Seven Nights a Week
The two words I took away from Ireland were CRAIC and TRAD. Oh yea, and bap. Craic, of course, is informal chat, stories, lies, gossip that you might hear at a local Irish pub. "Dude, you Craic me up." A bap is a sandwich. Trad, is simply short for traditional Irish music.
What's nice about this trio of words is that you can get them all at once in most Irish pubs. Tonight, though we'll talk about Trad.
Our intro to Trad was in Dublin, the Celt, North of the Liffey. We were in this pub within an hour after checking into our room, 3pm. Jet lag? No way, it's happy hour in Dublin! We toasted our safe arrival and asked about the music later on. "Starts at 9:30 tonight, in fact it starts at 9:30 every night." the guy behind the bar said, as if that was the standard response to every tourist who walks through his doors. "We'll be back." we said, finished our pint, and walked through the doors.
Across the Ha' Penny Bridge, through Temple Bar, and into the classic Victorian era Long Hall pub. Walking the streets is our way of getting acquainted with a new city. Or maybe we were just trying to solve James Joyces' puzzle, How to cross Dublin without passing a pub? Impossible! Walked back into The Celt about 10:30 and the place was packed. One look and we decided we'll be back...tomorrow. Jet lag had set in.
Kilkenny offered something a bit different, at a decent hour. Happy hour at Kytler's Inn. A sign posted in the window of this haunted medieval tavern read, Claire Nolan, author of the biography of Alice Kytler, reads from her book The Stone, Sunday 4:30. Cool, I like scary stories. Took our pints over to a table and listened to Claire read from her book. She told tales of witchcraft, black cats, and burning at the stake. A perfect setting for spooks.
The heartbeat of Trad in Ireland is in Dingle. Whether you like the lamenting ballads or flutes and fiddles, there is always something for everyone in Dingle town. Seven nights a week. If you can stay up until about 10pm, An Droichead Beag( The Little Bridge)is a good place to start. The brightly painted yellow exterior welcomes you in. If you're lucky you can get a table up front, otherwise wander to the warm peat fire in back. A group of girls came through the back bar and one of them said, " I can't see the music." I thought to myself, wait a minute, I can't see the music either but I can hear it perfectly well.
In the"tidy town"of Westport, Matt Malloy's is the place to be. Matt Malloy is the owner of this pub and has been playing traditional Irish music for decades with The Chieftans. Matt and his flute weren't there that night, neither were we. Croagh Patrick wore us out.
Probably the most entertaining pub we stumbled upon was Peadar O'Donnel's, just outside the wall in Derry, Northern Ireland. After a long day of sightseeing the murals and Bloody Sunday Memorials, we were ready for some friendly banter among the locals. Ed, an ex-Pat, chatted with us as if he hadn't talked to an American in years. Couldn't tell if he was full of CRAIC or full of crap. Then there was the hugging Irishman, the Shrek lookin' guy who piled the chips(fries) on the bar, and Paul,the bartender, who kept the house in order.
The Trad started shortly after 11. There was a pipe, a fiddle, a squeezebox, and guitar. With pints on the table behind, the musicians who played them. The songs were lively, yet I'm pretty sure the lass playing the fiddle was asleep. She can probably play those songs in her sleep- seven nights a week. Just as we were ready to ramble, the jigs began. Dozens of pub patrons got up and danced the familiar Irish version of the Chicken Polka. We found our way back to bunks at Paddy's Palace(hostel) before curfew, 3am.
In Portrush we stayed up late for the music. Not quite Trad, but music nonetheless. A gal playing an acoustic guitar another singing Fleetwood Mac tunes. We were in bed early that night.
So if you're up for the nightlife in Ireland and tired of the same ol' CRAIC, have a bap and a nap, and head out later for some Trad. You can see it, seven nights a week.