Pamplona–There is a dignity and grace in this city that is impossible to capture.
It can’t be done with words or with photographs.
But, we will try.
Catedral Santa de Maria La Real was a highlight of our day.
Jackie’s upbringing in the Catholic Church and her memories of her childhood were very near the surface today as we toured this very beautiful church.
There were amazing sculptures of Jesus and the saints throughout the cathedral, which was built and rebuilt and rebuilt from the ninth century to the 16th century. Beautiful paintings, gorgeous tapestries, marble sculpted tombs of the former king and queen of Navarra–this region of Spain.
On this site, archaeologists found the remains of streets and buildings dating back to the first century BC.
The beauty of the cathedral made both of our eyes water more than once. Truly, Jackie’s cheeks were tear-stained throughout the tour. It really was breathtaking. And it’s beauty can’t truly be described.
Ernest Hemingway made a big mark on this city.
His images can be seen on signs and buildings all over Pamplona.
According to Hemingway lore, he often spent his nights at Hotel La Perla (a beautiful hotel), which sets on the corner of the main square in Pamplona (Plaza Del Castillo) and walked each day the half-block to Cafe Iruna, where he would hold court for hours with his supporters, along with other bull-fighting aficianados.
Jackie and I enjoyed afternoon espresso with croissants and cake at Cafe Iruna. And all we could talk about during that break with the indescribable feeling that we enjoyed. It really is different than the life we lead. Smoother, I think. More like we were meant to live.
Pamplona is an amazing town. There is a pride and dignity in these people–probably because they have learned how life should be.
It is a town built on family and relaxation. They enjoy small bars with tapas and red wine. They smile a lot–but who can blame them. There is another family bar down the street, around the corner, up the block.
And the elder Pamplona residents are cherished. We saw many seniors walking with those whom we envisioned as their sons or grandsons. Talking, smiling. And their younger escort was always holding an arm of the serior.
These people have life figured out.
If Pamplona owes much of its fame to Papa Hemingway, it owes its vibrancy to the bulls.
We visited the famous bull ring, or Plaza de Toros. We saw the streets where the bulls run.
And we visited the beautiful Encierro Monument–the imposing bronze sculpture which depicts the running of the bulls.
Amazing, just amazing.
Taking photos at the monument provided a bit of a challenge. We arrived at the sculpture just as a busload of Spanish tourists did. Needless to say, we waited a long time to get the intimate photos we were looking for.
Each of the Spanish visitors wanted his or her photo with the bulls. Then they wanted them in this group of that group, until all the combinations were satisfied. And the elder gentlemen insisted on grabbing a horn in the photo setups–a very masculine thing to do, we supposed.
And, then there are the walls. We saw the remains of Pamplona’s walls, and were humbled by their history.
Old Pamplona is surrounded by the remains of stone walls.
Those walls were supposedly nearly impenetrable in the mid-eighth century. It was then that the pope’s emissary, Charlemagne, after three months trying to breach the walls while attempting to rid Pamplona of the pesky Muslims, sought the help of St. James.
“Oh, Santiago (St James)! If it is true that you appeared to me, let me conquer this city!” He exclaimed.
Sure enough, at that point Pamplona’s walls, like those of Jericho, came tumbling down.
The exterior city walls, which still stand in some areas, were just a forbearer of the walls built within the city to become barriers of ten or twelve self-ruled barrios in the city in the 1200’s—each with their own government, laws and even languages.
Most of those internal walls are now gone, and the warring between factions in Pamplona is the reason that there are few ancient buildings that we will see as our trip moves west.