Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water's roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool's triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?
-- W. B. Yeats, 1916.
One of the greatest poets whose literature we read as kids. And, we were always led to believe he was English, meaning British. But, he really is Irish. Born in Dublin.
I am not really a poetic soul, even though I may be moved to a semblance of it sometimes. But, I do appreciate playing with words and being able to capture the transitional into a more concrete art form like literature, music, humor. And, according to IDA Ireland's latest commercial, the land possesses all that; the gab, the glint and the wit. So, I decided to check it out for myself. I was also inspired by some Irish food bloggers on Instagram and those I met at FBC 2013. The idea of living off the farm is just honestly becoming ever more appealing. I am not growing old, just wise. Dare you say otherwise! Besides, I was very curious about this phenomenon of Dublin.
I started in Dublin and spent a total of 5 days in the land of spuds with a couple of days of retreat in Cork county where I got a good healthy dose of the rugged Irish landscape and blessed self-sustained country living including eating off the land and noshing on honest tomatoes!
It started with a surprise. Let me explain. You see, the typical weather is supposed to be cool when you are comfortable with a wrap on and make it a wet proof one, as it is likely to sprinkle a bit at some point in the day. For the days I was there, it was all barmy and clear skies. Not a spot of rain. Brilliant weather indeed for a roll around the city and country. My visit coincided with the only heat wave they have had in 20 years! I came back to a cooler NYC with a deep tan and believe you me, I didn't need any more brown in me.
Now, if you were any history buff, you would have immediately caught on that I visited two rivaling counties! Dublin and Cork have had a long standing rift on who the real heir to Ireland is. Thing is, as they tend to do in this land of ballads, they start nationalistic or countyistic, drink a lot of Guinness (Dublin) or Murphys (Cork) and then forget the whole point of the conflict and go about storytelling, singing and dancing. And, so, the question hangs, until the next football (Gaelic) clash. A good-natured lot these and who can deny them a bit of discord.. not like they are feeding the IRA, right? Right!
So, anyway, I landed in Dublin, armed with a list of places to eat and foods to taste. The black pudding was up there! Then there was lamb, fish, cheese and oh yes, the potatoes :). Staying at a hostel that was centrally located was convenient. Nearly, everything is in walking distance. So, it was only a matter of a couple of days and I was done walking High street several times, through Trinity College, into the fancy barrister ridden parts of the city, cut through the parks and settled for a glass of local wine accompanied by some spectacular local food cooked with passion for the dish and the land.
During my stay, I have to say, I encountered a lot of passion. The Irish are well very proud of their Irish and Catholic heritage. Rome may find them too North to bother with, these days, but they love the pope. No, not the German one. He was a bit unconventional and difficult to understand! (well, he was German after all) The others, especially the ones from 100 or so years ago. I reckon the Brazilian isn't making much inroads in their hearts either.
There is an interesting culinary movement going on in Dublin. The trend of local is catching on and quite a few places are making their name on that tag line. Fortunately, they are able to deliver very well on that promise. Unfortunately, it comes at a very steep price. I found it very curious that the average meal there cost more than a equivalent one in Manhattan (a far more expensive city on the living index scale) even discounting the currency effect. Now, that leads me to muse upon the fiscal state of the country but this is not place for it. Suffice it to say, you had better go with your pockets full.
After a couple of days of city beat, I was yearning for the country side and some natural beauty. Three hours South it was thus to Cork, a county that benefits from the proximity to the sea and held to the country by rugged hills. It's a stunning part of the country with the warmth of the sea currents lending to a milder weather throughout the year. As you sit by the water, surrounded by ancient forest and unmoving hills, it is very easy to feel at peace and one with the world. It is a feeling that one feels when in any largely untouched piece of nature and after the urban chaos that is every day, such a break is not just rejuvenating but also invigorating.
The land is storied by spirits and ancient myths and it is hard to not catch a whiff of that heady wind and drift away into a land of dreams and castles. I caught myself several times day dreaming of running through the land, free spirited and laughing with the glint of soft setting sun reflecting in my hair and creating a halo of warmth and good cheer. I want that! Ok, I then woke up and realised it was a dream but I was still amidst some splendid beauty. Thank God for that! I still remember that dream... vividly :)
So that was the fabled land. It was interesting, inviting and entertaining! Also, if you are in Cork, don't miss the Middleton Whisky tour. Ironically, Jameson, a Dublin born Irish whisky maker moved their distilling operations to Cork several years ago and the Jameson Distillery in Dublin, now is just a tourist shell! :)
Footnote: I like Murphys better than Guinness. No offense to anyone... :)
Restaurant list at end of post.