The festival of San Fermin begins on the 6th of July and lasts until the 14th but you must get there the day before. On the 5th, you can feel the calm before the storm. Crowds are starting to gather and fill the squares, the narrow streets and the bars of the old town. So go out for sure. Have a few drinks but not too many. You need to be up in the morning for breakfast and the 'txupinazo'.
Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermín)Pamplona, Navarre, Spain
You must have a restaurant already booked for an 11 am breakfast. It may well be impossible to do this right in the heart of the old town but there are plenty of places nearby in the surrounding, more modern neighbourhoods. The breakfast has to be a big one because you are about to start drinking throughout the day. Your restaurant will have a TV on in the room where you eat, as is practically the Spanish custom, and as the clock approaches 12 midday, you will see the scenes from outside the Ayuntamiento de Pamplona where the largest crowds are, already drunk and impatiently waiting for the festival to be launched. Once the clock strikes 12, the txupinazo, which is a loud firework, goes off and the crowds roar in unison as the festival officially begins. You could be there amongst these crowds, of course, but these days, most of the locals will head into town after their txupinazo breakfast. There is nowhere specific to go; just wander through the narrow streets, get lost, delve into bars and allow yourself to be consumed by spontaneity.
Be a night owl
From here onwards, there are no rules. The old town is your oyster, as well as its surrounding parks which are good places to get away from it all when needed. Go and have a siesta if you must, to recharge your batteries, but at night it is well worth heading to the Ciudadela de Pamplona park to watch the epic firework displays at midnight. And of course, you can bring your own drinks.
Whether you stay out all night, which I recommend, or manage to chicken out and get some sleep, there is only one place you should be at 7 in the morning; inside the bullring. Do not bother getting squashed among the crowds who try to watch the bulls dart past you on the street. Instead, get inside the bullring by buying a 3 euro ticket there and then at the gate, and watch the absolute madness of the bull run's final stage; the bull run begins at 8 am and they will eventually arrive inside the ring from the nearby streets. They are then locked inside the ring among crowds who have nowhere to hide. The bulls begin to charge at everyone. And once they get tired, the fresh ones are released. If you're anything like me, you'll jump into the ring and get involved in the adrenaline rush yourself.
“I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.” - Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
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Adam L. Maloney
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