So said the plastic novelty hats sold at the bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And if we weren’t Irish, we certainly made a valiant effort.
Friday night was our first in Ireland, and Paddy’s morn I woke up with a nasty hangover characterized by an eye-splitting headache that lasted until I made a quick convenience store run from the bar for some pills at 9 p.m. Whoops. But we are troopers and were headed downtown on Saturday before the clock struck noon.
Before we left the house where we were staying with our friend Meabh, her mom Maire gave us each a little bunch of shamrocks to pin on our shirts and “drown” by the end of the day. Poor little shamrocks didn’t stand a chance.
Not only did this Paddy’s Day fall on a Saturday, but it was also the day of the 6 Nations rugby match (described to me as the most important in 50 years). Ireland recently handed England its rugby ass on a dirty plate, and Saturday was a match between Ireland and Italy and one between Scotland and France. We got to the bar (The Bot – our part-time home for the week) around noon, and the place was a cram-packed sea of green. We found seats (a St. Patrick’s miracle) and commenced the drinking while a traditional Irish band fiddled away in the background.
Ireland won their match, and shit got wicked joyous. Shameful as it may sound, after our obligatory Guinness, we switched mainly to bottles of Budweiser and Coors. The queues being what they were, we had to order two at a time. With three of us, that’s six beers at a time for the runner to bear back to the table. Bottles are much easier to carry, and beer is not cheap anywhere I have been thus far. Most pints on tap range from £2.40 to 2.80 (pounds). Double that to convert to U.S. dollars. Yes indeedy. I have blown my entire budget and am now working almost exclusively on credit. Yipes.
Everyone continued drinking and watching the next match as Ireland’s big win depended on the point spread of the Scot – Frog game. Scotland couldn’t pull it out, but it didn’t seem to matter too terribly much to everyone by that time.
We learned some good sing-a-longs, I tried my first Irish cider (delicious but sweet), I saw traditional Irish dancer girls, and the Irish band eventually gave way to 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s dance party. Who knew there was a club version of “Country Roads?”
After a full day of drinking, we were ready for some after-bar feasting and “soakage.” Clock check: 8 p.m. Oh my god. One traditional Subway sandwich later, we were at The Errigle Inn with more beer and cider in hand. With my headache pills down and 15-minute bathroom nap (I didn’t pass out; I was just resting) out of the way, I was ready to start my evening. We danced and drank and figured out the same old lines sound a lot better when an Irish boy says them.
That place finally kicked us all out, it was on to The BX, an illegal after-hours club in its last night before a law-avoiding haitus. It was crazy. We knocked, and the doorman lifted up a rollaway metal door, scanned us over and hurried usthrough. The price list for drinks and “fags” was on printer paper, and the crowd was diverse and hipstery.
Next I remember, it was wee morning hours, and we were scuttling back out of the hidden metal door and hailing a taxi in front of the Europa, allegedly the most bombed hotel in Europe, which in the days of Northern Ireland conflict was bombed “successfully” 43(?) times – unsuccessfully many more. It looks like a lovely place now, and before we got into our cab, two young British-accented fellows tried to talk us up to their after-hours, flashing handfuls of money and providing an amateur peep show of “goods.” We belligerently declined.
All things considered, I had the best St. Patrick’s Day on record, and unlike tales we heard of Dublin, was surrounded by more Irish folk than “plastic paddys” (such as myself), making a drunk pilgrimage to the homeland. Certain areas in Belfast can sometimes feel tense in atmos, and people still wear their politics on their sleeves, but it is a welcoming and fun-devouring city. The only bombing you’ll see these days is the alcohol-fueled, hangover-inducing type in which I found myself this year.
(More Belfast props, London boos and Spain arrivals coming soon…)