No matter how extreme you want your tourism to be, you will crash at some point. Or at least I do, sleeping until 11 even though I’m in an exotic city where I have tons to explore in little time. After finally waking up, we said a sad goodbye to the hostel from heaven. Seriously, I was tempted to stay longer in this great room and we all lingered on the balcony before finally leaving. Strange but tasty pastries were lunch in a groovy little bakery. Touristed it, starting with the Palacio Real (on the inside and legitimately today), an insanely luxurious palace. Think Versailles but smaller, aka only ridiculously huge instead of absurdly so. A peacock tried to bite me, the stupid bird, cause I tried to pet it. Wouldn’t even spread its feathers out, either...
Next came the Thysee-something (sp definitely), which was a middle-of-the-road art museum. Strangest was a special exhibition devoted to Salvador Dali. Wow, was that man strange: most of the works by this ultra-famous artist depicted people in the midst of erotic acts, some too strange to even ascertain exactly what they were. No matter how many art museums I attend, I won’t understand what makes some works famous and keeps others obscure.
Caught a 7:30 bus to Pamplona. "Chicago" in Spanish made even less sense than the English version. Stopped in some small town for food in the midst of our 5-hour drive through semi-desert, at which point I realized I’d made a chilling error by packing only t-shirts: forgot that it gets cold in deserty areas at night.
The first sign of Pamplona I see is a few men dressed in white wearing red bandanas. As our bus rolls along, these several men are replaced by dozens, then hundreds, soon thousands. I thought I was coming to a small town for a big but not huge festivity; turns out Pamplona’s a city of 150,000 now obscenely crowded. This is a pretty huge event, necessitating ferris wheels, a bungie ride, hordes of vendors, the works.
Not even trying to get a room, we instead get straight to wandering around. Amazed at how crowded every street is, I lift my camera far overhead, snapping pictures of the madness in all directions. After a few minutes of walking, the guy in front of me stops for no apparent reason: nobody in front of him, not peeing, doesn’t look too drunk. I internally debate pushing him along but he starts walking before I do anything. This confused me until I did my next routine pat-down of valuables and found the zippered side pouch where my digital camera should have been empty and open: one of the stopping guy’s cohorts must have swiped it while he stopped me. I scream a few obscenities but then let it go: it sucks that I’m gonna have no pictures from this trip, but it would suck much more to let this ruin my trip. At least it was a skillful thief: Riad and Mike were both right behind me and didn’t see a thing.
We wander the city for hours, marveling at the strange mix of drunken tourists, gallons of sangria, street performers, vendors of commemorative junk, puddles of piss, and drunks augmenting said puddles without even trying to be discreet. The strangest t-shirt depicted a woman in bed with a bull. The bull’s pulling back the covers to get out and the caption is in Spanish with an English translation below: "excuse me, but I have to run after your husband now." Oddest merchant was the chubby old guy running a game. For €2, you get a chance to pound a nail the rest of the way into a board; if you’re successful, you win a bottle of liquor. I would have tried it, but drinking would definitely lessen my chances at survival tomorrow morning and I wouldn’t just hang on to a bottle. Wandered around for a long time and ended the night by falling asleep in the corner of a pub, in spite of the crowd and loud music.