While I had a great time at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, the city also had a dark side I didn’t like. Pamplona is synonymous with heavy partying, and I’ve never been the party girl type. At least not the hardcore partying type. I love to dance, but I don’t drink alcohol (and if I’m being perfectly honest, I am mildly repulsed by people who get staggeringly inebriated for kicks). You will never catch me out until dawn- in my mind, a “late night out” constitutes me in my jammys and in the warm cocoon of my bed by 1 a.m. Perhaps this is why the heavy party side of Pamplona and I did not mix. All night parties and wasteful, alcohol-soaked debauchery was the name of the game, at least at the start of the festival when the tourists take over. I didn’t dig it. Roomorama, official sponsor for our Girls Running with Bulls project, helped me come to this realization.
How so? Our Roomorama flat, nestled in Pamplona’s historic old town put us right in the thick of all the action and allowed me to experience first hand what I considered to be the ugly side of Pamplona’s party scene. Don’t get me wrong, were I “into” this scene it would have been a match made in heaven. But, as I divulged in my 7 travel truths, it’s just not my thing. As it were, the flat was amazing in that it backed right on to a path that gave stunning views onto the newer part of Pamplona:
We also had the luxury of getting everywhere on foot. The architecture of Pamplona is impressive and the buildings were decked out in all their finery for the festival. I sincerely enjoyed meandering through the beautiful winding streets of this part of the city.
But then there was the downside. Our flat was smaller than expected and a tad worn, it burst at the seams when introduced to our strong personalities and large suitcases. And then outside of the flat quickly turned from quaint to unappealing as revellers (mostly foreign) partied the festival away, binge drinking and loud talking as days turned to night, thumping music making the walls of our centrally located flat vibrate.
Now, I repeat, if I were a partier I would have loved the convivial atmosphere. People were laughing, joyful, positive, and the vibe was electric. I wonder if I am a stick in the mud, a fuddy duddy, for speaking ill of what seemed to be a really good time for many. But I just can’t get down with excessive drinking I saw. Not at all.
As for Roomorama, they did good, succeeding at the Herculean task of securing lodging for our girl group when we were certain that we would be sleeping in the streets. The popularity of the San Fermin festival combined with the petite size of Pamplona ensures that there is a severe lack of accommodation on offer- if you don’t book early you risk sleeping rough. Acquiring a short term rental apartment through Roomorama makes sense since splitting the cost of an apartment between friends is way more cost effective than staying in a hotel. Also remember that staying in an apartment means that you save money on food if you so choose- no need to spend money at restaurants when you can buy groceries and prepare food in the kitchen at your temporary home.
But back to the hardcore partying. Large trucks resembling zambonis washed the streets every morning, but the air still hung heavy with the scent of alcohol and vomit. I saw people passed out just beyond my doorstep, absolutely destroyed after “big nights out”. I saw human excrement smeared in a doorway. Someone was so ill, so desperate, that they went to the toilet in the street, like an animal. I was appalled beyond words. I wondered, as I always do, how people can do this to themselves. Am I missing something here? Is this fun?
Before you dismiss Pamplona, however, it wasn’t all about drinking. There was a huge contingent of local families who came out with their children and had good, clean fun. Smiling, cajoling, dancing. By far that was my favourite part.
I understand that people have different means of enjoying themselves, and frankly, it is their right to do as they please, as long as they don’t do themselves or others any harm. But as I said, while I loved my time in Pamplona, I didn’t like this part one bit.
Am I being too harsh? Is getting wasted just good fun? Have you ever been to a place where hardcore partying is a large part of the experience?
Roomorama was our exclusive accommodation provider in Pamplona. All opinions are mine.