The Irish can’t stand it when you stereotype them. They know the world expects them to be Guinness-drenched, overly hospitable chatterboxes. It’s not that they take offense; they just humbly prefer you refrain from pointing out their best qualities and join in.
It doesn’t take much to feel at home in
. That may be due to my Irish heritage,
but more than likely not. It may be amplified a little, but certainly not
exclusive. You know that annoying thing people say on March 17 every year,
whether you’re in an Irish pub, a beach-side tiki bar or a techno-thumping night
club: “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day!” Dublin
That statement has much more credibility and truth to it no matter what day it is, when you’re actually in
. The people there will encourage
you to welcome others with open arms and chat the night away over too many
pints of Guinness draught. And suddenly you’re one of them, feeling right at
home embracing the Irish way. Ireland
The best way to do it? Just pick a pub. Any pub in
Dublin is better than every bar in , so
you won’t go wrong with any one you choose. Or, if you’re like me, any eight you
My Sunday in
quietly enough, meeting some friends for coffee and strolling around the
grounds of the magnificent . When we saw the
line to see the Book of Kells stretching around the entire courtyard, our plans
had to be changed. As much as I wanted to see the old library inside, I was not
wasting a Trinity
day in a two hour line. Dublin
Our group found itself at The Duke, a typical Irish pub serving typical food and typical beer. But typical is a compliment here because anything less or anything more would be unauthentic and out of place. In terms of time spent at pubs in
Our group - myself, my wife Danielle, our friends from London Katie and John, my college friend B.J. and a few of his family friends from home in the States – slipped into easy conversation barside at The Duke, asking the bartender about the rules for the upcoming Irish Football match and if he ever watched the NFL (no). Three pints later, Katie and John departed for the airport and the rest of us sauntered into the sunny Irish afternoon in search of a pub we’d all heard of, O’Neill’s.
After obtaining bad directions from a local (and yes, I believe this is required of every tourist in Ireland because we had been forewarned by several people, including a bus driver, that the Irish will never say they don’t know and just tell you regardless of accuracy), we spent a half hour walking in the wrong direction before turning around, retracing our steps and landing at O’Neill’s about 5 minutes from where we started.
If you can only visit one Irish pub in
, snag a seat at O’Neill’s. It is not
located in the famous Temple Bar area but it is on a back corner near an old
church and a side street where tour buses pick up day passengers. One of
O’Neill’s draws is the building itself. It is a pile of old, wooden rooms
scattered on top, next to and around corners and crannies. On one trip to the
bathroom we found an outside roofdeck and a set of stairs that led to a whole
other hidden side of the pub. O’Neill’s seemingly just keeps going. Dublin
On this particular Sunday, the crowd was more locals than tourists due to the Irish Football semi-final championship playoff match between
and Mayo. If you’ve never seen an Irish Football match, and I never had, think
of a mix between soccer, rugby and felony assault. It was easy to see why the
patrons at O’Neill’s clad in blue/white ( Dublin )
or green/red (Mayo) had more energy than a Red Sox v. Yankees playoff game. Despite being in Dublin, we
found ourselves rooting for the underdog, Mayo. Dublin , we were told, is the equivalent of
the New York Yankees, a powerhouse who won the championship last year but in
this match was way behind early. Equal parts astounding athleticism and savage
head shots, the match required several pints and caused quite a few oohs and ahs. As we left O’Neill’s, undeservingly satisfied with Mayo’s
victory, I felt I could get into a sport like this. Dublin
From there we strolled through the famous and infamous Temple Bar area of the city. It is an area full of pubs and restaurants, a neighborhood for nightlife and revelry. We picked through the decorated and hopping Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, named after one of the city’s influential writers and difference-makers, before turning up to a pub called Buskars for a pint.
At this point we knew the road we were on and were willing to walk it. The only logical destination was the neighborhood’s namesake, the Temple Bar.
If O’Neill’s was a classic pub, serving classic food while cheering on a classic Irish sport, Temple Bar was its crazy, drunk uncle. The pub was jammed with people, both locals who watched the game and a deluge of tourists crammed around the musicians rattling off traditional Irish songs.
We found a tiny square of floor one layer removed from the bar and stood our ground. In a situation like this, when spillage and bumping is inevitable, the best thing to do is make friends with your neighbors. They did so for us. The two older gentlemen sitting on stools in front of us started chatting with BJ and we quickly engaged in conversation about
v. Mayo (see, it helps to know what’s
going on in the city you’re visiting) and anything else that came to mind. At
one point my wife tried to take a picture of the massive array of bottles
behind the bar, prompting the ribbing from one of the men that she was actually
trying to snap a keepsake of the attractive male bartender. She assured me that
wasn’t the case. Dublin
Finnegan’s thinned the herd. Myself, my wife and B.J. were the only soldiers left standing. But the night was far from over. We decided to take an unknown route home and in doing so, stumbled, literally, on a bar B.J. had been looking for since his arrival on the Emerald Isle. The Stag’s Head, with its comedy club in the basement, made for the perfect last stop to our evening. We grabbed three seats at the bar, chatted up our bartender Neal and settled in for a few pints of Guinness. Neal convinced my wife, who had said she was done for the night, to have just one more, “wee pint.” Just cursed him, as she took the half glass from him.
“This is all your fault, Neal,” she said, along with a few choice and inappropriate curse words.
All Neal could do was laugh and say that she was not the first woman to say that to him, so he was alright with it.
We left Neal and the Stag’s Head out the door we entered, onto the cobbled back street intersection that acted more like a courtyard than traffic stop. As we departed the pub, we passed through a large crowd immediately outside the door. They were locals, some were sitting, some standing, all were singing, yelling, chatting and all were around the age of 60. I knew that because of the birthday cake on the overturned wooden barrel in the middle of the street.
“Want some cake?” And suddenly we were part of the family. I spent an hour talking to a man named Paul, or Peter, I’m not sure. It was late and as good as Guinness is, I don’t think it helps increase your memory. He lives in
France, from Ireland of course, but sent seven years living
in . When he told me what street,
I knew exactly where his house was. This small world thing was starting to
scare me. Somerville, Massachusetts
Regrettably, we departed from our newfound friends. With pubs shuttering their windows, it became apparent the night had finally come to an end. I had drank, hugged and chatted my way across greater
, in a fashion some people would
consider wasteful or crass. I consider it getting to know the city, the people,
the culture and their delicious birthday cakes. Dublin
If you were counting, I referenced only seven pubs. There was an eighth somewhere in there. I’m sure of it. We counted on the walk home that night, wrote down “8” and fell asleep. But for the life of me, my wife or our friends, we cannot remember the name of the eighth pub. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. It simply reaffirms my belief that any pub in
better than any bar anywhere else. Ireland