In Hemingway’s Footsteps, Visiting Pamplona, Spain, On A Silversea Excursion

Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises helped to popularize the annual running of the bulls at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, our destination for the day from Silver Whisper. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

My daughter Britton and I awoke early for our 8:30 a.m., eight-hour tour to experience Hemingway’s Pamplona on a so-called Silver Shore Collection excursion from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, where Silver Whisper was anchored.

These special excursions are another example of how Silversea Cruises offers choices to its guest. In fact, the luxury line offers three types of tours, described as follows on Silversea’s website.

  • Silver Shore Collection – Unique and exclusive sojourns ashore.
  • Silver Shore Expeditions – Adventures for the active explorer.
  • Silver Shore Excursions – Intimate and rewarding small group touring with knowledgeable guides who can customise the experience to match your interests and preferences.

I have been fortunate enough to experience a few Silver Shore Collection excursions over the past couple of years. They have always been exceptionally memorable, and today was no exception. I talked to other guests who called this one of the best excursions they have taken.

The motorcoach  took 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach Pamplona from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where Silver Whisper was anchored, However, the bus billed itself as offering Business Class seating. I’m not sure whether it was a joke or not, but the seats featured plenty of legroom and was extremely comfortable. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Ernest Hemingway first visited Pamplona in July 1923 during the San Fermin Festival. The city’s atmosphere and the Running of the Bulls made such an impression on Hemingway that he chose the fiesta as the backdrop for his first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises.

A Hemingway haunt, Café Iruna © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Hemingway returned to Pamplona on eight more occasions and his association with Pamplona converted a simple local festivity into one of the world’s most famous celebrations, as well as a destination for thousands of foreign tourists.

Our time in Pamplona started with a walking tour  beginning at the Plaza del Castillo, at the center of the Old Town. Hemingway frequented many establishments here, including the Hotel La Perla, and the Café Iruna, one of his favorite haunts. We enjoyed a refreshment stop here, and I toasted to the bronze, life-sized sculpture of Hemingway.

We visited the bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway at Café Iruna, one of the writer’s favorite bars. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Our next stop was the Plaza de Toros bullfighting arena. The Hemingway Monument, a 17,637-pound (8,000-kilogram) block of granite, stands in front of the bullring and was dedicated to the writer by the city of Pamplona in 1968. There’s also a street named for the writer.

Hemingway’s stamp on Pamplona is everywhere. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

We strolled along the famous Estafeta Street en route to the 15th-century Cathedral that overlooks the city. We enjoyed the panoramic vistas from atop the city walls located behind the Cathedral at the Baluarte de Redin.

From here, we followed the Street of Pilgrims, or ‘Rua de los Peregrinos’ to City Hall. Built in 1756 with a Baroque façade, City Hall is the launch site for the ‘Chupinazo’, or rockets that mark the beginning of the San Fermin Festival.

When we finished our walking tour, we had some free time for shopping and exploring on our own before meeting for an included tapas lunch. Then, on the way back, we enjoyed one of the best traditions that the Spanish have introduced to the world: siesta — in those big cushy seats.

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