Chasing leprechauns

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Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin. Our tour guide exerting all his Irish enthusiasm to talk about how one many ripped off an entire city of poor people in a brilliant business move by erecting this bridge and standing in the middle, charging people for passage. They’re all pretty proud of the story, it sounds like.

I know I promised I was done with my Ireland stories, but I forgot to write my list of stereotypes, confirmed and disproved – per tradition! So wet the tea and get ready for some craic!

  1. Yes, the Irish drink a lot.

Although it should be noted that most of the not-sober individuals I met in Dublin were tourists, I can personally attest, after a week of traveling through every corner of the country, that the Irish can throw back a pint like a kid tosses a juice box. While pubbing in west Ireland in the middle of the afternoon, I saw five Irishmen between the ages of 29-71, down 16 pints of ale and beer – and that was just for the hour and a half that I sat there trying to finish my own drink.
“Does this town have an industry?” I asked the gentleman to my right. “What do you do?”
“Drink,” he responded with a pleasant smile.
Cheers, and another round was poured.

  1. No, the Guinness is not the king of beer.

I don’t actually think I saw a single Irishman drinking Guinness during the total duration of my stay (though our Dublin tour guide did say with some pride that he only dates girls who can handle a Guinness properly). I had several and they are good – very strong, slightly bitter. The stouts were better; smoother and sweeter. Most of the natives I noticed drank Smithwick’s, a red ale from Kilkenny. It’s gorgeous. It fizzles like a cider but has a fuller taste. By my last day in Dublin, I had given up the touristy instinct to order Guinness and settled for the much friendlier ale. My only regret was knowing that our tour guide would probably never date me for it.

  1. Yes, the Irish are hilarious.

The Irish are a bunch of jokers. The gullible and insecure should refrain from spending too much time in this country because you will find yourself the butt of every joke. I should mention that complimenting an Irishman is not wise, either. He will laugh at and / or insult you for it. I don’t think the Irish ever really grow up (at least not the men), which probably accounts for both their charm and their tendency to behave like eleven-year old boys (and I teach enough eleven-year olds to recognize the signs).
On that note, maybe don’t mention to the Irish that they’re funny because they’re Irish.
“Why can’t I be funny just because I’m actually a funny guy?” asked our tour guide with a smile, half playful, half indignant. I insisted it was the Blarney. He insisted I walk in the back of the line.

  1. No, they don’t “hate” the English.

I was told multiple times that the British are “alright.” Anyone in a position to comment, though dispatching a few well-aimed jabs at their tumultuous history with the Brits, insisted that it was all water under the bridge.

  1. Yes, they do basically hate the English.

“Do you know T’hatcher?” asked a very drunk little Irishman in a thick brogue. I shook my head. “T’haaaatcher,” he said again. “Margaret T’hatcher, the bloody woman from England.”
Ah. That Thatcher.
The little Irishman looked me in the eye as straightly as his sobriety levels would allow. “If I were in Northern Ireland right now, do you know what I’d do?” He took a sip off the top of his pint. “I’d blow up a car.”

  1. No, they are not all red-heads.

They do drink and they do sing, but the Irish are actually pretty dark-complexioned. Dark, brooding hair and thick eyebrows. Not all of them are exceptionally pale, either – though some of that may just be weather-wear. Only their eyes are light. Crisp, clear, cutting eyes that are full of merriment, mischief and magic. If you want to find a rainbow in Ireland, look someone in the eyes.

  1. Yes, leprechauns do exist.

It took four days before Ireland finally showed its true colors and gave me a real rainy day (and then that’s all it gave me for the rest of my trip). It took six days for me to finally catch a rainbow. I never did get to see a fairy or a will-o’-the-wisp. But I saw a Leprechaun my very first evening. A short little man with eyes that danced and jokes that could curdle milk. He laughed a lot (at us, mostly – and at the British, and the Irish government, and the weather). And he sang. If he wasn’t talking to one of us, he was humming a tune from this song or that. Skipping along the street, he had all the mirth of a school boy. So yes. If there are leprechauns still in Ireland, our Dublin tour guide is one of them. And I saw him with my own eyes.

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