by Carmel on July 24, 2014 · 18 comments


We ended up in Pamplona mostly due to laziness. I had looked up different options for exploring the north of Spain and although there were many great options, Pamplona was on the way to Barcelona – our only committed stop due to the blogging workshop I’d be attending in May. Basically, we couldn’t be bothered to do much planning and, boy,  am I glad we didn’t.

You know how you sometimes visit a place and just get a feeling you’re going to love it? That was Pamplona for me. There was nothing particularly special about the city – it’s nice, but looks rather plain compared to many other European cities.


Just one of the many running-friendly parks

We booked a room on the outskirts of the city center to save some money. It was only about a 15-20 minute walk into the main square and it gave us the opportunity to see some of the city’s beautiful and plentiful parks. We were situated right next to a small park where people would come to exercise or take a leisurely stroll with their families. I felt good enough to run, so I did so as often as the weather would allow. It was a running city. There are a ton of trees and green spaces. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.


My feet will be on this path again, very soon

Walking into town, we started to see the little seashell emblem that marks the trail of the Camino de Santiago. Ah, it’s part of the way of St. James. Maybe deep down inside, I could see myself on this trail sometime in the not-so-distant future, walking stick in hand, on my own pilgrimage. I loved seeing the pilgrims walking about town, looking for shelter, food and, of course, wine. They seemed to be in a different world.


Great deals on delicious regional wine and food plus a bonus street-side party where everyone is invited

We arrived on a Tuesday. As far as we could tell, pretty much every bar in the city center was offering a deal – 2 euros for a glass of wine and your choice of tapa. People of all ages were overflowing into the streets. It looked a little intimidating getting in, but once you were, it was pretty easy to order and make your way out to the street to consume your purchases. It was like a big family party. Maybe that was it.


Next to the big man outside the Plaza de Toros

Pamplona is Hemingway’s city. He really made it famous by traveling there on 9 occasions, mostly between 1923 and 1927. Each time he was there for the running of the bulls, held each July during the San Fermín festival. This is also the setting for his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises. Shawn was pretty excited to sit in the same cafe Papa Hemingway frequented during these visits and visit the Plaza de Toros where a large bust of him stands today.


It’s hard to say exactly what the exact lure of Pamplona was for me. After only a day, I turned to Shawn and said I could definitely see myself living in Pamplona. We spent only 5 days there, but its small streets, open plazas and convivial nature will surely entice me to visit again soon. Very soon.

Have you ever visited a city and just knew you would love it?


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine July 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm

What a great little place to end up in by accident! I’m always a fan of places with lots of green space too 🙂
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Carmel July 25, 2014 at 1:03 pm

It was surprising how much green space there was – I guess I was just used to the drier cities of southern Spain.


Emy July 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Glad you got a taste of Camino de Santiago, even if it was only a little bit.


Carmel July 25, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Now that I have a taste, I want more!


Ana July 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm

I can see myself living there – As your tia Alicia said – my grandfather’s surname is from that area. One day, God/Goddess willing, I will do the Camino de Santiago too.


Carmel July 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm

You will if you want to. Although I’m not sure we should do it together. I think peace is the point of the camino, not bickering over you putting ice in your wine. 😉


Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? July 25, 2014 at 11:40 am

Yeah, sometimes you just know.

I heartily recommend the Camino. I only walked the last 210 kilometers, back in 1998, but I can tell you that if your world trip has been a life-changing experience, the Camino will be another one. Good luck!
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Carmel July 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm

That’s so cool! Do you think you’ll ever do the full thing? I have an idea of when I want to do it, but it’s a ways off, so we’ll see.


Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? July 26, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I would love to walk from start to finish, though I’m gonna go with “someday” on this one. I dream of walking some other, less explored long hike (a road less traveled, if you will), preferably in Slovakia.
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Amy July 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I totally understand what you are saying. It’s those small towns, with their quaintness, that just win you over.
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Carmel July 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Some places are just instantly charming.


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) July 27, 2014 at 5:46 pm

I’ve found on our own trip that although I am terrible at predicting whether I will like a place prior to our arrival, I can generally tell pretty quickly whether I will like it or not (and it’s not always the places I think they will be!). I’m not sure there’s been any place that we’ve disliked early on and changed our opinion on during the same stay (some places are better upon a second visit), and in a similar vein, we’ve never started off liking a place only to become disenchanted either. I guess those first impressions really are powerful!

So glad you liked Pamplona. I actually really enjoyed Madrid (so much so that I would really like to see more of Spain on future visits) and initially thought it could be a cool place to live longer term… but the lack of ethnic food (they just their first Vietnamese restaurant in December 2013!) would probably make me crazy!
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Carmel July 28, 2014 at 8:23 am

Now that you mention it, I think it’s been the same for us, even if consciously we haven’t noticed it.

We were staying in a neighborhood in Madrid *filled* with Asian options, although I’m not sure how good any of them are. I think the lack of food diversity would keep me from actually moving there, too.


Patti July 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

I have to say I think it would be very cool to walk in the steps of Hemingway – what a moment – but I’d definitely pass on the whole running of the bulls thing, I’ve never understood the fascination of that one! I’m looking forward to visiting Pamplona one day!
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Carmel July 28, 2014 at 8:23 am

I told Shawn we could buy a place there, rent it out during San Fermin and pay for whatever vacation we took with the rental money. I don’t think I would ever do the running of the bulls – even attending it. It sounds way too crazy.


Natasha July 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm

I’ve never been here but it sure does sound like somewhere I would like to visit too. I believe that messages come to me through reading and i found you on Sarah somewhere blog. I see why now 🙂
Loved the post ! Keep them coming 🙂
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Carmel August 5, 2014 at 10:37 am

So glad you enjoyed the post! I love Sarah’s writing, so I’m honored to get a referral from her blog 🙂


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