Four years ago I was at Heathrow Airport waiting for a flight to take off to Dublin. It was the day after St. Patrick's Day. It was 10 a.m. and a cluster of Irish men sat around the gate with glasses of Guinness.
"It's 10 in the morning!" I exclaimed to my parents. These were pre-UF days, and I hadn't seen sane people drink before nightfall.
I always thought that Irish/Guinness relationship was overplayed by Americans. We tend to do that. But throughout the week I saw the familiar black beer with the creamy inch of foam on top all around the country at any time of day.
For the first time, I enjoyed each sip I took instead of labeling it "horsepiss" and trying to find a juice chaser. I tried it in the bar of the Guinness factory, at a pub where sloshed 3-a.m.-ers sang Billy Joel's Pianoman with their arms around each other.
In the past few years I've heard stories of Ireland -- of the cold people, the crime, the dreary weather. But I went when the skies were gray too and I can still picture the dreadlocked Heath Ledger lookalike who basically put his torso in our car to help us map out a route. I remember the lilt on a cashier's voice when she told us to have a good day. I remember the way a local told us to take the "twistywindyroad" because we would like it better than the highway. When I hung upside down to kiss the famed Blarney Stone, the ageing Irishman hit on me right in front of my parents.
Little things. But with a glass of Guinness the country was a beautiful, beautiful place.