Fiesta de San Fermín 2012 In Review

Feria del Toro, the Festival of the Bull

This year’s feria, the bullfighting fair, saw the return of veteran matadors El Juli, Daniel Luque, Antonio Ferrera, Francisco Marco, El Fandi, Miguel Angel Perera, Frenchman Sebastián Castella and native son and world’s best rejoneador (bullfighter on horseback), Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza.  The feria also celebrated the much anticipated and triumphant return of Juan José Padilla, just nine months after his horrific goring in Zaragoza in October of 2011, when the bull’s horn pierced his left jaw and exited through his eye socket, blinding his left eye. 
Padilla, the “Cyclone” of Jerez de la Frontera, dubbed the “Pirate” for the eye patch he now wears, received a hero’s welcome from his loyal fans, who warmly received him by waiving their black pirate flags and wearing their own black eye patches as a tribute to his enormous courage.
We were fortunate to witness Padilla’s joyous return from our tendido shade seats in the Plaza de Toros on the 14th, along with the excited crowd of his faithful fans, his Pirate Peña, to whom he dedicated his two bulls.  With brilliant cape work and a quick kill, he was awarded two ears for his efforts with the rather lackluster Torrehandilla-Torreherbreros bulls, making their fiesta debut, and Padilla was carried out the Puerta Grande, the big door, much to the delight of his loyal followers.
Both the opening bullfight, the spectacular corrida de rejones, featuring Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza and his protégé, Sergio Galán, and the closing bullfight, with matadors El Juli and Padilla, were the highlights of this year’s feria.  Festivalgoers should make sure to include seats to one or both in their festival packages.    

El Juli’s Master Class

This year’s fiesta saw another first in the bullring, when at 11:30 on the morning of the 13th, Madrid matador El Juli, taking advantage of his 3-day stay, gave a master class in the art of bullfighting (toreo de salón) to the city’s children.  Some 300 youngsters, armed with red capes, flocked to the bullring for this first ever “master class” to learn from their idol.  During the next forty minutes Professor El Juli, in casual dress, taught his pupils the art of cape work, how to execute a verónica, a chicuelina and other basic bullfighting techniques.  He then posed for pictures and signed autographs, much to the delight of his young fans and their parents.
El Juli commented that when he was a child he would have loved to enjoy an opportunity like this; therefore he attempts to do things in his life that he would have liked others to have done with him when growing up.  He also stated that he feels happy contemplating the look of excitement on the children’s faces when conducting his classes for kids.  We anticipate that this will become a very popular annual event.  
And an added attraction for our Peña members staying at our headquarters hotel was the presence of fellow guests, matador El Juli and Navarra native matador Francisco Marco, whom we were able to meet and chat with after their respective triumphs in the bullring. 

Fireworks & Cava with Mr. Testis

Another first this year was an evening of fireworks watching and champagne sipping with the inimitable and über famous Mr. Testis, the unofficial mascot of the fiesta, in the new gastro-bar of the Baluarte Performing Arts Center, where our Iberian Traveler/Peña Seattle guests were treated to an elaborate pyrotechnic display.  Some of the best pyrotechnical firms in the world compete in this annual contest held very evening at 11:00 during the fiesta in the Citadel, directly across from the Baluarte Center.
This year teams from Valencia, Denmark, Italy and Castellón, among others, competed to win the prestigious trophy and a €5,600 award for the best fireworks display of the fiesta.
We were happy that Mr. Testis was able to steal some time away from his quite hectic schedule to socialize with us. 
Watch the action on YouTube:

Excursions into the wine country of Navarra

After a visit to our friends at Pago de Larrainzar, we had the opportunity to add a new and captivating winery estate on this year’s wine tour, the Pagos de Arraiz, located just south of the charming medieval town of Olite.  This avant-garde estate belongs to the Masaveu family and sits on 400 hectares of vineyards planted with tempranillo, merlot, garnacha and cabernet sauvignon. 
The winemaking facility, 14,000 square meters in size, was built with the latest technological advances and decorated with the family’s stunning collection of contemporary art. 
The lovely public relations manager, Mariannick, gave our guests a delightful tour of the facilities, and we were treated to a complete tasting of the estate’s wines, from rosé to their top black label red, on the beautiful terrace facing the vineyards, accompanied by two large platters of deluxe, designer pintxos.  We were very happy to be able to include this exciting winery into our program and thank our guests, Jill and Jordan, for being our  “guinea pigs” on this new winery adventure. 
We followed this visit with a relaxing gourmet lunch at Túbal, neighboring Tafalla, one of Navarra’s top tables. 
In addition to being one of Navarra’s most beloved and acclaimed restaurants, it also is much admired for its art.  The elegant and gracious owner, Atxen Jiménez, has adorned the walls of the dining rooms with her personal collection of contemporary art, while her talented son Nicolás creates his own original art in the kitchen with his beautifully presented dishes.
Every food lover who visits Pamplona should include an excursion to Olite, and Tubal, in his or her travel plans.
We invite you to join us next year for a deluxe wine and gastronomy tour of the beautiful Navarran countryside and take a relaxing break from the hectic pace of the fiesta.

Breakfast at the Guendulain Palace and Nuevo Casino

Another first for the Peña Seattle this year was our post- encierro breakfast held in the elegant formal dining room of the Palacio de Guenduláin.  Built in the 18th century by the Viceroy of New Granada, it is one of the most architecturally stunning buildings in Pamplona’s Old Quarter.  With its Persian rugs, tapestries, coffered ceilings, gilded mirrors and priceless oil paintings, it made for an elegant and relaxed setting in which to enjoy a traditional Navarran style breakfast and  mingle after the excitement of the morning’s run. 
This proved to be a terrific new venue for post-encierro socializing and fine dining, alternating it with our usual headquarters at the private social club, El Nuevo Casino Principal, where we enjoy the music and dancing during the traditional Baile de la Alpargata, one of the fiesta’s most emblematic events.  Our attendance at the Baile de la Alpargata has been a Peña Seattle tradition for nearly a decade.
During this daily social event, Casino members and invited guests gather in its grand salon after the morning’s run to socialize, to breakfast on churros and chocolate, to congratulate the herders, the pastores, for their silent, heroic labors during the run and most importantly, to dance.

The orchestra begins playing the traditional jotas and festival songs each morning at 9:00 and everyone in the main room sings and dances to start the day in a celebratory mood.  The tradition of this morning routine dates to 1889, and was commemorated in 2008 with a book detailing the history of dances in the Casino, which includes photos of our Peña members participating in this unique Pamplona celebration.

Celebrating the Chupinazo and Pobre de Mí

And once again, our guests both initiated and ended the fiesta in grand style with a champagne and pintxos party on the “front row” balconies of our perfect viewing spot on the Plaza Consistorial, immediately next to the Town Hall.  This front-and-center position afforded us an unrivaled vantage point for enjoying both the riotous opening ceremony, the Chupinazo, at noon on July 6, and the very moving closing event of the fiesta, the  candlelight Pobre de Mí, at midnight on the 14th.  There simply could not be a better, more photo-friendly (constantly panned by the TV cameras) and lively spot for witnessing both these thrilling ceremonies than our Pena’s private balconies smack in the middle of the Town Hall Square.  Come join our party next year for one of these utterly memorable events, or even both!

We wish again to thank our extraordinarily hard-working and supremely talented team of local coordinators and guides for making this year’s fiesta another terrific success.   See you in Pamplona on July 6, 2013!  ¡Ya falta menos!