Roomorama and Pamplona’s dark side

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.

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  • Reply
    October 3, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I completely agree! Though I haven’t been to Pamploma and would love to go, for the reasons you mention above, all of my travels in Europe have found me avoiding certain groups of tourists like the plague, Though everyone is entitled to do what they like on holiday, I hate to think what other observers of these groups think as we tend to all get lumped together. Have you been to La Tomatina? Apparently that’s exactly the same.

  • Reply
    Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories
    October 3, 2012 at 7:55 am

    While I would definitely enjoy the party scene in Pamplona, I do prefer to wake up indoors and have a recollection of the night. There’s a reason no one ever wakes up in the morning and says, “Man, I wish I’d had more to drink last night….”

  • Reply
    October 3, 2012 at 11:10 am

    While there definitely is a lot of partying going on in Pamplona (there was a constant street party under my balcony), like you say, there are a lot of other things going on, much of it quite family friend, by which I was slightly surprised.

    I do admit, I do occasionally like to party, and I did enjoy partying in Pamplona, and it sometimes went quite late. But I think my days of getting completely wasted are behind me by now, so I was quite happy to always get back to an actual bed instead of falling asleep on the street 🙂

  • Reply
    October 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Oneika, I’m definitely with you on this one. I do enjoy drinking, especially when it’s nice wine, and I love going out dancing, but even when I was a student, I never really got the whole “it’s a good night if you vomit and can’t remember the rest of it” mentality. In fact, I’d go further and say that if people are leaving vomit and excrement all over the streets for someone else to clean up, it’s no longer an “each to their own” situation, it’s just nasty. It particularly bothers me when it’s tourists doing it in a country which otherwise has more civilized drinking habits – did you feel that was the case in Spain or were locals doing it to?

    I love the “family friendly” picture – so adorable!

  • Reply
    October 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Personally I still think I’m stuck between wanting to party my heart out but also not overloading on the booze while at it. Yes its all fun and all to drink and have fun, but personally I think if there is music and I’m having a blast I won’t even remember about the alcohol. Glad you know your likes and dislikes, that is so important!

  • Reply
    The Martha from Malta Diary
    October 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Wow that sounds wild, I myself cannot call myself a wild party girl. How did you find the whole running with bulls event?? I am so curious. I just got back from Sevilla and I went to a bullfight and I was shocked. I mean I am glad I went as it is a huge part of Spanish culture but it is a cruel tradition in my opinion. And I say this after being a witness to such a tradition. If you want you can see pictures from my experience here: http://marthafenech.blogspot.com/2012/10/torero-torero.html

  • Reply
    This Battered Suitcase
    October 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    I definitely enjoy drinking and consider sampling the local beer, wine, spirits, etc. a part of my travels. I love a good night out of some drinking and dancing; I had some particularly fun nights out in Colombia recently. However, I never, ever want to get to the point of blacking out, throwing up, or not being able to remember parts of the evening. “Everything in moderation” is how I like to drink, and how I like to live my life! I know my limits and I think I´m mature enough to know when enough is enough. It´s unfortunate that some unruly partiers can ruin an image of a place!

  • Reply
    October 4, 2012 at 2:12 am

    I don’t think you’re being too harsh. I am with you on this one. Not really a partier. I will enjoy an occasional drink but I think if someone needs to drink to the point that they cannot function properly, that’s a big problem.
    I have ended a few relationships for that reason.

  • Reply
    Kiri Bowers
    October 4, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I am partial to a drink of three I have to admit. I used to be a 24 hour party gal. But as I approach 30 I have gone off those vomit inducing days and nothing more so than working behind a bar in New Zealand and watching perfectly respectable people become blithering idiots with an undue amount of drink… Kiwi’s are insane! Pamplona looks interesting…thanks Oneika

    • Reply
      October 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks for reading, Kiri! It does seem to be the younger ones getting wasted mostly, isn’t it…

  • Reply
    October 4, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Rough match for you, I’ll agree. Even as someone who drinks, sometimes getting into hot water as a result, my tolerance for what you might call party people is about zero. That’s really just a culture clash, tho. I don’t like you blaring techno and falling down on me, you don’t like me getting in your face and calling you an asshole. Fair enough.

    Most of why I shudder at the thought of staying in a hostel is because I always envision hordes of dreadlocked backpackers hitting the clubs, sleazing on the locals and passing out in various states of ruin between me and the toilet. At least you had your own personal hovel. I’m not sure you can blame the place you ended up at– if the walls were shaking there they were probably shaking throughout the middle of town. Hopefully the residents of Pamplona only have to deal with this once a year.

    As for the streets, in all their shit-stained glory… In a way I’m glad these people have minor league stupidity to blame for their behavior. I’ve lived in places where people living like animals in the street is a nightly reality, along with people shooting each other and other fun times. I’m guessing 99% of the Pamplona revelers have never come from a place, or will fall into a place, where their lives will be defined by inhumanity, self abuse, debasement and destruction. Even if their addled self-discovery and cheap formative years make for an annoying spectacle, they could be much worse.

    That’s not easy for me to admit.

    • Reply
      October 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Brendan, I ALWAYS enjoy your comments, you rock! And totally agree with you re: your last point. It’s sad and disgusting.

  • Reply
    October 4, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Drinking until oblivion or until you become sick is not my idea of a good time. I enjoy a drink or two, but I really hate overdoing it!

    • Reply
      October 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      I’m with you!

  • Reply
    October 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I think people need to reach their own limits with respect to alcohol. Many people use it, for sure, they use it to feel relaxed, to lose their inhibitions, to fit it with others. But nothing is going to make them feel any less awkward until they reach that decision themselves. Me? I choose to stay far away from any location where people are renowned for massive amounts of drugs or alcohol but that’s up to me, I’m not judging others.

    • Reply
      October 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      I hear you. I hate to get all judgy, but when I see people endangering themselves and others it’s so hard not to get involved!

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