There's A Bull Behind You! The Dangerous Delights Of A Spanish Fiesta

Lucy Doran-an expat living in Spain-recalls her first-hand experience of a bull run, where alcohol and marauding beasts combine in a hive of festivity and bloodshed....
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Bous al carrer
 (Bulls in the street) in Picassent, Spain yesterday was probably one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.

“Wear old clothes”, they told me, “Put your bikini on underneath”. Suspicious of what the day might bring, I begrudgingly dressed in an old T-shirt and shorts and headed to the town that lies just south of Valencia city.

Things started to get strange during almuerzo (lunch). It all began when one particularly intoxicated, sniggering man armed with a bottle of water snuck up behind one of his fellow diners at the table next to us in the bar. Dressed in matching “Drinking Team” T-shirts with drunk bulls emblazoned across the front, the calm (albeit rowdy) table erupted into a frenzied, full blown water fight. None of the other diners seemed phased. Throughout the day we would see many of these peñas; groups of friends, neighbours and families all dressed the same so as to not lose each other amongst the swarm of bodies that awaited us just a few streets ahead.

...people often just bought beer so that they could pour it down the back of an unsuspecting friend.

We left the bar and ended up following the Blue Shirts who were shouting and dancing their way up the street towards a raucous local. The main street was lined with these planta bajas (building entrances), normally used for Fallas (a religious celebration) and family congregations. Inside each of them was a bar offering music, cheap beer, mistela, cazalla, cubatas… and makeshift water sprinklers attached to the ceilings. The barman would also intermittently spray revellers with a hosepipe from behind the bar. There was no way you were going to Picassent that day and not getting wet. It didn’t even have to be water - people often just bought beer so that they could pour it down the back of an unsuspecting friend.

Oh, and what’s that? The doors to the bars were being closed just as a hoard of people legged it past the window followed by BULLS! That’s right. Bulls trotting round the town centre. Surrounded by drunk people.

It seemed they were only released round the town centre during specific times of the day. If one came running down the street, it was your job to get behind one of the many metal gates that had sprung up around the town - and sharpish. Later in the evening a bou emboulat, a bull whose horns were set on fire, was also released. I saw this somewhat questionable tradition in Segorbe last year.

One of the strangest fiestas I’ve ever been to

And so it came to be that, here we were, drenched and drunk, dancing the night away in a club and becoming confused that it was still daylight when we decided to catch the train back to Valencia.

One of the strangest fiestas I’ve ever been to, but also one of the best.

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The Fell Runner In Hiking Boots

Follow Lucy on Twitter at @luce1312

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