- Most of our readers will know that Berto and I walked the Camino Frances in Spain in 2017. It was, to say the least, a life changing experience. So much so, that we went back the following year to complete the Portuguese Camino.
- We have already written all about this journey (that’s actually how our blog started).
- As we looked through our photos recently, we realised just how many photos we have of the bigger cities on the Camino. We never really gave much credit to these, because at the time of capturing our Camino, it was all about the walking.
So, let’s do a bit of a throwback to enjoy the beautiful cities on the Camino.
We will start with Pamplona, the capital city of the Chartered Community of Navarre in Spain. This is from where we started our Camino Frances in 2017. We arrived on a Sunday morning at 6:00 in this beautiful city (taking the midnight bus from the Madrid-Barajas Airport). We were without our backpacks and therefore all of our belongings (left behind by the airline at a chaotic Dubai airport) and while waiting for the airline to forward these to us, we had to postpone our hike with one day.
So, what can you do? Well, use the extra day to explore the old city of Pamplona!
Plaza del Castillo
Since we were staying in the old city, we headed straight to the Plaza del Castillo. It is a lively site of the city that are normally used for hosting large local events. However, when we were there, it was almost deserted … remember, it was very early on a Sunday morning.
Pamplona is of course well known for their ‘Running of the Bulls’ event that normally occurs in July. Since we were there at the end of March, we did not see any (live) bulls in the streets – which we were quite happy about – but we did end up at the monument that pays tribute to the iconic annual bull run.
Pamplona’s bullring is the third largest in the world (after the bullrings of Mexico and Madrid). It was opened in 1922 and now already seats 19,529. As it was a Sunday, the bullring was closed and we could not go inside – so we had to be satisfied with a front view only.
A clean city
The one thing we immediately noticed in Pamplona was how clean the city was. This made quite an impression on us – the people of Pamplona clearly care about their city.
We also arrived at the beginning of spring in Spain and the flowers in the city were colourful and beautiful (something we also saw regularly during our walk the next 5 weeks).
Old city walls
During our excursions, we found the old city walls of Pamplona. It is 5km around the city and are one of the best-preserved military structures in Spain. The city of Pamplona was founded in 74BC by the Roman military leader Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (or better known simply as Pompey). With Pamplona’s excellent strategic location – close to the French border and the Pyrenees – the city had to be fortified and therefore big walls were built for protection.
There are over 90 cathedrals in Spain – we saw many of them during our Camino. It just felt fitting to visit the Pamplona Cathedral at the start of our Camino. This cathedral was built during the 14th and 15th centuries over the remains of a Romanesque church. We could unfortunately not enter the cathedral, but it was great to see this before our pilgrimage started.
Camino signs in Pamplona
Of course, we were also very alert to any Camino signs in the city … and we found plenty!
If there is one word that any pilgrim should recognise and be able to pronounce in Spanish, it’s ‘Farmacia’ (pharmacy) … because you will surely need plasters and/or pain tablets at some point on the Camino!
Buildings, doors & monuments
While on our walk through the old city, we saw so many interesting little shops … and you know, one can’t walk past a unique door and not take a photo!
Before leaving the old city, we noticed a few more interesting buildings and monuments. We were suddenly wondering how many photos we will take in the next 5 weeks … and happy we brought those extra memory cards with us!
And I suppose no visit to Pamplona is complete if you have not visited the statue(s) of Ernest Hemingway, the great American author. His novel, ‘The Sun Also Rises’ was published in 1925 and is set in Pamplona. They say, that despite the fact that Hemingway was married four times, it can be argued that Pamplona was his first love. There is a life-size statue of him in Café Iruña, one of his favourite places. We found his statue in the Plaza de Toros in front of the bullring.
It’s always nice when there are parks and/or green areas where one can escape from the city noises. And Pamplona has many of these. We visited the oldest park, Taconera Gardens whose early designs are from the 17th century. It’s quite a romantic park with its colourful flower gardens, wide pedestrian paths and sculptures.
For 90% of our stay on the Camino we were sleeping in albergues, hostels that are specifically there for pilgrims. A standard albergue has one or several dormitory rooms with bunk beds, shared ablution facility and a common area … a very interesting experience to say the least.
In Pamplona, we decided to stay in a hostel. Aloha Hostel was a great choice and we shared our dorm with two other ladies (Berto considered himself rather lucky)!
The very helpful and friendly (Spanish) ladies at Reception dealt with our phone calls from the airline in order to get our backpacks from Madrid Airport. When we received our backpacks after lunch on Monday, we decided it was a good time to get our first taste of Spanish wine (to celebrate)!
A wonderful (last) memory of Pamplona
Before we started our Camino, we wanted to have a real taste of Spanish food. Once again, the friendly reception ladies at our hostel helped us out. They suggested Yoldi Restaurante (and warned us it’s a proper Spanish restaurant where the staff might not speak English).
This was indeed the case… no English! There were a lot of hand-signing and the making of noises (like that of a chicken to represent an egg) – an evening we thoroughly enjoyed!
And this is Pamplona – a beautiful and clean city, full of tradition and history. We left Pamplona early on Tuesday morning to start our Camino… but we would love to go back to explore more of this city. If one of you are closer than we are, visit Pamplona soon!
We will soon introduce you to yet another city on the Camino.
You can read about our Camino Frances journey here (Day 1 of 29 days)