American in Spain

Small Town Festival Parking

September 10, 2007

This past weekend there were annual festivals in two local towns, Santoña and Ampuero. The festival in Ampuero included encierros (running of the bulls) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. On Saturday morning, we got up and got dressed with the intent of going to see the encierro in Ampuero, but we ended up leaving late, and when we realized that we had to get gas before going, we aborted the mission and decided to go on Sunday. After lunch on Saturday, we drove to Santoña to see their festival. Santoña is about 10 minutes away by car (less by row boat, I think). When we got there, we drove around for a full thirty minutes, passing twice through every street in the entire town, and found zero parking. Frustrated and angry, we made some explicit gestures towards Santoña's general direction and went back home to Colindres, which had lots of empty spaces since everyone had gone to the neighboring towns.

After dinner, we decided to go to Ampuero, because the nightlife there during the festival is pretty great. We drove up and down several streets that had cars illegally parked on every inch of sidewalk. Since there were cars on either side of the road, the normally two-lane streets became one-lane with people trying to drive both ways. We got honked at by some idiots, spent 20 minutes looking for parking and made some more gestures towards Ampuero and went back home.

Not counting our error in the morning, that was two festival abortions in one day!

I told Marga that it's too bad that these small towns just don't have room for everyone that wants to go their parties. She pointed out that the problem has a solution: Buses. If a town wants people to come to their festival, they should run buses a couple times an hour from each of the nearby towns. That alleviates the parking problem, the drinking and driving problem, and lets everyone in the group drink, not having to worry about driving home. Other small towns should follow the example of the Spanish king of small town parties: Pamplona. During the week of San Fermin in July, there are buses running directly to and from Pamplona from towns several hundred kilometers away. When we went, we took a bus directly from Laredo, which is over 200 km away!

A town like Ampuero, with 4,000 inhabitants, doesn't need parking for 12,000 people; it just needs a solution to get that many people there during the short time when they want people to come.

We did end up going to the encierro on Sunday morning. I've blogged photos and a video over here as part of the BITWRATHPLOOB project.