For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Pamplona

On 18 November I crossed the river Arga by the medieval bridge, the Puente de la Magdalena, walked over a further drawbridge and through the Portal de Zumalacárregui, and so entered Pamplona. It was early on Sunday afternoon and the shops were shut (when are they ever open in Spain?) but there was plenty of life on the streets and in the bars and cafés.

I wish I could tell you that I explored diligently the historic sites of this vibrant city, that I researched the fascinating history of King Louis I and Ferdinard V and the French troops which occupied Pamplona during the Napoleonic Wars, that I was awestruck at the famous cloister of the 14th century cathedral, that I sought out the early Gothic churches of San Cenin, San Nicolás and Santo Domingo, that I tracked down the places associated with Ernest Hemingway when he was a frequent visitor here in the 1920s, that I learnt about the encierro, the crazy bull-running festival that takes place each year from 7 July, which is the feast day of Saint Fermin, Pamplona's patron saint...

I wish I could tell you I walked the city's many parks and green areas and admired the modern sculptures in them, that I spent hours in the Museo de Navarra noting its treasures and antiquities, that I investigated the star-shaped 16th century citadel and its gardens...

But I did none of these things. What I did do however was eat and drink. I remember the warm glow of the lively bars as you entered, teeth chattering, from the cold streets. The street vendors selling hot, roasted chestnuts in the chill, evening air. The elegant glasses of red wine. The plates of tapas temptingly lined up - fried prawns, octopus and squid, mussels in white wine, anchovies with green peppers, bite-sized pork pieces with garlic, chicken in spicy tomato sauce, piquant chorizo, patatas fritas, sardines in olive oil, eggs with tuna, ham and cheese omelettes...

2 comments:

Alan Sloman said...

Your surroundings can be uplifting, ennervating. The whole of humanity has passed through those same portals.

But it is the people that are the here and now. The people are the thing.

On my LEJOG I walked through some of the most amazing scenery in Britain, but what sticks in my mind are the people I met. The small kindnesses. The real humanity of right here and right now. It is having lunch together and laughing in each other's company.

Go back to Pamplona with a friend and rediscover the history and architecture, but most inportantly introduce your friend to the wonderful people!

The Solitary Walker said...

Indeed. I spent more time with people during my 60 days on the Camino than on any other walk I've done. For it is a PEOPLE walk, a COMMUNAL walk, just as much as it is a PERSONAL and REFLECTIVE walk. As you can see from all my stories about the people I met if you read the whole account!