Planning our trip to Dublin was essentially a study in pubs. Ron and I love nothing more than a good Irish pub, so the opportunity to visit authentic ones was exciting, and we planned to make the most of it. Although we intended it to be a mostly organic experience, stopping in at pubs that caught our fancy or on recommendation from locals, I did do a bit of browsing online in advance, to see if there were any standouts.
That’s where I first learned of The Hole in the Wall, the longest pub in Europe, and said to myself, “That’s on the list.”
Of course, I wasn’t keeping an actual list, so by the time the trip happened, I’d completely forgotten about it. And I’d never mentioned it to Ron, either, so he couldn’t remember it for me.
But in the way that things can appear meant to be, a local suggested The Hole in the Wall shortly before our visit to the city ended. I’d left Ron at The Oak to start the evening, while I ran to the hotel to drop off the gear we carry with us during the day. He spent his time sipping beer and chatting with locals, one of whom told him he couldn’t miss a visit to the famous Hole in the Wall.
When I got back to join him, he told me about it, at which point I gave one of my famous, “Oh yeah! I read about that!” replies, Ron rolled his eyes, and a plan was formed. That plan was essentially, “Let’s go for a walk tomorrow.”
It was about 5km from the hotel to the pub, and a bright, chilly day in a beautiful city – the perfect conditions for a stroll when we set off the following afternoon. We only had a vague notion of where we were going. The pub shares a wall with Phoenix Park – the wall through which the pub would serve soldiers stationed in the park who weren’t allowed to leave – but the park is extensive and we didn’t know exactly where along the edge the pub was.
Phoenix Park was beautiful, and it being a weekday, and a brisk one at that, we had it nearly to ourselves. We were sort of hugging the edge of it, keeping an eye out for anything that looked like it might be a pub, eventually deciding we should probably move out onto the road that rings the park, just to be safe.
I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of Location, Location, Location.
Eventually, after asking a local if we were on the right track and being assured we were almost there, we found our destination. The instant we stepped through the door, we knew our plan for a quick pint was doomed. The Hole in the Wall is the kind of place where you nip in for a drink, and four hours later, you’re still there.
Part of the reason for our long stay was the company. We squeezed onto a couple of stools at one of the bars, ordered some beer, and then decided to have lunch, all the while chatting with a staff member who told us some of the history of the pub. (Like how it became the longest pub in Europe: previous owners bought out the neighbours, one at a time, knocked out the walls between the dwellings, and added another room to the pub. The end result is a very long, and very narrow, establishment.)
Then there was Aidan. Aidan’s a pub regular – possibly the pub regular – an older gentleman who always sits at the bar where we were. It was very crowded, and there wasn’t any room for him when he arrived, but when Ron realized what was going on, he offered for us to scooch over. It wasn’t a perfect solution – Ron and I couldn’t eat our meals without bumping elbows, and Aidan had to sit sideways – but he appreciated the gesture, and struck up a conversation. He was a journalist by profession, had some great stories to tell, and was interested in hearing ours, especially about Canada.
And he retroactively won my heart when Ron told me about a conversation they had while I went to the washroom. Aidan asked if he could ask Ron a personal question: “How long have you and the missus been together?” Ron told him around 15 years, to which he replied he thought it would have been longer because, “You’re very good together.”
Aidan left before we did, which in itself was an experience, as the servers all started calling out to each other, “Aidan’s gone! Aidan’s gone!” And when we settled up our bill, we asked the staff member we’d been chatting with throughout our visit to add a bottle of Aidan’s preferred wine to it, and tell him the Canadians had bought it for him.
I hope he got it.
To read more posts in the Pub Crawl series, click here.