When I set my mind to thinking of a night out in Ireland, I think of a cozy pub and a tall pint of dark stout. I think of warm sweaters, scarves and caps and perhaps a crackling fire. In my mind is the singing of wild Irish songs of love lost and legends of kings of old. To me, this is Ireland … the pub life, the community, the gathering, the kindred-ness.
And in some parts of Ireland, my impression is not far off. All along the West Country, in the small towns that dot the coast, or in some of the smaller places in the interior of the Emerald Isle, this is most definitely the case. It’s a place that time has not touched, where traditions have yet to be broken. But, in Dublin, this is not so. Dublin is an altogether different animal.
After spending three days gallivanting around the country, drinking pints, listening to music old and new, and having my eyes assaulted by every kind of Irish fisherman’s sweater imaginable, Dublin was a shock. The experience is not unlike any large European city like Paris or Amsterdam or Rome – the same beautiful architecture, the shared continental history, the bevy of obnoxious American tourists (guilty!). Along the main “tourist” thoroughfares though, it didn’t seem touristy, at least not to me – at first. It was Irish culture to the max: Irish songs pouring out of pubs, pints of chocolate brown stout flying down the bar into the hands of waiting patrons. It was an American’s dream of Ireland.
But this wasn’t the real Dublin … I smelled a rat.
So, I started asking around – waiters in restaurants, a girl in a shop. Where should I go? Where do they go to grab a drink or have a bite? I knew that in their answers I would find the real Dublin, the local’s Dublin.
And their advice was stellar. Out of the smoky, Irish sing-songy bars and out onto the streets, past the major tourist haunts, I found myself on Dame Street, or on Dawson Street, where the only accents heard were those of the Dubliners. Dressed to the nines, listening to the latest American music in clubs that would rival any of those found in Vegas, New York or L.A. These places were swank.
My husband and I sat down on a tufted leather sofa, underneath a series of chandeliers gleaming and glimmering above us. The music was like something out of The Great Gatsby, but with a stronger backbeat. My own black dress felt conservative next to the rave-ready tube dresses and stilettos, and all of the men wore a suit and tie – a far cry from the scenes in my imagination. The only thing that matched my prior assumptions was that coffee-colored stout that everyone is so happily pouring and sipping, with the occasional Irish hard cider thrown in for good measure.
We hop from place to recommended place, people-watching, oohing and aahhing over the stately Georgian style buildings surrounding us. The bite of the wind at night pushed us back into the warmth and comfort of the next pub or club. And although it isn’t the Dublin of my fantasies, it is still a place of community, of gathering and kindred-ness. This is the real Dublin, the modern Dublin … and between the Guinness and glam, this city knows a good night out on the town.