs off?" We all know the answer to this one
Ah, and one last off-topic blurb. The accent in Spain is no joke. I'd read about it being different than Mexico, but WOW. Its a LOT different. All the 's' sounds are pronounced 'th' and then some 's's on the end of words (like gracias) are left off altogether. So, 'gracias' here is 'grathia'. For the first two days I REALLY struggled with it, which was frustrating for me because in previous trips to Mexico, I've done pretty well. Its been quite a while since I've used my Spanish and the first couple of days here made me feel like I'd lost it all. But now, I'm rockin' and rollin' and chatting away, ... at least, whenever Janice isn't around. Its hard to feel comfortable talking around her since she can talk circles around me. She has done really awesome though. She's always the one asking for directions, for help, and ordering for us ... all stuff she doesn't enjoy. But she is a trooper and has been really kicking butt for us.
Ok, back to Pamplona.
Our bus stops just at the entrance to the arena and we get out to find that the arena is already overflowing. Alfredo tells us that the vast majority of runners stay up drinking all night with no rest before the run
Alfredo comes back with the tickets and we hike up to the third story of the large arena (10k capacity I believe). What a great view. A Spanish band plays in the middle of the arena as the crowd eagerly awaits the 8am firework to fire off, indicating the bull run is starting. In the arena are large plasma type displays showing the run from yesterday and the crowd cheers and groans as the tv shows the close calls. No fatalities so far this year ... at least not from the run. Apparently some Irishman fell drunk from a balcony and died on Sunday.
After about thirty minutes of waiting, a firework flies high in to the air and explodes, sending the arena into pandemonium. The large gates open expectantly ... and all eyes await the entrance of the runners and the bulls. The run from the start of the run to the arena is approximately three minutes, but after no more than one minute ..
By now, a good hundred people have made their way through the streets and into the arena center, but no sign of the bulls themselves (the first people in the arena are surely guiris anxious to have a story to tell but not willing to risk their neck for it) ... and then, a surge of panicked rushing at the entrance. They were running just a second ago, but now they kick it in to a whole new gear. Its the "oh my god, if I don't move I'm going to die gear" ... and suddenly, the bulls burst through the crowd and make their entrance to the arena. The biggest threat to the runners is actually if/when any of the bulls stop running and look around
Once all the bulls are accounted for, a final firework is ignited and again, the arena erupts in applause. Lots of shouts and whistles and singing ... and the center of the arena is filled with winded participants. They aren't allowed to rest for long, however ... a scurry near what was the bull's exit ... I look down to see what looks like a bunch of people laying down and getting on their knees. Again, Alfredo chimes in with an explanation. Young bulls (future breeders of the stars of the show, the bulls that are in the actual running) are going to be brought in the arena to attack all the tired runners. Their horns are padded and padded, so in theory, nobody will be gored
After all five bulls have a go at the crowd, the arena clears out. We grab the first bus back to Alfredo's place ... pack up and head on to our next destination. Again, we've had an experience that quite simply would have been impossible had it not been for our gracious hosts. Alfredo and Marta were great with the kids, fed us wonderful food, gave us a great place to sleep, and helped with all sorts of details like where to see the best events, where to eat, and ... they kept us feeling safe! Lots of times, it was the little things that helped ... like Alfredo's willingness to hoist one of our kids around on his shoulders (despite the fact that a bum knee kept him from running this year AND from joining Martin and Lali on the California trip), and Marta was always playing and interacting with the kids and helping lug around our stroller and stuff
San Fermin, Pamplona, the Running of the Bulls. WOW. Unlike anything I've ever seen. I don't think there are more than one or two other parties in our era that come close to matching the size and magnitude of this fiesta. Perhaps the big hoopla down in Rio, and maybe ... well, I can't think of another. I mean, the whole stinking city parties for seven days straight, twenty four hours per day. Thousands and thousands of people come to the city for no other reason than to drink and be merry. Its just nuts. A once in a lifetime experience. Like I mentioned before, Janice and I don't enjoy the drink-till-you-drop type of partying so I wouldn't say this was our scene. But I'm REALLY glad we got to soak up the atmosphere and energy at least this once. Dancing in the streets with the kids, running from the Fire Bull, and watching the Running of the Bulls are things I will never forget.
What a whirlwind trip these past five days have been though. At this point, we are all whooped and need some serious R&R. After packing up and saying our goodbyes to Alfredo and Marta, we jump in the car and set sail for Bilbao, an hour and a half drive from Pamplona
We arrive in Bilbao and after a couple of wrong turns, find our exquisitely named hotel, Hotel Miro. Its a cool modern hotel with a view of the Guggenheim and only about five minutes walk away at the most. The first room they put us in is horrible. It stinks of smoke (even though supposedly non-smoking) and it shares a wall with another hotel that has some construction going on. I speak to the manager and after a while negotiate a better room at a discount. So, we end up paying a bit more than planned but had their largest suite (still not that big really), on the top floor. Here, in the safety of the hotel, we experience our most gut-wrenching, horrifying experience of the trip. I haven't felt this bad in as long as I can remember. Basically, our room is waaaaay up high, on the 8t floor of this building. I open up about half the blinds in the room and start banging away on my laptop getting some work done. From across the room, Samuel asks, "Dad, can I open this one?" ... and I say yes, assuming he is talking about the blinds he had just watched me open. I hear a "Whoa, that was close." (which is what he always says when he has a close call with something dangerous) and I look over to see his hair blowing in the wind. Not only do these windows open all the way, and not only do they have a hinge on the top of the window instead of the side or bottom, but come to find out they are SPRING LOADED so that when you pull the handle the window actually flies open on its own power
Ok. Well, on a lighter note ... after a two hour nap, we head across the street to the Guggenheim and take a nice long walk enjoying the outdoor statues and fatastic kids play area and water garden. In front of the Guggenheim is a huge teddy bear looking thing that as we get closer we find out is made entirely of flowers. Sam and Ella have a blast on the playground as Janice and I relax to the sound of a live band. What a life! ... Then, some more walking to a big ol' spider thing (also outside in between the museum and the city's river). Sam is psyched to see the statue because I'd shown it to him online anticipating our stop here and he was really hoping he'd get to see it. Then more walking. Janice and Ella scurried up a large bridge and we re-discovered Janice's fear of heights (lots of fun to see if you ever get a chance!). I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story of our walk. Lots of great stuff to see.
We end the night with a surprise stop at a local pizza joint for the kids. Its only the second special kids meal we've done this whole trip (the other one being a quick stop and McDonalds with Inigo and Jaione in San Sebastian before a run to the Pinchos bar). Before the pizza comes, we share a nacho bowl (pictured). Pretty dang good. After, Janice takes the kids to the hotel to get ready for bed and I walk to a nearby Pinchos bar to order some Churizzo I'd seen earlier and a drink. Its the only thing I've had so far on our trip that made me feel sick to my stomach, so I downed the drink and left all but two bites of the meat dish. Just thinking about it now makes me regret the order. I'm back in the room about ten minutes after Janice ... and we all get ready for bed, watch some Spanish TV highlights of San Fermin ... some more business calls and emails for me ... and then, SLEEP. This was a LLOOOONNNG day.
Tomorrow, we plan to sleep long and hard (right up to our noon checkout if possible), and then we will tour the Guggenheim.