MESSAGE: Urban Ireland *Video*
Ireland is a country of 4 million people — 2 million of which live in Dublin! And you can feel this friendly pulse when strolling the cobble-stoned downtown streets. It’s lively and open and fun!
Here’re my 7 insider tips for enjoying Ireland’s urban side:
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Galway’s Silent Disco. From what I gather, Galway is always a good time. The week I went it just happened to be the finale of the Great Ocean Race, where 7 international teams sail around the world for 5 months. The final leg was a race to Galway, so it was an extra big party!
While the narrow streets were lined with revelers all night long, the real party was over the bridge on Dominick Street where the locals were having a Silent Disco. For this street party, 2,000 pairs of headphones are passed out to party goers. Each set of headphones has multiple channels of music so everyone is literally dancing to a different drummer.
I have to admit, this is one of the most fun parties I’ve ever been to. People were wildly dancing in the streets, while the casual onlooker couldn’t hear a thing (except for the sporadic outbursts of joyous dancers pumping their fists in the air). Check it out:
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Silent Disco
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Irish Soda Bread. This is a staple and one I came to rely on traveling about the country. The recipe is simple – just flour, salt, buttermilk and baking soda (instead of yeast). The end result is a loaf that is thick and always served with a generous swipe of butter. Yum!
Interested in making Irish Soda Bread at home? Here’s a recipe: Irish Soda Bread
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Book of Kells. Trinity College is Ireland’s most famous university and home to the 9th century Book of Kells, an elaborately decorated text of the 4 Gospels. Considered by many to be one of Ireland’s finest national treasures, the Book of Kells is written by Celtic monks on vellum and has detailed illustrations of Christian iconography, as well as figures of humans, animals and mythical beast. Many of the pages are decorated with bright colors and ornate lettering.
The Book of Kells is actually an unfinished manuscript. It was produced by Columban monks closely associated with the community at Iona, Scotland. The monks were thought to have fled to Ireland following Viking raids on the island of Iona, bringing the un-finished manuscript with them.
Our friend Sarah got us into Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the Library’s Long Room for free — Thanks Sarah!
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Dunnes Stores. The Dunnes Stores are in every town, a true urban Irish landmark. It sells everything from clothing to house wares to food and booze. It’s such a part of the Irish identity, there’s even a song by John Spillane about the “Dunnes Store girl.” Give a listen:
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Dunnes Store Girl
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Kiss the Blarney Stone. Blarney Castle is just a half hour ride outside the city of Cork, which dubs itself as the “true Irish city.”After kissing the Blarney Stone, you’re supposed to be blessed with the gift of gab. In my case, since I’m already a talker, this might be more of a curse than a blessing.
Here I am hanging upside down to kiss the granite rock. Please note that I did NOT receive any sort of disease while kissing a stone that millions of others have laid their lips on! Nasty prospect though…
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Jobs. Over the last 200 years, Ireland has lost more than half of its population to emigration. Most Irish leave the country to look for jobs and often find their way to America, Canada, the UK and Australia. In fact, during the height of migration during the famine years, more than 1.5 million Irish came to the U.S.
Today, the Irish unemployment rate is nearly 15%, forcing many young educated Irish professionals to continue to emigrate to established communities in North America. I like the Irish, so I’m happy to have ‘em all come on over, but it would be nice if they had the option to stay in their own land.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) –Temple Bar Area. The Temple Bar and surrounding area is renowned as party-central in Dublin. However, we found one of our best times in the Dublin suburb of Lukin, where our friend Jackie was singing karaoke with her Dad.
It was a pretty fun night at a pub full of old fellas who were blasted drunk and dancing up a storm. (So were we, come to think of it!). After the pub closed we then found a 80s disco to keep the fun going. The Irish always know how to have a good time!