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300,000 to gather in Ireland . . .

by Ken McGoogan

300,000 people are set for the Gathering in Ireland. Some will be tracing their ancestors. Others will come to see the monasteries, or to follow in the footsteps of the writer James Joyce. Many will make their way to the Guinness Storehouse, where visitors journey through the 250-year history of Guinness and finish up in the Gravity Bar, free pint in hand, looking out over the City of Dublin.
Ireland is getting set for 2013. Every town, village, and hamlet looks to be preparing for The Gathering, a year-long celebration of all things Irish. Tourism Ireland is anticipating that more than 300,000 visitors will turn up, among them tens of thousands of Canadians. If you intend to become one of them, I�ve got good news for you, and maybe a few ideas.
My wife, Sheena, and I recently spent three weeks rambling around the Emerald Isle, our third visit in past few years. We had been hearing that Ireland was in the doldrums as a result of the recession in Europe. So what surprised us most was the vitality, energy, and good humour.
We started in Dublin, where Grafton Street has become a pedestrian mall. On any afternoon or evening, here we encountered a carnival atmosphere: people going both ways in streams or else standing in circles, entranced by one of the jugglers, musicians, comedians, or acrobats. At the foot of Grafton, we had no trouble finding the risque statue of that fictional fishmonger Molly Malone. The locals call it �the tart with the cart.� Turns out every statue and even the new Spire has a nickname, though most are unprintable.
A couple of blocks east, the pubs in the colourful Temple Bar area were invariably heading for lift-off at what usually we consider bed time. The same was true even of the uptown pubs around St. Stephen�s Green. But, hey, we were on holiday, we love Irish music, and sure, we gravitated to O�Donohue�s on Merrion Row. The liveliness would keep growing, apparently, until 2 or 3 in the morning.
Having decided to splurge on one fine meal, we headed for Hugo�s Restaurant, kitty-corner across the street from O�Donohue�s (yes, that was how the night began). To continue reading on website Travel Thru History, click here
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.