San Sebastian - pinxtos, beaches and the euro cup final, San Fermin Pamplona running with the bulls festival, and Madrid
28.06.2008 - 11.07.2008 27 °C
Wow, the Spanish know how to party! What a lifestyle, long lunches followed by siestas (everything closes for 4 hours), tapas late afternoon, then late (I mean really late!) dinner and partying! And the sun doesn´t set until 11pm - We love it!!
After Bordeaux we trained it to San Sebastian, a beautiful beach town renowned for its unique Basque style of tapas called pinxtos. Here we stayed for 5 nights to soak up the sun, relax by the beach, eat drink and party!
This town really came alive at night, hundred of bars displaying elaborate pinxtos and serving cheap wine and sidra. The way to eat dinner here was to wander bar to bar, pick what you like off the plates on display and eat it, then tell the barman at the end how many you ate before paying. This was accompanied by red wine costing 90 cents a glass, or the even cheaper option of sidra, natural cider that nick fell in love with (but Jane described as olive brine), poured from 1 meter above the glass.
Pinxtos tended to be bread covered with seafood, say tuna or crabmeat with mayo and eggs, or salmon. There were vege stacks with brie cheese warmed, and bocodillos - little rolls often filled with prosciutto or seafood. There were also lots of tapas with sardines and anchovies - but we didn´t really get into those. We also tried Paella from ¨the best paella place in town¨- and it really was the best I have ever eaten - jam packed again with seafood.
Pinxtos in the old town
We were also there for the euro cup final between spain and germany, and everyone packed into an irish pub to watch the game. Pretty crazy and very exciting when Spain won, and the celebrations overflowed into the streets after the match, cars beeping and flags out windows. We were surprised however that the celebrations weren´t bigger than they were, as an hour later, the night life was pretty average. Apparently this was because we were in Basque country and they don´t consider themselves really part of Spain, and they are currently campaigning for independence.
The beach was beautiful - pontoons were the highlight as they had a waterslide. Unlucky for us we only got 2 days of sunny weather, the rest were overcast and cold.
Yep we have a new underwater camera!!
We have survived a week of festivities in Pamplona for the world famous San Fermin festival - aka running with the bulls. This bit is gonna be pretty long - as i have never experienced anything like it. Ever.
We stayed at the fanatics campsite and I now remember why i hate camping - worst sleep Ive had in years (made all the more difficult by 1200 other ppl partying around the tents til the early hours... jeez im getting old...! The festivities at the campsite were almost as big as those in town with live bands, backyard cricket and my favourite, lying by the pool.
San Fermin officially started at midday on the 6th of July, when thousands packed in to the square awaiting the announcement from the mayor. This is the craziest partying I have EVER seen. We arrived at 10am, Sangria already flowing, and waited for two hours, filling in the time with singing, chants, drinking some sangria, but mainly squirting more of the same all over everyone.
Opening ceremony celebrations
The human crush towards 12 was worse than any mosh pit, and due to the copious amounts of broken glass on the ground, this claimed more casualties than the first run with the bulls. After the announcement at 12, with everyone holding up their red scarved, and now being allowed to wear them around their necks, the procession headed towards the muscle bar - a statue in another part of town. Here, the craziest of stupid people would climb this 4 metre high statue, and throw themselves into the crowds. No joke that this part of the festival really does claim more lives and injured than the rest of all the bull runs put together. Somewhat good to watch in a car crash sort of way, and fortunately we saw noone seriously hurt - a few broken noses and feet though. The rest of the afternoon was spent at white horse square to mellow out, where one unfortunate soul apparently overbalanced while relieving himself over a wall, and fell to his death. Stupid and ironic way to go in such a dangerous festival.
We watched the first bull run the next morning from the finishing arena, catching the bus in at 5:45am - ouch. The atmosphere from the arena was even better than watching a cricket crowd at the MCG - the spanish have so many chants! It was very exciting counting down the hour until the 8am run - bands played, we saw footage from previous years and from bull fights, and then met all the bulls by name and weight. The largest was 620kg. Thats gotta be as bad as being hit by a car?! The first canon at 8 signals that the bulls are ready in the pen - the second signal is the gates are open - this is when the run begins - the aim being to pass ¨dead mans corner¨ before the bulls catch up to ensure your safety. Then its sprint like hell to try and make it into the arena before the 3rd and 4th the canon signals´meaning the first and last bulls have entered the arena. Not everyone makes it before the gates to the arena are then shut. Hopefully for the runners, the big bulls (there are 6) enter one end and exit the other. Sometimes if they get split up, they get mad, and run dangerously around, both on the course and in the arena. this is when people get hurt. There was one straggler causing some trouble on day 1 - we thought some guy got gored in the guts on the fence, but he was alright. We saw the pics in the paper the next day of this - he hd a horn either side of his torso - luckiest man alive!
Bull gone wild day 1
Once the bulls have exited, they release young bulls to play with the crowd in the arena, one at a time. This is actually pretty funny and almost looked fun, many people getting head butted or thrown in the air - but all getting up fine afterwards, feeling like heros (clowns).
Day 2 saw Nick joining in the run - Ill let him describe his experience later in the blog. Needless to say he survived to live to tell the tale....
Thanks Fi, well the day began at 5:15am, getting up and going in on the bus to the course. I found a few other friends who wanted to run and we found ourselves a place on the course by about 6am. this was the worst part of the run - the anticipation. Just standing there talking tactics and generally just shitting myself and fearing the worst. Sorry mum i know i promised i wouldn´t run....and i nearly didn´t. so we wandered down the course a bit and suddenly the police had blocked off the course and kicking everybody off the course that was too far down the track. So we dashed around the streets and found another way in and found a good place to start. The clock was going so slowly, but it finally came to 7:50 and they opened the course. we walked down a little and then boom the rocket was off and the bulls were on the course. they were so quickly on us and past us. it was over in about 90 seconds. apparently the record for the fastest run is 45sec for the bulls to run 850m. i made it to the arena and the bulls went out quickly, then it was time to play with the little bulls. lots of running around and dodging, i managed to slap one on the bum, but at the same time some clown pulled its tail and it spun round quick as a flash and i was face to face with the bull. luckily someone else attractted its attention and it ran in another direction. ahhh good fun. Back to you now Fi...
Wheres Wally (Nick). Clue. Hes the one in the fanatics top.
Later that day Nick and the boys went to a bull fight (not for me) and partied hard. The street parties were the best thing about the festival - live bands roaming the streets, drummers roaming the streets -its hard to explain just how fun it was...
Sorry Fi, ill just jump in here again. the bull fight was excellent. not for the weak of stomach though. the atmosphere was just amazing. we sat in the midst of the locals. as every person entered the stands they would be showered in drinks from everyone, and drinks were constantly thrown throughout the event. after the 3rd fight everyone opened their picnics and shared food, then threw what was left!! some bad sports brought a 20ltr tub of spaghetti and threw it on our section. others told us this was poor form. anyways it was so much fun it was like a really good game of cricket, with the crowd going off and sometimes it was hard to believe anything was happening in the arena. After the bull fight we followed bands through the streets then met friends and partied in the streets.
We have finally made it to Madrid to enjoy a real bed and eat more tapas (these ones come free with your drink purchase if you find the right place!), and I think I will go see the Reina Sofia Art gallery tomorrow to see some Picasso and Dali works. Its a really nice city, we did a walking tour today, and the history - especially recent history is quite fascinating.
The famous bear statue in Placa du Sol Madrid
Then its off to portugal!