The plan that we had made with the pub crawl guide was to meet at a pub called Darkey Kelly's. When we asked the dinner waiter about this pub, he became uncomfortable and quiet. When we asked him why he reluctantly explained that Darkey Kelly's was an IRA sympathetic bar...hmmm, this could be interesting! We headed off after dinner to this controversial pub located on Fishamble Street!
We had been wondering how we would recognize Garvin, our pub tour guide. We did not need to worry, there was only one curly red head 6'7" gentleman sporting a green sport coat outside the pub! He took us in to the pub and found a table for us. He said the first round was on him and he would bring back drinks...and boy did he! He came back with a sampling of 12 different Irish beers (& one Irish whisky for Gary!). Boy oh boy did we miss Ron...Lenore and I doubted that we were up to the job of drinking 12 beers (granted, they were small...but still!). We got quite an interesting lesson in Irish beer...and they were getting tastier and tastier as we drank! This pub was large but very cozy, and just buzzing with voices and laughter! Just what I was expecting! Gavin was delightful, warm and engaging, with a love of his country that he was eager to share. And boy did he know his beers and whiskeys!
Moving on, we headed to The Porterhouse Pub which makes all their own beer...and we were warned that it is forbidden to mention "Guinness"! Oh oh...Gavin brought us 9 more beers to sample here!! Damn, we REALLY needed Ron now! This is too much heavy lifting for the 2 of us...and Gluten free Gary was no help...he was having his own Irish whiskey party!
And one last one...they are so proud of their recent Marriage Equality vote...
Ok...now that I had managed to take photos in the bathroom without getting caught (!) it was time to move on. We paused for a photo outside pub number 2...
This was right outside a museum and mural that depicted famous contemporary Irish musicians such as Sinead O'Connor, Van Morrison, the band Thin Lizzy ("The Boys Are Back In Town"!), Bono, Bob Geldorf, and others...in fact Garvin sang an accapella version of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" which was pretty cool...he also sang some other song by somebody we didn't know...but was pretty impressive. There really is something to that stereotype of Irish people loving to sing, and having a song for every occasion!
We made our way to our third pub...The Whiskey Palace!
This did NOT sound like an Irish pub, and I was all set to be disappointed. Boy was I wrong...this was a little slice of heaven on earth! We walked up a very steep and narrow staircase to a tiny dark pub (no windows) the small bar was at one end, and at the table at the other end, was the most amazing group of musicians! The traditional Irish music they were playing was not to be believed! If any of you are in Dublin, I would really suggest you visit this place. It as wonderful. We were the only Americans in the place, but by this time we were considering ourselves native Dubliners (must have been all those beers and whiskeys clouding our judgement!)
As the evening went on, several gentlemen came up to sing (I think the beer might have had something to do with it!) There was one guy in particular who was a great Irish tenor! Another guy started singing from the back of the bar...he was doing great, but suddenly forgot the words (also related to beer consumption I'm afraid!). But without missing a beat Garvin started singing, helping his buddy out! It was a very sweet moment. As it turns out, when Gary had been at the bar with Garvin, ordering our ciders, this same friend of Garvins had commented on his Donnegal tweed sport coat, and had even asked to try it on...so they had switched coats briefly at the bar! Here is Garvin singing (check out that highly coveted sport coat!)
Ahh...the musicians! There were 2 sisters, one playing a little old accordion, the other playing a mean fiddle. Those are the cute brunette and blonde in the back center. Two other fiddles and an acoustic guitar rounded out the band! This was all acoustic...no amplification. The old guy with his back to us playing the fiddle was on an oxygen tank, but it didn't hinder his fiddle playing at all. The guitar player did most of the singing. We were lucky enough to snag one of the 4 tables in the place...and it was right in the front! If you have ever heard The Chieftans, that is the kind of music this group was playing...and everyone in the place was keeping the beat with their feet...all our feet provided the beat and percussion for the songs. This was not a real band...we learned it was called "a proper session",sort of an impromptu drop in group of friends. Garvin says they play for the fun of it, and get paid in beers! At this point Lenore and I switched to hard cider...oh so tasty! I'm going to have to find some of this stuff at home!
As it turns out, Garvin had intended to take us to a fourth pub, but we all agreed that this was such a great spot and the music was so phenomenal, we didn't want to leave! So we ordered MORE cider, beer and whiskey and settled in for more great music. Garvins girlfriend joined us and I'm sorry we didn't get a photo of her...she was adorable! She was from Croatia, named Vinnje, an artist, working at Starbucks (which she couldn't wait to quit!).
I can't even begin to explain what fun we had...it was just one of those rare magical experiences that I feel so lucky to have had...and to have shared with Gary and Lenore made it even better! THIS was the REAL Ireland, with real Irish people...we were the only Americans in the bar. The only downside is that Ron (the beer drinker in our group!) couldn't join us. He would have loved the beer and music. I'm only afraid this wonderful, magical, night has spoiled me for all future "Irish pub experiences" .... Darn you Garvin - you did your job too well!!!