Opening Day Celebrations at San Fermin

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This is part of two journeys to Spain that we made in 2015. The first was a stay in beautiful Barcelona and the second was our trip to Pamplona for the annual Bull Run in that city.


Sagrada Famillia

Main Archways of the Sagrada

Sagrada Famila Arches

The stay in Barcelona was the first stop on our current journey. We left the United States in December of 2014 and have been on a continuous photo shoot visiting a total of 18 countries in that 2 year period. Our stay in Barcelona was really just a stop to get our feet on the ground outside of the United States and we spent most of our time there in Barcelonetta. This is the original fishing village that eventually fostered the city of Barcelona. It is still a sleepy part of town on a small peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean. There is little nightlife, very little traffic and some of the best Paella in all of Spain. This is something that if you have not yet sampled then you simply have to try it. The rice and seafood dish is a signature of this part of Spain.

Mardi Gras in Barcelona

Our Favorite Tapas Bar

Too Cute

The beach, while somewhat small, is very nice in summer and there is a huge yacht basin. We had a few small Mardi Gras parades while we were there which was the most in the way of crowds that we saw. For a quiet area to stay in while visiting the sights of Barcelona like the Gaudi Sagrada Familia, the Magic Fountain (a remnant of the 1929 worlds fair), the old gothic quarter, and of course the La Boqueria.

Monserrat Monastery

The second part of our trip to Barcelona was a day trip to the Monserrat Monastery outside of the city in the Catalonia countryside. It is the site of a Benedictine abbey which is the home of the Black Madonna. The name simply put is Jagged Mountain. It is a striking pink color and can be seen for miles away looking almost like the saws rugged edge. The monastery was founded sometime in the 9th century after a startling miracle was witnessed by children in a cave on the mountainside. You can read more here in our article on Monserrat. You will find information on transportation to and from the Black Madonna and the miracle that led to the monastery’s founding. Be sure and catch the cable car up the mountainside, it is a memorable experience and the views are great.

Cliffs Surrounding Montserrat

Montserrat on the Cliffs


The second part of our journey in Spain took us to the Basque Region of Pamplona. Pamplona is located in the province of Navarre and is easily accessible by train from Madrid. It was made famous more from the writings of Ernest Hemingway and was one of his favorite places to visit.

Old Town

There is far more to see and do on your trip to Pamplona which should start from the Old City which was founded in the 1200’s and unified in 1400’s. The city has grown around it but the older areas are carefully preserved and that will be the site of the Bull Run. Other parts of Pamplona you may want to visit are the Museo de Navarra, which is devoted to the artistic heritage of the region, or the Museo Diocesano of religious art.

San Sebastian

You will want to visit the beach and city of San Sebastian which is linked by daily bus service and has the shuttle to and from Pamplona during the festival if you cannot find accommodations of your liking in Pamplona.

San Sebastian

Rock Jetty 1

Rock Jetty 2

Rock Jetty 3

Pamplona Cathedral

The cathedral dates to the 13th century and is a beautiful Gothic Era Cathedral. It has a beautiful cloister and the Neoclassical exterior is unique. There are two other Gothic cathedrals in the city. Both Saint Sernin and Saint Nicholas are worth a visit if you are in the Old City and find yourself with time on your hands.

San Fermin and The Bull Run

Encierro is the Spanish word for Corral or Enclosure. This name was given to the annual Bull Run which takes place in Pamplona as well as other cities throughout Spain. The Run in Pamplona, though, is by far the most famous and draws the largest crowds. The run originated from the transport of the bulls from the farms to the bull rings in Spain. These are bulls bred across Spain as the best of the best for the bull fights. They would bring the bulls into the city and the young men would jump in and out of the group to show their bravery and of course to impress the senoritas. Read More About the Bull Run: Running With The Bulls Part 1 and Part 2

As time has gone by the bulls selected for the fights during San Fermin are kept in a corral on the outskirts of the Old Town. In the morning they are brought daily through the streets in and men young and old alike would run in front of them on their way up the hill to the bull ring. Wooden fences are built along the route and block off the streets.

Family Enjoying the Day

Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies 2


Opening Day Celebrations at San Fermin 2

Opening Day Celebrations at San Fermin 3

Opening Day Celebration

Opening Day Celebration 2

On the 7th of July, the opening ceremony will take place in the Old Town Square where the mayor will declare the Festival of San Fermin open. Fireworks and a huge party will ensue with many traditions observed and one new that was created by some of the New Zealand visitors. I mention it in particular since some of our photos will show the Jumping from the Muscle Bar. Muscle Bar is a statue where three streets end a small traffic circle. The young men climb the statue and dive into the crowd hoping to be caught before landing on the pavement below. This accounts for far more injuries and deaths than all of the previous festivals combined.

Jumping Off Muscle Bar

Each of the next 7 mornings the people will gather, the runners in their white suits will appear and a rocket will be fired around 8 AM. The bulls will be released to run up the hill to the arena and the runners will show their bravery by taunting the bulls and leading them up the hill to their eventual deaths later that day in the bull ring. While this appears dangerous, and it is, there has only been a total of 15 deaths since the beginning in 1910.

We will be returning to San Fermin this year in July for me to run with the bulls as well as to La Tomatina or the Festival of Tomatoes in Buño near Valencia in Eastern Spain.



  1. This post is right on time, I´ll be visiting Barcelona next month and maybe will get to make my way to some of these places. Also, I´m currently living in Spain, so it´s some great ideas for weekend trips. Kudos to anyone brave enough to do Running with the Bulls. I think I´d rather be a spectator looking down from a window above 🙂

  2. Barcelona is definitely one of my favorite cities in Spain, it just has so much to offer, your photos definitely show that. I’ve heard of the monastery but sadly never made it there yet. It seems like such a dream place, hopefully next time I’m finally able to make it there. I must, it will be my third time then so I can’t skip it anymore haha.

  3. Lovely photographs! The old part of these European cities are so photogenic that the photographer in you never wants to leave the place. The part on Barcelona and Monserrat reminded me of my own wonderful trip to those areas. I particularly liked the photo of San Sebastien.

  4. I remember attending the running of the bulls festival, your pictures brought back some fond memories. It is still one of those festivals I will never forget, it truly is a one of experience. I really enjoyed the rest your pictures of Spain too, you really do capture the place very well.

  5. Wow! That Muscle Bar sounds crazy. The action you captured of the men on it is outstanding. The guy that is just about to dive in, the housing surrounding the street covered in plastic, and the guy taking a photo, there is just so much going on. I stared at that photo forever 🙂

  6. Two years abroad? That’s amazing. Where did you live in America? I’m from New York but moved to Amsterdam and it’s so much easier to travel now. Your photos of Barcelona are quite inspiring as I’m going to Barcelona in a month. Maybe I’ll make a trip out to that monastery!

    1. We lived most of our lives in Las Vegas and we are now well into our 3rd year of constant traveling. Currently in the Ukraine. As far as the monastery, I would try to make it a day trip, it will take all day. A hint to find the station to catch the train out: it is a small glass building on the corner and you go down to the underground from the lift inside.

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