It’s July 4th,and instead of watching fireworks make shapes in the sky, I’m peering into a clear, night sky halfway across the world. Tonight I’m in Sitges, Spain, a small town about 30 miles south of Barcelona. However charming this lovely beach town is, the next adventure is calling my name. I just found out that the Festival de San Fermín starts in two days. Naturally, I booked my train ticket to Logroño the moment I found out about the festival. I’m hoping to meet up with fellow travelers who are in route to San Fermin in Pamplona, an hour drive from Logroño. You’re probably wondering why I don’t just go straight to Pamplona like a normal human would. You see, all of the hostels/hotels/etc. in Pamplona are for sure booked, and quite a few Spaniards advised me not to go alone. If you haven’t heard of San Fermín, let me explain!
The run down
La festival de San Fermín takes place in Pamplona, Spain every year. It starts on July 6th and the party doesn’t stop until July 14th. It’s famous for the encierros, or the running of the bulls, which takes place every morning at 8am. If you thought Mardi Gras in New Orleans was crazy, just add rampaging, angry bulls and millions of makeshift bullfighters with liquid courage like you wouldn’t believe.
So back to the story…I’m in Logroño. I begin preparing dinner in my hostel and hope for a miracle in the form of San Fermíners. AND THEN THE DOORBELL RINGS. A group of nine people from Valencia in their late-twenties walk through the hostel door. I overhear them talking about the opening ceremony of San Fermín and how excited they are. As they walk into the kitchen, I greet them and try my best not to be too obvious about obviously wanting to tag along with them. (Cue my creepy, I-swear-I-won’t-get-in-the-way-you’ll-barely-know-I’m-there smile) Finally, they ask me if I wanted to ride with them to the festival and I accepted without hesitation.
Viva San Fermín
We’ve arrived in Pamplona. My friends know how to do it big because they’ve rented out an apartment in the city center for a few days. I’ve now discovered that they also speak Valencian, which is a language exclusive to the province of Valencia. They speak 50% in Spanish and 50% in Valencian, and I have no idea what they’re talking about 100% of the time. Next thing I know, it’s noon and the party has officially begun. Millions of people are crowded into narrow streets and it’s raining sangria.
After hours of fun and chaos, I ask one of the guys (in Spanish) when the last bus back to Logroño leaves. He must not understand me because he replies by telling me where we’ll go for dinner. A couple of hours later at dinner, I awkwardly ask him again when the last bus will leave. He chuckles and says that the last bus left hours ago. OH. [casually freaking out] In a moment of panic, I logically decide that I must pull the most epic of all-nighters that the world has ever seen. The Spaniards go out until sunrise, anyway, I conclude.
Eight hours and many discotecas later*
It’s 7 a.m., and we’re zombie-walking back to their apartment. My exhaustion must’ve been evident because they insist that I stay there instead of meandering through the streets until the bus station opens at 9 a.m. That’s when they pull over a LITERAL DOG BED and tell me I can sleep there. So I’m lying there trying my best not to laugh because while it is really nice of them to let a stranger crash at their place, it’s a dog bed y’all. They turn the lights out and I wait until I think everyone is asleep and sneak out the front door. Now it’s 7:30 a.m. The first encierro starts so soon that I can’t turn down the chance to watch these insane people run with the bulls. The buildup to the actual running of the bulls felt more exciting than the ten seconds it took for them to pass the area that I was standing. I can imagine the adrenaline rush that those guys must have felt while running for their lives, though. Finally after the longest day of my life, I got back to Logroño with zero energy and another check mark on my bucket list.