We went down the stairs and out of the door and walked across the square toward the Café Iruña. […] Across the square the white wicker tables and chairs of the Iruña extended out beyond the Arcade to the edge of the street. I looked for Brett and Mike at the tables. There they were. Brett and Mike and Robert Cohn. Brett was wearing a Basque beret. So was Mike. Robert Cohn was bare-headed and wearing his spectacles. Brett saw us coming and waved. Her eyes crinkled up as we came up to the table.
“Hello, you chaps!” she called.
When you get to a new place, it’s a good idea to get the touristy things out of the way as soon as possible. And when you’re hungry and every place is closed because it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and of course everything is always closed at 2:30 in the afternoon in Pamplona, you know the place that will be open is the most touristy place of them all: Café Iruña!
Opened in 1888 on the Plaza del Castillo, Café Iruña is famous for being one of Hemingway’s favorite haunts, referenced multiple times in The Sun Also Rises. The room is big, airy and calm, with a few diners scattered here and there. We choose a table and soak in the ambiance. On one side of us, two young priests are having a long, intimate conversation in sonorous tones over baked salmon and flan. One the other, dining solo, an elderly lady in grey is placidly working on a bottle of rosé and a plate of paella. We admire her gumption until realizing that EVERYONE who orders wine with lunch gets an entire bottle to amble through as they like. One glass? The whole damn thing? These waiters are not here to judge. And–Dad, are you reading this?–it’s included in the modest cost of the 3-course Menú del Dia!
Just as we’re finishing our espresso, we get a text from María asking us if we’d like to meet for coffee in an hour and a half at… Café Iruña! Of course the answer is YES because another great thing about this place is that it’s right around the corner from our lovely apartment which means we can work in a nice little nap and show up refreshed to meet our new friend, make plans for our workshop, and enjoy a café con leche with the boisterous early evening crowd… Here’s to you, Papa!