The Smallest Towns Often have the Greatest Draw
Kinsale is an adorable town. It's like the Capitola of Ireland. It's so cute it looks more like a painting than an actual place you could live. The harbor is picturesque, the buildings are beautiful and the shops look like something out of a fairytale.
The first trip there I think I thought it was a bit touristy for my taste because it does draw people from around the world to live and work there as much as visit. But on my second trip here I see more clearly what draws them here.
Beyond the crazy color combinations are ridiculously narrow streets. In fact they are so narrow you do what they call here the Kinsale dance, in that you take turns on streets that clearly can only accommodate traffic one way at a time. You pull far left and wait for one car coming towards you, knowing once he's cleared you, the next car will wait for you. I mean it's a common practice on rural roads that are narrow here, but in Kinsale it's the only way to get through town on roads that originally tracked the shoreline, meaning none of them are very straight or wide enough for the cars people drive today.
It brings out the patience in everyone. And it adds to the authenticity of the area. They aren't trying to adapt to American drivers, they offer their way of life and you adapt instead. Personally I think that's the way things should be.
The other thing they do so well here...is the traditional sessions in the bars. There are couple of known bars here tourists tend to want to see, but if you walk a few doors down to Dalton's bar, or The White House, you're sure to find traditional ballad sessions involving locals from the area, and tourists stopping in.
In a lot of the bigger cities the bars hire 3 or 4 musicians to start things off and 'entertain' the tourists and others dropping by. That generally results in an hour of reels. But at a traditional ballad session like they hold at Dalton's on Tuesday nights in Kinsale, and at The White House on Wednesdays, the hired musicians act more as a home base. They start things off and then call on familiar faces in the crowd and each in turn sings a song while the band accompanies, or tells a story, or even a joke. And the band gets the crowd, tourists and locals to join in with familiar songs. So more than entertainment, it's an experience.
I'm sure that there are plenty more like that, around Ireland, I just haven't heard yet. But I'd be willing to bet there is a greater chance of finding them in the smallest of towns.