“What do you want to do?” Laura will ask. And I’ll answer, “I don’t know, want to walk around?” That’s how many of our conversations go after dinner when we travel. We spend our days visiting ruins, doing walking tours, and otherwise squeezing as much out of the day as possible. So while we’re never ready to go to hotel for bed, we generally lack a plan. In Dublin, Laura uncovered two dinner shows that seemed to offer a mix of education and entertainment. We had a fantastic time at both.
The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198. Every evening in an upstairs room, a tall, lanky man steps out and spins some fancy tales for the gathered crowd. The program is called An Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies. You might ask yourself, “And Fairies?” Yes, fairies, and they are extremely important to who the Irish have become today.
This magical evening will turn you Irish. It’s a primer on pre-Christian culture, which gave rise to the Irish civilization. Through really great storytelling, we got to see how the land was divided and led to subsistence living that collapsed when the potato crop failed. The storyteller, Johnny, puts the famine in the context of regular people. We saw how these stories (fairy tales really) make complete sense – stories are never just stories, they are the culture of the people. And it gave us a sense of the mystical. We left the evening with a deep sense of regret – that we had not done this dinner program at the very beginning of the trip before driving around the Irish countryside.
In most dinner programs, the food could be either hit or miss. The food at the Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies was every bit as good as the storytelling. The potato and leek soup was a tasty starter on a cool evening and the Beef and Guinness stew was delicious and extremely filling. During dinner, musicians joined us to play traditional Irish music and sing ballads.
I didn’t know what to expect from the Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies, but I can’t imagine another show that would be more fun and informative at the same time.
If you fancy traditional Irish music (and we do fancy trad!), The Irish House Party is a great option. The organizers boldly claim that the evening was organized by All Ireland Champion musicians as a revolt against some of the cheesy music being offered by some venues (we encountered a few of them in the Temple Bar area). The Irish House Party is all music with a little step dancing thrown in for good measure!
The evening starts in a small pub/restaurant with a filling meal. I opted for the stew, a hearty representation of Irish cuisine. Additions of brown bread and Bulmers made the meal complete. After dinner, we walked across Francis Street and into the theater of the Irish House Party.
The stage was set up like a living room, complete with bookshelves, couches, and family photos. The musicians are great! I spent 13 years studying Irish fiddle when I was younger and played all the old session tunes: Drowsy Maggie, Cliffs of Moher, Rights of Man, Road to Lisdoonvarna, and the Maid Behind the Bar. Listening to the music at the Irish House Party made me want to get home and pick up my fiddle. By the end of the night, we left the theatre dancing a little jig.
We were the guests of the Irish National Tourism Authority (Fáilte Ireland), the Irish House Party, and Irish Folk Tours. As always, all opinions are our own.