My favorite comment came from a trade media colleague from Belgium. Our group was taking a tour of the spectacular, brand-new Aviva stadium, a futuristic swirl of glass and steel, which offers meeting space on five floors. One of our planned activities there was a short wine-tasting session, and as I peered over my wine glass, I noticed that my Belgian co-participant looked confused. I asked him what he was thinking. He told me he was trying to wrap his head around the fact that we were in a sports stadium where an Irish sommelier was explaining the difference between a Spanish red and Italian white wine.
That gave me a good laugh, but I was struck by two things. One is that, as the only American in the group, perhaps the scene didn’t hold as many obvious contradictions for me. The other is that it somehow captures the Irish, who hold tight to their unique heritage (showcased for our group by the traditional Irish music and dance entertainment on both evenings of our trip), while embracing a more continental approach to food, wine, and events themselves. Plus, I just think it’s part of the Irish people to hold a few surprises up their sleeve.
Like this statue of Irish writer Oscar Wilde that I snapped a photo of when we hopped off our bus at Dublin’s Merrion Square for a quick look. This likeness of Wilde, as our wonderful guide Josephine pointed out, isn’t as it seems. From the right, he is lighthearted and smiling. From the left profile, he is somber and serious. Two sides of the same person and both things at once.