PAMPLONA, HEMINGWAY – and a whole lot of bull


We began our pilgrimage along the famous Camino de Santiago at Pamplona, the town best known these days for the Festival of Saint Fermin, during which the brave, the foolish and the drunk stampede through the streets, pursuing and pursued by terrified cattle.

When the bulls are not running, which is most of the time, Pamplona is a lovely quiet place.

Pamplona street

That is not for a moment to suggest that it lacks colour. On a warm spring day, we loved wandering the streets. 

Pamplona balconies


Pamplona probably came to the world’s attention when Hemingway’s breakthrough novel, The Sun Also Rises, was set here. The prize-winning novelist visited Pamplona nine times from 1923 to 1959. Now people come to the town to visit him.


He stares out at the world from his place by carpark outside the Plaza de Toros, where Pamplona’s bullfights are held.
Plaza de Toros

Fortunately there were no fights scheduled during our visit. I would have felt compelled to go and see what the fuss was all about.

I know it’s a Spanish tradition, a spectacle requiring skill and courage from the matadors, but I imagine I’d find it as much fun as visiting an abbatoir.

This poster I spotted in Bilbao sums up my feelings on the matter: the slogan was (in Spanish and Basque) ‘Put yourself in his position’.


Shops all over town celebrate the Saint Fermin festival by selling bull paraphernalia  – souvenirs from China in a bullshop, perhaps?

Bull shop

What we did enjoy very much was a visit to Cafe Iruna, on the grand central plaza of the town.


It plays up its connection as Hemingway’s favourite watering-hole, with spectacular decor, not to mention an all-in three course menu including wine for EUR13.50, a remarkable bargain. If a cafe this impressive were in almost any other country on the planet, we’d expect to pay that sort of money for a cup of coffee alone. 

Cafe Iruna

My photo above doesn’t do the place justice. Thanks to my correspondent Duncan below I’ve been referred to a great clip of Verdi being sung in Pamplona’s Cafe Iruna. Here’s the link… Go to the second clip – highly recommended!

The opera event should have cheered Me Hemingway up, but just off the plaza we found this shop…no wonder he lost the will to live.

Hemingway doner kebab


Filed under Spain

10 responses to “PAMPLONA, HEMINGWAY – and a whole lot of bull

  1. A few places have latched onto Hemingway. Havana would cease to exist without him and Che.

  2. Your trip to the Cafe Iruna reminded me of one of the better flash mob clips (the second one):
    Great venue!

  3. Jeroen

    Hi Richard, I can’t keep up with the many blogs that you’re writing at the moment, but it sounds like you and mevrouw T are having some good fun around the globe.
    Pamplona looks like a beautiful place. As someone who doesn’t believe there’s any justification for animal cruelty, I’m all to pleased to see your comments on bullfighting!

    • Thanks Jeroen. We’re pleased to see bullfighting has recently been abandoned (despite much opposition) in Catalunya, though of course it’s so popular in Pamplona it would be really hard to abolish it.

  4. Nice pictures that remind me why Pamplona has to be on my ‘must visit’ list

  5. Knuckles

    I once read of a bunch of irreverent Ausies who handled the bull fight dilemma by loudly cheering for the bull;might be worth trying sometime

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