Unification

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. – James Michener

Day 4, Tuesday 8th September. Today was a day of food, customs, religion and people, so today’s quote is particularly relevant. But back to the start first.

Because today was a planned rest day we slept in (till about 7:30 – that’s now a sleep in!), headed off a little after 9 to find breakfast ahead of the day’s main activity. Excellent muesli breakfast and café just up the road – no need for baguette and cheese or tortilla de potatas, there’s plenty of opportunity for them along the way.

Our planned activity was a walking and food tour of Pamplona. Our hostess, Bea Etayo of http://pamplonafood.com/, is delightful and very informative about her city. First stop was a drop into the main cathedral, Catedral de Santa María la Real, the biggest and main church in the old city, where mass was being said. The cathedral was completed in something like its present form by King Carlos III of Navarre (1361 – 8 September 1425) in the late 1300s and early 1400s. Carlos III, also known as Carlos the Noble, was by all accounts a good king. (By comparison, his father, Carlos II was known as Carlos the Bad.) His main claim to fame, apart from building the cathedral, was the unification of the three previously warring boroughs (La Navarrería, San Cernín and San Nicolás) into the city of Pamplona.

Carlos died today, 590 years ago. So, when we went into the cathedral some important dude (maybe the archbishop, but probably not) was saying mass, and Bea said she’d not seen some of the formal trappings before. So it turns out that we were in Pamplona for the Privilege of the Union festival, held on this date every year. More on this later. Anyway, Carlos and his wife Queen Eleanor are both entombed in the cathedral, which is a pretty flash place.
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This second photo is of San Fermin, he of the annual bullfighting festival fame. We had an interesting chat with Bea about bullfighting (as we walked the route of the run). She does not support it, and yet recognises that some traditions take a long time to change. She believes that in time the population will get to the stage of demanding its cessation, however she thinks that is still some time away. Tied to this we spoke at length about societal change in Spain at large (as well as in the various regions). Too much and too complicated to record here, but a fascinating and insightful conversation all the same.

The other really interesting thing to find out about was the existence of Peña Clubs. Given that our tour had a food/wine orientation we visited one of these clubs (not entirely coincidentally hosted by a club member who turned out to be Bea’s husband). Fascinating community concept. Again, a bit too much to try to explain here, so this may be expanded into a bigger story at some stage.

After walking around Pamplona for almost 3 hours (including a couple of trips to different markets/tiendes), we ended up back at her premises for a lovely selection of olive oils, olives, pintxos with olives, peppers and anchovies, salted cod and more peppers, and a selection of local wines. Fabulous. Bea, who has travelled quite extensively (including even to Perth and the Margaret River region would you believe), is passionate about the food and wine of the Navarre region, and I’m sure is and will continue to be a great ambassador. I will rate her business very highly on TripAdvisor when I get a moment.
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The rest of the day comprised a café at the Katakrak (refer separate FB post), a walk around the old citadel, a visit to the 2nd oldest bar in Pamplona, and, most fabulously, witnessing the “giants” and the “big heads” as they paraded through the city, right under our hotel balcony, for the Privilege of the Union festival. They only come out a very few times a year, so it is us who were privileged. A few photos follow.
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And lastly, a photo of Puente de Magdalena, the entry point to Pamplona on the Camino, on the east side of the city. Tomorrow morning, early, we head west for about 24 klms to the town of Puente la Reina, which means Queen’s Bridge.
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