July 7th, Pamplona, Spain. The noon ceremony kicked off the start of the festival of St. Fermin and running of the bulls. On the way to the Plaza de Consistorial, we picked up some water and a few liters of sangria: You know… when in Rome.
We passed through a police line that took the caps off the plastic bottles so when thrown they would cause less damage; clearly a sign of things to come. We could hear the noise of the crowd as we weaved our way through the narrow streets of this medieval town. We rounded the corner to the plaza and before us were hundreds of people going absolutely mental: singing, chanting, dancing and drinking huge bottles of sangria.
The air was thick with sangria, literally, thrown from bottles, squirt guns and even buckets and trash cans from balconies: it was basically raining sangria on the revelers in the plaza. It was truly a fiesta, Spanish-style, and everybody was family. Former strangers walked arm and arm, shouting incoherently whilst chugging sangria. Two young fiesta-goers almost knocked each other down and they immediately started apologizing: one said in an English accent, “Are you Spanish?”, the other replied “Si”, the Englishman replied in a shout, “I love you man!” and they hugged, slapping each others’ back. This kind of party would not happen in the States: the authorities would not allow it and Americans aren’t capable of unrestrained affection for strangers.
It is customary to wear white pants and shirt with a red scarf around your neck and red sash around the waist. The clock stuck noon and everyone held up their ceremonial red scarfs and began to sing. We enjoyed the festivities for a while and then with our new uniform soaked pink in sangria we were off to explore Pamplona.
You had to feel sorry for this guy. Stupid drunk, soaked in sangria, unfocused eyes, unable to speak, with a hard lean on the wall for support. And it was only 12:30 in the afternoon.