Nerve was invited to to enjoy a long Irish weekend and we’re just now recovering from our hangovers enough to write about it.
Here’s what we remember:
Our first night we stayed at a resort hotel and estate near Cork that, depending on who you asked, was a former boarding school, convent or golf course. We had a hard time listening to the bellhop’s tour due to the stout Irish coffees he fed us as we checked in.
In our room was more whiskey compliments of our hosts, which we drank until we slept off the jetlag. The next day we met our tour group, a lovely bunch of international food and lifestyle bloggers. More drinking. Fancy dinner. More drinking.
At the Jameson distillery we saw how they make it, store it, perfect it and drink it. We had a lesson from the barrel maker in his tool shed and got to taste a little whiskey straight from the tap. It takes years to make a great glass of Jameson and during the aging process 2% evaporates each year. They call what’s evaporated the “angel’s share.”
The next day, as we walked along the St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin we found a trio of women in thirty foot high parade floats designed to look like dresses. They were rehearsing for the St. Paddy’s Day parade set for the next day. After singing their parts a few times through one of the women said in French, “I need to get down. I’m thirsty.”
Just around the corner was Davy Byrne’s Pub where James Joyce set the Cyclops section of Ulysses. We stopped in and had a cheese sandwich to honor Leo Bloom and as we looked up from our meal we, no lie, saw a man with one eye. We walked to Marron Square where a lascivious Oscar Wilde statue straddles a rock near a playground. An odd little street carnival was in full swing among the Georgian mansions.
What we think of as St. Patrick’s Day is largely an American holiday that the Irish only started celebrating with massive American-style parades in the late 90’s. They saw it as a way to grab a few much needed tourist dollars and change their image from a war torn country to a European cultural destination.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations often portray the Irish in near racist charactertures but scratch the surface and there’s much more to Ireland than shamrocks, bloody noses and drinking. The history of Ireland is more heart and mind than fists and whiskey. James Joyce said of his homeland, “Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.”
We flew out on St. Patty’s Day missing the influx of drunk tourists wearing an asinine amounts of green. As we drove to the airport to catch an early flight, the streets of outer Dublin (far from the parade route) were nearly empty. There were a few shopkeepers unlocking their doors and families getting an early jump on their day off. Boarding the plane back home we thought about how to best sum up the contradiction of Irish history with the modern commercialization of St. Patrick’s Day but all that came to mind was a quote by the great Irish genius Samuel Beckett, “A small boy, stretching out his hands and looking up at the blue sky, asked his mother how such a thing was possible. Fuck off, she said.”
Our trip was so short and sweet, we didn’t even get to say proper farewell our hosts and fellow travelers: A literal Irish goodbye.