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International Conference on Narrative, Pamplona Spain...the slow way

I truly can't believe that my third ISSN conference has just ended. As usual, the entire event exceeded my expectations, from the variety of panels and papers to the evening entertainment (flamenco) and food (lots of pintxos at the evening receptions). Although it was only the end of May / beginning of June, the weather in Pamplona was so much hotter than the UK and most days it reached 28-29 degrees Celsius.

The journey to the conference was a special highlight, one that I had planned intensely and then looked forward to for many months. As I wanted to travel with family, and due to the oddity of attempting to get from London to Pamplona by air (layovers, two flights, a total travel time of 8 hours), we decided to take it slow...to journey there entirely by train.

Cross-country / continent rail journeys hold a particular fascination for me and ever since the fantastic first season of BBC's Race Across the World (a much better race than the US's Amazing Race), I've been longing to challenge myself with long-distance rail travel. With the help of The Man in Seat 61s website, we spent two days on the road (rails?) to Pamplona.

First, of course, Eurostar with a change in Paris, then the direct fast train (via Bordeaux) to the French / Spanish border town of Hendaye where we had booked an airbnb for the night and where were welcomed by the very enthusiastic host who had a bottle of wine waiting as well as tales of Basque culture and what we could expect from Pamplona at this time of year.

The next day we took the extremely convenient short journey over the border with Euskotren and found ourselves in San Sebastian for the afternoon. Much eating and drinking commenced. Then two scenic hours on a slow train through the Pyrenees to our destination: Pamplona.

The week was full of long morning and evening walks from our pension to Universidad de Navarra campus (crossing too another point of pilgrimage: the Camino de Santiago's path through the city). No matter how busy the days seemed, my research colleagues and I managed to fit in many discussions and deliberations on our common topics and the focus of our international collaboration: multi-narrativity across the mediums of poetry, prose, comics, and drama.

It was a fruitful and wonderful meeting, as the ISSN conference has always been for me. I left with the excitement for the return journey, a slow re-tracing of my travel there, as well as many new ideas and texts to revisit once I was home and back into the swing of summer.

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