St Patrick's Day in Dublin:
A weekend-long festival.
THERE was a seasonal little article in one of our national newspapers last weekend. It compared the average price of a hotel bedroom in Dublin, to hotel bedrooms in other major European cities. Apparently, we are cheaper by about €20 per night.
Yay, go Dublin, I think. But then I read on. That's the wrong attitude, it seems. We are undercutting ourselves, underselling ourselves, undervaluing ourselves. We need to be on a par with the Netherlands. I can't remember why. But there you have it.
The article is seasonal because St Patrick's Day is on March 17th, and it brings droves of visitors to Dublin. Many gorgeous Americans, of course, whose Influence on our parade I have celebrated in this column before. And increasingly, visitors from all over Europe.
However, if you are thinking of packing your green woollies and visiting our wind-swept island this Paddy's Day, I feel it's my duty as an Irish person (and a Dubliner) to point out some stuff that the guide books will never tell you.
1. On March 17th the whole of Ireland will most likely be very, very cold. It will probably rain on some, if not all of the parades. It might even snow.
2. If you decide to venture into town (which is what Dubliners call the city centre) for the main event, you have to get there at least two hours before it starts. Otherwise you'll be stuck behind an Irish family with a step ladder. The kids will be standing on various steps, in order to see above the crowds. The dad will be balancing a toddler precariously on his shoulders. You won't see anything.
3. Although the alcohol ban on St Patrick's Day, was lifted in 1970, an awful lot of Irish people still treat it like it's a new thing, and go a tad overboard. This is partly because our national Saint's day falls during Lent. For those who still 'give up' stuff during the 40 days, it's an Irish rule that you can break your Lenten fast on this day. For kids, this usually means eating lots of chocolate. For the grownups, it's a chance to get nicely sozzled.
4. If you want to fit in during the Festival (these days we celebrate all weekend), here's a couple of important rules.
(A) Wear the same silly oversized green leprechaun hats that the locals wear. Ditto gaudy green shamrocks and tri-colours painted on your face. Your mega-overpriced báinín sweater and tasteful plaid green cap just won't cut it.
(B) Make sure you get the name right. It's St Patrick's Day or Paddy's Day. It's NOT Patty's Day.
(C) As a visitor, you'll probably be sensibly attired for the weather. While we're not bad at wrapping up, at the first squint of sun, we Irish believe in the right to bare arms. If you stare in horror at our mad attempts to get a farmer's tan (face, neck and the lower half of our arms), you'll be immediately identified as a non-local.
Meanwhile, it's desperately unclear why the powers-that-be have decided that Dublin has to start pricing itself against a country with four times the population, and a better transport system.
Maybe they feel that in 2016, one hundred years since the Rising that gave birth to our State, we need to be taking ourselves a bit more seriously.
Or at the very least, charging people more for our hotel bedrooms.
So while they're still reasonably priced, maybe you should consider packing those green woollies and become part of the upcoming festivities?
The Guinness might be an acquired taste but the natives are pretty friendly.
Just beware of the step-ladders.
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