There is nothing quite like the adrenalin rush of running with the bulls in Pamplona.  I just completed my 15h run at age 72 and the feeling is still the same.  There are lots of runs in Spain and in other countries, or so I am told.  But none has the same cachet as Pamplona made famous by “Papa¨Hemingway.  Moreover, the “San Fermin” festival there, when the bulls run, is in my estimation the greatest party in the world.  I have been to “Carnival” in Rio de Janeiro and I go to “Mardi Gras” in New Orleans each year.   I have also been in festivals, fairs, carnivals, and such throughout the world, especially Mexico, where there is a party somewhere nearby every day.  Pamplona stands as the benchmark for all others. 

So what has this to do with wine?  First, the quantity consumed is of prodigious proportions.  Second, the traditional attire for San Fermin is white shirt, white trousers, red sash and, most importantly, a red neckerchief.   For real “Pamplonicos” this outfit starts out white but ends up a royal purple from spilled wine, mostly misguided shots  from a “bota,” the leather bag for carrying the wine with a spigot that must be aimed right at the open mouth. Anyone who survives with plain white has obviously not understood what the party is all about.

I usually take newcomers with me.  Most refuse to do the run.  But those who do have more fun and take away an unforgettable experience.  This time I had two Spanish friends of a friend and two of one´s young sons.  They had a great time but did not do the run.  They did, however, take photos of me.  One told me later that when I swerved to avoid some runners who had fallen I stuck my fanny right in front of a bull.  Fortunately the bull and I were so oblivious to each other neither took offense and he ran on by. 

Two years ago I met three young Americans in the “encierro” which means the enclosed run.  I asked it they had run before, they said no, and could I give them some advice.  I tried to explain what to do but they finally asked if they could run with me.  I told them to stay at my side and when I said “go,” run full tilt to the next plaza 30 yards away where they would turn left as the bulls ran to the right.  I then showed them scratch marks on the wall beside us which I said were left by people trying to claw their way up the wall to avoid the bulls and a long cut in the wall which I said was left by a bull who tried to gore the building.  By then they were suitably petrified and I reiterated my instruction to stick with me until I told them to run.

Now the correct way to run is to stand on the side, not in the middle of the street, until the bulls are alongside you.  Then dash madly “with the bulls” for maybe 15 seconds when they leave you in their wake as they charge full steam ahead at twice the speed of man.  My young American friends stood bravely next to me as the herd of six bulls and six steers accompanied by hundreds of runners with fear on their faces and wings on their feet came right alongside in a street, maybe 20 feet wide, filled with cows and people.  I yelled, “GO,” as  we were swept up in the mad dash.  Thirty seconds later we were in the plaza congratulating each other on a successful run,, i.e. no one got hurt.

But more than the bulls and wine, the San Fermin festival is a true street party.  There are none of the private parties of Carnival or Mardi Gras or the Sevilla Fair.  Everyone is out in the streets and plazas singing, dancing, drinking and making merry.  You need no entrance ticket or invitation.  You just come, put on a red neckerchief and join in an exhilarating party. 

Oh, my white outfit is in the laundry but I fear no amount of bleach will erase the purple this year.