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Hemingway Adventure

Pamplona, Spain (first day)

Pamplona, Spain 
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The calm before the storm. Pause for reflection at the Hotel La Perla, with bulls who've already run their course.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventurePamplona, capital of the proud and ancient Spanish province of Navarre, is a sturdy walled town girdled with modern housing blocks and the gleaming factories and assembly plants that are the rewards of belonging to a greater Europe.

Its name is known all over the world for the running of bulls through its streets at the festival of San Fermín. Though there are seventy such bull-runs all over Spain, this is the one everybody knows about. That's because Ernest Hemingway came here.

So I can't help thinking about him with mixed feelings as I arrive late on a cool afternoon, with a light drizzle falling on me as I push my way through an army of Hemingway-driven celebrants back-packing their way into town.

Pamplona is preparing to receive this army. Barriers are going up on the roads, and prices are going up in the bars. Few will have booked far enough ahead to find a room. Most search out doorways, park benches, traffic roundabouts or simply sleep where they fall. Hemingway's part in establishing the international reputation of the fiesta is celebrated by a series of red wall-posters showing his venerable bearded likeness, which are attached to any building with which he was connected.

There is one on the wall of the hotel in which I have a room - the Hotel La Perla, tucked away in a corner of the big central square, the Plaza del Castillo. The Hotel Quintana, which was cheaper and where Hemingway preferred to stay, is no longer in existence.

La Perla manages to be discreet and at the centre of the action at the same time. Inside it exudes an old-fashioned respectability. The lobby gives on to a dimly lit salon filled with long-case clocks, gilt-framed mirrors, crystal chandeliers and two stunningly incongruous bulls1 heads thrust lugubriously out of one wall on either side of a portrait of the bullfighter Lalo Moreno, brother of the hotel owner. He looks grave, as matadors tend to do.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Pamplona, Spain (first day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Pamplona
  • Book page no: 96

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