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Celtic Night

June 5, 2008

Avalon Detail

corey says…Well, I survived my night in the hostel…of course it wasn’t without some excitement, but before I get to that I have plenty of other things to tell you about.

I stepped off the bus just after 5pm, so there was plenty of hustle and bustle of the city, but it wasn’t nearly as busy as I had seen it in the past. The bus let me off near the O’Connell monument, so I hiked across O’Connell Street, passed Trinity College, along Grafton Street near St. Stephan’s Green and then on a side street to Avalon Hostel. The building is gorgeous from the outside. Inside, it is similar to other hostels I’ve stayed. The common areas are busy, the rooms are filled to the brim with bunks.

The lounge here is very roomy and there were loads of people. However, most of them were working on their laptops, using the computers provided, reading or enjoying quiet conversation, so it wasn’t noisy at all. Later, a fella was playing his guitar (it’s such a stereotypical hostel scene).

My room was a twelve-share. Four bunks lining the room’s perimeter and then a small spiral staircase leading to a loft that had two more bunks. None of my room mates were around, but that is pretty common at hostels…nobody hangs out in the room.

I had plans for the evening, so I opted to leave my pack on my bed (I could have locked it up, but figured I’d chance it…a pack full of unfashionable clothing isn’t usually at risk for theft in a hostel). Meanwhile, I took the laptop and recording equipment in my other pack…that stuff, I couldn’t afford to lose.

It was already 6:15 by the time I was situated, and I had made plans for something I had never done before. An evening of Food, Folk and Fun presented by Johnny Daly.

I hoofed it over to the Brazen Head Pub…one that claims to be Dublin’s oldest. In all my trips, I hadn’t stopped by the Brazen Head, so it was good to be exploring this landmark. It’s a nice place with an old fashioned courtyard and wonderfully dark wooded walls. The perfect place for a pint, and tonight I would enjoy that and a whole lot more.

Upstairs, Johnny sets up for the night. On this evening, there was a cozy group of 12…nine from Australia (and can you believe they weren’t all traveling together), two Canadians and me representing the USA. We were split between two tables, and the conversation amongst all of us came quite naturally.

Our drink orders were taken as were our meal choices, while Johnny introduced the evening and began immersing us in Irish culture, folklore and a great deal of history. As Louise next to me said, “My grandfather was Irish, I was taught by Irish nuns and this evening really filled in a lot of gaps for me.”

I knew exactly what she meant. We grow up with so many stories about the Irish and Ireland, but somehow, there are loads of details that are missing. This evening does a great job of filling those in while celebrating the creativity, ingenuity and perseverance of the Irish…as well as their gift of storytelling.

After Johnny introduced us to the Potato Famine and the course of events that led up to it, we were all ready to dig into our starter. I chose the soup, but the fishcakes and the salads with egg looked like delicious options as well.

Then Johnny returned to give us the inside scoop on all that fairy lore that captures our imagination…especially how the fairies have managed to take the blame or the credit for so conditions that affect the human world. I must say, I was very pleased to hear Johnny provide a context for these myths and legends.

On cue, the main course arrived. I opted for the pasta with a sauce loaded with cream and butter…tasty, but oh so unhealthy. The Irish stew looked good, and if I liked fish, I think I would have enjoyed the Atlantic cod…it looked delicious.

Over dessert, Johnny continued with a blend of old and new legends that had us mesmerized with all the sweet goodness of great folk lore and a tasty dessert.

I had very high expectations for this evening…in fact, on the walk over I was accruing a list of things I was hoping it would not end up being. My biggest concern was that it would be “puttin’ on the Irish.” You know the kind…they taunt you with diddle-dee-dee music, and then some half-leprechaun, half-lecher tells stories as if he’s half-in-the-bag.

Thankfully, it was among the most authentic experiences out there. And it’s kept simple. The program relies on Johnny’s finely-honed story telling skills, and I’d say every person in the room would have sat there all night listening to him if they could. However, our three hours with Johnny left us all feeling a bit more knowledgeable and quite suspicious of every mound of earth and any solitary tree…could it be the home of the fairies?

I was fortunate to enjoy a pint with Johnny afterwards. He’s as charming one-on-one as he in front of the group. Ends up, groups of 12 or 20 are common and even during peak times the groups sizes wont exceed 50. The intimate nature of the evening makes it memorable. The evening is suitable for anyone over 8, but I’d probably say those 13 and up will appreciate it most of all. The quality of the food was good, the content provided a perfect primer for anyone visiting Ireland and at €45 ( $69 ) I’d say it was a good value (dinners in Dublin will likely run you €20-50).

After I walked out of the Brazen Head, I looked down at my watch 12:10am. I had no idea it was that late! I made my way back to the hostel. The common area had several people mulling about.

I used my key card to open the front door, then the door to the hall, then the door to the stairwell…I’ve noticed that hostels in Dublin work very hard to maintain security. When I reached my room, five of the eight downstairs beds were full (who says hostels are filled with up-all-night party-goers).

I crawled into the crisp, clean sheets, put my head on the deflated pillow and listened to the breathing around me. No one was snoring…yet…but it was impossible to forget I was in a room full of people. It was about five minutes later when I heard the first snore. Ten minutes after that, the second could be heard. Neither were obnoxiously loud, but being a light sleeper, it made falling asleep a challenge.

About two hours after I arrived, two girls from the loft walked in. They turned on the light, which is always annoying, but if they didn’t have a flashlight, I’m sure it was the only safe way to get up the stairs.

At 4:30am light was just starting to come in through the window and one of the guys in a bunk in the loft tiptoed in.

At 5:15am the room was pretty well lit, and I knew I wouldn’t sleep another wink. Of to the shower room I went. I locked myself in the little stall and pushed the button for the water…COLD! Two minutes later it was still cold, so I decided I just had to dive in…BRRRRRR! About a minute into my shower, the hot water finally found its way to my floor. It was a perfect temperature now. I guess I should have considered that I was likely the first shower of the day.

Now, I might be a bit weary, but I’m ready to great the world. Only problem is that the light breakfast here isn’t served until 7:30…so I still have another 20 minutes before I eat. I think I’ll spend that time looking into where I might end up sleeping tonight. From my experience, the first night in a hostel is the worst. After that you’re so tired, you’ll sleep through anything, but I don’t plan to stay in a hostel tonight…I really want a good nights sleep.

Not sure what today’s agenda will include…let me know if you have any suggestions.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

One Comment leave one →
  1. Merlene permalink
    June 5, 2008 4:34 PM

    We did Johnny Daly’s Food, Folk & Faerie tour last September. I really enjoyed it, but would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so tired, and still had to get back to Malahide to pack for flight out next day. Our room was full. I think there were a bunch of golfers there. Johnny is a great storyteller.


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