My son, Andy Steves, continues to build his Weekend Student Adventures tour program, offering American students in Europe three-day weekend tours of the top cities for about $250. (I got to be an assistant tour guide supporting Andy with one of his groups in Barcelona, and I can personally attest that his tours have to be about the best deal going for students looking to have a fun and well-organized weekend.) His bestselling trips each year are the famous festival weekends: Carnevale in Venice, Easter in Rome, Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, and St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. These are the times when lifelong memories are created.
Andy’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend is almost sold out, as about a hundred students will join him and his Irish guides on the only day when anyone can be an honorary Irishman. Here’s Andy’s take on the celebration:
Historically, the first St. Paddy’s Day parades started popping up about 250 years ago in NYC and Boston; Irish soldiers would march through the streets on this day to reconnect with their roots. While at some point today’s celebration morphed into one that has little to do with the man it’s named after, I believe the day still presents an opportunity for millions around the world to reconnect with their Irish identity. With 37 million Americans claiming Irish ancestry (8 times the current population of Ireland itself), it makes sense that the biggest parades happen in the States: NYC, Boston, Chicago, and Savannah. But Ireland isn’t far behind. And what better and more authentic way to celebrate being Irish than on the streets of Ireland itself? Last year I was there as over 600,0000 revelers come in to Ireland’s capital to celebrate the weekend, wearing green and kissing lots of Irish maidens.
It took Ireland until the year 2000 for the Irish Department of Tourism to recognize this opportunity, but now they’re embracing the festive event as a way to pump up their economy. They’ve titled the weekend of celebrations “The World’s Friendliest Day,” and this year for the first time, they are inviting the general public to participate in the parade along with 17 bands and hundreds of performers from around the world.
While the parade and festivities are quite mainstream by now, my favorite place to be is off the beaten path next to a toasty wood oven in a little Irish pub near O’Connell Street, listening to an impromptu “trad” session. I love being around a group of locals singing the songs they’ve sung their entire lives. The musicians playing aren’t there for any reason besides the love of their musical repertoire and the convivial atmosphere. It doesn’t hurt that the local audience knows every single word of every single song they play. Old and young alike gather in pubs like these all across Ireland to create an atmosphere that I find absolutely unique to this country. This spirit is the reason I love coming back again and again.
Wherever you find yourself this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, my merry band of student travelers and I will be raising one of the 12 million pints of Guinness to be consumed around the world to you and all that is green. Slainte!
If you know any students studying in Europe, Andy has a great program worth checking out. Click on over to WSAEurope.com to see what he’s offering.