Random Irish Observations

On our vacation from Dublin to Galway, there were daily observations made by Thom and I on the uniqueness of Irish culture that I thought I would share:

AS SEEN DRIVING

Barak Obama car plaza near Tipperary, between Dublin and Limerick on motorway.  I guess he has relatives here and has been honored with a gas station named after him.  I am sure he is thrilled to celebrate his Irish heritage with this useful store vs. a museum or other nonsense.

Seen as we entered the motorway on big reader board:  “Project Edward Day” sign, which is acronym that means European Day Without A Road Death, with current tally at “0”, which will hopefully stay that way with us driving on the wrong side of the road, I mean:  Left, left, left.

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No fancy cars, no trucks, no SUV’s or mini vans.  Just standard manual transportation to get you where you need to be.  Lots of dents and scrapes on cars and no wonder because everywhere but the motorway, the roads are just too damn narrow.

SOS boxes on the side of the road.  What?  Not everybody has global cell coverage??

AS SEEN SHOPPING

Shoe repair/locksmiths everywhere as well as tailors, signaling a culture that repairs vs. disposes of their wardrobe.

Bookstores-small independents-also on every street but not big chains and mostly featuring Irish authors vs. worldwide blockbusters.day-1

Newspapers, they are still relevant here with multiple different papers offered in all the grocery and book stores for your reading enjoyment.  Love it as we still enjoy a daily newspaper delivered to our door in the States but we are the only ones in our building to do so probably because we are also the oldest residents as well.  Blah.

 

Resale/consignment/vintage stores are plentiful.  Thrifty and trendy at the same time.  We stopped by the Salvation Army one and browsed the wide selection of clothes, housewares and some vinyl.  One small gallery of shops had not only a great vinyl shop but a vintage clothing store and a variety of stalls selling everything from nuts to posters.  Love places like this!

Gyms are few and far between with the main sport being lifting a pint.  Irish excel at that sport.  True-I’ve been to many a pub on this trip and witnessed this sport first hand.

Knobs and Knockers was one of the best titled stores, selling, you guessed it, just door knockers and door knobs.  The doors of Ireland are beautiful and a subject of many photographs.  Thom told me a red door means the house is paid off.  Now when I see a red door, I’m thinking to myself, “well done” to the occupants and enjoy no more mortgage payments.

Travel agencies are still around and, based on the number of them, I would say fairly popular.  Thinking the “seasoned” generation is not tech savvy and needs assistance scoring a ticket or reservation.

Grocery shopping with the locals is always a great way to understand a culture.  At Aldi’s, there were literally bulk stacks of meringue circles.  In the bread aisle, always a huge focus here where carbs rule, there were packages of pancakes and waffles in with all the other items we would normally see.  The cakes/buns/jelly roll selection was wide and varied.  Tea time!  Beside a stack of goose fat jars, you could also find baked beans in ready-to-go single service packs.  Yum.  Irish yogurt is tasty and comes in tiny glass jars.  Cute.

In many groceries, there are loaves of bread, scones, etc. heaped in open air baskets.  Kind of yucky to us uptight Americans who are used to everything being covered up or behind the counter vs. everyone can touch and feel and explore the pastries with their grubby, germ-infested hands.  No thank you.

MISC. STUFF

Smoking restrictions inside pubs are more of a “guideline” with many drinkers huddled outside around barrels and on adjacent outdoor patios enjoying a pint and a puff.  No restrictions here about staying 25 feet away from the building to inhale carcinogens.  That would be very inconvenient for the pub staff to service the refills.

300,000 people attending the Ploughman Competition outside Dublin where they do farm games.  Headlines daily in the newspapers-big deal here.

Sheep are sometimes spray painted blue or green or yellow.  What.  The.  Hell.

Hen Parties for bridal parties and Stag Parties for the guys are HUGE in Galway.

bus

There is a two day bus/rail strike planned for Thursday/Friday.  Thank goodness we have a car and aren’t reliant on public transportation as we usually are when we travel.  Then on Saturday there is a huge “Repeal” protest in Dublin to protest the strict abortion laws.  Thom usually attracts protests so surprised we won’t be there for it.  In this very Catholic country, they are fighting with the church which never goes well.

Finding a Real Irish Pub in Dublin

“Where can I find a REAL Irish pub?” I asked the vinyl shopkeeper in Dublin.  “You mean one without tourists who believe in fauking leprechaun and want to see River Dancers?” he replied with disdain for tourists.  I get it and appreciated his predicament.  He probably relied on the stinking tourists to make a living but hated their ignorance of true Irish history and culture.  After some discussion with he and a customer who was trying to be helpful, we had some recommendations and were ready to experience real Irish food and music.

First, we walked to O’Donoghue’s where Glen Hansard, our Irish singer we love, frequents when in town but it was early and not too much was happening so on we walked.  As usual, we then wandered into a beautiful local park, which we wouldn’t have normally sought out.  A big event was going on with entertainment and music but unfortunately it was sold out and we couldn’t talk our way in but we still had a lovely time seeing how the locals used their parks with jugglers juggling and groups of people doing yoga together on this lovely late summer evening.  We had stumbled into Merrion Square, which had been a private park for the rich surrounded by townhomes and is now a public area to be enjoyed by all. 

Needing substance, we sought out a pub that I had researched in advance, The Old Storehouse, which did not disappoint with hearty shepherd’s pie for Thom to pack away.  After asking the waitress for an Old Fashioned, she asked how I wanted it made.  I wanted to give a smart reply like, “If I need to make it or tell you how to make it then why do you have a bartender?” but didn’t want her to spit in my drink so I just replied nicely that whatever way they normally made it would be fine by me.  Ha!  I received a shot of whiskey (and not a generous one) with orange peel.  You would have thought I might learn from that experience but, no, not really.   After Thom astounded me with his knowledge of Irish pub songs (which he learned from hanging out in NYC Irish bars since he was a wee lad), we sang along to Molly Malone and other Irish pub standards as well as American classics.

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The Real Deal-The Brazen Head pub

Looking for more real Irish music since the singer at The Old Storehouse ended his set with John Denver, we decided to go with Thom’s brother Pat’s suggestion of the self-proclaimed oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, estd. 1198.  Now, it is WAY off the beaten path and quite the walk from Temple Bar area but off we continued until finally finding it.  Sharing tables with two gals from Germany, the place was packed and authentic.  I felt sorry for the Asian tourists in the corner who were huddled up with strangers and looking very uncomfortable sharing space.  I gave up my seat so an elder couple could sit together and I stood at the bar.  Got to give it to the seventy-something with a cane venturing out to the pub still to enjoy the music.  He deserved a stool.

I sidled up to the busy bar to order a coke for Thom and an Old Fashioned for me to compare with the previous one.  “We don’t do cocktails.” The bartender sneered at me and then ignored me.  Okay.  Should have known better.  My bad.  “Shot of whiskey and side of water” was better and I was rewarded with a tiny amount of whiskey and a water I would share with Thom.  We were there for the Irish music not the spirits, so all good.

Smoking outside the bars and in outside patio areas is common.  One guy lit up a cigar and you could smell it all the way inside.  I sneered at him on the way out.  Didn’t faze him at all and he puffed away, sharing his stench with everyone in and around the pub.  Classy.  Cheers.