I missed coming over the pond last year….you know, that cold Atlantic Ocean pond that divides America’s East Coast and the United Kingdom. Whenever I return to England or Ireland, I always feel as if I’m coming home when the plane hits her soil and yet, things are remarkably different each and every time despite the fact that thankfully some things will probably never change.
The people’s warmth and hospitality in Ireland is something that never seems to change nor their quirky sense of humor. It’s astonishing but I find myself laughing at the strangest things, usually within an hour of landing in Dublin. Conversations that were so familiar from years gone past start to fade away although they vividly come up in my mind whenever I’m sitting in a coffee bar thinking of my days as a student in London.
While the Irish are notably different from the English, there are those odd and random things that make me feel as if I’m transported back, such as the proliferation of pubs on every corner, a Boots Pharmacy on every High Street, the familiar roundabouts and the mishmash of construction without signs or notification and yet all the locals seem to know what’s happening.
People also seem to know their street names whereas I find in the states, no one knows any of the names, only roughly where things are, as if they’re on autopilot going to and from work every day. It’s no surprise that the Irish have to be more aware given their history but it could also be their reputation for being some of the best storytellers on the globe. Not only are they good at telling stories, but they do so with vigor and humor and you never want the story to end.
The pubs are as traditional as they were twenty years ago even if the inhabitants aren’t and because Dublin has become nearly as international as London, don’t expect every pub drinker to have extremely white skin, rosy cheeks and an Irish accent.
As I made my way out of Dublin’s airport to grab a taxi to the city center for the upcoming Web Summit, now the largest tech conference in Europe with over 20,000 people, I was astonished to learn that very few cabbies took credit cards. I suppose this must have been the case when I came 2, 3 and 4 years ago except these are the things I don’t remember and therefore am never prepared for each and every time.
I had to wait for awhile until a cabbie who would take a card pulled up and even then, the experience was a far cry from dealing with a cab company who seemed to be accustomed to credit cards on a regular basis. When we got to my destination (the fare was roughly 30 euros), he said he have to call my number in to make sure it wasn’t “fake.” In about as strong of an accent as you can get – I later learn it was likely a Belfast accent, he said “well, pee-ople have fa-ake credit cards no-aw, the-d-aay? Weee get Nigerians all d-thee time hearree using fake cards. No-awow, don’t gooe tell-lling me the-d-aay don’t use fa-ake cards in the sta-ates no-awow?”
Hmmm, I’m thinking since that has not once come up even in New York’s Bronx when I’ve used my Amex in a cafe in a dodgy area on more than one occasion…
It took awhile for the card to process, but once it did, I felt as if I had gone back in time and yet, here we were in the very international Dublin, which has a boat load more global influences than you might imagine.
Later that same evening, my concierge was Irish as was the bell boy, but the front desk rep was from France, the chef who cooked my meal at Eden Bar & Grill that evening was Hungarian, my waiter was Mexican and my coffee was from Guatemala. The next morning, it was the Polish hotel manager who sat me in the lounge for tea, and the woman who took it away was from Estonia.
While it may not have been high season, there were no shortage of tourists on the streets of Grafton that night. Grafton Street for those not familiar with Dublin, is the main drag and where you’ll find numerous shops, cafes and of course bars. It is also a stone’s throw from the night life happening place in the city – Temple Bar. A few years ago, I spent a long week visiting every bar and pub there was in Temple Bar, taking in as much live music as possible. While there is plenty of harmonica players and folk guitarists, there is an equal number of wanna-be rock bands who play Dublin’s streets and local bars.
Above is the Long Bar’s ceilings.
The walk was a joyous one despite the rain, but it brought me back in time, far back in time, to the first time I set foot in Ireland and how much fun I had in Irish pubs, both in major cities and in small villages around the country.
While Dublin might be changing on me, each and every time I set foot on her soil, she is always still a pleasure.
Photo credits: 1st photo from weddingsinireland.ie. Second two pub photos in Temple Bar from Renee Blodgett.