Thursday, September 03, 2015

Pamplona round two

Brett had such an amazing time running with the bulls that he really wanted to do it again, this time having a little more experience and a different game plan.  So, we were awake again at 5:30 and on the 6:00 bus to downtown.  We found the route with no difficulty this time.  I decided that I wanted to watch the festivities from inside the arena this time so we went our separate ways and I got in line to buy my arena ticket.
I get my ticket and file into the arena.  I'm on the upper deck but it's a small arena so I can still see very well.   There were some bands playing to entertain the crowd, even a traditional mariachi band.  The crowd got more and more crowded around me.  About 10 mins before the start of the race, the medical crew walked across the arena floor to thunderous applause!  They exited the arena to get to their positions along the route.  Next up, they start introducing the bulls, by name and weight (just like a boxing match), which we can see on the big screens in the arena.  The crowd is getting really excited and I'm hoping that I can see Brett running on the screen at some point.  The TV shows the runners chanting the traditional San Fermin prayer, and we hear the fireworks go off, signalling the release of the bulls from the corral.

Brett's plan this time was to start a little further up the route, just past "Dead Man's Curve", where he thought he would have a longer, less crowded route.  His plan was to run more in the center of the road, closer to the bulls.  Sounds like a great idea, right?

So the running starts and I'm watching the big screen and feeling the excitement building around me.  Within just a few minutes, the runners start to come into the arena.  You can tell that the first ones actually hadn't run with any bulls, because they were jogging, looking backwards and certainly didn't look out of breath.  But very soon, the tempo changed and the looks on the runners faces were of terror so you knew the bulls were right behind them and they were!!!  It was so exciting to see the bulls and steers come running into the arena and herd themselves to the opened gate on the far side.  Runners were still pouring into the arena but I don't see Brett anywhere yet.  And he was wearing a black long sleeved shirt so would be easy to pick out of the sea of white shirts.  But, after my experience of freaking out for no reason yesterday, I decide to just chill and enjoy the moment.  After about 10 minutes of the runners hanging around the arena floor, the announcer introduces the first bull with lots of fanfare and theme music and the bull is re-released into the arena!  The runners still on the floor either stick to the safety wall or surround the bull, egging him on, trying to get him to charge.  This just blows my mind.  They are actually pulling his tail, smacking his rump, getting right in front of him.  Insane!!  After about 5 minutes, they bring out a steer which herds the bull back to the corral.  Then another bull is released!  All this goes on for about an hour.  Now I understand why Brett stayed in the arena for so long yesterday, it was really pretty neat.  I did see many people get thrown by the bull's horns and at least one guy knocked unconscious.

After about 45 mins of this, I decided to leave to find Brett, as I never saw him in the arena.   I walk out over to our meeting spot and see him standing there.  He wasn't a happy camper either.  Apparently the police came through the area of the route that he was waiting in and cleared it of all runners.   The police basically herded all the runners past a certain point into an alley and closed a large metal door behind them, preventing the runners from getting back on the course.  Brett followed a group of guys that he thought were locals to another possible entrance but only found more locked doors and gates.  There was no way for him to get back onto the route to run.  He was really disappointed.  He tried calling and texting me so I would know not to expect him but I had my phone on airplane mode so had no idea.  Oh well, I think it's just another reason to return to Pampolna!

We caught the bus back to the hotel and packed up, grabbed a taxi to the train station.  It was pretty crowded with people so we got our tickets for the French boarder and waited.  We knew that we would need to change trains to get to our next destination, Bordeaux.  Train shows up and we pile on.   We end up sitting near a few English and Americans so I share our experiences from the weekend.  The American couple had stayed in the Hostel for the weekend and said it was completely crazy and no way to get any sleep.  I'm so glad we stayed out of the city!

The train ride was about 2 hours long and then we arrive at the end of the line.  Brett and I had assumed that we would literally just get on another train at that station to get to Bordeaux but nope, we were wrong.  The info desk lady didn't speak any English but gestured for us to go up some stairs and across a platform so we just start walking.  There are other travelers so I suggest to Brett that we just follow them so we do.  We all end up at the "colon" station (what?!) which was a metro that went to the next town where we would get on a train to Bordeaux.  Now, we actually are standing there, trying to figure this all out when a really nice young man turned to us and asked if we were Americans which of course we said yes.  He was so excited and said "Finally, someone I can talk to!!"  Jett, we found out, was from California and was backpacking his way around Europe with a friend from Nice, France.  So, we let his friend handle all the translations and directions and just followed along.  Jett and his buddy were really nice and very helpful.  We chatted a lot about his trip so far, how he liked running with the bulls this morning (he was also ushered off the course but somehow found a way to get back on) and just heard about the experience from a young person's perspective.  He slept in the park the night before and was just soaking in all the energy.  We exchanged FB info and I followed his progress the next few weeks as he basically circumnavigated the European continent.  It looked like a really amazing experience.  I did encourage him to call his mom so she would know he was safe after running with the bulls.  Brett gave him 5e as a thank you for helping us out.  
The train from the boarder to Bordeaux was another 2 hour ride and unfortunately, we were seated at a table, facing two French women who were backpacking themselves and must not have showered in quite some time.  And they kept stretching out their legs under the table, pushing our feet and legs out of the way.  It got annoying really fast so we were happy to arrive in Bordeaux.
We decided to just cab it to the hotel since we had no idea where it was.  This was the one hotel that we went pretty economical on and it showed based on the location.  But the room was clean and quite so we were fine.  
It's early evening so we walk a mile or two into the city center.  This area was very busy with tourists and shops.  The town seemed like a picturesque French town.  We found the palace, a restaurant for dinner a wine shop for a tasting.  It made for a very nice evening.  Brett also found a little restaurant that he bought a Kabab at.  We thought it would be meat on a stick type kabab but it wasn't.  It was like a steak burrito with chips inside.  Crazy looking but he really liked it.  
Drinking wine at dinner in Bordeaux!  Wearing my InB Flutter top, of course!

I liked the wine shop that we did the tasting in.  Most were closed but this was still open.  They were very busy so we didn't get to actually taste much.  I asked for a bottle of sweet wine which we bought and walked back to the room, with the intention of going back to that shop in the morning.
Walked back to the room and popped the bottle of wine open (after Brett went looking for a store that sold a corkscrew).  The wine was so sweet and thick it was nearly like drinking honey!!  But, we're not ones to let alcohol go to waste so we finished it off anyways and went to bed.