It was our first trip to Ireland and my wife and I were beyond excited. We planned 15 days to travel the island, focusing on the coast. Kinsale was of particular interest since my great grandmother, born in Cork, had once resided there.
We visited Dublin, Kilkenny, and Waterford before heading to Kinsale, and were magically impressed with the friendliness and hospitality of the many people we had met, certainly many of those in the pubs of course.
As sailors, one thing we enjoy during our travels is to visit local yacht clubs where you can be sure to enjoy hearty food, good views, and friendly people always interested in sharing their sea stories. And so it was with Kinsale, or at least so it was planned.
It was late October and a cold salty breeze came off Kinsale Harbor as we walked to the yacht club from our hotel. I knocked on the door but no answer. I waited, knocked again and looked inside the expansive glass windows, and told my wife it appeared they were closed. And they were, but as we started to descend the stairs to the street a woman opened the door and called out to us.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“Yes, thank you, we are members of a yacht club in San Francisco and just wanted to visit the club and if possible, purchase a burgee and hat. Are you closed?” I replied.
“Yes, we closed last week for the season, but please come in if you like and I can get you a burgee and hat,” she said as she held the door and motioned us in.
She excused herself for a moment and then quickly returned with a burgee and hat. I paid, thanked her again for her hospitality, and started to move towards the door.
“Would you like some coffee and biscuits?” she asked.
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“Oh, we don’t want to bother you any more than we have,” my wife said.
“No, bother at all! Follow me upstairs” she said with a warm smile and we did so and soon entered the main part of the club that contained many tables and chairs for dining, large stuffed chairs in a seating area with a view and a beautiful, long bar that probably had quite a few stories embedded in it.
Soon she came out with coffee and biscuits. I tried to pay but she thought that silly of me and told me so. The three of us chatted for 15 minutes then she said “I am so sorry, this is not my only job and I have to leave to go to the other one.”
We started to thank her and get up but she clearly had other ideas.
“Oh no, you can stay, please relax and enjoy the club. And make more coffee if you like, and have as many biscuits as you wish”.
Before we could respond, as she was putting on her coat and said “Stay as long as you like, just when you leave, go out that door and make sure it closes behind you, it will lock so be sure you have all your coats and hats when you do”.
We chatted a moment more, she waved and left and suddenly we were alone in this beautiful yacht club, stunned smiles on our faces. Astonished at the kindness, hospitality, and trust, we were almost speechless.
“I can’t believe this!” my wife said.
“No one will believe this. Can you imagine this happening in San Francisco, or really, any other place in the world?” I said, shaking my head.
We were grateful, humbled, and stayed another 30 minutes while we admired the hundreds of burgees hanging from the ceiling and the beautiful paintings and old photographs on the walls.
In our two weeks of traveling Ireland, we met many people in pubs, cabs, a car ferry, trains, restaurants, book stores, museums, and on the street. The legend of the friendly, loving, open people of Ireland is absolutely true! So impressed (and joyful) were we that my wife thinks perhaps we should move to the Emerald Isle for a couple of years. Sounds good to me!
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