The trip is over and it was a resounding success . But if anyone ever tells you that the Irish are nice, they lied. The Irish go well beyond being nice. In most places, I was welcomed. And in more than a few, I was family.
Galway reminded me of New Orleans. Both are smallish for their area, both are near the sea, and both rely heavily on tourism. And both have mastered the art of making you happy whilst vacuuming your pockets. I left the area much poorer, but much happier . The fantastic shepherd’s pie didn’t hurt much, either; nor did the hot from the oil donuts sold by a “knock-down” vendor by the church. Total drinks (1 day): 3
Cork is focused more on shipping and manufacturing than on tourism. But I still rang the bells of Shandon for luck , visited the butter museum , and discovered that there are darn few restaurants in Ireland that actually serve Irish food. (But I could have all the pizza that I wanted, if I wanted.) Total drinks (2 days): 4
Waterford was the only disappointment. The Waterford Crystal Factory has been moved into town to make it easier for the tourists to reach, but the tour reveals (A) that the factory is not the same as the original from 1783 (that once closed in 1851), (B) that most of the crystal is made by machines these days, and (C) the 12 euro you spend on the tour doesn’t give you diddly for a discount in the store. Reginald’s tower was interesting, but you aren’t allowed to go on the roof (which would provide the best view and feel for the thing). And most of the rest of the touristy things to do are either not open or located far enough out of town that you may as well stay in Kilkenny to see them. But I did have a great time at a bar, arguing quantum physics with a woman who insisted that she wasn’t trying to “chat me up” . Total drinks (1 day): 6.
Kilkenny was great. Like Galway, it was small and focused on tourism. But it was further inland than Galway, and had more ruined and not-so-ruined castles to see. I also took a nice country stroll in the area, and had the best bangers and mash  that can be made. And I spent a fun evening listening to Phil and Jill, an up-and-coming Irish duo . Total drinks (2 days): 15.
And Dublin was just pure fun. Admittedly, that was mostly because the only reason I was there was for a Stag Do, but the city itself has a vibrant personality that fit my rather shy one quite nicely. We went to the parade and then to a sports bar where they packed us in like sardines but still managed to get you a fresh pint in under five minutes. And then we went to Burger King for dinner (the Stag’s choice ) and to another bar where the ladies liked it best when I used my “Okie voice” . We kept that up until 4 AM, and then got up at noon the next day to do it all again, with dinner at Crackbirds  and more pints in five more bars. Total drinks (2 days): 27
And now I’m back home, waiting for my voice to recover and my liver to fail. And for my bank account to fill up again so I can go back!
 With the minor exception of reading Joyce’s Dubliners on the trip. That man could depress Mother Teresa.
 Despite the fact that I only got one day in Galway instead of two, thanks to the airlines. You see, they waited until I had driven for two hours in thirty mile an hour bumper to bumper traffic to get to the airport before telling me “Oh! We cancelled your flight a month ago. Didn’t we tell you?” That would have been bad enough, but then they added “The flight tomorrow is overbooked. But we’ll try to get you on.” Not the most auspicious start to a vacation!
 I played “This Land Is Your Land” as both its author and I are Okies.
 Where I learned that butter was a luxury in the winter and that salt was originally added not for flavor but as a preservative.
 I was later informed that this was a version of reverse Polish and that she actually was trying to chat me up. I will never understand women. Or men or dogs for that matter. I think that planaria are my only hope for social intercourse.
 As I told the proprietor, “That pig died happy!”
 That Jill happens to be the cousin of the guy having the stag do is entirely coincidental.
 And don’t think that we aren’t going to rib him about that for years to come!
 Normally I speak with a “newscaster’s accent”; in America, that is the accent that elicits the most positive response. But in Ireland, they loved my Okie accent even more. If I had brought along my cowboy boots and Stetson, I don’t think that I would have made it out of there alive!
 The name is a pun, as “craic” (pronounced “crack”) is Irish for “fun”. And the food there is fun. The buttermilk fried chicken was good, the broiled chicked was frankly great, and the sides ranged from acceptable (the coleslaw) to fantastic (the potato croquettes) to oh.my.gosh. (the hot sauce – use only one dab per ten people).