Viva San Fermin!

As I mentioned in my last post, San Fermin isn't all about Bull Run's, in fact there isn't a Bull Run at all on the first day.

Encierro Statue in Pamplona


Busabout gathers its troops at 8am to get to Pamplona for an Orientation around the city before the festivities start. All of us in the traditional red and white, wearing pañuelos around our wrists ready for the midday start. Our guides tried to talk 200 of us through what happens at Pamplona, whilst pointing out spots in the city- including Plaza de Castillo, where Chupinazo starts the fiesta, and the corrals where the bulls spend the night before encierro. We walk to our meeting spot and then walk the Bull Run- which for those of us who didn't run means that we have actually done the route, which is something!

From there we were left to our own devices.

Us pre Sangria, sort of... photo credit Laura Paterson

On the orientation, with so many people stopping, it can take a while to get around so by the time we were left to make our way around Pamplona we may have already consumed a litre of Sangria. Yes, before 10am, it seemed a waste to buy it to use once the festivities start and not drink any!! So our first port of call was.... Burger King.

Yeah, okay, I know. I totally don't do things like that when I'm abroad and I'm totally about to run into the This Was Different excuse. The main reasons were it was quick, easy and really close proximity to the main square where Chupinazo was due to kick off not half an hour later.

Despite our carefully executed plan, and needing to buy more Sangria in the store across the road, we didn't get into Plaza de Castillo. The crowds were immense, they made La Tomatina look pathetic by comparison! It was heaving, the walls of the buildings seemed to bow outwards to make room for the thousands of people trying to get into the main square. We edged our way back to the second square, which was now filling up. People were stood on their balconies chucking buckets of water over people in the square below them. And we waited, unwrapping our pañuelos from around our wrists holding them facing Plaza de Castillo, and we counted down to the rocket.

photo credit Chloe Witnish
When the rocket flew above the square, the place became electric. We waved our pañuelos above our head chanting "Viva San Fermin!" before engaging in the festivities. The fiesta had started, and the pañuelos are tied around your neck. A huge Sangria fight starts, squirting it out of our Bota bags, and at people. Sunglasses we'd been sold by the Looky- looky men were the making of us that day as Sangria came from all directions. The fiesta atmosphere took over, and we partied in the square, constantly squirting Sangria at each other.

Now an unofficial parade, we followed the Riau- Riau up through the street. It used to be a parade from the Ayuntamiento to the chapel dedicated to San Fermin by the local cabildo workers, but after clashes with protesting youths, nowadays its a band playing music that walks the route. When we got to the square we'd be meeting, there was pop music playing. Music we recognised including getting very happy about dancing to Pharrell- Happy at 2 in the afternoon whilst incredibly drunk on Sangria.

photo credit Chloe Witnish

The afternoon flew by, and next thing we knew the day was coming to it's end we'd all collapsed onto a grass area with leftover sangria, bags of chips and curling up to take it in turns to take drunken naps in the middle of fiesta during the day.

That is when you know you've done Chupinazo de San Fermin juuust right!


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