Founder’s Grand Cruise: Day 9
Scouting Pamplona, Spain: Day 9’s Exploration of Pamplona
On Day Nine of our Founder’s Grand Cruise scouting trip, we immersed ourselves in multiple aspects of Pamplona’s incredible culture. As the city awaits the next Festival of San Fermin, it stays lively and colorful, with a friendly populace that fills the streets from dawn to dusk. Our first full day in Pamplona, we took full advantage of the opportunity we had in visiting one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite cities.
During the San Fermin Festival, the church hosts a welcome tapas event for guests of Running of the Bulls. Gathered with other travelers, you’ll have the opportunity of a lifetime to sample the delicious food of Spain in the same building where the Kings of Navarre were crowned and later laid to rest.
Inside the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona
Next on our scouting journey through Pamplona, we visited the most famous destination of San Fermin. The Plaza de Toros de Pamplona is the final destination of the bulls after their guided run through the streets. Once the bulls arrive, they’ll be guided into the ring to fight one of the toreros. The Plaza de Toros is one of the most famous Ernest Hemingway destinations in the world -- a place he returned to again and again to watch the bullfights himself. Out front of the arena, a statue of Hemingway exists paying tribute to his love of San Fermin.
With the Founder’s Grand Cruise, guests will have the opportunity to visit the arena during San Fermin. Crowded with spectators as they glimpse one of the world’s oldest traditions, the legendary battles between toreros and their bulls are not to be missed.
A Bright Future for Pamplona Dining
After our day of earlier expeditions, a good bit of meetings, and a lot of walking around Pamplona, we’d worked up quite an appetite. Joined by some of our Pamplona friends, we visited the Trastienda del Colmado, a newly re-opened spot just outside of Old Town. The space was tucked away, a popular joint for locals. As if to prove that point, we found out later on that a famous fútbol player and his friends were occupying the table next to us.
A Retrospective of Day Nine’s Excursions
Day Nine of our Founder’s Grand Cruise scouting trip proved to be the perfect crash course on Pamplona. Learning about its traditions, culture, and food, we fell in love with the historic city. We could hardly wait to see it during San Fermin, when it filled with even more visitors, all seeking the same spirit of adventure that brought Hemingway so many years ago. With one final day in Pamplona ahead of us in our scouting trip, we could hardly wait to see what was next in store.
Founder’s Grand Cruise: Day 8
Scouting Pamplona, Spain: Day 8’s Travel from France to Spain
With our river cruise adventure at its end, the Authentic Voyages scouting team enjoyed one final morning aboard the SS Bon Voyage before starting off on the next leg of our journey – Pamplona, Spain. Home to the famed San Fermin Festival, and perhaps best known for the Running of the Bulls, Pamplona would prove to be a lively place, awaiting us with new experiences, friends, food, and more.
For Day Eight of our Founder’s Grand Cruise, we met for breakfast on the ship before disembarking to board the Authentic Voyages Pyrenees Express. Taking us across the Pyrenees Mountains and into Northern Spain, we would enjoy our scenic drive, explore a working bull ranch, and then check into our luxury golf resort hotel to rest. Full of activities, our last day in France and first day in Spain would have us say goodbye to one of the world’s most endearing cities, and introduce us to another.
Once in Spain, we stopped for late morning coffee at the Hotel Venta Etxalar’s café, a homely place tucked into the forested mountains. Once we were re-caffeinated, the Authentic Voyages Pyrenees Express made the rest of the drive, arriving just in time for our grand welcome to Pamplona.
After our scenic drive through France and Northern Spain, where we saw many of the same spots where Ernest Hemingway once fished, we made our way into Pamplona for a delicious lunch before our next excursion. Little did we know, our time in Pamplona would grow only more exciting as went to explore a working San Fermin bull ranch.
Visiting one of Navarra’s Bull Ranches
For our next excursion with our friend and driver Michel, we made our way to one of Navarra’s bull ranches, Ganadería Hermanas Azcona. Here, hundreds of bulls were raised in hopes of being one of the proud few featured during San Fermin.
We felt very fortunate to have been given a tour of the Ganadería Hermanas Azcona bull ranch. There, you could feel the intensity of the bulls, the same that brought the ever-adventurous Ernest Hemingway to San Fermin time and time again. Our team had the opportunity to learn quite a lot during our time at the ranch. When visiting as part of the Founder’s Grand Cruise, guests will also have the opportunity to learn the art of Capea – managing the matador’s cape – from one of Spain’s most famous bullfighters. While we didn’t get to learn that during our scouting trip, having the chance to see and learn about San Fermin from a bull rancher was an educational experience we won’t forget.
A Retrospective of Day Eight’s Excursions
With our long day of traveling and inspiring activities coming to an end, we made our way to the Hotel Castillo de Gorraiz Golf & Spa. Arriving to spacious rooms with beautiful views of the surrounding villages and mountains, we checked in for a quick meal and then were off to our rooms to rest for our first full day in Pamplona.
From the outstanding service as we left the SS Bon Voyage in the morning to the educational bull ranch visit that evening, each part of Day Eight only made us more enthusiastic for this next leg of our Founder’s Grand Cruise scouting trip. Our team was extremely pleased with the day’s adventures, which made us feel as if we were walking in Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps ourselves. We could hardly wait for the next day’s excursions, where we dived even further into lively Pamplona and San Fermin.
Founder’s Grand Cruise: Day 7
Scouting Bordeaux, France: Day 7’s Excursions in Bordeaux, France
Morning Excursion: “Do as the Locals Do” Bordeaux Walking Tour
The first excursion to leave on Day 7, the walking tour invited travelers into the heart of Bordeaux to see landmarks, shops, and unique cafes. It took the largest number of cruisers from the ship, so everyone was split into one of two groups to make navigating the crowded, narrow streets of Old Town easier.
Morning Excursion: “Let’s Go” Bike Bordeaux Backstreets Tour
The other tour brought us across a large portion of Bordeaux, while also giving us time to take in the sights and find a few hidden gems. With our Bordeaux By Bike guide and bicycles sourced from the ship, we set out from the Quai Chartrons, the riverside shopping center where our ship was moored.
Over the next four hours we visited an extraordinary number of attractions. On the left bank we first cycled by War War II Submarine pens, avant-garde architecturally designed residences, a repurposed wine repository-turned-business school and the stunning and totally unique Cité du Vin. Crossing over the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas to the right bank, we visited the Darwin Project, a repurposed military barracks now filled with shops, venues, a skatepark, and eco-friendly living. After, we were treated to superb views across the Garonne to the classic facades of Bordeaux. Our guide led us across the river once more via the Pont de Pierre, whereupon we entered Old Town and navigated the tiny squares, narrow streets, the Bell Tower and the Bordeaux Cathedral. For the next hour, our guide led us through several inner commercial and residential districts in this classical city, as we cycled through the Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux and past the remaining wall of a 2nd century Roman amphitheater – the Palais Gallien – before arriving back at the ship.
The group that participated in this excursion was incredibly happy to have been given access to so much of Bordeaux within four hours, praising this as one of the best tours on the Founder's Grand Cruise so far.
Afternoon Excursion: A Visit to the Cité du Vin Museum
Upon arriving, we showed our tickets and made our way into the wine decanter-shaped museum. With exhibits taking up many of its floors, the Cité du Vin was the perfect place to learn everything there is to know about Bordeaux wine. The museum features a sprawling gift shop and its own wine store, a beautiful, cylindrical room that highlights wines from all over France. We found everything from premium Grand Crus, costing thousands, to small winery bottles that were only a few euros. Further into the museum, we visited a library of wine books and exhibits that revealed the winemaking process and its history.
Two of the greatest features of the Cité du Vin are its observation deck and restaurant, located on the top two floors of the museum. Each overlooks the city of Bordeaux from above, one serving delicious food and the other an ever-changing list of Bordeaux wines. Though a quick afternoon activity, the museum was a great attraction that we’d recommend anyone visiting Bordeaux make time for.
The Retro Tour stopped twice on its route, once at our guide’s favorite place to find canelés – Bordeaux’s famous pastry – and again for a glass of champagne. Driving around the city at nighttime, you could feel the romance of France come more alive with each passing minute. The tour offered one of the most picturesque experiences on the entire trip, an experience of Bordeaux’s nightlife that few ever get to see.
A Retrospective of Day Seven’s Excursions
Day Seven of the Founder’s Grand Cruise allowed us the best access to Bordeaux that we’d had so far. Packed with adventures, our last full day in France was one that the Authentic Voyages team will remember fondly. Each excursion was unique in its own way – the walking tour allowed us to truly take in and learn about Old Town Bordeaux, while the cycling tour showed us a broader picture of one of the world’s most bicycle friendly cities. The Cité du Vin, one of Bordeaux’s most beautiful buildings, gave us greater insight to the local wine, and the retro sidecar tour offered a classically French, romantic night on the town.
If one could fit them all in, we’d recommend every excursion of the day, as they were all brilliant in their own right. For our last full day in France, this was certainly one for the books. We look forward to keeping you updated on the next leg of our journey, as we depart France and take the Authentic Voyages Pyrenees Express to Pamplona, Spain.