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Hemingway Adventure

Pamplona, Spain (third day)

Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureI have been invited by Alf and To-To, the two Swedish aficionados, to watch the run from the balcony of the room Hemingway took at La Perla. This gives directly on to the narrow street called Calle Estafeta. Before they reach here the bulls will have run uphill from the corral into the Town Hall square, left at Chargui Ladies Lingerie, past Liverpool Video Club and Compact Disc Centre and sharp right at Anašs jewellery shop. There are no barriers in this street, and nowhere to hide, so man (and woman) and bull will get pretty close to each other.

With an hour still to go the balconies are filling up with families, friends, and those who've rented these viewpoints for thousands of pesetas. At 7.30 police and colourful officials in scarlet berets and tunics begin to clear the course. Anyone poking out of a doorway is pushed firmly back in. At 7.40 a squad of street-cleaners comes through, personal high-pressure vacuum cleaners strapped to their backs, followed by a second line with brushes and black rubber buckets. At 7.45 the live television coverage begins and I can see our street on a screen in the building opposite. With ten minutes still to go, an eerie, unnatural calm descends. The runners, held in groups at different starting points, shift from foot to foot, lick their lips and tighten their grip on the rolled-up newspapers which are traditionally carried with the hope of landing a thwack on a passing bull.

At 7.52 a safety announcement is made in different languages. At 7.55 I catch a glimpse on television of one of the bulls, still in the corral, steam rising gently from his nostrils, his great head framed against the green hills beyond the city. Nothing in the four years of his life so far can have prepared him for what is about to happen.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Pamplona, Spain (third day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Pamplona
  • Book page no: 103

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