I haven’t poured my heart out about Ireland in a while. Over the course of a couple trips, my husband and I accumulated a nice collection of cardboard coasters from various pubs we shared a Guinness or two in. I made it a habit to write on each, what pub we were at, the city and the date, as well as nuances around us that we could remember and giggle at later. Well, I would giggle and he could belly laugh. Anyway, we found a full size Ireland poster and I’ve started to plot a small selection of the coasters according to region. I create many things, but this is one that really makes us reminisce and long for just another pint. It’ll be a highlight of our bar…whenever we create that.
It’s only appropriate as we approach St. Paddy’s Day, that I indulge myself in more Ireland talk. On our first trip to Ireland, we tried not to plan and follow the stone walls to wherever they might lead us. We did a few things that Rick Steves suggested too, however. Though we spent most of our trip travelling around the Irish countryside and avoiding crowded tourist destinations, we did spend a couple nights in Dublin and took in the Musical Pub Crawl.
I fell in love with Irish music on this trip.
The music ranged from traditional to humorous and of course included beautiful and mournful ballads. The musicians that lead the crawl vary from night to night, based on traveling musician schedules and we were lucky enough to have Anthony Bools. His voice had so much character and fit the tone for each type of song chosen.
They had a professionally recorded CD compilation of various musicians that lead the tour and it has been a mainstay on my Ipod for a few years now. I couldn’t have been more pleased to have heard this particular song live, with fiddle accompaniment and later have a version to play at home, while I dreamed of Guinness and seisúns. I do suggest the tour if you are interested in learning about Irish music. The real feel of a seisún can be found in a good local pub, where the musicians play amongst themselves instead of to a crowd but this is an opportunity for a musician to take a moment between songs and discuss the fundamentals of the music and the instruments that are so specific to this type of music.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Slainte!
On the west coast of Ireland, north of Connemara and Galway, sits Westport. We heard there were a few decent pubs there, and decided it was the perfect spot to spend the night on the way to Sligo. Never did we imagine that a winter storm and “treacherous” roads would keep us there and very happily, I may add, for two and a half days. I emphasize the word treacherous because it was highlighted in each sentence we heard from an Irishman this trip. Everything in sight was covered in ice and snow, with not a shovel or rock salt in sight. It certainly made travel a bit more difficult but it kept us around long enough to enjoy a place we dream about living in.
Our first great experience began with Joe and Bridget at the Broadlands B&B. Because the roads were (I won’t use it again) dangerous, it took us quite a while longer to arrive at their doorstep. Still, despite our late arrival, Joe greeted us with the warmest hospitality, and offered to drop us into town so we could be rid of our car and walk home after a few pints. He gave us a tour of which pubs were great and which were ok, in addition to some history of Westport itself, which by the way is the “Tidiest Town in Ireland”. He even invited us to join him and his wife to a ceili, but with my husband’s bad foot, we regrettably declined. I still wish we had experienced real hometown Irish dancing, but in its place we found cold stout, un-tourist-like bars and beautiful Irish sessions.
If you are unfamiliar with a session or seisiún, it consists of Irish musicians that park themselves in the corner of a pub. They play with whatever musicians come in that night, with an array of instruments and songs that range from old Irish traditional ballads, to covers of modern songs. They play for themselves as much as they play for the people, often in a formed circle. Just musicians, their instruments, pints and a little wooden table amongst them.
We liked Westport so much, that we decided we would be more than glad to let the icy roads keep us an extra night. Joe and Bridget didn’t mind and our bellies welcomed their amazing Irish breakfast. I could tell you about Westport for days, but it deserves another post one day and I will share these photos with you in the meantime.