When you come to Ireland, do more of what I should have done more of: go to a few pubs alone.
Find something off the beaten path, something hidden down a side street or not overflowing with tourists, probably something on the North Side of the Liffey. It should have an older feel, like the building’s been there awhile. And make sure that there’s a few locals inside. Once you find the right pub, head over there around 2-3:30pm, before the evening rush. Order yourself a drink (*Note*: It doesn’t have to be alcoholic. Personally, I recommend a pint of blackcurrant, which is the cheapest drink besides water) and just wait. Stand at the bar for two-five minutes (do NOT take out your phone) and nine out of ten times, someone will come up and start talking to you. The final step is to have a conversation until one of you has to go about your merry way.
Some of the best conversations I’ve had while in Dublin, I’ve had with, what I call, some one hour friends: people who will talk to me for a bit of time then go off on their merry way and never shall we meet again. That’s the core of Irish pub culture right there, the freeness of conversation. It’s not about the drink, it’s about the people. And it’s something I recommend embracing because, if you don’t, you’ll miss out on some great company.
The second week of the semester, our group took a trip to the west coast. Mostly we travelled in a group and we took up half the pub in Doolin, so we didn’t have much of an opportunity to really explore by ourselves. However, when we stayed in Galway, my roommates and I found a pub with some music playing. I made five minute friends with a young, drunk man from Dublin, who was in Galway for a work buddy’s Stag Party and one hour friends with Paddy. Paddy was a lovely woman with white hair down to her knees and a laugh that forced you to smile. She asked if she could sit with us and told us her life story, even told me a bit about my family when I mentioned I was a Joyce. She told us how she’d travelled the world twice, was best friends with the Galway Girl (the one the song’s written about), and what we should do with our time in Dublin. All by letting her join our table in the packed pub.
I’ve made a few more quick friends in Ireland. A man in Dingle, a woman and two puppies up in Ballintoy, but my favorite group was home in Dublin.
It was the last Saturday in November and I was determined to get some pictures at Glasnevin Cemetery before I left, so it had to be then. Ciaran O’Rourke, the Head Resident at Champlain Dublin, had recommended a couple weeks back that we check out the cemetery then head to the Gravediggers Pub (publically known as Kavanagh’s). It was two o’clock, I’d gotten my pictures and I didn’t need to be in Dublin 8 again until four, so I decided to kill the time at the Gravediggers.
I walked in and stood at the bar to order my drink. There were a few full glasses on the bar and a group of men sitting in the corner. A group of older men trickled in through the door and one of the ones sitting began to sing ‘A Rainy Night in Georgia’ by Brook Benton and everyone joined but me, so the group started talking to me. That’s how I met John, Johnny, Damien, and ‘Big Len.’ Johnny and I chatted a lot because he had lived in Boston for several years and in Burlington for four more. At one point, Damien dragged me over the booth where he and a couple of other lads were sitting and introduced me. The man I assume was his father called over to the bartender when I told him I was a writer and had him bring out the Book.
Dublin- great company, great sights, great stout. My true home away from home.
And that was the best experience I’ve had here. So make some one hour friends, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Fall 2014
Champlain College, Professional Writing, Class of 2016