Posts Tagged With: Hemingway

Huir! ….. Run…. Run Now!

We were up and out by 6:30 walking towards the walled section of the old town to ensure our entrance for the 8am running of the bulls. The night before we had hoped to turn in early and get a good night sleep, but that doesn’t happen in Pamplona during the festival of Saint Fermin. We passed staggering groups of revelers still up from a long night of debauchery.

Jean Paul and myself were going to run, so we made plans to meet Katie and Helen when the run was over at the Hemingway statue outside the bullring.


Helen and Katie made this for me to ward off ‘toros’.

We finally gained entrance and went to a spot we had scoped out the night before, a long uphill straightway with  small doorways to hide in if the sh*t hits the fan; It sounded like a good plan. Ten minutes later, the police swept up our section of the street and kicked everyone back outside the fences. We had no idea why, but I had a bad feeling this run was not going to go as planned. Undeterred, we were going to find a way back in. A group of about a dozen of us doubled back along the narrow streets and alleys at a full run – time was running out. We came upon Plaza Consistorial and crawled under two fences to regain entry, technically that was not allowed,  and so we ‘lucky’ to get back in.

The plaza was full of runners, we were only about 250 yards from the start but did not have view up the street to the pens where the bulls were to be released.  We quickly came up with a plan B; stay close to the fence, wait until the bulls passed and then follow them down the road. If it all went south, we could climb over the fence or dive underneath it. It sounded good in theory.

Eight o’clock was the time for releasing the bulls and as that time approached the nervousness of the runners was visible: Running in place, stretching their legs, nervous chatter. I tied my shoes a few times. The Spanish kid in his twenties next to us on the fence was sketching me out: kissing the rosaries on his wrist, kissing the cross around his neck, knocking on the fence three times, looking skyward. Over and over and over. Five minutes to go and the plaza started to clear out as people moved down the course; I didn’t know if that was good or bad.

Just minutes to go and suddenly a police officer climbs the fence and motions that he does not want us near or on the fence. We hear the sound of the cannon; the signal that twelve Spanish fighting bulls from the infamous Valdefresno Ranch have been released from the pens. A combined twelve hundred pounds of angry bovine, each armed with two spear-sharp horns were quickly closing the gap beyond our sight lines. The officer yelled “Huir!!” and pointed down the street away from the onrushing threat. Jean Paul questioned, “huir?” and the officer replied “Run!”. We both just looked at him, dumbfounded. With an urgency in his voice and a look of… “what are you? Idiots?”, he shouted “RUN, RUN NOW!’ and violently pointed down the street. Jean Paul instantly came up with plan C and screamed at me, “RUN!” We were off.

No bulls in sight but they must be close..It was an all-out panic run, arms flailing, head swiveling back to look for toros, then forward so as to not run into someone and fall, the last thing you wanted to do is fall and get trampled. After about fifty yards I took quick peek back, still no bulls, but I looked forward a little late and ran into Jean Paul: we both stumbled but kept our feet. I tried to regain speed and lost sight of Jean Paul. Suddenly, eerily, only a few people were around me and all those people I passed were stuck to the side of the street looking beyond me with huge eyes. I now heard the thunder of hooves on the cobblestone street. I looked back and fifteen feet off my back shoulder was a lone, monstrous salt and pepper bull hammering down the center of the street, his curved horns raising well above my head. The sight was shocking; it literary shocked the wind out of me. I angled off to the side of  the street as he passed me like a freight train. I looked back again and saw his buddies; a large group of jet black bulls in tight formation filling the street. That was it, like a deer in the headlights, I flung myself back into the stone wall on the side of the street trying to embed myself into the granite. I was stuck there motionless, petrified as they passed.


Medics with the injured

Twenty yards ahead of me the salt and pepper beast lined up an unsuspecting victim, lowered his head and hit him square with his horns, tossing him straight in the air. The victim landed on his butt; however after sometime on the cobblestones he was up, remarkably unhurt, but with the back of his pants completely shredded.

After the group of black bulls passed I tried to follow them further down the course, but the police shut a large metal gate to keep the bulls from doubling back on the crowd, no-one could pass. Was that it? It didn’t seem like twelve bulls had passed. With no bulls in sight, I wandered around looking for Jean Paul, not really paying attention. Suddenly the police are frantically opening the gate, not good; I look up the street- a group of steers were on their way. That’s great considering I’m now in the worst possible place; the locals call it ‘Muerto tripula la curve’ – Dead man’s curve! I’m out of here – run, jump for the fence and get half-way up before getting pinned by the crowd.  From above, I see the herd pass by, hitting no-one. I again try to follow but police close the gate again… and that’s it, over.

If I sound kind of bad-ass, i beg to differ; I did almost everything wrong. My dreams of grandeur, running the length of the course with one hand on the bull’s horn and triumphantly entering the bull stadium to flowers showering down from the stands had quickly given way to a terrified 100-yard dash pin-balling down the street and trying to run through a stone wall to get away.


Runners in the bull ring with the ‘baby’ bull.

I climbed the fence to look for Jean Paul, I saw him approach and we both erupted into uncontrollable laughter; I jumped from the fence and gave him a hug. We exchanged notes; he did not fare  any better, running face first into metal door followed by ten of his closest friends.

We slowly followed the path of the bulls to meet up with the girls, occasionally doubled over with laughter sharing stores of our legendary ‘Run with the Toros’.


After the run at the Hemingway statue.


Categories: Europe, Spain - July 2013 | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment


One night we decided to go to a few bars we had read about, outside the tourist area in Havana. So we  hailed a Coco-cab which looks like a over-sized lemon with three wheels. It’s basically a motorized trike with a large round yellow canopy that cover the bench seat where the fares sit. We chatted with our driver,  Peter, as we buzzed through town to the seedier area and a bar that was rumored to make some of the bast mojitos in Havana.

When Peter suggested he come and pick us up a little later, we agreed and walked into Puerto De Sagua which has a nautical theme; Helen loves a themed bar.

Instead of windows it had portholes  that were small individual fishtanks with brightly colored tropical fish swimming inside. We were the only ones in the lounge and so we sat at the bar and ordered “dos mojitos” from our bartender, Raul. We talked with him within the confines of our limited comprehension of each others language and he proceeded to make our mojitos in front of us on the bar. The rumors were true, it a was a damn good mojito.

Puerto De Sagua

Every so often, a waiter would come in to watch the Columbian MTV on the small TV behind the bar. Columbian MTV is like a over sexed music video from the 80’s: lots of skin.  This kind of South American fluff television is the only international television piped in for the general pubic: soap operas, sports, music videos. The fancy tourist hotels get more international television including American channels, Although I did read that an occasional American sitcom, including Friends, did make it on government TV.

Coco cab

Peter was at the door;It was time to go, so we downed our second mojitos and hopped in the coco-cab and were off to an old Hemingway haunt, El Floridita, where he invented the daiquiri in the 1930’s. Peter dropped us off and said he would wait outside for us; implying heavily, in his opinion, that this place was not as good as the last.

Nice place: but a little sterile and touristy, kind looked like an old school ice cream parlor, with a four piece cuban/ jazz band. I’m sure it was a little  grittier in Hemingway’s days.

They had a life-sized bronze statue of the writer at the end of bar. We ordered two daiquiris and took some with pictures with Papa and enjoyed the band. Not our favorite place that evening, but a damn good daiquiri.

El Floridita

Now with just enough rum in our veins, we hopped in the coco again and Peter started off back to the hotel. We buzzed through the downtown past the bullet pock-marked former presidential palace of Batista, (now the Museum of the Revolution) and we started down the road that ran along the ocean, called the Malecon. Shortly Peter started to turn off the Malecon back inland and he turned to us, “perhaps we  go through town? Malecon very wet with waves”.  But Helen and I started chanting drunkenly “Malecon! Malecon! Malecon!” and so Peter instantly change direction and we were back  on track, on the Malecon.

The Malecon is a 8 km sea road and promenade along the city historic quarters and along most of Havana ocean front. The boulevard is lined with buildings in various states of disrepair and couples stroll along the the seawall at all hours, a social gathering spot for all of Havana’s residents. The lack of traffic in Havana made it eerily devoid of cars on it’s four lanes. The  Malecon was built-in the early 1900s, but there was one minor problem, they built it a meter too short. At most high tides, the waves crash up and over the seawall, often closing the road.

But the Malecon was not closed on this night. Peter punched it and within a few minutes we were at top speed,  maybe 25 mph. Peter dodged and weaved around large puddles and ocean debris scattered along the Malecon. It was kind of full on, every few minutes a wave would crash over the sea wall and onto the road. We felt a little guilty, after realizing that the over-size lemon canopy protected us but not Peter, and he was getting the brunt of the waves crashing over the  Malecon!

Luckily we soon arrived at the hotel and Peter sheepishly said the fare was $20.  But he had been so great and was essentially our personal driver all night. So we doubled it and gave him $40.  $20 dollars for a Cuban can make a difference.  Between over-tipping and Helen buying every handicraft and artwork in sight we were like a two person Cuban economic stimulus package.

Categories: Americas, Cuba - October 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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