If I could fit one abstract object into my suitcase and carry it back to Boston with me—besides Ireland’s incomparable beauty—it would be the country’s pub culture.
A night out on the town in Dublin can be exactly the night out everyone needs: relaxed. Champlain Abroad students are fortunate to be living in a city that is compact enough to walk no more than twenty minutes to a pub, and that there is an endless array of places to visit! After a long week of classes, sometimes the sweetest reward is a pint and trad music.
What’s wonderful about the pub culture in Ireland is that there is no sense of rush. Locals sit around tables with a beverage, possibly a meal, and enough conversation to last the night. On observation, there is an endless weaving through of people who head to the bar or visit another location in the tight space to say hello to friends who have caught their eye. It isn’t hard to engage with others when the air carries a hoppy atmosphere and everyone comes for the craic (in other words, the fun of it all!). Pubs maintain the art of social space, where people nurse a pint for at least thirty minutes and aren’t asked to leave or make room when the front door swings open with more patrons.
It can sometimes be difficult to find seating, depending on the time of evening and how many are in your group, but something always appears and squeezing into a corner of a pub together can be some of the most lasting memories. The comfort isn’t necessarily found in the seating, but in the surroundings.
Live music is the highlight of many of my experiences, and trad (traditional) music, especially. Some places offer a variety in music, including techno, rock, and fusion sounds. Others keep with tradition, and present anywhere from four to fifteen musicians. In this case, most pubs have a designated area for the musicians, declaring a booth or section reserved after nine or so in the evening.
There is very seldom an acknowledgement of the music’s start; instead, the players begin without asking for praise or recognition. The present moment sits in their laps as a symphony takes shape. Fiddles, tin whistles, mandarins, and bodhrán drums are key instruments, and can be found at almost every trad session. Pubs are generally small, more intimate settings, and these sessions help to perfect this well-formed community. The musicians play for the sheer love of it, mesmerizing patrons with its liveliness and uniqueness. What matters inside of pubs is not the dread of stepping into the rain later on, or the responsibilities that cram the mind—it is the music; it is the friends by your side and the culture you are writing your name on.
The pubs in Ireland have created for us who attend a lifestyle. For a few hours, life can be simplified and memories imprinted.
Go on in, escape reality, and tap your foot along to the rhythm of the songs.
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