I thought I would include a magazine article submission for this entry. It sure is difficult to condense trips into 700 words but I gave it shot. Hope you enjoy the Liver Dance!
It was total culture shock; I flew from Barcelona, Spain to Dublin, Ireland and traded rapid Spanish for Irish brogue! The hospitality quickly lured me into falling in love with the Emerald Isle, especially when I was given a coupon for a FREE pint of Guinness at my Blooms Hotel check-in near the Temple Bar area. “Slainte,” I replied to the clerk (that’s Gaelic for cheers). I had officially begun my week stay in Ireland for a Celtic Music Festival Conference. I was invited because of my volunteer marketing work for the Michigan Irish Music Festival. My task was research and development of course, of all things Irish, including music, culture and beer.
Pre-conference, I got to see Dublin on Halloween Day. My fields of green could wait so I could take in this great city, drenched in pubs and Halloween revelry. With little time to relax, my phone was lit-up by the gathering delegates. I managed a quick tour to Grafton Street district, The Shrine of St. Valentine’s, Trinity College and St. Stephens Green Park. It was a bit rushed so I could meet the gang at Oliver St. John Gogarty’s Pub in Temple Bar. I savored another pint of Guinness and took a commemorative picture. With just one night in Dublin, we power pub-crawled until about 1:00 a.m. The next morning we shuttled across rainy roads to our host hotel in Limerick.
Pre-conference, four of my festival cohorts got to experience true Ireland. They immersed themselves in a rural community, the stone walls and green pastures near Betty Donovan’s cottage. They happily drove on the wrong side of the road all the way to Bantry Bay for a few days of local immersion. They managed to drench every piece of clothing they had in the sweet smell of peat from the cottage fireplace. From the stories I heard, there were many cows, castles and toasts! And, at each McCarthy’s Pub (they were everywhere) pints were downed, friends were made and the legend of “Irish Hospitality” was confirmed. The girls even ventured to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone. And, at every meal they found each pub served vegetable soup, every day. Kris was quite upset and at the trip’s end she said, “I never tried potato soup!!” It was hilarious since everyday at conference they served us potatoes as a side AND a vegetable, but never in a soup.
We reunited in Limerick and happily exchanged stories while waiting for our festival friends to arrive. Most conference days went like this: Breakfast (tea and scones), speakers, sessions, lunch with potatoes, then a rush to the evening showcase, to watch local talent each night. So, after five nights, eight bands per and a satchel of CDs, we felt solid about our music research. My music tip… be on the lookout for bands by the name of Beoga, Goitse and Fiach to name a few. During one of our whirlwind days of music and learning, Diane and I joined the bus tour to Bunratty & Folk Park for a tour of a castle. We also toured the University in Limerick and drove to Ennis to the Glor Irish Music Center for a music showcase.
When Thursday morning arrived, we ate “Breakfast in Bag” on a long bus ride (you say “boooos” in Ireland) to the Cliffs of Mohr. We were greeted by a stiff wind and fog so we did not see much, except for a brief moment when the fog lifted and blew in a view of the crashing Atlantic on the cliffs. I literally sprinted back to the viewing area for the reprieve and snapped a single photo of the magnificent view. Next up was Ballinasloe for two more days of conference and paying attention. We logged more sessions, met delegates from other festivals, ate more potatoes and drank more pints. A pub crawl sprung up one night at Maud Millers, sharing laughs and pints. That night, I was shocked to learn that the #1 selling beer in Ireland was Budweiser (Sacred heart of Jesus!), next Heineken, then Carlsburg! Shocking, I thought, but I certainly drank my share of Guinness during my time in Ireland.