***You can click the thumbnail images for a larger view. Also formatting on blogger takes a while so i didnt bother. And yes the pics are all mine.***
FInally here it is. After being in some pretty small towns where suprisingly internet access was scarce I finally have the time to put up some pics and thoughts of Spain...and some of Italy (though ive only been here a few days).
Lets start with Barcelona. If I had any incling of missing home and the beach and the sun...and yes the ladies, it was completely erased the moment we stepped of the train. Barcelona is hot (minus the killer humidity of Miami), has an amazing
beach, and a extremely lively pedestrian street that stretches for miles called the Ramblas. This street is constantly full of locals and tourists alike simply shooting the breeze, shopping or eating. THe moment we found a place to sleep the only thing on my mind was BEACH! After nearly an entire summer of being denied the sun, sand, ocean and view I finally had the chance to take part in a guilty pleasure. What was nice also were the endless amount of topless women. It seems in Europe exposing your breasts isnt a mortal sin with reprocussions of senate hearings and a media frenzy. More Americans should just get used to the fact women have them, and wanna tan em.
We spent roughly 5 days in Barca just lounging about, going to clubs, bars and parties. Of course the scenic thing was done but what the hell, ive been sightseeing for nearly 2 months and some relaxing, heavy drinking and dancing was due.
After Barca we decided to head to San Sebastian, on the other side of Spain (yet another beach town) because it was near to Pamplona where we would be participating in the Festival San Fermin (Running of the Bulls). I wasnt quite sure what to expect from San Sebastian but when we got there I was in love again....BETTER than Barca, with NICER beaches.
This city has 2 beaches, one for surfers (the one above) and the other for the casual beachgoer (below).
THe SUrfer beach was my favorite with waves anywhere from 5-10 feet. Depending on the time of day. Once again, the first order of business was relaxing on the beach (while the other people I was with slept in the room at mid-day....SLeep can be had for another time!!!!). Sadly they all missed out on the beach while in San Seb, their loss...haha. Again a sea of topless women (loving spain I tell ya). And at mid-day, on a tuesday the beach was PACKED. I couldnt believe what I was seeing......ANd not with tourists but with locals and tourists alike. I thought to myself, what on earth do these people do for a living...Then thought better of myself, Europeans just live funner more relaxed lifestyles. THe city was small enough that I could walk it in about 5 hours. Everything from churches to pedestrian streets, fountains, surf shops etc etc etc. If you go to Spain definately go to San Sebastian. You will not be disappointed.
WHile in San Seb we took a train to Pamplona to see the spectacle that is The Festival San Fermin.....It was about a 2.5 hour train ride. The only problem was the earliest train in the morning got there after the running and the latest train out of San Seb got us there at 2am....We took the late train and said we would stay up and wait for the running to start at 8am.
Little did we know that this city is absolutely full of revelers at all times of the day. We got to the city and there must have been at least 30-50 thousand drunken people dancing, singing and partying. Once again, I couldnt believe my eyes. Such a small city, so much life (obviously because of the festival). And not just drunk, but REALLY drunk. THis went on from 2am to about 6am. At 6am everyone gets a kip, sobers up and prepares for the run. I have had my mind set on the run for nearly 3 years now. I was going to do it, no looking back, not questions about it.
We purchased the traditional white pants, red scarf around our neck and the sash around the waist...We looked like regular Pamplonans!! haha .As the time approached naturally I got a bit worried, started asking myself if this is really a good idea, what if a something happens (this day before an American was paralysed). But my determination was absolute, I was going to do it. ANd not just run to the Plaza de Torros before the bulls reached me but actually run with the herd and try to touch them. What the hell ya??
We made our way up the course to the front where the ran began. It was rammed with people, adding some tension to my thoughts. THe possibility of tripping, getting triped, or trampled are very high with so many people and such a narrow street. 10 minutes before the run started (7:50am) the chanting began...Imagine thousands of people on the course, thousands of spectators, and thousands of people on the balconies singing " Al goooool....Al gooool....Al Gol, Al Gol, Al gol.....nos qureeeemos emborracharnos....Al resultado nos da igual.." until BOOM, the rocket explodes. THis signifies the release of the bulls (about 10 bulls in this run). A madhouse I tell you.
People start going crazy and running like madmen. You start running at a trot looking back waiting for the bulls to near, hopping up and down trying to see past the crowd as you jog. People start running faster....People start getting frantic.....You start getting frantic, start running faster. Heart beating, sweat running, legs burning.....ANd then the mad sprint! THe bulls are 10 meters behind me, I start to run as fast as I can staying in the middle of the course and a bit off center.....ANd there they are, 4 giants 1 ton animals barelling down the street smashing people out of the way, trampling anyone and anything in their way.
I get to run along side the pack for about 20 seconds before their pace cannot be matched...at arms length from the bulls you no longer feel terror but complete and sheer euphoria! I was doing it, It was amazing.
THen...I get tripped up by someone behgind me.....At that moment you no longer think like a normal human being. You go into survival mode, doing whatever it takes to not get trampled by the stampede. I landed on my right knee very hard ripping my pants and getting a nasty scrape...but I didnt think of it. I had to get up or get trampled (by bulls or poeple). Literally running on my knees I manage to grip someones waist and heave myself to my feet continuing the sprint to the Plaza de Torros......Again another group of bulls speeds by, people jumping out of the way. Again another group passes at arm length mindlessly running to the plaza....ANd then there it is, the Plaza itself...WHen you enter the plaza you are greeted as a hero by the spectators, all cheering madly as you enter the the ring....Myself, I felt like a king. A survivor. My arms in the the air yelling and screaming, hugging random people for the accomplishment of making it to the plaza and not jumping out of the course......
ANd then something I didnt know happened during the run. To my knowledge the run was over but its not! THey close the gate to the plaza de torros and lock the 400+ people inside......THen they release small, adolescent bulls with tapped horns into the ring. Mind you when I say small im not being literal. THese things are huge as well, I would say about 500lbs. Enough to paralyze you if knocked full force (like the american from new york a few days before)......Everyone in the in the plaza becomes a Matador. Everyone wanting to taunt the bull and get chased, throwing caution to the air and possible consequences aside. Once I saw this I felt I had to participate as well. Why the hell not. I just ran 500 meters being chased by them. SO you taunt the bull, clap, yell kick sand at the beast until it charges...then you like like a chicken with its head cut of trying not to get gorged (mind you they have caps on the horns). Again the adrenaline swells, your muscles feel no pain from the sprint just minutes before, your mind sees no wrong in risking your life. One of the novelties I also noticed is trying to smack the bulls ass. While it is distracted on other poeple you make a run and give it a good smack and hope it doesnt turn and horn you.....In total i managed 3 smacks....and one horn in my ass. A bit bruised but nothing serious...WHat excilliration! What fun! What ablosute insanity! The crowd explodes in cheers when people get bowled over, when people can Ole the bull, when poeple smack it.....Just pure enjoyment......This event in the ring last 45 minutes with about 6 adolescent bulls released within that time....SO you can imagine I was quite tired after the entire event was through. From running, to being the matador, to smacking bulls asses...I was drained of energy...Now the long trip back to San Seb
As if running wasnt enough of a day when we return to San Sebastian we realize they are finalizing the set up of an immense stage on the surfers beach....Who would be playing we asked...probably a local spanish band.....But to our suprise....it was the one and only, the legend, the myth, the extremely old BOB DYLAN!!
HAHAHAhahaH....what a day indeed. And to top of the fact Dylan would be playng in San Sebastian the concert was FREE! with a fireworks diaplay to finish the night off.
An idol, a legend of rock and of our country. Who could ask for anything more. Life alsmost feels complete. I could die happy and with no regrets in the world. Ciao from Europe!!!