Four Days in Pamplona

by | Jan 9, 2019 | Cities, Mishaps & Misadventures, Spain, Spring Tour 2017

I’d love to say we woke up bright and early for our firsy day in Pamplona – but that would be a big, fat lie. It was something more along he lines of…

We woke up… eventually, with rather stuffy Brandy heads from all our hours in bars the day before. Not to mention a tad disorientated by being in a strange bed, in a room, and not in Iggy!

With nothing to do with ourselves but worry we figured we’d be better making use of our time by heading out to explore our surroundings. After breakfast of course. Which we had missed by getting up so late. Already we were missing being able to cook. Having food in the cupboards. And most of all, being able to just up and go whenever we felt like it.

Normally staying in a hotel is a little bit of luxury. This felt more like purgatory! And the hangovers weren’t helping!

Outside the fresh mountain air soon blew the cobwebs away as we found ourselves wandering along dual carriageways with no pavements trying to find our way into the city. A couple of donkeys in a field came to say hello and nudge our empty pockets for non existant treats as an eagle circled in the grey sky far above. Rain was on the way and we were still a good fifteen minutes walk from the city centre.

We met these lovely guys on the walk into town.

The rain hit hard a few minutes before we reached shelter. It might have been Spring already, but not wherever this cloudburst had come from. In seconds flat we were drenched to the skin in icy, winter rain, razored into us by a sharp wind that blew up from nowhere.

Thankfully it was short lived and died down as we reached the centre, but after an hour and a half wandering, and the freezing weather on top we had already had enough Pamplona for one day. We were going to be here another two days at least, and tomorrow the Breakdown company was moving us nearer to town. Wanting nothing but, warmth, Iggy and home we jumped in a taxi and went back to the hotel for hot showers and a night of DVDs.

Sure enough on Monday morning a taxi arrived and we were moved to a Holiday Inn a handy bus ride from the centre, and set out to explore once more. Pamplona is a modern city on the outskirts with an ancient Citadel and City Walls lying at it’s centre. Within no time at all we were amazed at just how much there is to see.

We knew of the famous Bull run of course, and the sculpture of the run on display in the City is a thought provoking piece of work. Does it show the runners as courageous? Does it show the sadness of tormenting our fellow beasts? I don’t know what the artist had in his mind when he created it. But it is an impressive and moving piece of art that I am glad I have seen.

Wonderful work. Though it is, I think, a shame that these bull runs have ever existed at all.

Leaving the bulls behind is difficult in Pamplona, as there are many reminders in the area of narrow streets where the runs take place. Bull “tat” is for sale in tourist shops. Strange memorabilia hangs on display on walls. There is the Bullring, near the city walls. With it’s statue of Hemingway outside, who spent a lot of time in Pamplona, and watched the bullfights from this arena.

My silly boys playing around in Pamplona.

Thankfully bulls are far from the only thing of interest in Pamplona, and one day out led quite easily into another as we tried to see as much as possible of what the city had to offer.

On Monday we mostly wandered the narrow streets in the main tourist area. Peering into the myriad shops, buying Gelato, exclaiming over the amazing City Hall, and getting our bearings a bit more before our aching feet drove us back to the hotel to rest and wonder if Iggy would be okay.

Down in Portugal everyone was asking for news. When were we arriving? When would we know? Would we get there before Friday when they had to leave Lagos and move to the apartment in Cabanas?

All we could say was we didn’t know. We’d know more on Wednesday when the garage opened again after the holiday weekend. And Monday was gone. And now it was Tuesday, and one last day to distract ourselves with Pamplona.

Into the city we returned for one last day and set off to walk the city walls. Jay and I both enjoy science fantasy fiction, and the whole walled city thing is just one big slice of heaven to me.

I was hoping for some decent city walls from Pamplona, but I had no idea at all of just how big a scale we were talking about here.

When I’d seen things on the TV about Pamplona over the years I’d always had a sort of village idea in my head. But this city is no village. It is a mountain stronghold. 

We entered the walls near the bullring, and walked along a beautiful section, with huge, swooping trees and ever changing views of the Cathedral ahead. There were many religious buildings in this area. Even what seemed to be a retirement home for old priests. Complete with what we took to be some very old priests.

A house for retired priests? We think so.

On we went, past the Cathedral where we stopped for morning coffee in a pretty cafe by a hollow tree. Historic lanes begged to be explored, and we were happy to oblige. Twisting our way around and back up to the walls again and on round the old periphery.

The Cathedral from the city walls.

I was hunting for the Citadel shown on the tourist map we’d got the day before. And as we walked along the walls we could see that it lay spread out all around us. An intricate pattern of walls and channels. Gateways and passageways. A maze to confuse and exhaust any attempts at attack.

We found a way down from the walls and into the labyrinthe of Citadel that lay spread out as a giant public path in front of the city. I snapped shot after shot, but it is impossible to capture. Far too vast. Far too confusing for anything other than an aerial shot to reveal it’s complexity.

We wandered through the maze of pathways. Through tunneled gateways, and over drawbridged moats, eventually entering the Citadel centre and stopping in it’s pleasant cafe for another coffee while DM, impossible as always ran amock in the cannons.

We just can’t take that mouse anywhere!

And then it was time to move again. And back we went into the city through another, ancient gateway in the walls.

Parts of the defensive structures of the Citadel seen from the City Walls

 

As we looked around, and took photos we noticed hikers coming through the same gateway and making their way to a hostel just up the street a little. Groups of three, four. Couples. And then, as this man came through on his own the penny dropped.

Not quite hikers, but Pilgrims. The walkers on the Camino de Santiago that we had heard about the other day in Beasain. I wondered how far they had come. And if they would go on the whole way. How the solo walkers would feel in their heads as their journey progressed. It would be a fine way to spend one’s days I thought. To walk the ways of the world. I could be happy doing that.

We passed the pilgrims hostel and stopped for dinner in the main plaza as the sun sank it’s way beneath the rooftops.

A pilgrim of another type came round the tables selling small resin elephants. An African man trying to make a new life in a country far from home.

We told him about our van, and being stuck waiting to find out if it would be fixed. About living a new life. A Nomad life, of uncertainty and travel. Of working and saving and taking a chance. And he wished us good luck and gave us an elephant for free to bring it to us.

The next day was Wednesday and we waited all day for news of Iggy. Finally at four in the afternoon we heard that the garage had been working on the van and it was ready to be picked up. Or it would be. First thing in the morning.

One more night in Pamplona. And then we could get back on the road where we belonged.

Fi. x

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