Ireland has some of the most friendly people I have encountered during my travels; and they really enjoy chatting it up. My advice to anyone planning a trip Ireland is to strike up a conversation with the locals. To get the conversation going, all you need to do is ask a simple question, because you are sure to get more than just a simple answer. Often, you will receive a warm and friendly conversation that makes you feel as though you are speaking to a long lost family member.
On this particular evening I was enjoying a stunning drive through Killarney National Park with Josh, and my sister. This is an absolutely gorgeous part of the countryside, and I highly recommend driving a car around Ireland so you can explore the area and stay a few days. We decided to stop in the picturesque town of Kenmare. It was a chilly weekday evening, and the town was nearly empty as we wandered around.
After strolling through some shops and exploring an ancient stone circle near town, we decided to grab a pint of Guinness at a local pub. Funny thing, I have never had the desire to drink a full glass of Guinness before; however, this dark beverage is a must if you visit the Emerald Isle. I’m not sure if it’s the cold, windy weather, or just the local atmosphere and devotion to the beverage, but the Guinness most definitely tastes better over there!
We stepped into Crowley’s Bar and immediately knew we were in a real Irish Pub. The walls were painted with a deep orange color, covered by layers of smoke. It was a small establishment, with dark brown stools and benches that outlined the walls. The pub was empty with the exception of a family with a few small children. It was obvious that they must have been close friends or family of the owners by the way they were hovering around the bar and chummy with the employees.
It’s a little strange when you come from The States and are not used to this part of the culture; the pub is a normal gathering place for the whole family, including kids. At first we felt slightly awkward when we walked in because we thought we were intruding on a family event, but then the bartender cheerfully greeted us and called us over for a beverage. After ordering, we decided to sit and chat with the friendly bartender, Sheila.
Upon learning that we were from The States, Sheila told us that she had gone backpacking once in the Grand Canyon. She loved it all except for one thing, “the fecking squirrels!” We giggled cautiously and did a double-take because we weren’t quite sure what she said through her thick Irish accent, until she said it again. Upon which, we erupted in laughter and Sheila continued to explain that no matter what she did to keep them out, the squirrels would find a way to get into her rucksack and eat all of her nuts and other snacks.
Egged on by our reaction to her story, she continued to re-emphasize it over and over again, using exaggerating body gestures and shaking her head and finger at those “fecking squirrels.” Now, let me pause here for those of you who think I’m implying some form of cursing; “feck” in Irish actually means “to steal.” However, I won’t deny that the similarity to a certain curse word contributed to our laughter in the situation.
We ended up staying at the Pub much later than we had planned, and continued to share laughs with our new friend at Crowley’s Bar over a few more pints. We listened while the talkative local told us more humorous stories and shared some tips about the area and Irish culture. No one else came into the pub, and we were the only non-locals inside; yet, we never felt out of place.
That’s the thing about Ireland, at some point you will become so immersed in the experience that you will no longer feel like a simple visitor; instead you will feel like you are a part of this magical land yourself. As for the next time I visit the Grand Canyon, I am sure to remember that valuable piece of advice from my Irish friend, Sheila…beware of those “fecking squirrels!”