Part of this blog is meant to highlight the fact I often find myself engaged in conversation with complete strangers.
So before I detail what I did, ate, drank, saw and explored during my 20-day stint in New York City, Toronto and Ottawa, let me introduce you to three chance encounters I’ve had over the past month.
1) In which I got a rare glimpse of Irish history in New York
I met an old friend (on purpose) when I attended a fundraiser for the Irish Arts Center in New York. She is well connected to the community there and gave me the red hot tip on the American Irish Historical Association. It’s open weekdays for tours to the general public and is well positioned across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art off 80th St E and Fifth Avenue. I was staying between Madison and Fifth on 31st St so I took a beautiful stroll past all of the shops on Fifth and alongside Central Park to ring the doorbell at what looked like a private residence.
I was treated to a short but private tour of the building and its’ artefacts which include Wolftone’s death mask, a copy of the proclamation and the original tricolour which hung outside the GPO in Dublin during the Easter Rising. All on display in the Society’s grand rooms which are fitted out with the finest of Irish craftsmanship, Waterford crystal chandeliers and all. What a gem of a find in a city full of pay-as-you-go tourist attractions where you need to use your elbows to see what you’re there for! If you’re ever in NYC and have an interest in Irish history, design or architecture, visit this original home which is now in the care of the AIHS – you can even become a Member if you desire.
2) In which I share a cross-Atlantic journey with a Clondalkin cyclist
My flight from JFK to Dublin found me sat beside an Irish man wearing a ninja turtles t-shirt who was on his way home after cycling across 48 of the United States over the past year.
We spent the majority of the flight talking about his experiences on the road and his encounters with friendly strangers found via the Warm Showers website (couch surfing for cyclists – who knew!?) They gave him a free bed, a warm meal and an open ear for his stories.
This guy plans to write and self-publish a book about his experiences and it just so happens I attended a session on marketing your writing, which was hosted by Your Expert Nation as part of Social Media Week NYC. So I discussed the pros and cons of self versus traditional publishing with him, laughed about his cycling adventures and misadventures and talked about the old country (Ireland). He aims to settle back into life in Dublin after his whirlwind trip and even invited me to his 30th birthday party in June. Maybe he’ll have a first draft of his manuscript for me to proof!
3) In which I share an afternoon with my favourite Kildare cafe owner and Paddy Casey
Over the past 14 months I have been living in and working remotely from County Kildare in Ireland. When I needed a nice cuppa, a bowl of homemade soup and a chat, I always ventured down the little pathway off Main Street Naas to Alice’s Restaurant.
The owner, Eibhlin, has to be the loveliest person in Kildare. She always remembers her patrons names, backgrounds, favourite dishes and has been operating out of The Moat Mall for over 20 years. Not only is she catering to gluten-free and health conscious visitors, she is also a wealth of knowledge on local business, culture and the Arts. She always delighted in asking me where I was going or coming from and is the type of person every expat would love to meet in their new home abroad.
On my last visit to Alice’s, I spent the late afternoon chatting with Eibhlin and Paddy Casey. He has previously performed there during one of Eibhlin’s live music gigs she hosts every couple of months and often pops in for a bite to eat.
For those of you who don’t know Mr. Casey, he is an award-winning Irish musician, well known for his song Saints & Sinners. You should check him out if you haven’t listened to his tracks, he even has a new album out and is touring this spring and summer across Ireland.
We didn’t speak of his music or albums but I was discussing the Irish Arts Center with Eibhlin as part of my recent trip to NYC and I asked if he’d ever played a gig for them. He said he’d met with them a few times but hasn’t been to the venue yet – maybe as part of his new album launch he’ll be coming to the Big Apple in the near future! He asked me about Ottawa’s arctic temperatures, we talked about Irish weather (the good ‘ol conversation staple) and then I went on my merry way.
In a small town of 20,000 people in Ireland, you can have a normal conversation with a celebrated musician, while having good banter with a local business owner. That is what I love about this country.
Lastly, here are some lovely photos and a few tips for those who’ve never been to County Kildare:
When you’re finished your lunch at Alice’s Restaurant at The Moat Mall, stop in at The Duck & Cup Cafe on a Friday afternoon from 2pm to sip your coffee to the tune of a local pianist.
It’s just outside Kildare in neighbouring County Wicklow but close enough! Get back to nature and take a weekend stroll with views of the Wicklow Mountains, Blessington Lakes and the imposing Russborough House.
Happy Easter and enjoy your long weekend wherever you may be!