For the first time, Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board), and the Centre Culturel Irlandais (CCI) are launching a week-long celebration of Irish culture taking place in Paris and across France from March 11 to 18.

From music and dance to cinema and gastronomy, Ireland Week will showcase the very best of Irish culture around St Patrick’s Day. This idea of a weeklong St. Patrick’s celebration was initiated in Italy and Spain last year and proved a great success.

In Paris and all over France, Ireland Week promises to be epic. The interconnectedness between France and Ireland is stronger than ever, with more airlines and ferry companies operating trips to the four corners of Ireland and competition pushing transport prices down.

France is very important for Ireland as it is the fourth largest market destination for Irish food and drink, as well as the fourth for the Irish tourism market.

I wasn’t surprised to hear the latter statistic as when I go home from Paris, I hear so much French spoken in Dublin and on the West Coast that I sometimes wonder, if like poor Michael Considine in "Spancil Hill," if "Me mind bein' bent on rambling, To Ireland I did fly."

However, the former statistic, that the French are mad for Irish food and drink, including Irish brown soda bread, surprised me more. I didn’t think the French were ready to exchange their baguette for anything, but Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon who was in Paris in the lead-up to Ireland Week to meet up with French professionals and introduce them to the classics, along with what’s new in Irish gastronomy, explained the French appreciate the quality of Irish beef, dairy and seafood. 

Dundon receives requests for his Irish brown soda bread recipe from French tourists staying in Dunbrody Country House Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in Co Wexford that he and his wife Catherine operate and manage and run culinary courses in. The hotel is located on the dramatic Hook Peninsula on Ireland’s south coast. The Hook peninsula is entwined in the etymology of the well-known phrase 'by hook or by crook' which is said to have originated from Oliver Cromwell's vow to take Waterford by Hook (on the Wexford side of Waterford Estuary) or by the village of Crooke, on the Waterford side.

Ireland Week is an invitation to the French to explore the richness of Irish culture, at a strategic time of the year, when people still have time to book their summer holidays.

In Paris and throughout France, a series of events will highlight Irish culture in all its forms: music, dance, literature, cinema, art, and gastronomy. There will be terrific road shows in Nantes and Lyon, but as I live in Paris, I’ll let you in on the events I plan to visit. Most of these events are free, and if you happen to be in Paris, please come and join in the craic!

An Irish Film Festival

The festival will feature four recent films and documentaries, including a screening on March 12 of "Nothing Compares," the acclaimed, multi-award-winning music documentary charting the destiny of Sinéad O'Connor between 1987 and 1993, her meteoric rise, her struggles and revolts, and her legacy. Kathryn Ferguson, the film's director, will be present for the screening at the Les 3 Luxembourg cinema in the sixth district.

"My Sailor My Love," a late-life love story directed by Finnish Klaus Härö will be screened in the same cinema, also on March 12.

Two shorter documentaries, "It’s a Fine Thing to Sing," about a remote singers’ Club on the Inishowen peninsula in North Donegal, and "Around My Island," about a lone sailor taking on the coasts of Ireland, will be shown in the CCI on March 13 and 18, respectively. Bob Gallagher, director of "It’s a Fine Thing to Sing" will be present for the screening, as will sailor Tom Dolan for the screening of "Around My Island."

Immersion in Northern Ireland

Ireland Week is also coming to Beaugrenelle Paris, a famous shopping centre located in the 15 district, from March 11 to March 17, offering an immersive experience, taking young and old on a virtual journey to Northern Ireland.

Visitors will discover the filming locations of the "Game of Thrones" series, as well as the famous landscapes of the Giant's Causeway, and even be introduced to dancing in the streets of Belfast.

Dancers from the Belfast Traditional Music Trail company will also be present and will give several traditional Irish dance performances in the shopping centre.

Colours of Ireland animation tour bus

The Belfast Traditional Music Trail company will journey the streets of Paris in a Colours of Ireland animation tour bus (in partnership with Havas Voyages). The brightly painted bus will stop to give five concerts and dance with people in iconic places such as the Champs-Élysées, Gare Montparnasse, Tuileries Gardens, Quartier Latin, etc. on March 13 - 15.

Irish Gastronomy

Irish Gastronomy will be in the spotlight in more than 1,500 stores and restaurants across France with Bord Bia supplying Irish kits featuring products including Irish soda bread – using Kevin Dundon’s recipe - to encourage the French to get together in families, or with friends, for an authentic St. Patrick’s Day sit down meal.

Family Day

Sunday, March 17 will be one of the high points of the incredible and eclectic St. Patrick’s Day festival at the Centre Culturel Irlandais (CCI), when French, Irish, and all nationalities will be welcomed to the iconic 18-century building on Rue des Irlandais in the 5th district to enjoy music, performances, face-painting and fables for all ages with word wizard Niall de Búrca.

Visitors can also check out two exhibitions– a selection of photos from the bestselling series of photos from "Old Ireland in Colour" by John Breslin and  Sarah-Anne Buckley, and an exhibition on Gaelic Games and the important place they hold in Ireland’s psyche.

Ireland Week is a unique event bringing Ireland to France and France back to Ireland. It's an opportunity not to be missed for people wanting to discover Irish music, dance, food, and the vibrant and warm atmosphere of Ireland, or those of us ‘Irish in France’ who want to enjoy St. Patrick's Day craic!

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