What an amazing journey it was. If you ever get the chance to hangout with 90 of your 10th cousins for a weekend, I highly recommend it. The family reunion featured a harp ensemble, Irish step dancers, a trip to the ancestral estate, and a gala dinner on the Kinsale harbor. It was magical. The photo above was taken in the graveyard surrounding the Church of Ireland in Nohoval where they hosted a special "welcome home!" service for our family. Everywhere we went we were asked to "mind the nettles and the brambles," as they really are quite painful.
I want to tell you, however, about one of the most special hours of the trip. There were many, many special memories, so I have to break them up into time increments in order to not feel the pressure of picking favorites. We had a very special two hours with my parents in the Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, and I had a very special evening singing with a group of very drunk Irishfolk in a bar in Kinsale. Let me tell you, though, about one of the most special single hours of the trip for me. Indeed, it also involves drinking.
To set the scene: we are in Kinsale, County Cork. It's a small and charming harbor town with a medieval town center. It's early June. The weather has been mostly warm and sunny, but the winds have changed and it is suddenly quite cold and a misty rain is falling. You have just returned from a bus trip around the countryside and you have one hour before you have to be at dinner. You decide to take a walk around town.
It's a great town. It's full of colorful buildings and quirky shops. As you walk, however, the rain starts coming down harder and harder until you are standing right in the middle of a proper Irish summer storm.
You are cold. You are wet. Then suddenly you see the Grey Hound.
The Grey Hound seems to reach its old (established 1690!), weathered, metaphorical hand to you and draw you into the warmth of the pub. There are four other people in the place, and they are all standing watching the soccer game on the TV. You take a seat at the bar and look around. The lights are down low, but they throw a warm glow on the peeling red and green paint on the walls. None of the light fixtures matches. There are nautical-themed decorations on the walls. The marks on the old wooden bar reveal that many pints have made the journey from the publican's tap to the customer's hand. You decide to add a mark to the bar.*
*This is not true, you used a coaster because you are not a barbarian.
You get a Murphy's, your wife gets a Jameson on the rocks. You can hear the rain tapping on the window next to you, but you are warm and happy in the pub listening to four brogues discussing the Euro Cup. There is no place in the world you would rather be than leaning on this mottled bar with your love and your pint of Murphy's.
When you ask to settle up, you realize that you have exact change for your drinks. No more, no less. Clearly, fate brought you to this pub.
Less than an hour later you are back at the hotel ready for dinner, full of beer and full of the happiness one finds so quickly in Ireland.