Tourism Ireland’s global campaign is entitled “Fill Your Heart with Ireland.” According to the press releases, TI invited “a real married couple from Sweden” and took them around Ireland while covertly monitoring their heartrates. The sites provoking the strongest cardiac responses, or as the commercial puts it, “the moments their hearts chose,” were then featured in the advertising materials.
If you strapped one of these bad boys to my skull, it would principally document my climbing cortisol levels as literally every single one of my tourist adventures is ruthlessly derided by literally every single one of my friends. I provide a few choice selections: “What the [expletive] are you doing in Armagh?” “The only good thing in Newry is the pizza with the chips on” and, sickeningly, “Do you have family in Omagh or are you just a bit stupid?” Worse still, there is a social aspect; pillory loves company.
“You do know they have chips and pizzas both in Belfast,” “Would never have figured such a skinny [expletive] for chip pizzas,” “Jesus that’s special: all the way from America to eat chip pizzas and take pictures of a carpark.” My legs tense. The sweat gathers behind my neck. These, dear reader, were “the moments my heart chose.”
With this in mind, I decided to hide my trip to County Louth. My lies were in fact so thorough they attracted suspicion: “I will not be around this weekend because I am catching up on the econometrics, transcribing thesis data, and enjoying some unstructured free time,” I told a friend unblinkingly.
“Uh, sounds grand”
Largely because I have seen pistachios with superior senses of direction, I generally travel with friends. But secrecy demanded I venture into Louth alone. Having pounded the soil of “The Wee County” for 72 hours, I was starving and needed a way out of the rain. I had planned to eat at the first place I found, but my anxieties complicated matters. I slowed outside a McDonald’s but decided against it. “You can eat that in Virginia,” I thought. 400 meters later I considered “Il Forno Italian Cuisine.” A voice in my head drove me away: “You know what they said the last time you travelled and had pizzas.”
I then saw the restaurant of my dreams. It was a building with shoulders, and as I approached through the colored light which leaked from its central tower, I could appreciate the self-assured squareness of the design. It even had a plausibly rustic name: “Garda.”
“This will show them,” I thought, “little old me dining at Garda!” “Next time they start about the chip pizzas I’ll let this slip,” I thought. I’ll say: “Maybe you haven’t heard of it; it’s a bit of a hidden gem, I figure.”
I was halfway up the steps when I realized I was at the police station. My retreat was noticed by those gathered outside. “Changed your mind?” asked some local adolescents. “Thought better of it,” I replied.