Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Running with the Bulls!!

Our big day started before the crack of dawn at 5:30am.  We got ready quickly and walked to the bus stop.  Even at that early  hour, we weren't alone.  And we were shocked when the bus pulled up and it was nearly full!  But most people got off, or actually stumbled off - lol!  It seemed so crazy to see people wrapping up their night at 6:00am but they were all in good moods.
We got off the bus and grabbed a baget for breakfast and followed the crowd into the mess of humanity.  BUT, we got really turned around and couldn't find the race route.  We were starting to get a little panicked when we noticed some familiar sites and found the right road.  Brett hopped the fence and I followed, kissed him and we went our separate ways.  This was the first time on our trip that we weren't together!  and it felt a little weird.  But I made my way through the massive crowd to the Arena area.   It got really mob-like and kinda scary to get out of the way but I finally found a small area that I could see the race route through the people sitting on the fence.  Speaking of people on the fence, I got there at 6:30, 90 minutes before the race was scheduled to start and could hardly find a place to see.  People must have been sitting on the 6 foot high fences for hours.  I decided that I couldn't move or I would lose my spot so I just planted my feet and stood there until the race started at 8:00am.  I updated my FB page a few times as I knew my brother and a few other people were going to be watching live on the Esquire channel, in hopes of seeing Brett.
Just call him "Brett - Bull Runner"

 This is my view.  I ended up cramming my phone between that guy's knees to video during the race.
Waiting for the race.  Glad I brought my Ink N Burn long sleeved top because it was a little cool.  Plus, I looked really cute!

The time passed pretty quickly and the crowd started to get excited.  The news crews and cameras were on, police and EMT's were stationed between the two sets of barriers and the air felt alive.  Suddenly, we heard a loud firecracker go off, which signaled the start of the race.  Eight seconds later, the six bulls and six steers (male bulls that have been castrated so they are more domicile but still HUGE) were released.  The bulls are trained to follow the steers so they all stay in somewhat of a group.  The crowd pushes forward and we start to see some people jogging on the course. But within a minute, the pace quickens and we see bulls!  I couldn't really see the bulls because of the crowd, but I could see their legs and hoofs running by.  I also saw a young lady fall against the fence and then the crowd around her stopped running and  push up against the fence.  I later found out that a bull turned around here and gored a guy in the gut!!!  And within 3 minutes, it was all done!  The bulls were herded in the arena, the police opened the road and I made my way over to our meeting spot.
I never saw Brett run past me.  I knew it would be tough to see him but I had hoped I would get a glimpse to see him.  But, looking at the video later, I could pick him out, running past.  But I never could have seen him from where I was.
A view of the crowd post race

The race from Brett's perspective:  Brett started the race about 100 yards from the starting line.  He said pretty quickly that the you could hear the bulls running and the bells on the steers ringing loudly.  He took off running and ducked around a group of people so he could safely look behind him, to see where the bulls where.  He said he looked between two people and all  he saw was a huge bull head!!!!  He jumped out and ran next to the herd for about 20 seconds or so.  He said it was Trula a "every man for himself" situation.  He kept hearing the police yelling "uno mas, uno mas" meaning 1 more so he waited for the last bull. ---  Turned out for the first time in the history of the run, a bull turned around at the starting line and ran back into the corral!  It was actually the top story on the local news, the bull that turned around and they had to put him in a truck and drive him to the arena!---

Anyways, Brett waited about 30 seconds or so for the missing bull but decided to start running as he didn't want to miss out on getting into the arena.  Once he got into the arena, he got some pictures and the bulls started being released one at a time for five minutes or so. ( I didn't know that the "party" continued with the bulls inside the arena.)  Brett said the other people would run up behind the bull and smack it or pull it's tail so the bull would turn and charge!  He started next to the wall for safety but decided it was actually safer to move into the less crowded, center part of the arena where he could move easier.  He was charged a few times but ran out of the way!  I  guess bulls really do dig their hoof into the ground before charging!  He did get tripped up a few times by others and skinned up his shin.  He stayed in the arena until the last bull finished being displayed and then left to find me.

Meanwhile, like I said, I didn't know that the party continued inside the arena so I was in our meeting area about 100 yards from the arena by 8:15 or so.  I just waited there, with a small group of drunk guys.  They kept trying to talk to me but as the time kept passing with no sign of Brett, my patience with those guys was wearing thin.  One older man named Alfredo told me to leave the area because those "guys want to make you their husband!" but I insisted that I needed to stay where I was so my husband could find me.  Alfredo even found me a seat in the nearby bar and asked me to come sit there to wait but I stayed in my spot.  The crowd was getting less dense but there was no sign of Brett (who was wearing a purple shirt to stick out from the crowd).  I send him a text to let him know I was waiting....no answer. It's 8:30 and our pre-determined "met up here or you've been gored" time was 9:00. I'm not panicking but I do start to wonder what he's doing.  I wonder how I would even know if he had been gored? How would I find out where he was if he didn't show up at 9:00??  I send another, more urgent text. It's now 8:45 and I'm really worried. And I look up and there he is, arms wide with a huge smile on his face!  I run to him and hug him so hard and just start crying!!!   Then I yank him to the bar and introduce him to Alfredo to show him that my husband was safe.  Oh and buy him a big beer to celebrate and hear his story!!

We walk and talk and talk some more.  He was so happy and excited, it seemed like he was walking on the moon.  As we walked around, we noticed the crowd was still pretty heavy but lots of people were sleeping any place that had grass and space!  It was so surreal to see and it didn't seem to be any big deal.  After all, the city doesn't have enough hotels for the crowd so sleeping in parks is the norm during this festival.  But I was glad that we could hop on a bus back to our room, which we did and took a quick nap.

After our rest, we walked around the suburb we were in and grabbed some lunch.  Then back to the city center for more partying and crowd watching and souvenirs shopping.   We went back to the good Wifi bar and they had dancing going on this evening so we enjoyed some great music and crowd watching.  Brett had another workout just trying to get drinks at the bar with the crowd!  Back to the hotel for a very, very good dinner at their restaurant (actually nearly all our meals have been really good, every place.  and the Wine.....goodness is so good!!!)

Brett had such a good time running that he wanted to go for round two the next day so we decided to do it all again Sunday!

Pamplona = bulls and booze

Up early and on the train to Pamplona!!  This was it, this was the reason we were in Europe, so Brett can run with the bulls during the San Fermin Festival , which is a major bucket item for his life!
We hopped on the train for Pamplona.  The train was super easy to find and get on and pretty comfortable.  It was really nice to just sit back and read while someone else handled the travel.  After about 2 hours, we were in Pamplona.  Our hotel was out of the main town area so we took a cab there and got checked in.  We noticed that everyone around was wearing white shirts, white pants and red scarves and sashes.  Like, EVERYONE was wearing them!
We hopped on the bus and took that downtown to the city center.  It didn't take long to find where the action was, we just followed the massive crowd!  We quickly found a souvenier shop to get the traditional outfits so we wouldn't feel out of place (it almost felt disrespectful to not be wearing the clothes!)  Brett wanted to walk the course so we wandered around the found the start line.  He was really surprised to see the uphill start so we came up with a game plan for the morning race.  We walked the 1/2 mile course which took a long time as we hit lots of shops and the crowds were insane.  At the end of the course is the Arena so we decided I would watch the race from there and we decided on a set meeting place and time as well so we could find each other.
Now, the crowds.  Man, it felt like spring break mixed with Mardi Gras mixed with NYE Times Square.  It was wall to wall people.  Everyone drinking and having a greaqt time.  Singing, chanting, pouring drinks down from the 3rd floor balcony into people's mouths, crowd serfing....basically insanity.  But the crowd was very well behaved, we saw no one get into a fight or even arguing.  The smell wasn't too pleasent as there weren't many trash cans or public bathrooms and it was at least 90*.  But, man, it was fun!!!!

We found a nice bar with really good Wifi and semi-clean  restrooms so we stayed in there for a few hours.  Made some friends with 3 guys who drove 12 hours from southern Spain for the weekend.  Between hand gestures and poor English/Spanish, we were able to have a fun time with them.
We headed back to the hotel later and were very thankful that our hotel was out of the way but comfortable and most importantly, quiet!  After all, Brett needed a good nights sleep for his run the next morning!  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hola, Barcelona!

Have I mentioned how much we loved our hotel in Barcelona?!  Well, again, we really loved it.  Slept great the first night and were up early for a short run.  I really wanted to run those steps that we had seen people the night before running so we did a quick 3 mile run in that area and back to the hotel to shower and get ready for our day.

We decided to purchase our train tickets to Pamplona first thing so we walked to the train station and found an information desk.  We told that lady that we needed 2 tickets to Pamplona for tomorrow (Friday).  She looked at us like we were crazy and shook her head saying no tickets available for direct to Pamplona.  Apparently, this festival is a big deal and many, many people go to it (sarcasm).  We had no backup plan, we didn't expect to not be able to purchase tickets.  She did suggest going to a row of ticket booths and asking them so we waited 20 panic filled minutes for our turn.  The man at the ticket window was very helpful and found us tickets for 8:15 am without any problem, whew!
Waiting for the ticket window with "Flat Mary", something my daughter made me to share in my pictures.

Fancy church with a  huge line!

So, first stop was Sagrada Familia, the famous church that has been under construction for over a hundred years.  It was very simple to find, right off the metro.  But...my God the line to enter wrapped around the building and the entrance fee was 15e.  Now, we can be cheap and thought that wasn't too bad but the potential 2 hour wait to get in killed it for us.  It would be another thing if we had a few days in Barcelona but we really just had today to do everything we wanted to do.  So, we snapped a selfie outside it and found a cafe/bar next to it for lunch.  Worked for us.

Well, this is about as good of a pic we could get.
Next up on my to-do list was to tour the Guell Park, a very famous park that featured mosaics designed by Guell.  It took a while for us to get there as it was on the outskirts of the city but we found it.  And then were told that you have to have a ticket to enter the mosaic area of the park and tickets were sold out until 3pm (it was about noon).  Talk about disappointed.  I had really, really wanted to see this park.  But I hadn't researched and had no clue that there were limited tickets available.  So, we walked around the free area, took some pics and bought some ice cream.  What else are you going to do??

We decided to take the metro back to our hotel and man, the air conditioning felt so good.  And the room was so comfortable and the Wi-fi was so fast.....we decided to stay in for the afternoon and made reservations for a very fancy dinner at the hotel's top floor restaurant for 9:30.  We had been running pretty non-stop for 7 days at this point and really needed some downtime. That evening we returned to the very excellent hotel bar that was playing VH1 videos, texted the kids a few times and enjoyed some yummy tapas and sangria.  I told Brett that I love goat cheese to which he replied "I love Kraft Singles."  You can take the man out of Indianapolis but you can't take the Indianapolis out of the man.

We had been told to check out the Magic Fountains which were near our hotel.  They light up and make a big display Thursday-Sunday, starting at 9:00.  Well, we weren't paying much attention to the time and suddenly realized that it was nearly 9:00 so we rushed out and down the road.  Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was my heels, maybe it was the sangria but when we got to the fountains, they didn't seem to magical.  So, we walked back to the hotel and went to dinner.

Wow.  The restaurant, named Visual was amazing.  360* view so we asked to be seated near a window, in view of the magic fountains.  We were sat in our own, private section.
I don't remember what we ordered but I know it was delicious (maybe duck?  or lamb?).  We enjoyed some wine, appetizers, main course and dessert as well.  It felt very nice to be fancy.  Back to the room for another good nights rest.  For tomorrow, we cross an item off Brett's bucket list!!!