Passage to Pamplona

In this year of great change I have finally come to stationary in Northern Spain. 

I found Andalucía an inspiring place, but it wasn't not somewhere that I really connected with. I moved to Spain to get back to the 'normality' of city life - socialising, amenities, business, and have finally accomplished my goal of actually being in a city!

I moved here to work in an academy with adults (just when I was getting the hang of teaching ten year olds). So far all is well, classes are small, mostly exam preparation, and the academy is 5 minutes from my front door - although I'm sure working with adults will have its pitfalls too!

I am sharing a flat with Javier - a secondary school teacher from Zaragoza with a love of whiskey, rock music, mullets and Wales for some reason. It's good to live with a Spanish speaker, I hope it gives me the impetus to improve - maybe we'll find a third amigo too.

City of parks - just two minutes from my front door

Pamplona really is the polar opposite of Andalucía. It's the coldest place in Spain and rainy too. It's a city with one foot in Spain, and one foot in the Basque country, I actually flew to France to get here!

The people are tall, with Gallic noses and a penchant for rowing, rugby and cycling. It's a place of business (Basque tax breaks), and a place of study (two big Universities).

It's green and high rise all at once.

And it has just as many weird traditions as anywhere else in Spain, such as Saint's days (next weekend is San Fermín Chiqui - a practice run and mini version of Pamplona's main festival). I have already seen a cardboard bull dance with drums and a brass band second line a la New Orleans.


Pamplona facts:

  • Pamplona is capital of Navarra province, one of the smallest and least know regions of Spain.
  • The St. James way - or Camino de Santiago runs through the centre of the city. This means you see a lot of North Face clad oldies, cycle enthusiasts and pilgrims - all with their Camino de Santiago booklets open, ready to get the Pamplona stamp.

  • Ideas Peregrinos (pilgrim ideas) is an expression which means to be stupid here in Pamplona.
  • Pamplona was a birthplace of the disposable nappy with worldwide brand Pampers naming its product of the site of the invention. Exactly where the baby diapers where designed remains a bone of contention with residents of nearby Logroño claiming the invention. When Proctor & Gamble bought naming rights to Pamplona's Stadium, Logroño began a permanent boycott of their products leading to it being known by the nickname of Huggies.
  • Every Thursday bars in the old town run a promotion where a drink and snack together cost two Euros. Juevintxo (a mixture of the words for Thursday and Snack foods) brings all the punters to the city centre (especially the students) resulting in a pub crawl atmosphere. With all that food getting eaten, it's a lot less drunken though.
Pintxos in Pamplona
  • Patron saint of Pamplona, San Fermín was known as protector of cattle and was dead against Bull Fighting. During the festival given in his honour, city restaurants take any beef dishes off the menu and one bull is saved from the sword and named as king of the city for one day (crown included).
  • Ben Affleck gained inspiration for his Oscar winning screenplay Argo, whilst on holiday in Spain when he took a barge down the river of the same name which flows through Pamplona.
  • Blocks are known as manzanas here and are built as estates with a central space for gardens, sports pitches or seats.
  • Pamplona's premier football team Osasuna are one of five Basque teams now in La Liga. The word means 'health' in Basque, although they currently reside in the sickly position of 18th in the table.
Disclaimer - more than one of these facts may not in fact be factually correct.


Pamplona is a multi layered city in more ways than one.

San Jorge and Rochapea, lie to the north of the river, in the lower part of Pamplona. The city walls and difference in altitude give pretty impressive views when you look to the north, and make it easy to navigate. In fact the city is small enough to walk around, which is quite an achievement for a place that is so green, and has almost 200,000 residents.

Well, that's my introduction to this rather complex city in which I now reside. I'll bring you more titbits (or pintxos) as I receive them.