Ireland holds a very unique place in American culture. A combination of our very Catholic birth-rate and a historical urge to emigrate that rivals many species of migratory bird has led to one in ten Americans being able to claim Irish heritage.
Saint Patrick’s day is when the other 9 get in on the act as well and celebrate the life of a Scottish guy we kidnapped by wearing green, drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol and eating the blandest food ever conceived by man. And this the year that we’re inviting you guys to do it back in the motherland.
2013 is the year of “The Gathering” an initiative to encourage all Irish emigrants and their descendants to come back home for a little while and celebrate their heritage (and in no way a cynical, transparent attempt to pull in some more tourism money into our economy).
So, it’s entirely possible that some of you are retracing the steps of your ancestors back to Ireland as we speak (except, you know, without all the typhoid and cholera). As Man Cave Daily’s resident expert on holidays that are celebrations of my country’s negative national stereotypes it falls to me to act as your guide to our nation’s capital: Dublin City.
Dublin is Ireland’s capital city located on the country’s east coast at the mouth of the river Liffey. The city started out as Viking settlement, a place where they could hang out and unwind after a long evening of raping and pillaging their way across the country. This began something of a trend with Dublin being generally used as the base of operations for whatever flavour of invader was currently playing “subjugate the population”, Ireland’s most popular game. After the Vikings, the Normans had a go and then the British monarchy decided that England could really use some more ginger, rebellious subjects (they’d grown bored of Scotland) and came across to start honing the tyrannical empire-building skills that would make them such a nuisance later on.
After 800 years of what I’ll refer here to as “shenanigans” Ireland separated from the UK. Dublin remained the capital because, say what you like about the British, but they’re pretty good at building that whole “infrastructure” thing.
Things to do/see:
If you arrive before St. Patrick’s day itself then there’s plenty in Dublin for you to keep you busy. Things like:
The Guinness Storehouse:
Ireland’s number one tourist attraction is an old brewery because some stereotypes are entirely justified. All joking aside though, the brewery is actually pretty culturally significant to the city. First of all the building has been there longer than America’s been a country (and contains roughly about as much history) and secondly the whole thing is actually a pretty cool day out.
The main atrium is actually the bottom of a 7-story pint glass that rises up through the centre of the building. Each floor starts a new section of the tour and has new things to look at until you reach the top. The top floor is the Gravity Bar, a circular glass pub with unparalleled views of the city where you’ll receive a free pint from people who actually know how to pour one.
You know a tourist attraction is good when the locals visit it too. I’ve been twice.
The Jameson Distillery:
I’m not really doing the stereotypes any favours with this list so far am I? But it just so happens that the Jameson distillery tour is pretty awesome as well (I might just be biased in favour of attractions that gave me a free drink at the end).
Like Guinness, Jameson have converted their old premises into a museum tour and, like Guinness, the tour is actually pretty interesting to the stage that I almost forgot about the free whiskey at the end. Almost
If you’re one of the lucky ones chosen at the start you also get to take part in a whiskey tasting where you can compare the Irish fire-water to its Scottish and American counterparts. I say “lucky” but the American stuff was what I would imagine getting kicked in the taste-buds by gasoline would feel like.
Ireland’s oldest university attracts thousands of tourists every year partially because it’s an esteemed seat of learning with great historical significance but mostly because it looks really, really pretty. I mean, it’s actually the place where the famous Book of Kells is displayed but it’s mostly known as “that place that looks a bit like a set from Downton Abbey.”
I should note that I went to the rival college so this entry is incredibly biased. Screw Trinity!
Dublin’s “cultural quarter” is a small area of preserved medieval streets and buildings that house a load of tourist-friendly bars. If you’re in town for a few nights then this is definitely a place to check out but only really as a way of easing yourself into things. It’s mostly just a relatively safe McDisneyland for out-of-towners. The only actual Irish people you’ll find here tend to be behind the bar.
Definitely check out one of the many, many trad (traditional Irish music) sessions and get yourself acclimatized to Guinness and potato-based foods but don’t spend the entire holiday there because most of the bars are ludicrously over-priced, especially on St. Patrick’s day.
A good rule of thumb for Dublin is to always look down. If you’re standing on ancient cobblestones then you’re probably being ripped off in some way.
Copper Face Jacks:
Not exactly a tourist attraction as such but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it. Copper Face Jacks, or “Coppers” as it’s more commonly known, is the city’s most infamous nightclub.
Coppers is open after all the other places are closed and is the place you go when you have been booted out of two other clubs for trying to vault the bar. If you designed a nightclub based on the last days of Rome then it would still be a classier place than Coppers. And I only use the word “nightclub” because “drunken sex dungeon” makes it sound more fun than it actually is.
Dublin also has many cathedrals, museums, markets and lots of other things for the historically inclined but since you’re coming over here for St. Patrick’s Day weekend I’m guessing you’ve got other things on your mind. So here’s some tips.
The Dos and Don’ts of Drinking in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day
Do: Get to the bar early
Dublin is home to a little over 1000 pubs but absolutely all of them will be jam-packed come the 17th. The parade is great and all but if you wait until it’s over before finding somewhere to go then you better get used to standing all evening huddled around the speakers in the corner.
Tables and places to sit will be a valuable commodity so I recommend going to the bar/toilet in shifts so that there’s always someone at your table to fend off chair-thieves.
Don’t: Get drunk in the first two hours
Get there early but remember! This is a marathon not a sprint. The day isn’t so much about getting totally blitzed as it is about the process of getting drunk. It’s about talking over pints with your friends, a gradual process. Going on the double vodkas at 2 O’Clock in the day will only end in tears.
So take breaks, drink water, remember to go out for food every now and again. Ireland welcomes careful drinkers because they’re easier to clean up after.
Do: Talk to people
Dublin is, on the whole, a fairly friendly place so strike up a conversation with the table next to you, chat to people at the bar. There’s enough alcohol flowing through the city on March 17th to make fast friends of anyone. As long as they follow the next rule…
Don’t: Talk about your Irish heritage
I don’t want to be mean but nobody really cares if you’re granny was Irish, especially not Irish people.
I seem to have this conversation about 5/6 times each year.
Well Intentioned American: Yeah, my Grandma’s Irish!
Me: Really? So is mine. I’m going to talk to someone else now.
It’s nothing personal. It’s just there’s really nowhere for that conversation to go beyond “oh really?”.
Don’t: Call it “Patty’s day”
Using the phrase “Patty’s day” in an Irish pub is basically like saying “I’m an ignorant foreigner with no knowledge of this country whom you can safely over-charge.”
Do: Buy me a drink
Seriously. I’m not going to waste this opportunity. I’ll be in Doyle’s pub opposite Trinity all the livelong day. I’ll be the pale guy with brown hair and an accent you won’t understand.
I’ll even let you tell me about how your granddad was from Tipperary…
Richy Craven is an Irish freelance writer and semi-professional idiot. He hopes this piece might land him a job at the Irish Tourism Board. You can check out more of his stuff over at Cracked, Zug or follow him on Twitter.