A Bucket List Award Trip: Running with the Bulls

Running with the Bulls in Spain, the San Fermin Festival

Award Trip by James Larounis, The Forward Cabin at Prior2Boarding

Grand La Perla Hotel
Grand La Perla Hotel

I traveled to Spain to see the running of the bulls and the San Fermin Festival. It’s certainly a sight for everyone to cross off their bucket list, but isn’t for the faint of heart. I was able to catch the Air France business class sale from Washington Dulles to all destinations in Europe for 62,500 Flying Blue miles, roundtrip, plus taxes and fees.

Once in Barcelona, I checked into the Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal located near shopping, restaurants, a metro station and the beach. I booked using a low cash rate, but covered the expenses with miles from my Barclaycard World Elite MasterCard. In addition, I received bonus points from my SPG Gold status, and additional bonus points for opting out of housekeeping.

Running With The Bulls
From Barcelona, I took an overnight bus ride to Pamplona, and was able to check into my hotel, the Gran Hotel La Perla, early the next morning. This hotel is considered the most luxurious in Pamplona and sits right on the Plaza Castillo, where much of the action is during the San Fermin Festival. It also serves as the only hotel with balcony views of Estafeta Street, the famed avenue playing host to the running of the bulls. While rates here are pricey during the San Fermin Festival, it is certainly the best place to stay all things considered.

Running With The Bulls
From Pamplona, I took the train to Madrid, where I checked in at the Gran Melia Fenix using a combination of 12,000 Melia Rewards points and a low rate I found on the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts website. I only had to pay for one of the two nights and received an upgraded room, complimentary breakfast and dinner, early check-in and late checkout. Madrid is now one of my favorite European cities because it is clean, cosmopolitan and home to many worthwhile museums. From Madrid, I flew Air France back to Washington Dulles via Paris on an A380 in their upper deck business class. I arrived refreshed and ready to continue the day.

Running With The Bulls - San Fermin Festival
Running With The Bulls – San Fermin Festival

FFP miles spent:
62,500 Flying Blue

Hotel points spent:
12,000 Melia Rewards

Approximate fees:

Airline(s) / Routing:
IAD-CDG-BCN; MAD-CDG-IAD (open jaw) on Air France

How booked:

Type of award(s):
Business class

Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal, Gran Hotel La Perla, Gran Melia Fenix

Month/year of trip:
June/July, 2014


  1. Richard says

    I went to Pamplona in 1999, and I actually ran with the bulls! I am very proud of that fact as I
    was 60 years of age that year! The Perla is not even close to the best hotel in Pamplona.
    I stayed in the Maissonave which is where Hemingway stayed. I was lucky to get it & made
    reservations a year in advance. You can tell how good your hotel is by the price, How much
    did you pay for that hotel? Why didn’t you run with the bulls?

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