The Emerald Isle. Just like NY, this place is made unique mostly by its people. It fits so many of the stereotypes. This wonderful place is so green and so old, and its people truly love their beer, tea, and are sarcastic as hell. This country is quite small, so less time is needed to experience most of its popular locations. I recommend including the UK into a trip to Ireland because of the ease to get there. Nearly every single pub has a live band, every night. From rock cover bands to classic Irish Folk music. It’s like the Nashville, Tennessee of Europe. I highly recommend brushing up on some classic Irish Folk before making the trip, lots of the songs have little audience participation moments and it’s fun as hell to be able to clap or slam your beer mug on the table at the right times. This beautiful island is filled with the merriest bunch of beer drinking wits that I have ever met. This Country is for the social merrymaking type. Share a pot of tea with some fellow Irishmen in the morning, join the community at the pubs during the afternoon, and laugh over a pint in the evening.
What can be said that hasn't already been heard? Unless you are boating onto the island, you will be all but guaranteed to be stopping in Dublin. This town has much more tourist lure than the others, but most of the gems of this town are not posted on the hostel walls. The Jameson and Guinness tours are interesting enough but, at their price, one could do without. It's places like The Brazen Head, a pub older than America itself, that makes Dublin so special. Sit at the bar where beer has been served since before Columbus set foot on American soil. Lean back in the dark pub that feels like something from a fantasy novel and listen to the folk music being played by some gentlemen in the corner. Take your trip back in time, stroll through the old halls and famous library at Dublin University, be a good Irishman and catch yourself a morning mass. Larger than Galway, it deserves more time, but just as any capital city, be prepared for touristy attractions up the wazoo. My advice, just wander the city and let your senses lead you. Follow your nose into the underground eateries with stew steaming in a pot, or where your ears here the plucking of strings and the merry singing of an old folk group in a hidden pub. These are the little treasures of Dublin. You’ll feel like you just ran into a town of long lost cousins when you mingle with the people of Dublin. Well… they’d fit right in with my family.
(Listen to the Lost At Will Podcast for the story)
You would be right to think of Dublin as a place to have one too many pints, but Galway may certainly has a leg up. It is not commonly known as a college town by visitors, but it takes one walk down he main street and past the local drinking establishments to come to this reality. No doubt you will be made breathless by the oceanside stone town, little cobblestone streets, the overlooking church, and its odd street performers; however, this place's beauty is matched by its affinity for nightlife and overall catering to those looking for proper merry making. It is quite a small town, you can walk the whole of it in less than a day. The main street with all the stores and pubs is walking only, in fact, I don't recall seeing a car driving the entire time I am there. This is a place to come and quickly put you in awe, but then quickly put you on your ass. Drink, stumble, laugh, no car will hit you, I swear it. Galway has the Irish priority at heart.
When I went on this trip, I was in a strange phase. I wore slippers, moccasins, or other bedroom foot attire as my “go-out shoes”. This was a multi-month trip, so my shoes when backpacking, were very solid walking/hiking shoes. But when the backpack was cast aside in the cramped hostel, and it was time to make my impression on the locals, I adorned my grey fluffy slippers. After an afternoon of admiring the little waterways and buildings, it was time to join the locals in some proper merrymaking. My buddy Dr. Mike Madden and I made our way out to the main road, a carless cobblestoned winding path lined with bars and pubs, all competing for the thirsty traveler. Mike is in his slim fit pants, a button up shirt with a few extra buttons undone, and his shoes that reflect the light from the lanterns on the walls. I have my weathered jeans with a belt pulled to the last hole causing the belt line to accordion. Proudly, I represent my musical interests with a Led Zeppelin grey T. And, of course, my grey fluffy slippers. I am ready to impress, to turn the heads, and perhaps have some beers sent my way by the appreciative locals.
We choose The King’s Head, a mighty two-story pub that is bursting at the seams with people. The laughter, cheers, and sound of live music flowed out the open windows and across the street. This siren’s song was undeniable. Before we knew it, we were standing in the doorway and gazing in at the youthful rambunctious crowd. Two mismatched travelers we were, but we had the same plan…. “I’ll take a Guinness and a double Jameson on the rocks.” I might as well of had it stickered onto my forehead. But, another sticker had already claimed that space. Dr. Madden and I had discovered that there were Hen parties and Stag parties. Stag parties are bachelor parties and you can figure out the other. In the center of this bar was a band covering all manners of American rock tunes. A sharp change from the typical folk music we had been hearing, but one that had the locals in a joyous frenzy.
We had fallen in with a Hen party that had seemed to merge with a Stag party. We were weighed, and we were measured, and we were labeled by the Hens. Mike’s was “Best Smile”, and I had “Most Charming”. At this point Dr. Madden and I had separated, a common occurrence when he and I venture off into drinking establishments. I am the leaf in the wind, and he is the arrow that is fired straight and true. He finds his target (beware lades), and off he goes. I tend to bounce and flow around till I settle in the entertaining and comical embrace of my favorite crowd. In this case, the Hen/Stag party had decided to go to the local club. Hmmm… not quite my cup of tea, but I had chosen my crowd for the evening! I promised my arrival would be prompt, I needed to find my mate first! The staggering crowd made their way down the stairs and out towards the club. I found Dr. Madden, clearly he had hit his target, and I let him know I was off to dance the night away. I bounded down the stairs and out onto the street. After some time, I came across “Halo”. The bass pumped out through the stone walls, vibrating the ground beneath my feet. I walk up to the door with a huge smile, a crowd of Irish locals are eagerly awaiting me! Truly they must be! A large hand shoots out to meet me. A pale fleshy turnstile, one that is surely locked to me.
“You can’t come in here.” He says, his Irish brogue thick and tough.
“Why the hell not?”
“You’re wearing bloody slippers.” He points down with a scowl. My grey fluffy slippers are slightly damp from the water in the streets.
“But…. I have people… They’re waiting for me in there!”
A subtle lift of his shoulders told me the conversation was over.
I had had my first experience with a dress code, and I did not like it. You have not seen me dance in these slippers! I learned the world is not made for a man who wears slippers out of the home. This was the last time I ever wore them past my front door. Galway taught me a valuable lesson. Apparently, Clubs have dress codes. Secondly, I should dress for the unexpected.
Go out and make your stories. Whether they are romantic, funny, or embarrassing, go make them!
Castle. Castle! Enjoy the castle. This is why you go to Kilkenny, so go bloody see it. This is a quiet quaint town that makes you feel a little more a part of the community. Not that the other towns aren't welcoming, but this town made me feel as though I was not in a tourism hot spot but instead amongst Irishmen going about their day. A little less touristy than Galway, and much less than Dublin. Enjoy the tiny shops, the windy cobblestone streets, and the CASTLE.