Here’s a little travel blog entry I wrote for Matador. It’s not that great, but it’s difficult to find time to write when I’m spending every evening at the Janeway. Garrrr!
St. Patrick’s Day gives me the opportunity to flaunt my Irish roots, toss my red hair, and boast to everyone about how my ancestors came from Cork. In St. John’s, the holiday is more enthusiastically celebrated than Christmas or Canada Day. The Irish pubs that line the downtown streets overflow with crowds. Green is displayed everywhere for weeks.
My St. Paddy’s Day started on Friday, March 13, with a green-themed party and a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button. My friends and I ended up at a pub on George Street called The Dock, which was featuring a band called The Navigators. At first we bitched about the $10 cover charge, but ten minutes later we were linking arms and stomping around the dance floor to some traditional tunes. The band was incredible. The local traditional music scene is one of the biggest reasons why St. Paddy’s Day is always such a success: there are countless Newfoundland bands with Irish influences. An evening is not complete without hearing Dirty Old Town (The Pogues) or The Galway Girl (Steve Earle).
But Saturday was the mother of all Irish nights on George Street. The street was teeming with people, and every pub was blocked. Even the English pubs were playing Irish music, so we headed to Whiskey’s to check out Kilkenny Crew. There were so many people out that night that all the ATMs were down, and it took me an hour to hail a cab. Awesome. I spent two days recovering from this madness, only to hear that Sunday was the REAL night to be out.
Let me remind you that St. Patrick’s Day was the following Tuesday.
So yesterday, after adamantly rejecting any offers to celebrate my Irish roots once again, I headed to the gym to sweat out all those green-beer toxins. After working out for 90 minutes and tanning for 10, my redheaded friend Renee called me to inform me she was going to Erin’s Pub just five minutes from my gym. So what the hell – I only have one life to live – I decided to join her, despite being a greasebag.
But Erin’s Pub was packed. We stood outside in the chilly March air, hand stuffed into our pockets, while professional looking business people staggered out of the pub with green shamrock tattoos covering their faces. Everyone donned green scarves, hats, shirts, coats. Somebody loudly sang “DIRRRRTYYY OLD TOWNNNN” off-key .
We skipped further down the road to venture into Shamrock City, but couldn’t even make it through the group gathered outside the main door. These people were wasted, I mean seriously trashed and it was only 6:30 p.m. Feeling envious, we went to the Celtic Hearth for some Irish nachos (which are actually normal nachos with sausage. Go figure.).
Wandering up on George Street, we tried several bars before we could find one without a cover fee. Bridie Molloy’s, Greensleeves, The Rob Roy, O’Reilley’s, Christian’s… eventually we wandered into Kelly’s Pub, where a three-man band was performing. We ordered green beers and sat back to enjoy the festivities, me still sweating profusely from my work-out and smelling like coconut oil.
We stayed until 11 p.m., sipping beers and enjoying the relaxed, friendly atmosphere surrounding us. A random couple sitting at a table offered us some chairs to sit with them since we were standing around looking pathetic, and did not seem to mind that we were very obviously the youngest people around. Some elderly people were hammered, swaying around the floor and knocking dancers over. One lady fell out of her chair and it took three people to get her on her feet again.
The highlight of the night was one of the band members’ amazing performance on his accordion: the entire bar clapped through the whole song. I don’t know if it was the green beer, the happy Irish flute, or the beaming people around me, but a sudden thought occurred to me: if I had to spend my life in an Irish pub and never have to see another dance bar again, I would be fine with that.
If you’re planning on voyaging to Newfoundland anytime soon, make sure you check out some of the Irish pubs for their blend of Newfoundland and Irish tunes. Most of the bands I saw these past few days were incredibly talented, even if most of the time I was too wasted to take any notes. You don’t have to wander far downtown in this city to find a fun place or a friendly smile.