I’m still thinking about the brown bread.
One night in the recent past, a wet night, I might add – one that put me in mind of Ireland and warm fires and cozy pubs – I took the subway uptown a couple of stops and walked a block or so to the New York Athletic Club on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. The wind howled and the rain rained but nobody cared because it was Tourism Ireland’s annual Flavor of Ireland get-together and the place was brimming with characters and good food and drink and talk and music – Moya Brennan no less.
Ah, but the food –
Fresh-baked brown bread, Kerrygold cheese, fresh Irish salmon, corned beef and cabbage.
And the chat –
I talked to tour operator Ellen McNulty of Lynott Tours (specializing in high end small tours) who said business is up, not down. Brian Stack of CIE Tours was also positive – a marked improvement in bookings over last year. I reminded a young woman from Ireland’s Bluebook(a listing of fine country houses) how back in the day (since she was too young to remember) tourism was Ireland’s bread and butter. And I met up with Jimmy Murphy from Brendan Tours, in from Los Angeles, and Sean Reidy of the JFK Trust who made the trip over from County Wexford.
And Joe Byrne –
No one knows Ireland better than Joe, Tourism Ireland’s man in charge of North America.
The evening was so sweet that it put a longing on me to go home for a visit. It was wonderful to meet the people – share the laughter and the chat, and enjoy all the great food. I’ve asked our resident food columnist Edythe Preet to include some of her personal Irish bread recipes in this issue. If that doesn’t encourage you to take that trip to Ireland – the one you’ve been putting off – surely all our wonderful travel pieces in this issue will.
As Joe says, “Ireland is an island of character and characters, brimming with history and teeming with verve.”
And there are some great deals available right now.
Tourism has always been a strong part of Ireland’s economy. What is less well known is the part that it played in the peace process. The Irish Tourist Board was the first agency to reach a hand across the border in the days following the Good Friday Agreement, and to form, with Northern Ireland Tourism, a new agency called Tourism Ireland to promote Ireland as one island.
John Fitzpatrick, too, used his skills as a hotelier to reach out to all sides and nurture the peace process along. As Tom Moran puts it, “There were no ‘Peace Walls’ needed in the lobby bar of John’s hotel. Late nights brought the sounds of friendship and understanding from all quarters.” We are pleased to honor John as our Irish American of the Year. John’s two hotels form a unique corner of Ireland in New York City.
In addition to the Travel Ireland stories in this issue, you can read about the many “Corners of Ireland” in the U.S. in our special feature on plans for an Irish-American museum in Washington, D.C., and in Mary Pat Kelly’s piece on touring Irish America. Two other stories – on Chile (written before the earthquake), and the Chieftains’ homage to the San Patricios – remind us of the many Irish connections around the world. Wherever they traveled, like snails with their houses on their back, the Irish carried their culture with them.