The last few days have been non-stop!! Lots of traveling, laughs and good stories to tell. We met an awesome Spaniard on the plane (he was from Madrid) who gave us a lot of tips on things to do doing our time in Spain and answered a lot of the questions that we had. The flight attendants were so sweet on our flight and it amazed me how much they had to do! This sounds silly, but I never knew that “Bon Appetit” was an actual phrase used by the french, I always just thought it was on signs in a house, good to know!
Our trip started off in Houston, then we headed to Paris for a layover. During our layover we got to eat some yummy French food. We went to a famous Macaroon place – that my sister had recommended, La Laduree and had lunch at great sandwich place. The layover was the perfect time to get to meet all of the students on the trip and get to know them a little better than I had previously. After our five hour layover, we were finally onto Barcelona!! It made for a long day, but it was so nice to finally be in Spain!
We didn’t spend much time in Barcelona until it was time to head to Pamplona to watch the Running With the Bulls. We took a night bus to Pamplona from Barcelona, which was an experience in itself. It was crazy how many people were out at night, I don’t think this country ever sleeps. After a five hour bus ride, we made it to Pamplona and were ready to rock. When we got to Pamplona, it was a sea of white. Everyone was either still out from the night before or were already coming out to get ready for the next day of festivities. First, we decided we needed some energy and caffeine so stopped to have some breakfast before we got our day started. Then, we knew we had to fit in with the crowd and wear the right attire. It’s tradition to wear all white with read accents when you are in town for the Running With the Bulls. Even at 4:00 AM there were stores all over the city that had clothes to sell for the event.
Next, it was time to wait. The Running With the Bulls didn’t start until 8:00 AM, so we had quite a bit of time before the event. We decided to walk around Pamplona and explore all of the sites (and do some intense people watching). It has amazed me so far in Spain how friendly everyone is and how accommodating they are. We haven’t met a single person that hasn’t been more than helpful to us.
When it was finally time for the Running of the Bulls, a few of us went into the stadium to watch. A lot of people would stand around the course that the bulls run to watch and a lot of people actually run with the bulls. We had two friends who ended up running!! They had such a blast. From the stadium, we didn’t get to see a lot of the action along the course of the run (they showed it on the screens in the stadium – but I know that didn’t do it justice). But, we had the perfect view of the post-race activities. After the bulls make it to the stadium, they let so many “runners” into the stadium with them. Once they shut the gate, they let smaller steers into the area and the people/”runners” in the stadium get to entice the bulls. Many of the bulls tried to charge at the different people in the stadium and the people LOVED it!
What amazed me about the Running of the Bulls was how much you could see the culture of Spain. Thousands of people come out to Pamplona (most of them Spaniards) to spend time with their friends and family and have a good time. All of the people here just love life and don’t have a worry in the world. And the energy of the people – oh my!! Here it was 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning and you had all of the people in this sold out stadium singing, chanting “Toro, Toro”, dancing and having the best time. Also, the people are very confident in everything that they do. I think there are a lot of things in America they are perceived as “socially unacceptable” and people often times just sit back and watch other people do things/having fun. Or maybe a way to put it is that having fun is nearly frowned upon, especially when you get to be a certain age. My perception of Spain so far, is everyone is very confident, whether that’s in the sense of dancing in the stadium, coming up to talk to random Americans or 50 year old men being out in the arena taunting the bulls with their jersey. The people here (or at least in Pamplona) don’t have a fear of living on the edge and thrive on adventure.
Highlights of the day:
-getting to Spain in one piece
-watching the Running of the Bulls