{camino: day 5} a rest day in pamplona

I slept well despite having a top bunk, and I didn’t get going to explore Pamplona until 10:00.  I was thrilled to toss aside my hiking boots for a day and to wear the lightweight sandals I’d worn traipsing all over Japan. I walked up along the city wall and stopped at a shady bench to write in my journal and admire the views.  It would turn out I’d spend the entire day alone.

Pamplona is a university city with an expanding population of about 200,000 and long-standing ties to the Camino de Santiago.


view over Pamplona from atop the city walls

I continued my walk along the wall, and then wandered aimlessly through the colorful city streets.


Pamplona’s colorful streets

I stopped at a small tapas bar called Dom Luis and sat at the bar enjoying tapas – smoked salmon and avocado on toast with a refreshing white wine. It was so delicious, I ordered another: a phyllo bundle filled with potatoes and mushrooms and topped with a runny-yolked egg.  Yum! It was quite hot today, about 85°F, so I was happy to sit inside, although the bar was open to the streets.

Immediately after I sat down, a huge parade cavorted past the bar, with oversized medieval characters dancing and turning to rousing band music. It was a wild spectacle, with whole Spanish families flowing happily along, some dressed to the hilt, some in costume, and others in lightweight summer clothes.

Apparently, this festival is the Privilege of the Union, which commemorates the unification of the three parts of the city (La Navarrería, San Cernín and San Nicolás) into one in a treaty signed in 1423 by King Carlos III.  Before this unification, Camino pilgrims had been enticed to settle in Pamplona under special status, leading to hostilities between the pilgrim settlers and native inhabitants. With the Privilege of the Union, special status was extended to all parts of the disgruntled factions of the city, beginning an era of cooperation.

Each of the three boroughs at that time lost their individual walls and individual governments and opted to be governed by a single council and enclosed within the same city walls.

Feeling quite relaxed after the wine, I continued to wander around the town, around Plaza del Castillo, Pamplona’s main square with covered arcades and shops, and past the 12th century Iglesia de San Nicolas.  I ran into several pilgrims, people I’d connected and spent time with since St. Jean, as they were exchanging numbers and making dinner plans. They seemed all caught up with one another, and I felt like an interloper. No invitation to join was forthcoming, so I continued on my way.  I have never been one to linger where I don’t feel welcome, and I’ve also never been one to chase after people.  I’d always rather bow out gracefully and let people have their space.

Continuing to wander, I came across legendary streets of cuesta de Santa Domingo and calle Estafeta where they have the  running of the bulls during the San Fermín festival annually from July 6-14. This festival was made famous with the 1926 publication of Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises.

I found the Hemingway Paseo, the bull ring, Plaza de Toros, and the famous monument to bull running. Pamplona’s bull ring was rebuilt in 1923. It seats 19,529 and is the third largest in the world, after the bull rings of Mexico and Madrid.


Plaza de Toros

The monument to bull running is impressively evocative and vivid with its violent and frightening details.


statue of the running of the bulls


statue of the running of the bulls

After leaving the bull running area, I got caught in another parade of huge-headed figures marching and dancing in the streets, men on fake horses flogging people with sponges attached to sticks, whole Spanish families eating tapas and drinking wine and beer, bands playing lively tunes, men in matching uniforms clearing the streets. What a lively place to be, and quite by accident!

The streets reverberated with loud music, to which the characters were dancing.  Locals clapped, laughed and took pictures while having the time of their lives.


festival characters


royalty on parade


a mean-looking character

After the crowds passed, I continued wandering around the city.

I walked past the Iglesia de San Saturnino, named after the patron saint of Pamplona.  Saturnin was the first evangelist of the city. Originally Romanesque in style, it is now more Gothic in appearance.


Iglesia de San Saturnino

The Citadel is the walled fortification built between 1571 and 1645 under the orders of King Felipe II of Spain, with a layout designed by an Italian military engineer. A sophisticated defensive system was devised, a rectangular pentagon, or star shape, with five bastions at the corners. The layout was supposed to make it impregnable. It is regarded as the finest example of military architecture from the Spanish Renaissance.

In the 20th century, it was converted to a park and is often used for shows and art displays.

It was quite hot walking around in the sun at the Citadel, so I sat for a while on a bench to orient myself.  While looking at my guidebook pages, I saw that I would be passing the Citadel tomorrow morning on my way out of Pamplona.  I was always happy to figure out my route out of a town the day before I started my walk the next morning.

I continued on through the leafy Parque de la Taconera, with its beautiful flower beds and café and past a statue back toward my albergue.  After relaxing a bit, I made my way up to the city walls, where I stopped at a café for a drink and some people-watching.

I stopped into the Church of San Lorenzo, where I sat in silence for a while, offering up prayers of gratitude and supplication, asking for peace, self-fulfillment, and joy for myself and all my family and friends.


Church of San Lorenzo

It seemed I was walking around in circles and several times felt totally disoriented. The town was splashed everywhere with graffiti.  The town hall, or Casa Consistorial, dominated a small square with its baroque façade.

Since the Gothic 15th century Cathedral of Santa María la Real had been closed when I dropped by earlier, I made my way back to it.  It was open, but no one was manning the desk, thus I was unable to get a stamp for my credenciale. I wandered around the Cathedral, stopping to admire the alabaster mausoleum of Carlos III El Noble and his wife Leonor of Navarre, with their idealized expressions, in the main nave.  The monarchs of Spain used to be crowned here, and at one time it was the seat of the parliament of Navarre.


Cathedral of Santa María

I went in search of a quiet street and dipped into the adorable Café de Pablo, where I enjoyed a tinto verrano (red wine with lemonade) and tapas – goat cheese, caramelized onions and green peppers on toast – and a jambon sandwich.


a quiet side street of colorful buildings


tapas: goat cheese, caramelized onions and green peppers on toast


Pamplona streets

I didn’t really get much “rest” during my first “rest day” on the Camino, as I walked over six miles. Early in the evening, it started raining with a vengeance, and it was predicted to be pouring in the morning, when I would walk to Muruzábal.

*Day 5: Saturday, September 8, 2018*

*14,734 steps, or 6.24 miles: wandering around Pamplona*

You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Remember Culatra?