Tapas, Churros and Crazy Bulls

Pamplona is home to the San Fermin festival, otherwise known as ‘The Running Of The Bulls’. It all takes place in summer, along with the animal rights version of ‘Running Of The Nudes’. It’s December, so clearly we missed that boat, but it sounded like a nice city to visit and I fancied doing some Christmas shopping before we get home.

Due to the frustrating Spanish siestas we specifically timed when to enter the city so all the shops would be open and bustling. We stepped into a narrow street with tall colourful buildings at bang on 5pm, and it was another scene from the Apocalypse. All the shutters were pulled down, what the hell was going on?

Somehow we managed to meander our way to an open info centre where we asked why the locals were having a lie-in. He told us that it was a public holiday for something or other, he spoke so fast we couldn’t understand what it was for, a saint I think. So, the day we came to a city for festive shopping and it’s all closed up. Brilliant. He advised a few sights to visit but after describing the first three places as ‘sooo beudiful’ we wondered if he’d just learnt that English phrase and was trying it out on some native speakers.

At least some bars were open as I wanted to try Tapas, but it was cold and windy and Craig felt rather uninspired with the idea of a chilled beer and snack food. He said he’d much prefer some warm Churros, and low and behold we stumbled upon a tiny Churros shop that was packed with locals. We joined the queue and asked for enough for two people and were served twelve doughy sticks (like doughnuts but shaped like sticks) covered in sugar and a mug of warm syrupy chocolate each. Yum!

By the time we’d slurped every last drop of chocolate out our mugs and squeezed our way through the crowd, the streets had transformed and all the Christmas decorations were twinkling. More people were about and we even found an open souvenir shop. Inside were 6 huge stuffed bulls and we realised it was all a set for a photo shoot. The walls and floor were identical to the alleys the bulls run along, and this shop charged €10 for a photo where you can pretend to be chased by the bulls. Though Craig and I being penny scrimpers got a less professional cheeky snap on my iPhone.

Afterwards I made the executive decision that we must try tapas before leaving Spain so we checked out some bars. All of them had tapas on display behind glass shields along the bar tops, but after walking along and eyeing up all the ingredients we saw that any vegetarian options for me had anchovies draped on top or slyly hidden underneath.

When we were about to give up and head back to Pablo for beans on toast, we spotted one last bar to try. They had a great selection of tapas and pinchos – as their known in this area of Spain which literally means spear, referring to the cocktail stick they poke into the morsels. The third tapas on display had my name written all over it; a slice of baguette (as most of them were served on) with a slab of goats cheese that was glistening with fruit confit, raisins and walnuts. Craig chose one with salmon wrapped around some sort of fish mayonnaise concoction that was drizzled with lemon. His second pinchos had a slice of roasted red pepper with deep fried courgette that was rolled up with ham and cheese and a chilli on top.

It was all delicious, we had a beer each and stood chatting at the bar like the locals did. Generally the pinchos etiquette is that you have as many as you like, when your done you tell the barman how many drinks you’ve had and they count the cocktail sticks on your plate.

An old character with asbestos hands was roasting horse chestnuts on a street corner so we grabbed a bag to keep us warm on our walk back to Pablo. What a lovely city, even with the shops closed we loved our time there. We were in bed by 10pm, that’s dinner time for the Spaniards, how bizarre.

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