Third time is the charm with Ireland. My first two visits in 1998 and 2010 were fun and interesting, but both times I left puzzled at the Irish people’s reputation for warmth and friendliness. They were polite enough, but the average person we encountered on the street or at the pub seemed perfectly content with the friends they already had. Maybe I was expecting too much and projecting a weird, needy vibe. This time was different.
The economic recovery might have something to do with it, but everyone from the cab drivers to our airbnb host were cheerful, talkative and helpful. The whole city seemed to be riding high. Pubs, cafes, stores, streets and bike lanes all bustling. Ireland is not quite the Celtic Tiger that was shot down in the economic collapse of 2008 (that they partly blame us for). It’s now more like the Celtic Panther- stealthier, more cautious.
More than mere tourists, my wife Sandy, brother Bill and his wife Emma from San Francisco came to Ireland for my Nephew’s wedding. Michael met Tania in SF and followed her back to her home country of Ireland. They were married in Dublin’s City Hall with a two day reception filled with music, dancing, fueled by Guinness, Jameson’s and great food. Sadly, Sandy was sickened by a tainted carrot juice smoothie the day before the wedding and missed it all. So much for trying to be healthy.
Other noticeable changes in Dublin- the food, traditionally bland and starchy is now world class. Didn’t have anything less than excellent restaurant meals all week. The coffee culture is also now fully entrenched. And the weather was bizarrely balmy for early May- a small and fleeting consolation prize from global climate change.