City of Arts and Sciences in València, Spain

Statue in front of the City of Arts and Sciences, València, Spain

The City of Arts and Sciences in València was very beautiful to look at.  The water, the building, and the statues made for gorgeous photos and I will remember what it felt like to stand there for the rest of my life.  Tourist attractions such as this contribute greatly to Spain’s economy, and add to the aesthetic of where they’re situated.  However, I have also recently researched some of the negative aspects of tourism.  The City of Arts and Sciences is controversial amongst some Valencians.  First of all, it holds no traditional cultural significance.  You could situate the place anywhere in the world and it would not matter.  There are also many valid reasons as to why locals don’t like tourists in general.  Their hotels, hostels, and airbnbs drive up the price of the neighborhood, and they contribute a lot of noise pollution and other pollution as well.  Although I still think people can enjoy these types of attractions, since that is why they were built in the first place, it is also important to consider how locals feel.

Pamplona’s San Fermin Fiesta

Taking a bus overnight we arrived in Pamplona at 5am on Sunday July 10th. Me and two friends walked to our hostel and dropped off our bags to begin our day. Previous research before the trip told us that we needed to get good spots three hours early to see the running of the bulls. Our first mission was to get into the proper attire. Dressed in all white we went to one of the many stands and bought red scarves to wear around our necks. Traditionally one would wear the scarf along with a sash tied around your waist. I acquired both along with a beret excited to be among the festivities. Even so early in the morning the streets were bustling with people who have not slept from the night before and the streets are covered in trash and spilled drinks. We found spots along the second-row barrier and stood there for over two hours to make sure we had good spots. Unfortunately, all the spots along the top of the fence were already occupied. At eight, six bulls are released and corralled through the streets while runner try to avoid being plowed down by them. The run ends at the bullfighting ring where later in the day they will face off with three bullfighters to the death. The run itself lasted about five minutes and I could only spot three of the bulls through the crowd of runners. Although it was over quickly it was still very exciting and a unique opportunity to see.

Top of the barricade after run was over

Later in the day we found a museum on the San Fermin festival where they showcased the posters over the years. We then walked around to check out the many festivities taking place which included dancing and singing. The energy throughout the whole town was very high and everywhere you turned there was something new happening. There were bands on every street with crowds gathered around them either singing and or dancing. Exploring up and down the different streets we stumbled across a scenic view of Pamplona. After taking pictures we decided to take part in siesta after checking into our hostel. Our siesta ended up lasting a few hours so I don’t think it can really be classified as such.

Running of the Bulls Poster 1960
Crowded streets all red and white
Scenic View

We went out to dinner around nine and by the time we were leaving the fireworks show was about to begin. The fireworks lasted eighteen minutes and everyone cheered for the finale. From there we went back into the city where a DJ was playing music and the crowd was dancing. The whole experience was very exciting. At times it could be a bit overwhelming with so many things going on but to experience something that has been going on for countless years and getting to be a part of it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.

Fireworks Finale

The Rumble Through Pamplona

I would be lying if I didn’t feel fear behind the double barrier used to protect spectators from the bulls. People lined up against the fence. Half on top of the wall with a clear view and the other half just trying to get a glimpse of the bulls from the bottom half of the fence. In order to get a view on top of the wall, one had to have been at their spot since 6:00. And as this is an ongoing event from July 7th – 14th, there are people still hanging about from being out the night before so you best be lucky and prioritize getting a spot. At 8:00 you hear the loud bangs as a sign that the first half of 6 bulls have been released. As the runners came down the line, you could hear the shouts and signals from the spectators to the runners. A massive flow of runners with adrenaline running down their entire bodies. I myself felt fear of being safe and I can’t imagine what the runners feel. Yet after seeing the run for the first time, I would join the race in order to get a fully immersive experience.

The Run Is About To Commence
Right After The Run

The day then commences with music, food, and dancing. People gather around the main plaza of the city where a stage is set up with live music. Music is played by both city organizers in the plaza and individual bands just on the outskirts of the plaza. There are all kinds of music from traditional, to drum-driven, and even samba from a Brazilian band.

Traditional Dancing In The Main Plaza. Everyone is in sync for this specific dance.

The most memorable experience was going through alleyways with no clue of where we were headed. The plan was to follow where any kind of music was coming from. These alleys provided a more enriching and real experience of Pamplona as locals surrounded this area. This is where locals were socializing, eating, drinking, and most importantly chanting. The local restaurants provided little snacks such as various forms of bread and traditional snacks on the go.

The day continues like this throughout the day. You enjoy this new experience with friends and make memories. By 23:00, people gather in the streets wherever there’s a good view of the sky for the fireworks show. This show goes on for between 14 – 18 minutes in awe. By the end of the night, one can decide if they want to rest up for the next day of the festival, or gather back at the plaza for live disco music. This day is very memorable because all of this happened within 24 hours. It blows my mind how much one can do and absorb in one day.


The Valencia Experience will bring a group of UMass Lowell Students to Valencia, Spain for a six-week program that combines classroom study and internship placements at local organizations. Students will be accompanied by a UMass Lowell Sociology Associate Teaching Professor, Thomas Piñeros-Shields.

You can also read blogs from current and previous programs across the globe UMass Lowell students participate.