20 July 2009

July in Ireland

Mark joined me at the tail-end of a whirlwind business trip in Ireland(to be honest, there’s really never any other kind) to spend the first weekend in July in Cork and Co. Kerry.

Mark arrived on Thursday night, and I was pretty wired about an important sales presentation the next day. That meant a pretty mellow evening, but we still stumbled upon a great bar, Pavilion. It’s an old art-deco movie theatre, and the upstairs features dancing and live acts while the downstairs boasts a long bar, cool lights, and plenty of seating on the sidewalk outside. We enjoyed a pint or two of the local brew, Murphy’s (amazing, it was introduced to me by Char in Montreal as the best way to close out a cinq à sept) while waiting for a table to open up across the alley, at a little Mexican restaurant. The food (and company) was great, although we could have done without the play-by-play of the golf games of our nearest neighbors, an irritating foursome of US tourists.

The next day I went to visit a few customers while Mark worked from our not-so-great hotel room, until noon when he walked diagonally across the block to our mega-sweet-hotel room. We scored an awesome room with a last-minute booking on Expedia; the view was amazing, with a balcony overlooking the River Lee and much of the town, and only a few blocks away from High Street (the city center).

(On my way to the hotel, I swung by the airport and picked up our rental car. Normally, I would not bore you with these details, except: I got a Fiat. And some of you may be thinking - what do we have coming with the Chrysler buyout – and all I have to say is that I loved the Fiat Punto. It’s awesome, it’s little, it handled really well and I just loved it. Mark made fun of me for it, but I literally did a little dance every time we walked up to it in the parking garage.)

Friday night we had a few pints with my colleague Matt, who had a late flight back to Liverpool and thus got a chance to hang out with us and make us feel less anti-social. We spent some time in the sun outside Pavilion before grabbing some truly mediocre eats at an Italian restaurant nearby.

After we’d walked Matt back to the hotel to pick up his stuff and get a cab to the airport, we walked across the River Lee to another hopping area of Cork – this time, to find a bar we’d read about in a recent 36 Hours In… travel piece with in the Times. Unfortunately, we took a slight detour into a truly authentic old man bar. What is it with you and old man bars, Mark?

We don't have photos (Mark wouldn't let me) but there was two guys at the end of the bar, surrounded by a five foot wall of farts. They were incredibly drunk, but the reason they drew us in, the reason we politely ignored the aroma and initially didn’t notice the drool – were their hand puppets. One resembled a fox in a three piece suit, the other was a badger in similar attire, and they were both waving up in the air, singing Irish songs, and taking swigs of their own beer (resulting in some very wet sleeves). Amazing.

Anyway, we finished our beers rather quickly and headed down the street to the real attraction, Sin E. This pub used to be a barber shop, and still has barber chairs sprinkled about the place. It was full of people and had a great atmosphere from the moment we walked in. Mark grabbed a few pints, and we grabbed a few stools by the wall. We were seated right next to a corner table packed with a mixture of young and old fiddlers, flutists, drummers, and guitarists. We got comfortable and enjoyed the Irish music, played jam/jazz style, for a few more pints (and would have stayed longer, if only my head wasn’t drooping closer and closer to the bar).

The next morning we had a quick breakfast and got in the car for a trip to Killarney, in County Kerry. The family of Colin O’Sullivan, one of Mark’s friends from Japan, still lived in Killarney and Mark had met them years before, so we decided to take a drive. It took a few hours, but the countryside was beautiful and we got to have an quick visit with the O’Sullivans, which was great:

While we chatted with Colin’s family, I mentioned that my family was from the area, and they asked my surname. I was surprised to find out that Colin’s mom was a Brosnahan before she got married – and said, ‘wow, you’re like, family!’ The awkward silence that followed ensured that I stopped bringing up the whole family thing for the rest of the trip (really, how many Irish Americans do that? Cringe.).

We had a pub lunch before getting back in the car and heading toward Cork – and Mark was happy to find that we would make it in time for a visit to the Jameson distillery, in Midleton just outside the city.

It was actually really interesting, and we had a great time (but I could have done without the gazillion references to the ‘Jameson Experience,’ which was a bit cheesy). At the end, Mark volunteered to taste a variety of whiskeys and became a certified Irish whiskey taster! Seriously, we have the diploma and everything, so feel free to send all whiskey-related queries his way. It’s practically a PhD.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were both pretty tired but were trying to rally each other. But a 6-pack of Tuborg and two trays of sushi later, we were laid out on the bed flipping TV channels until we passed out. Only three cans into the six pack.

The next morning, we packed up our things and decided to go on one more road trip – to the end of the scenic drive along the southeast coast of Ireland. We basically headed toward Waterford (making it as far as Dungarvan) before ducking down a tiny road and following the farm roads back along the coast. I saw a bit of this on my last trip and was eager to show Mark, but I have to say that the view was way better at high tide.

All in all, we had an amazing time. I think we both had visions of moving to Ireland as we sat in the airport that Sunday, and we hope to head back soon.