Friday, February 02, 2007

Let's Go! Ireland

Speaking of Let's Go! travel guides, my favorite travel guides (once I've looked at the ones with all the pretty color glossy photos) are actually the Moon Handbooks. These guides provide excellent and often humorous historical commentary along with the kind of "local" tips that you'll need if you want to really enjoy the local flavor rather than the sugar coated touristy flavor of your destination. Of course, no travel guide beats having a real local that you trust to give you good inside information, but I've found the Moon Handbooks to be incredibly accurate and consistently good in terms of tips on how to spend your vacation time. These are the sort of travel guides that I can read just for pleasure; they include so much more than just a list of hotels, restaurants and sights to see (and often include ways to save a few bucks which I always appreciate). Anyway, that's the travel tip for the day.


My husband and I were watching the Travel Channel on Sunday afternoon, enjoying a tour of Cornwall England followed by Munich Germany (featuring many beer related activities). Not having time to visit either one, we did the next best thing to boarding a jet plane and crossing the pond. We drove 30 minutes west, to Weston, MO, a small quaint town of antique shops, gift shops and O'Malley's Pub, founded in 1842. O'Malley's is a wonderfully cozy, incredibly Irish pub. It is all underground, 5 rooms on 5 levels (all underground), connected by small tunnels, the dirt tunnel walls are now lined with limestone and/or bricks. The walls and ceilings are curved so that the rooms feel like vaulted outcroppings from the tunnels. The floors are also brick. Very cool setting!

Ah, Ireland. Anyone who has been there knows that the people are among the friendliest people on the planet. And everyone is familiar with the concept of the Irish Pub, a place where people gather, regardless of age, and drink and tell tall tales, and sing. There's no room for being uptight in Ireland. There's a pub on every corner and often in between. So it was with the right attitude that we took off for a short drive to Weston to sip Guiness on tap. Last week was the culmination of a few rough projects for me and I was feeling much more relaxed than I had in weeks.

Okay, enough intro...

The real draw of O'Malley's besides the ambience is the Wild Boar. The Wild Boar is a pint full of deep dark rich chocolatey Guiness floating on top of an inch or so of ginger ale. The taste combination is delicious, the sweetness of the ginger ale makes the Guiness melt in your mouth. It also dilutes the alcohol content such that I was able to serve as designated driver whilst the hubby indulged himself in 3 of the giant mega-steins of Harp's lager (well, we did end up staying over 6 hours!).

As in Ireland, the tables at O'Malley's are made for sharing with strangers. We were not lacking for strangers. Joining us at our small table were two middle aged men, neatly dressed, one even sporting an Irish wool cap. Both seemed nice enough. We exchanged perfuntory "hellos" and smiled but were slow to warm up to the fact that there were strangers sitting at our table. As the afternoon wore on and several beers had been consumed, we learned that we were sitting with the owner of the oldest local tattoo parlor and an ex-junkie (now a carpet salesman), both followers of Buddha, both heavily laced with tattoos under those conservative plaid button-down shirts. By the end of the evening we were exchanging business cards and hugs. You never know when you might need a tattoo...or carpet. 8-}

And then there was the singing. Bob Reeder was the local musician. I will admit I had very low expecations but as he warmed up the audience, he got better and the participation was at least half of the fun, especially on the limericks sing-a-long (some of which were too bawdy for family viewing...did I mention that this is a kid-friendly bar? Ahem. Bob waited until all the kids went home before he opened up the floor for limericks...our new stranger friends offered up the ubiquitous "There once was a man from Nantucket"). Bob really wasn't half bad, playing 6-string and 12-string guitars, banjo, and bagpipes, ballads and folk songs along with silly songs. He invited a couple of folks from the audience to come up and sing with him, pestering my husband and finally succeeding in getting a visiting Brit to come up and sing John Denver tunes...three of them...gah!

In replaying these videos, I think something might be lost in the translation between reality and digital re-enactment. Maybe it was the beer. ;-)

Link to the Dueling Banjo video!
(Be sure and watch this one all the way to the exciting conclusion wherein my camera falls in my beer...I was using my glass as a tripod; I can neither confirm nor deny that one of the voices you hear on the tape is mine)

Link to the Amazing Grace video!
(This was the evening's grand finale, a tribute to our soldiers in Iraq; this one brought tears to my eyes as Amazing Grace always does; the video seems only to highlight the off-note squeaks and appears very cheesy, but in real life, it was very moving...really 8-}

This was a wild day out for us and a most welcome respite. We feel like we just returned from Ireland. I'm ready to go again.

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At 8:37 AM, February 02, 2007, Blogger Foo said...

Sounds like a blast, Gwynne. I've always liked the ambiance of those smallish, dimly-lit establishments with the long bar across one wall and the "community" tables in the center and more secluded booths along one wall. There were a couple such places in Dallas during the early '90s, back in my single guy heyday. They were run by actual Brits and were a blast.

I can only imagine what an actual Irish pub populated with actual friendly Irish must be like.

At 9:51 AM, February 02, 2007, Blogger beth said...

Oooh! Sounds like fun! I'll have to add that to my list - though I can't say MO was ever on my list before, so now there's something new. :) Our pub(s) (I know a couple Irish pubs in the area) are sadly a little "touristy" - only one really hits the "real" flavor and it's sadly a bit far for an evening jaunt.

At 2:21 PM, February 02, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

Great vids, and an enjoyable report! I've always wanted to visit Ireland, not necessarily for the pubs, but they do seem to make an already exotic locale even more so.

At 11:52 PM, February 02, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

It really was a blast, Foo. When we drove over, we had no idea there was music scheduled, making it all the more fun.

Beth, I expect you might want to travel to the real Ireland before planning a visit to MO, but if you get really hard up for vacation ideas, let me know. ;-)

Eric, it's hard to visit Ireland and not visit a pub or two (sometimes you have to pass through the pubs to get to the castles). ;-) I can also highly recommend the bicycling over there. Just beautiful! :-)

At 4:36 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Stephen said...

Sounds like a lot of fun!


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