There are places in this world that have a special meaning to its visitors. Places that bring warmth to their hearts, a sense of completion to their minds, and unify their souls with the like-minded individuals that seek the same spiritual therapy. The Muslims have Mecca, the Hindus The Ganges River, and the Armstrong’s Dublin, Ireland. Sally and I met in Dublin during the Saint Patrick’s celebrations in 2006. On March 18, we bumped into each other at the Arlington Hotel Bar and a year later to the day we were standing in front of our families exchanging vows. We had always dreamed about one day returning to our place of introduction but we never thought the trip would be possible. Even with a mapped out plan to travel the world for a year, we knew the trip back to Ireland was out of reach. But being on the road for an extended period of time does a funny thing to your sense of what is achievable and what is not (or is that, ‘does a funny thing to your sense of responsibility’?). With a slight adjustment to our travel plans (that would be extending the duration of our trip by two months and reversing our travel direction by flying back 3/4 of the world from Vietnam to Ireland) we found ourselves once again in the land of mighty craic.
Saint Patrick’s day is an Irish holiday tradition that is celebrated all over the world. So it only makes sense that people from all over the world come to Ireland to celebrate it. As you walk down the street, undoubtably on your way to the pub, you would be hard pressed not to hear at least five different languages. Most of them being spoken with a slight slur to the speech of course. The heart of the festivities can be found in the Temple Bar area, but virtually every pub in the city seems to have more than a few extra patrons kicking back pints of Guinness.
After two days of reacquainting ourselves with the city, we hopped a train for Belfast for the day. Belfast was a last-minute decision. We hadn’t planned to venture out of Dublin and didn’t allot the necessary time to truly experience Northern Ireland. But we decided it would be better to get a small taste of the area, rather than write it off as a non-possibility. Thankfully we gave it consideration and made our decision to go to Belfast far enough in advance to arrange a Black Cab Tour of the city. The cab company is famous for its cultural ride through the different political strong holds of the IRA and loyalists areas. (Photo of snipers and IRA memorials) The drive was extremely interesting and insightful. It also didn’t take very long for our driver to expose his support for the IRA. Doing everything short of coming right out with where he stood and clearly continues to stand on the issue. It was solidified when he excitedly insisted on taking our photo in front of Bobby Sands. The only photo he offered to take of us during the hour and a half tour.
The recent and not forgotten history of these opposing groups was thrust into the forefront of our trip as soon as we left the cab for the down town area. There was a protest against the decision not to fly the Union Jack flag on particular days at the capital building.
The combination of the cab ride and the protesters caused us to visually interrogate every local we encountered. Assuming that every Northern Irishmen not only had an opinion but a clear side in which they stand. We went into the information center to ask about the best way to spend our precious few hours in the city. Sally had mentioned the Ireland rugby game and the man-made a disgusted scoff and said the English game is the only one that matters. Was he referencing their standings in the points? The fact that England was still in contention for the championship. Or did his statement have a more deep seeded meaning? We couldn’t help but wonder. We exited the information center and once again lost ourselves on the cold and rainy streets of Belfast. Our first four hours in the city caused us to feel like we were in a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any minute. We decided we needed a drink. As we fumbled with our map and tried to decide where we were and where we were going. A nice middle-aged man asked if he could be of service. We told him the bar we were looking for and with a smile and no room for debate he quickly set off in the direction of the oldest pub in Belfast. He walked out of his way four blocks before he dropped us at the front door and was back about his day before we could offer him a thank you drink. I did manage to squeeze in a few probing questions about his stance on the country’s past divide by playing dumb and asking him what the protests were about. He told me about the decision with the flag and quickly responded that he thinks both flags should be flown. “It’s all pretty silly if you ask me. They should just fly both flags, the Union and the tri-color. Life’s too short for all this trouble.” And with that our confidence was restored that most people are inherently good. It’s just the crazy ones that seem to get all the attention.
This confirmation was continued during the next hour and three different bars. Hey! It was cold as shit and snow/raining! What did you expect from us?
Our Saint Patties day plan of attack was simple. Ingest large quantities of alcohol, drink water, and don’t forget to eat something. That way you can ingest even larger quantities of alcohol. A common mistake by the rookie festivity goers. We had both been witness to the mayhem that is Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin. The days leading up to our second time around was reconfirmed what this city with this crowd is capable of. Sloppy drunkeness was all around us. But we have been in training for this day for over a year. Forging our livers into alcohol guzzling monster machines! Testing our bodies tolerance and pushing beyond what normal humans are capable of! Not to mention, we had our drinking socks on.
We knew the day would blur and recollection of the days events would become muddled. So we did our best to take a video of every bar we visited. This plan of action was successful . . . kind of. After bar number (?) I lost interest and or ability to document the occasion.
A few videos from St Pattie’s Day
Bar Three (Video Not Found)