Calle De La Curia, September 2015. In late 2015 I’d just finished teaching an English summer camp in Castro Urdiales, a small coastal town outside Bilbao. Excited to be heading off on a two-week wander across northern Spain, I’d been particularly fascinated by the prospect of Pamplona because of its Hemingway connections and notoriety for the running of the bulls. One of Spain’s architectural highlights, the city was quick to reel me in with its spectacular old quarter, a maze of narrow streets stuffed with Romanesque, baroque and gothic era buildings. This photo summed up Pamplona’s vibe perfectly. It was mid-afternoon and I had the street to myself, all but one of the shops closed for siesta. Slowly making my way up towards the imposing outline of the Cathedral, I ended up spending an hour inside, checking out its lavish interior, pretty courtyard, solemn rectory and eerie mausoleum.
Ayuntamiento de Pamplona (Pamplona Town Hall), September 2015. Located in Plaza Consistorial, in the heart of the old quarter, this gorgeous, baroque-neoclassical building plays an important role in the annual San Fermín festival, best known for the controversial running of the bulls (“encierro”). Each year, on July the sixth at around noon, a rocket is fired from the building to signal the start of the party!
Beatriz Bakery, September 2015. Pamplona’s tapas (called pintxos in the Basque country) is fantastic and visitors won’t be short of places to dive into the local cuisine. Among the many options, I’d recommend Bar Gaucho as a real highlight; a cramped, narrow little place where the dishes are proudly displayed right across the main counter. But be warned, it’s so popular you may struggle to get a seat! Another culinary highlight was this great little bakery on Calle Estafeta, where the line often snakes out into the street and the enticing smell of chocolate and flour will almost certainly stop you in your tracks. Some people are so impressed by their cakes; cookies and hojaldres (buttery pastries), they boldly claim Beatriz to be one of the best bakeries in Spain!!! While I was clearly no expert in Spanish baking, the divine slab of nutty dark chocolate I came away with suggested such assertions may not be far off the mark.
Ernest Hemingway Sculpture, Pamplona Bullring, September 2015. The words Hemingway and Pamplona go hand in hand. The Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist came here no less than nine times over thirty-five years, always for San Fermín, invariably to watch the bulls, to drink, fight and sing. As the setting of his debut novel The Sun Also Rises, Pamplona held a special place in Hemingway’s heart right up until the day he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. This sculpture, found right outside the city bullring, is one of numerous tributes to be found throughout the centre. A bronze head of shaggy hair, a fearsome glare and fulsome beard, it stands as a powerful tribute to an equally commanding man.
Café Iruña, September 2015. The ultimate Hemingway experience lies in this famous café, which dominates the southeast side of Plaza del Castillo. Said to be his favourite Pamplona hangout, most visitors wind up taking a seat out front for sunshine-informed people-watching views across the square. But don’t forget to head inside and check out the stunning interior, with its hanging lights, intricate wooden windows and giant mirrors. Make your way right to the back and you’ll find an arched doorway leading through to a small, discreet bar. Known as Hemingway Corner, there are framed photographs of the man aplenty and a life-size bust of the old dog propping up the end of the bar. However, as perfectly located and gorgeous as Café Iruña clearly is, visitors often complain about the lousy service, while the traditional Spanish food on offer receives mixed reviews. Not that I had anything to complain about, my coffee and cake going down a real treat!