Ireland is a magical place. Everyone I met was wonderful and the beautiful terrain and sheer history of the island awed me. From the green countryside around Cork to Dublin's charming model of an ancient city living in modern times, I fell for Ireland over and over.
The excitement in Dublin, around St. Patrick's Day, was palpable and the folks from Jameson showed us an amazing time, with whiskey fueled rock concerts and an international vibe that showed their global popularly. I have to admit, that while tasting some incredible blends at their Old Jameson Distillery, in Smithfield, I snuck out to see a bit of the neighborhood. Literally steps away from the distillery is St. Michan's Church, where I handed a man a couple EU for a tour of their ancient crypt and to see the remains of an 800 year old man believed to have been a crusader. I shook his hand, they told us it is good luck. The guide claims a similar tour of the crypt inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The folks we met were charming and all had at least one story to share. Hanging out at comedian Pat Shortt's bar in Castlemartyr, as soon as I walked up to the bar a patron asked, "All right, what's with you?" His name was Tom and when he found out I didn't claim to be of Irish descent, we were fast friends. I'm the only American he'd ever met who didn't think he was a cousin, Tom told me. If I wanted to understand Ireland and the mischievous good spirit that makes it tick, I needed to hear a story displayed on the wall of the bar; Tom told me the story of Portraitgate.
Seems in March, 2009, a school teacher in his mid 30s by the name of Connor Casby, dissatisfied with government leadership, walked into their National Gallery and hung a half naked portrait of their then sitting Taoiseach (Prime Minister) on the toilet. Casby also hung a second portrait at the Royal Hibernian Gallery where evidently someone attempted to purchase it, before it was noticed by authorities. A massive and hilarious brouhaha ensued wherein the Garda was employed to investigate any way to prosecute Casby but failed. The story and images of the paintings are proudly on the wall at Shortt's. I highly recommend this picture perfect Irish pub for a glass of Jameson and conversation.
I also had an amazing time meeting Antoin, one of our readers, at Kehoe's in Dublin's City Centre. Kehoe's has been around for 211 years, like much of Ireland it is packed with history and life. Incredibly busy a day before St. Patrick's Day, I can only imagine what it'd have been like during the big event. Antoin had dozens of great recommendations of places to see (St. Michan's and a number of others were his) and stories to match each of them. Antoin shared his particular lens on Irish culture and felt this poem, by famed Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh, really helps describe the importance of local to the Irish.
I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul!"
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
"Here is the march along these iron stones."
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.
While Antoin and I had a drink at Kehoe's, a shopkeeper from a small hat shop came running in and returned a bag to me I'd left at his shop. Before forgetting the bag, I'd asked directions to Kehoe's and the gentleman walked the two blocks to bring it back to me. I wish I'd gotten his name. He wouldn't even accept a pint from me for the service, as he had to get back to work. I haven't seen such customer service and general good naturedness at home in forever. Ireland has a way of touching your heart.
St. Patrick's Day in Dublin is a thing to experience. Temple Bar was an absolute mad house! College students, the drinking age is 18 in Dublin, to long time residents of the area, everyone was out and having an amazing time. The Guard were there helping folks who'd celebrated a bit too hard, but most of what I saw was one, giant Jameson-powered hug. It felt like the standard, welcoming, humble and slyly witty attitude I met all over Ireland was amplified to 11 for this one special day.
Creativity and humor met me around every corner, as did tradition and quality. Irish brown soda bread was so good, and so varied, all over the island that I had to try making it as soon as I got home. I've grown fond of the tea and unsurprisingly a particular blend of Irish Whiskey. There was so much to see and experience in Ireland that I'm sure I'll be back soon, but until then some of Ireland certainly appears to have come back with me.
ADVERTISER MESSAGE:Ultimately a product is only as good as the people who make it, and Jameson is made by real people, for real people. The care that goes into each bottle ensures every glass is warm and hospitable – whether its neat, mixed, or on the rocks – just like those who enjoy it. There is hard work and humanity behind every smooth ounce.
Jameson lives beyond St. Patrick's Day through traditions held by groups of friends around the world. At family reunions and local dive bars, band practices and parties, in the happy hours and in the wee hours, Jameson brings people and communities together all year round.