Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and I was in Ireland! It was what can only be described as an adventure. It certainly wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, but who says thunderstorms and pints of beer aren’t just as fun?
My roommate suggested the idea to spend St. Pat’s in Dublin instead of Belfast a couple months ago while I was still in Canada. Since it was a bucket list item, I jumped at the chance and didn’t worry about the details. We knew we could take a cheap bus there but unfortunately, we were too late to book any accommodations Not to be stopped by a little thing like a bed, we decided to head down in the early morning of the 17th and return in the wee hours of the morning on the 18th. At the time of booking this seems like a crazy, but manageable plan.
Due to the aforementioned epic birthday party, we had both had about 2 hours of sleep and were severly hung over. To catch the bus we got up at 7am and arrived in Dublin at around 10:30am. We were tired, hungry and of course freezing so we popped into a pub called Murray’s. In a matter of meer minutes we were at a table eating a full blown English breakfast with hot tea. If you had seen the crowds you would know how much of a saintly miracle that was! Immediately after breakfast I recommended a drink – hair of the dog and all. Once we were full, warm and had on our alcohol jacket, we ventured outside to watch the parade. It was very odd I must say. The crowd was decorated to the extremes in St. Pat’s regalia but the actual parade didn’t seem to have anything at all to do with Ireland or St. Patrick, or even drinking. It was just a very bizarre mashup of marching bands (which were really quite good), theatre type productions (which were verry odd and nonsensical), and businesses wanting to advertise (which were too obvious). It was insanely crowded and difficult to see the actual parade so we wandered up and down catching sections as they went. We had booked ourselves into a walking tour for the afternoon so we inquired about how to get there and head to the older quater in town.
At this point it was pouring, we had been awake for hours and were really starting to feel our hangovers. I personally was freezing and my boots decided to leak, so I was pretty much spent. Luckily, we both had committed to making our crazy one day experience work, so we forged on and spent two hours walking through the old part of the city with a very interesting tour guide…in the pouring rain of course. He themed his talk around St. Patrick the real man and busted many of the myth about the holiday. For one, the drinking culture and the annual parade are both inventions of Irish ex-pat’s living in America who missed their homelands. The first parade was in New York in the 1700s! That made me feel both better and worse as I understood why the parade was so bad but I also realized I had bought into the myth and trekked to Dublin for the holiday. Alas! You live and learn. We went to several cathedrals, the town hall, the old castle, the site of the past city wall and past market, but unfortunately as it was a holiday, most of the sites were closed and we only saw them from the outside.
After that, we were exhausted and decided it was once again time for food and warmth (a reoccurring theme in my Ireland adventures). We headed down to Temple Bar the main entertainment district but almost immediately realized our mistake. It was already incredibly busy and the streets were lined with a thousand young, drunk, rambunctious people. If we hadn’t been wet, starving and hungover we might have been able to get onboard with the festivities but at the time it was just very annoying. We decided trying a different quarter would be better and with a bit of walking and a couple false attempts, we found a smaller, less crowded place that served food. After a hot, carb-filled meal I felt decidedly better and thought a beer and putting my boots on the drier would make the situation pretty great. At that point it was about 8pm and our official bus ticket home wasn’t until 4am! Remember when I said it sounded like a good plan at the time…
We end up staying at that pub (name unknown but potentially The Dubliner) for a few rounds until we felt tipsy enough to brave the crowds. Instead of returning to Temple Bar we went back towards Murray’s. And as luck would have it we found a fantastic bar not too far from where we would later have to catch the bus. Turns out that Madigan’s was a truly fantastic bar! It might have been the highlight of the day as it felt like we were at a regular Irish bar with folks out for a good night. There was live music, great beer on tap, people of all ages including retirees, a bachelorette party, tourists, locals, couples, friends, and everything in between. In my warm, beery daze, I simply sat back and watched it happen around me. I felt for the first time that I was really happy with my decision to come to Ireland. That I could focus not on what I was giving up but what I was getting. That even though I am not yet my true self, I am starting to reconnect. That even though St. Patrick’s day is a messy, somewhat ridiculous myth, I accomplished a goal while visiting another country and exploring a beautiful town. And that even though this adventure didn’t spark in me the awe that I have been searching for, I got to an incredible story to tell.
So today I say yes to taking risks when traveling and not getting caught up in the details. Yes to traditions – both old and new. And yes to Ireland in all it’s wet, friendly, beautiful, drunken glory.
Each petal on the shamrock brings a wish your way – good health, good luck, and happiness – for today and every day.