At the Hemingway statue in Pamplona

I’m way behind in my posts (J’nell and I are currently enjoying a rest day in Logrono and the craziness that is the Wine Harvest Fiesta), but I’m going to continue on chronologically. Here we go with days 4 & 5 on the Camino …

The hike into Pamplona from Larrasoaña was a fairly easy 16K (about 10 miles) with temperatures in the upper 70s and mostly flat terrain. We encountered our first rain of the trip, but luckily we were in a thick forested path that hugged the river. However we did fasten disposable ponchos on our backpacks for precaution, as there were parts of the trail that had no cover. Overall we kept dry.

We had a reservation in Pamplona (at a nice hotel) so there was no hurry in our pace, but we ended up making it there faster than expected. Around 12:30 pm we reached the beautiful 12th Century Romanesque stone bridge called Puente de Magdalena, after having to make our first choice of routes on the Camino. About an hour or so outside of Pamplona, it was either walk over a historic stone bridge into Arre by a beautiful church (but then into a more trafficked suburb of Pamplona), or take the quieter route away from the city along the river (which was slightly longer).

We debated, and both concluded we should head into the town over the river. The other path could have been prettier, but the bridge was wonderful, we got a stamp for our Pilgrim’s Passport at the church, and most importantly, we met a sweet nun who hugged and kissed us. She was so excited and happy we were walking the Camino, and the encounter with her was very special.

Pamplona was everything I hoped it would be.

As mentioned previously, The Sun Also Rises is my favorite book, and getting to walk the streets and visit the cafes that Hemingway and his characters did was beyond cool. I have a copy of the novel on my Kindle, and when J’Nell and I were sitting in the legendary Iruna Cafe, I opened it and read a few chapters while sipping a beer. In the parlance of our times, I completely geeked out.

In the book it was the last day of the fiesta, and Jake Barnes (the narrator and main character) was sitting right where I was at the Iruna on the patio having a beer. He watches his friend Bill walk across the Plaza del Castillo to meet him at the table. Hemingway writes so perfectly and he drops the reader right into the story, that when I looked up from the book into the plaza, I truly expected to see Bill approaching me.

The next day we got to visit the same bullring Hem describes in the book (they give tours but it was closed for private ones on the day we were there), and took a picture with his sculpture close to the entrance. As we were walking around the area, I marvelled at at how a 27-year-old kid (his age when Sun was published) could have had so much of an impact on one town. Obviously Pamplona was important and historical centuries before Hemingway was born, but his book had an immense impact on it. On his last visit to the city in 1959, he wrote in The Dangerous Summer:

I’ve written Pamplona once, and for keeps. It is all there, as it always was, except forty thousand tourists have been added. There were not twenty tourists when I first went there… four decades ago.”

There’s a helluva lot more that go to the fiesta now, but I’m glad to be here a couple months after the bullfights that take place in July. The streets are wonderfully narrow, the buildings are charmingly medieval, and there are great cafes wherever you turn. With the right kind of eyes (and after several cervezas), I can see Jake, Bill, Brett, and Cohn head into the bullring across the street from the wine cask sidewalk table were I sit.

You must choose … Cross the puente at Arre or stay away from the town around the river?
Puente de Magdalena, crossing into Pamplona
Inside the legendary Iruna Cafe

Hemingway and the bull
Looking down one of the charming narrow streets to the Cathedral of Santa Maria
In the front or the bullring

Original 1930s fiesta poster in the cafe across from the bullring where we had drinks
Running of the bulls sculpture
Hemingway is everywhere you turn

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