Since we were in Ireland visiting family, we got to experience some things that the average tourist might not. And, conversely, Andy's family got to do some touristy things that they might not normally do as residents of Dublin!
This past Saturday night, we all piled into cars and headed up into the Dublin mountains to Johnnie Fox's, "the highest pub in Dublin."
We had reservations for their renowned Hooley Night, a multi-course meal of traditional Irish fare followed by live music and a set by some Irish dancers. We sat crowded into long tables in a room with tourists from all over the world! The experience was what we might call "hokey" over here, but since it was unique to me I enjoyed it (though the show went on rather long!). I branched out and had steamed mussels for my first course (I wonder if they bought them from Molly Malone?) and then lamb stew for my main course. For dessert I tried the Whiskey Gateaux, and lemme tell you, it had some whiskey in it! It was fun hearing some of the traditional songs that I knew and others I didn't. In one song in particular I could really hear the influences that led to the creation of bluegrass and the likes. And the dancers were fabulous. I don't even know how anyone can move their feet that fast! My seat was right at the front of the small stage and I think I flinched every time they did a high kick! It was a fun experience all around.
The next morning we headed out to a Dublin suburb of sorts to watch Andy's cousin's boyfriend (whew, that's a mouthful!) play in a hurling match. In my mother's words, "What in the heck is hurling?!" The best way I can think to describe it is that it's kind of like lacrosse, only you're balancing the ball on a wooden paddle instead of in a net. It's a pretty rough game, and helmets have only been compulsory for the past year or two!
Here's a video that explains it a bit:
There's a well developed club sport system in Dublin and surrounding areas that people are very into, so a lot of the guys on this team have been playing together for awhile. There was a wicked cold wind the morning we went, and I hadn't exactly brought clothes suited for standing outside watching a sporting event, but it was fun nonetheless. Since you're just standing on the sidelines, not sitting in bleachers or anything, there are times when the players and/or the ball are coming right at you! I definitely didn't really understand what was going on most of the time, but I felt like it was an "authentic" Irish weekend experience.
We went to a restaurant afterwards to warm up, and I discovered the concept of a "carvey." It's basically like the concept of Sunday dinner after church here: many places have a buffet with multiple kinds of meat (the carvery) and a big spread of sides. They even had dressing with cranberry sauce! While none of us went whole hog and had the carvey, I did have the vegetable plate, and it was reminiscent of a good ole Southern plate. The tea was also free-flowing, brought to the table in big pots that allowed each of us to have several cups.
That pretty much wraps up our trip. We were up way early the next morning to head home. We were so efficient in getting to the airport and getting checked in that we were waiting outside customs before it even opened for the morning! Our flight was uneventful--I watched way too many movies--and we had the afternoon on Monday to begin getting back into the swing of things. It's been just a normal week, making it kind of surreal to think that just a few days ago I was in an entirely different country. I am again just so thankful that we were able to go!