In order to avoid crossing Zaragoza, we tried to go around it. Unfortunately, trying to save up 30 minutes, we ended up wasting an hour at the entrance of the highway, and we reached the city of Pamplona or Iruña. Today, it is the capital of the region of Navarra, which is roughly the size and shape of the old Kingdom of Navarra, which existed roughly between 1162 and 1512, when it was conquered by the Catholic King Fernando.
There had been a slight misunderstanding on who was going to plan the day – I was convinced my father had not wanted me to do it, but when we arrived he turned to me and I was supposed to know. In summer, I had drafted a small itinerary, but as he was supposed to have taken charge, I had not gone further. It turns out, I should have. Fortunately, I still had the map on my phone and the opening schedules on my travel notebook. Unfortunately, I had not really delved into all that the city has to offer and we missed a few interesting thing
Thus, I tried to take charge, but not too much because it’s hard to balance that with my parents. Even if we have travelled together before, I tend to let them do the planning and only insist on some stuff I want to do or see, and that’s how they end up at dinosaur parks (≧▽≦).
We left the car in a parking lot underneath the congress centre and walked towards St. Nicholas Church Iglesia de San Nicolás de Bari Eliza. The first building dates from the 1100s, and it was built along the now-disappeared walls, as a defensive construction at the same time as a religious one. It was demolished and rebuilt location makes the building awkward, and to add insult to injury, we arrived almost at the same time as mass started, so we just took a quick look.
We walked to the next church dedicated to St. Lawrence Iglesia de San Lorenzo, actually associated to the Unesco World Heritage Site Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain Caminos de Santiago de Compostela: Camino francés y Caminos del Norte de España. The current building is Neoclassic, and the façade was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century when the original was damaged during war. On the right of the main nave, a side chapel holds the famous sculpture of St. Fermin, the patron saint of the town. The chapel was built between 1696 and 1717, when the sculpture was placed there. Every 7th of July, the sculpture is taken out in the religious procession. From the 6th of July and for a week, Pamplona celebrates its local festivals, famous around the world for the encierros, or running of the bulls. While there are similar runnings all throughout Spain, the encierro in Pamplona was popularised by Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist, in his work “The Sun also Rises” (1926).
We continued onto main street Calle Mayor, which ends at the main square Casa Consistorial de Pamplona, which opens to the main square Plaza Consistorial. The building was erected between 1951 and 1953, though the project kept the 18th century façade, halfway between late Baroque and Neoclassic.
We continued onto the cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona. The building is Gothic (French Gothic, actually), with a Neoclassical façade designed by Ventura Rodríguez (who also worked on the Basílica del Pilar in Zaragoza). One of the most interesting things in the cathedral are the paintings on the walls and columns themselves, just non-religious decorative motifs. In front of the altar lie the tombs of King Carlos III of the Kingdom of Navarra, and his wife Leonor of Trastámara (or Castille).
In the inner area, there is a beautiful cloister, and you can climb into the false ceiling, see the kitchen of the former convent. And, let’s not forget – they have a stamp, because it is one of the “official” starting points of St. James Way, Camino de Santiago, and also part of the Unesco World Herirage Site related to it.
We stopped for lunch, then we walked by one of the “iconic” points of the bull-running, the corner at one of the streets of the route – Esquina de la Estafeta, and continued on until we reached the bullfighting ring Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, but since we are not big into the culture, we did not enter.
We did stop by the sculpture to the bulls and runners Monumento al Encierro, a huge bronze composition with a number of real-life pieces: nine bulls (six fighting bulls and three guiding bulls) and ten runners.
Finally, we went to have a stroll alongside the walls of the former citadel Ciudadela de Pamplona. Although now it is a park, and only the foundations are left, the Citadel was one of the most important defensive constructions in the Spanish Renaissance, in the shape of a five-pointed star.
After that, we took the car and drove towards the town of Olite also known as Erriberri , where we were going to sleep. The town was home to the Monarchs of Navarra, and today there are two distinctive buildings – the old palace Palacio Viejo de Olite, where the Parador de Olite stands, and the new palace Palacio Nuevo de Olite. Originally the most extravagant Gothic castle in Europe, it burnt down during the war against the Napoleonic troupes, and was rebuilt in 1937 using the philosophy of bigger, cooler more teeth. We checked in at the Parador and I collected my stamp. From our room, we could see the main structure of the old palace, as we had a very long balcony.
We went for a walk, and were surprised at how many people there were in the area. We sneaked into the church Iglesia de Santa María la Real, but did not take any pictures as (once again!) mass started. We planned to come back the following morning as it was barely a 30 seconds away from the door of the Parador.
We walked around for a little and were not too impressive by the Medieval city centre, but we did find the typical balconies and the Romanesque church of St. Joseph Iglesia de San José.
We were beat, to be honest, it had been a stressful day after a short night’s sleep, so we turned in early after dinner. I did not even think to wander round to see if I could get any cool pictures of the area, because the area was packed and I was exhausted.