Four years ago, Kinsale in Ireland stole a piece of my heart.
After a sleep deprived flight (seriously, why can’t I sleep on international flights?) and a fight through London Heathrow security to catch my connection to Cork, I made my debut in Ireland. I was greeted by a friendly taxi driver who gave me a brief history of the land as we drove to the Actons Hotel. I had the immediate feeling this place was going to be something special. I mean, a taxi driver that’s nice and gives you a history lesson? Where was I? This never happens in NYC!
I quickly checked in, dropped my bags in a sundrenched room with a view overlooking the harbor and made my way into town to explore. Jetlag was not getting in my way. Had I known that 3am was a typical bedtime in Kinsale, I would’ve considered taking a nap.
This town, wow, it’s filled with color and it is beautiful. It’s narrow winding streets invite you to explore all the cafés, restaurants and shops it has to offer. After a bit of retail therapy, I headed back to get ready for the opening reception of the Kinsale Shark Festival at Malt Lane.
The outdoor reception was warm and inviting, filled with an eclectic mix of people from advertising, music and design companies, to historic families and friendly politicians. I even met the then Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Margaret Murphy, who unfortunately couldn’t grant me dual citizenship at cocktail hour, but I tried! We headed to a delicious dinner filled with amazing conversations and lots of laughter. Given it was the first night of the festival, I’d like to say we headed home to prepare for the day ahead but no, I was in Ireland, surrounded by Irish influence and I’m a sucker for peer pressure so off to the Folk House we went!
I’d like to believe this is a typical night in Ireland: It started with a whiskey tasting competition and ended with Guinness pouring competition. I think I won them both, but for me the biggest win was the friends I made that night. It was a the warmest Irish welcome I could’ve imagined, filled with many Guinness “cin-cins”.
The next day started bright and early as the sun poured into my room. Fortunately, on the agenda were some really great workshops by some really talented people. Joel Templin took us through the art of design and Donald Gunn walked us through some of his most memorable ads. It was an informative and inspiring start to the day. We broke for the day with an afternoon BBQ hosted at The Bullman, another great spot with spectacular views. That evening included another delicious meal, (I believe they call Kinsale the Gourmet Capital of Ireland), and another fun filled night.
My final day in Kinsale was spent at sea. Ready to embrace this villages fishing heritage, I boarded the vessel and off we went. I thought Kinsale was beautiful by land, but it was even more gorgeous by sea. This wasn’t a sight-seeing tour though, I was on this boat for a reason, I was there to catch a lobster. This is the thing about Kinsale and the Shark organization, it’s people are so thoughtful and genuine that when you casually mention in conversation that you love lobster, you end up on a boat pulling up a trap. Truth be told, the first mate did most of the work and I really only lifted the trap onto the boat, but hey, it was my lobster and I was pretty proud of that bad boy. I said my goodbye to my lobster as we docked the boat and made my way to get ready for the main event, the Kinsale Shark Awards.
The evening was a celebration to some of the best work in advertising. The ceremony was packed but felt intimate and congratulatory to all who won. It was a shark attack for BBDO and I was fortunate to accept many Shark awards on behalf of our truly talented Network. I ended the night, surrounded by my new friends feeling truly grateful to have come to such a special place.
So, I hope one day you get to make it to Kinsale. Come well rested and ready to meet, be inspired by and become friends with some of the best people.