Day 7: Birthday Treats

Much as we loved Kilkenny, we wanted to have as much of a day as possible in Dublin, so we packed up first thing, had breakfast at the B and B and set off. We cruised into town around noon and handed the car over to the Merrion staff to park.

Being generally overstuffed, we skipped lunch and headed out in search of a traditional waxed cotton raincoat for Jose. We couldn’t find the shop Beth and Cathy had been to last year so we crossed the river to Arnott’s where we spurned some 350-Euro versions. Then we went around the corner to see the historical exhibit at the General Post Office.

The exhibit opened last year to rave reviews and big crowds, and we could see why. It offers a lively and balanced view of the Easter Rising, incorporating a much wider view of the national and world context than we’d encountered before. They had a great series of video interviews with historians offering different perspectives on the seminal event of Irish independence, including one who drily notes, “Nobody cares about the poor people who were burned in their houses. We only remember the people who were executed, who had their names on a proclamation.” (Two guesses what gender she was.)

We spent at least a couple of hours poring over the exhibits before emerging into the giftshop which was, ironically, packed with the kind of Easter Rising swag that is harder to buy after you’ve been through a thoughtful exhibit that examines all the angles of the Easter Rising.

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Afterward we headed back to “our” side of the river for dinner at the Pig’s Ear. On the way we found the coat shop and got a waxed coat for a much more reasonable price.

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The Pig’s Ear was delectable — more challenging than the hearty comfort food at Hatch, but delicious and rewarding, with little dollops of intense sauces and surprising curls of pickled things. We got a bit lost afterward going across the river again to the Gate Theatre, and speed-walked the last mile or so to arrive just in time.

We saw Noel Coward’s Private Lives, which has not aged well. Honestly, it was hard to understand how watching a couple bicker and actually beat on each other for two hours could ever have seemed like a fun time. 

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When we arrived back at the Merrion, there were roses in the room and champagne on ice for Cathy’s birthday! We toasted to another great trip, and I was tempted to call it a night, but I couldn’t get on the plane the next morning without taking one more trek around the corner to O’Donoghue’s. I had studiously avoided making the success of the trip dependent on getting a chance to play in a seisun — but I wanted a little more time to enjoy real live Irish music.

O’Donoghue’s was packed and while the playing wasn’t quite up to the incredible standards of last year’s crew, it was still very good. I ordered one last Paddy’s and had a brief chat with a young woman in front of the bar — for some reason people always congratulate you when you order whiskey in an Irish pub. The band tore into the Pogues’ Dirty Old Town and I was tempted to join in but I haven’t played that one in a long time. Then they launched into a traditional tune that I know well, although I couldn’t put a finger on the name. I couldn’t help whipping out the whistle and trying to follow along, although I never quite caught up with it.

The players immediately made room for me and the concertina player to my right asked me what tunes I knew. I named the three tunes I’d been practicing and after a brief consultation with the fiddler next to him he said they’d play Lilting Banshee. When the next tune ended he signaled the seisun leader to let me start it. I explained that I’d been to the pub a year ago and loved the music so much I was inspired to take up the whistle. The leader said he remembered me — we had spent a long time with them last year and put a lot of euros in the kitty, so it was a dubious but not inconceivable claim — and that “What happens in O’Donoghue’s stays in O’Donoghue’s.” Come to think of it, we were in O’Donoghue’s. But whatever!

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I was so excited/tipsy I blew too hard and started the tune a whole octave too high, but once people joined in I settled down and got through. A tune or so later a guitarist showed up and I gave him my seat. I was surprised to see Cathy in the crowd so we finished our drinks together. Then everyone sang “Fields of Athenry” and the seisun leader took my photo with the concertina player and fiddler, and it was time to go to bed — elated but heavy with the knowledge of what was to come.

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Author: Trish Anderton

I am a nonprofit communicator, Red Sox fan and amateur streetfoodologist. Once upon a time I worked for the Jakarta Globe & Jakarta Post.

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