This post was contributed by D.H.
“I’ve got to open my shirt collar for this one. Ok, 3…2…1… pull on the ropes!”
We yanked the white tassels at the same time, and the thick red curtains pulled aside to reveal – an extremely revealing photo of an early Irish protester. My travel buddy and I blinked in confusion.
“Great, got it on video! You guys enjoyed that, right?” The museum guide handed back my phone with a sleazy grin. “So, what are you ladies doing tonight?”
The sketch-o-meter was no longer blinking lazily in the back of my mind. It was full-on Code Red.
“We were just going to check out some pubs and walk around the city a little,” I said, keeping my voice casual.
When the super-cheeky, super-Irish, and super-loud museum guide told my friend and me to hang back after the tour ended, I assumed it was to gift us with more of the liquorice he’d been handing out to those who could answer his questions about Dublin history… not to be treated to an unasked-for showing of Ireland’s least-clothed.
He placed his (again, unasked for) hand on my shoulder and dug around in the pockets of his tweed suit for a pen.
“Here, just write your number down so I can meet up with you gaerls later! You two seem foon.”
Quirky accent aside, this was not my kind of pick up line. I hastily scribbled a fake number down, awkwardly high-fived his waiting palm, grabbed Brooke’s hand, and practically tumbled down the stairs into the loud, cobblestoned street.
“What was with that creep?” She said, hastily yanking on her coat. I just shrugged, but something about the whole situation didn’t sit well with me. Maybe my parents were right about the whole “You’re too young to go to Europe yourselves” argument? Was I overreacting? …and what was that flowery smell?
Turns out, the floral aroma was wafting through the bright green double-deckers from nearby Grafton Street. We nervously giggled at our own absurd panic at what would become to be known as the “Naked Portrait Incident” and browsed the shops while bobbing our heads to the Gaelic tunes being performed live outside the storefronts.
After a few hours of shopping, we flopped down on our king-sized beds in the Westin Dublin (If you haven’t listened to “Highs and Lows” by Andy Grammar, do it now. You’ll understand why we chose the grossly overpriced but richly storied hotel as our home base.)
“But seriously, that guy was so pushy! Should we not do the pub crawl tonight? What if we meet him?!”
“OH come on, what are the chances that he would join a Literary Pub Crawl? He LIVES here!”
We went back and forth like this for a while. The guided walking tour was leaving from the Duke Pub in 15 minutes. Luckily, we were centrally located, so when we finally decided to just Shut Up and Go already, we weren’t late at all.
Our illogical fear of bumping into a certain ginger-haired gentleman was immediately put to rest. The absolute SWEETEST group of elderly travelers was going to be our “crawl mates” for the evening!
The tour was absolutely fascinating. We strolled through the Temple Bar district of Dublin and visited pubs where great Irish literary masters scribbled and of course, downed some locally-made Guinness! In between each pint – I mean bar – our hosts, two trained actors, performed scenes from Irish theatre, which involved bursting into song and pulling unassuming strangers into their act.
When the guided tour was over, we were quizzed on some trivia about the Irish greats and the pubs’ history. Brooke and I proudly clutched our prize, a small bottle of the locally beloved Tullamore Dew, as we made our way to the bar that wasn’t included in the crawl because it was too… well, “touristy.”
After getting lost (We entered “Temple Bar” into our Google Maps, and ended up somewhere near the Liffey, a romantic river that runs through Dublin. We took in the view, breathed in the salty air, then wised up and entered “Temple Bar PUB” into the Map), we stumbled into the dimly lit, impossibly packed Temple Bar.
After elbowing some selfie-taking tourists out of the way, we ordered a vodka cranberry (me), a rum-and-coke (Brooke), and endured some brotherly teasing from the bartender for not “manning up” and sampling the Guinness.
*Spoiler Alert: That stuff was nasty to me. Save your $40 on the Guinness Storehouse tour and spend that cash at the Mint Bar in the speakeasy-like basement of the Westin Dublin! But if you like dark beers, then Guinness might be for you!*
We somehow scored the best seat in the house: two stools at a highboy right in front of the minuscule performance stage. Two middle-aged guys had their guitars out and were playing an eclectic set that featured everything from classic American jams like “Losing My Religion” or “Sweet Caroline” to heartwarming Irish classics like “Tell Me Ma” and “Drink the Night Away.”
The two performers had the whole crowd dancing, swigging, and head-bobbing along like college kids at a rager. I struck up a conversation with the musicians while we all waited on the eternal line at the bar during their break.
Turns out, they had never played together before! They were super-friendly and had a ton of questions about my native city, what my favorite parts of Ireland were, and what songs they should play next. I was a celebrity for the night.
“So, Dini from Broo-hoo-klyn. Any special requests?”
Alas, my taste in Irish music was woefully infantile… basically non-existent.
“Um… can you sing ‘Galway Girl’ by Ed Sheeran?”
“Oh, we’ll play ‘Galway Girl’ alright. Get ready for the original.”
The classic “Galway Girl” is actually a nursery rhyme-like jingle that’s been sung across the Emerald Isle for years. Brooke and I screamed like groupies when Shane dedicated the song to me. Watching every head in the bar turn in our direction, while he strummed the opening chords and flashed our table a conspiratorial wink, was one of the best moments of our trip.
We never did find out the duo’s full names. We’ll never find them on YouTube or buy their albums, despite trekking back to the Temple Bar Pub on our last day in Dublin to track down the musicians that made our last night in Ireland one of the most memorable of our lives.
In fact, none of the employees we spoke to even knew who we were referring to. Shane and Oliver were stand-ins for the standard Wednesday night act. They had never played at the Bar before and never came by to collect their checks.
Besides sharing a magical moment with a set of mysterious performers who were nowhere to be found, we shouted over the wind at the Cliffs of Moher, explored the magnificent, haunted Malahide Castle, gingerly crossed the rickety Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, and drank more beer than our American stomachs could handle.
But we both agree, no city since Dublin has felt half as magical…
and no locals have felt more like family than the Dubliners.
Meet DH: Hi! I live in Upstate New York. When I’m not working as a marketing manager, I volunteer for several organizations – and gain free trips in exchange! A win-win! Travel pet peeve: the lack of Kosher food options abroad. Get it together, Ireland! Keep up with me on IG.
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