We assembled in the Plaza in Pamplona for a very short tour.  Bonnie and Karla are in the background and Elena is explaining Pamplona’s Festival of San Fermin, which is famed for it’s dangerous running of the bulls in the town’s streets.

This statue to Carlos, a king of Navarra, faces the plaza and the provincial government building.

Hotel la Perla was a favorite hang-out of Ernest Hemingway when he visited Pamplona during the “Sanfermines”.

Karla took a group photo every day to send families via Instagram, but she herself was rarely in a photo.  Elena runs every aspect of the group tour and did an impressive job handling all the transportation, hotels, and meals.  I think she speaks 4 languages (at least) and knows everything from the most historical places to the trendiest spots to eat and shop.  She gave the kids a great feel for the history and culture of Spain in general and every city we visited.

We paused outside the Plaza de Toros in Pamplona, where the running of the bulls (el encierro) ends on each of the 8 days of the festival of San Fermin in July.  Ernest Hemingway put Pamplona on the map for a much wider audience by writing about the bullfighting experience.   He was a huge fan, and Pamplona showed its gratitude with this monument.  Interesting to note that Barcelona and the whole region of Cataluna prohibits bullfighting now, but it is still popular elsewhere in Spain.

It’s probably hard to imagine what this street looks like with wooden barricades erected down each side to contain the bulls and runners in their white outfits and red neck scarves during “el encierro”….Google “Pamplona bull run” and it will look very different from this scene.  The run covers around 900 yards, but I’m sure it seems longer if you decide to run.  I was here in 1976 for the feria, and it surely did not look like this!  I watched from a balcony and the street was a sea of people and animals.  Total lunacy….they say you must “not be under the influence of alcohol” to run, but well, wink, wink.  You can smell alcohol everywhere on the streets and people sleep on park benches if they aren’t quick enough to book a hotel.  At least, that was what it was like years ago.   Perhaps it is cleaned up somewhat now.

The town hall in Pamplona.  At 8 AM every morning of the San Fermin festival, they shoot a rocket from the balcony to begin  “el encierro”.

Another nice shot of one of the streets in Pamplona.  The little blue sign “Todo para peregrinos” means “Everything for pilgrims”.  Pamplona is also one of the stops along the “Camino de Santiago” a hiking route stretching from France all along the northern part of Spain to its end point of Santiago de Compostela, the Romanesque cathedral in the far northwest.   Elena pointed out a “hole in the wall” bakery…Pasteleria Beatriz…which had really fabulous pastries.  Well worth the wait for a box of cookies to take on the bus.

I asked what the 2 side flags were….the red one is the flag of Navarra and the blue one is the E.U. flag.