For 6 hours I’m heading north –passing through the breathtaking Spanish countryside that begs my attention and steals my sleep. Town after town blurs by, and I smile as we pass Avila, the ancient walled city that houses so many memories of a lifetime passed. A lifetime of seven years ago, being accosted by a bachelor party disguised as monks, street rapping – the things that no one can understand; except those that were there with me. My private smile remains, hiding my secrets.
I arrive in Vitoria, the ancient Basque city known as Gasteiz, and for a brief moment I panic that I’ve gotten on the wrong train. This panic is inevitable every time I travel. I fear I’ve made an error, misunderstood the native language, even though I speak Spanish. All the signs say Gasteiz, but I was sure that my stop was the last.
Finally I see a sign indicating Vitoria/Gasteiz, and as I step off the train, I hear a loud holler that can only belong to an unabashed Texan – Lonster. I see him pass through the crowd, his huge backpack and a smile that takes me back to Ecuador circa 2006. We meet again – my travel buddy and I.
In true globe trekker style, we immediately hop a train to Pamplona, no time to rest or shower. We arrive in Pamplona and are immersed in a sea of red and white. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is wearing the traditional white and red outfits, complete with scarves and handkerchiefs. Lonster and I find a shop selling the outfits and jump on board. I’ll admit – I threw a bit of a fit and wasn’t happy until I had one, too.
Getting to said plaza (above) was a bit of a journey as we schlepped our 20 kilo bags through narrow and crowded streets, knocking aside reveler after drunken reveler with our loot. People in Europe lack in innate spacial understanding of objects, and therefore I always felt I had to plow through people when the requisite “perdona” didn’t seem to accomplish what I was envisioning/had been brought up to understand. Whatevs. Maybe I was just jealous that I had to carry a stupid bag instead of dancing around in a wine waterfall. It’s hard to tell. We proceed to drop off our bags (no place to sleep for the night, but at least our bags are safe) and grab dinner: bocadillos and a box of red wine.
Duh, it’s Spain.
We are there for the opening ceremonies, and dance around fireworks (cohetes – new word I learned) that rival our 4th of July, mariachis and enough Mexicans to make you wonder if you took the wrong plane, and plenty of bars and restaurants to last until the morning sun rises.
I buy more wine. As you can see, most of it ends up on clothing anyway. I wondered how that happened…
Pamplona Pamplona Pamplona. Never in my life will I experience something like that again. Crowds that never seem to dissipate, music that refuses to stop, and wine that flows like water. Seriously, the wine. It is ALWAYS there.
The plazas are filled with music, happiness, cultures, the world, laughter and dancing. There is energy everywhere – not a silent corner or nook where silence lingers.
We get more wine.
Gotta love those wine casks.
We met friends from Switzerland earlier who, much to my surprise, were quite enthused about us being Americans. How bout that? We bumped into them again during the night and proceeded to spend hours frothing in a wine frenzy.
Before the sun rises, Lonster says it’s time to settle down and act like adults. Right. So, we wander off to stake our claim along the bull path, but by 6am it was already too late. These people are professionals, and most have had their spot claimed since 5am. Damn our amateur ways!
I get more wine.
Since we were too late for a place up on the fence, I find a spot on the ground and crouch between legs to catch a glimpse of the track. Lonster, not satisfied with my choice, takes off. I spot him later scaling a lamp post for the best vantage point in the vicinity. You little monkey you. He is soon told to get down by the beret toting Basque policemen. Shame.
I’ll admit – the running was a bit anticlimactic. But I think it’s because we were posted at the last bit and by that time, everyone had already been gored and plowed over. And that’s kinda what I came to see.
Very well then. By 10am it’s time to bugger off. I’m exhausted. So we find a cozy spot and go to sleep.
I was all curled up and in a dreamlike slumber on my bench when lo and behold some drunk idiot decided to push me off so HE could sleep there instead. Um, no. I’m sure you’re used to most girls simply obliging and carrying on with their business. But listen sir – I’m from TEXAS. We don’t back down that easy, and we sure as hell ain’t afraid of a little confrontation. So I let him have it. And he buggered off.
The morning of, we ate breakfast in the grass next to the homeless men and then wandered around town with the sun shining down on us. Armed with 2 fresh pairs of eyes ready to take in the sights, we emerged from our stupor and out into the daytime bustle of Pamplona.
And Oh Sweet Baby Jesus. We were the ONLY ones in wine soaked apparel. Humiliating. So there we were, wandering around among families – grandparents, children, babies, parents – looking like a couple of drunken slobs. Brilliant. And where pray tell are all the people from the night before??? Vanished into thin air I tell you.
Right. Time for the beach. On to San Sebastian via the Guggenheim in Bilbao….