Traveling alone on my first trip to Dublin (I would return about a week later in the company of five gentlemen), afforded me the opportunity to wander aimlessly through the streets, sort out my mental map of the city at a leisurely pace, pop into a cafe on a whim or take an hour to find the perfect meal, to even give up entirely and plop down for a Guinness (or two… or three) in lieu of dinner. Having no competing interests to deal with can be extremely liberating, and I find that going for a long walk is often my favorite way to get to know a new city… even if a bit lonely at times. Ultimately, I do probably favor my time spent in Dublin with my companions. Being in the presence of people who make you happy is a simple enough luxury at home; being able to travel abroad with them can be an extraordinary treat. But while I prefer the conversation and the mere existence of companionship, I cannot deny that there are obvious merits of having alone time in a new place.
My aimless wandering in Dublin lead me to The Celt, a pub on Talbot Street, which is north of the Liffy River and away from the chaos and throngs of tourists in Temple Bar. Though they serve food and I wandered in hungry around 9:15 PM, my state of indecision and my indifference towards my growling stomach had me opting for a Guinness and a seat at a small table where I could read Joyce and rest my legs. By the time I was ready for another round, a duo with a guitar and fiddle had begun to play and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere as long as there was music to be heard. The two young, handsome musicians energetically cycled through traditional Irish music, well-known Irish folk songs, classic covers, and even a rendition of Poker Face, which was surprisingly awesome. I put down my book and sat with a contented look on my face, Guinness in hand, until they finished at half eleven and I waltzed back to a good night’s sleep at my hostel.
The following evening, I began a similar quest for food and ambiance, stopping by several “traditional” pubs recommended by Lonely Planet, only to be disgusted by the presence of big screen TVs and disappointed by the lack of the craic I was searching for. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I headed right back to The Celt, where another night of live music was already underway, this time by a trio of a guitar, fiddle, and accordion. Though the offerings were similar, they were no less enjoyable than the previous night and I delighted in realizing I had already committed some of the Irish drinking/folk songs to memory.
Three of my favorites are Galway Girl, Whiskey in the Jar, and I’ll Tell Me Ma (Belle of Belfast City), and I’ve included versions of each below. Just imagine you are sitting in an Irish pub, beverage of choice in hand, and listening to a handsome young lad (or lass) play one of these to a tiny, but enthusiastic, crowd.