By Laura Davison
Spanish meal times
The Spanish take food seriously and stop working, sit down and eat a meal for lunch and dinner. They eat lunch no earlier than 1:30 p.m. and a typical dinner time is 9 p.m. Breakfast is typically a very small meal with only coffee and a croissant or roll. Pamplona will shut down from about 2-4 or 5 p.m. for workers to have a chance to eat lunch. Only grocery stores are open and there are few classes scheduled during that time.
I lived close to the University of Navarra campus, so I enjoyed using this time to actually cook something for lunch, instead of eating whatever sandwich I stuffed in my bag that morning, as I would have done at Mizzou.
Eating on campus at the University of Navarra
On days when I didn’t have time to go home, I’d grab lunch on campus. Each building has a cafetería but the ones in the Edificio Central and in FCom are the best. They are run by the same group, Faustino, and offer a variety of reasonably priced sandwiches, salads and entreés. My favorite items on the menu are ensalada de pasta and the tortilla de patatas.
Most classes will have a 15-minute break, so many students will grab a coffee or a snack in the cafeteria then. If you are looking for a caffeine fix and the cafeteria isn’t open, an excellent coffee machine is located in the study room on the second floor of FCom. For 40 cents, you can select from multiple flavors of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Because pinchos were so economic viabile and convenient when going out with large groups of people, I didn’t explore Pamplona’s restaurant scene as much as I would have liked. When I had two friends from Mizzou come visit me, I realized I didn’t have a go-to place to get dinner.
Pamplona’s better restaurants are located downtown, but there are several places to get something eat in Iturrama, especially for those on a college student budget. Like everywhere, Spanish students love pizza. Domino’s is popular, but the toppings are different than you’ll find in the United States. Corn and chorizo and barbecue chicken were two of my favorites. Another cheap place to eat is Nachos Tomasa. It’s Mexican food, but made for the Spanish palate. My favorite quesadilla had tomatoes, tuna and olives.
For a sweet treat, be sure to check out Pastas Beatriz. They have the best pastries. My favorite is their bite-size chocolate croissant. It can be hard to find them at a time they are open, because their hours are very inconsistent. But once you taste their pastries, you’ll know why everyone in Pamplona will tell you to go there.
Pamplona has two big nightlife areas: Casco Viejo (the old, downtown part) and San Juan, a neighborhood on Pamplona’s western side.
Calle San Nicolás, one of the main streets downtown is the center of activity on Friday and Saturday nights. On Calle Estafeta the bars still serve pintxos and the atmosphere is a little tamer. But the bars on San Nicolás clear out all the tables, dim the lights and blast the music. The coffeeshop atmosphere of the day disappears and you feel like you’re in a mini club. You can bounce from bar to bar, selecting whichever you prefer. Those who would rather talk than dance can hang out on the street, because there are no open container laws.
These bars close about 2 a.m., which is when the discotecas in the San Juan area will start to get busy. Most of these don’t close until 6 or 7 a.m.. One of my first nights in Pamplona some friends I and I decided to go to a discoteca and we thought we would be “late” at 1 a.m. Not at all. We were the only people there until 2 a.m. when people started to trickle in.
Discotecas usually charge a cover of 8-12 euros, which includes a drink. Many have a dress code, which means to at least be “snappy casual.” For guys, that means no athletic shoes. Many girls wear heels and dresses.