The Love of Irish Pubs & IrelandThis new blog post is all about Saint Patrick’s Day in France, and why the French love a pint a Guinness in a traditional pub with good music and company. Being a Patrick myself, I asked our reliable (and neutral) friend Beth in the countryside somewhere in the southwest of the country to share her experience and a little history on La Saint Patrick, as well as a few cool places to celebrate.
“Ever seen a French person take a swig of Guinness? I confess I haven’t, but it does happen, and more than you think. On the 17th of March, glasses of ‘ebony nectar’ are raised in many parts of France to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. But just who was this enigmatic man?
Saint Patrick was born to a wealthy family in Britain whose estate was raided by Irish attackers. Patrick, then a youngster, was taken back to Ireland, where he was imprisoned. Scared and lonely, he worked as a shepherd and sought comfort by becoming a devout Christian.
It is said that God visited Patrick in a dream, telling him to leave Ireland. He escaped back to England, where he received a second revelation. This one said he must become a missionary and convert the Irish to Christianity.
Newly ordained, Saint Patrick returned to Ireland and journeyed across the country, baptising chiefs and converting whole clans. Sadly, popular stories about him banishing all the snakes from Ireland are considered fables. The act was symbolic, representing the conversion of the Irish with pagan god beliefs (the serpents) to Christianity.
Saint Patrick was never canonised by the Catholic Church, though that’s probably due to the period when he lived. In recognition of his work in spreading Christianity throughout Ireland, widespread acclaim likely declared Patrick a saint. He died on the 17th of March, 460 AD.
Today, Saint Patrick’s life is commemorated each year on the 17th of March in many places globally. In addition to marking the establishment of Christianity in Ireland, it’s a chance to celebrate Irish heritage and culture. And the Irish are famously good at celebrating.
Revelries involve public parades and festivals. Cèilidhs (a social event with music, singing, traditional dancing and storytelling) take place all over Ireland, which turns greener than usual. Folks wear green clothes, and shamrocks are pinned to their outfits. Why shamrocks? Because it is thought that Saint Patrick used the shamrock as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity.
If you’re in France on Saint Patrick’s Day and fancy getting involved in a spot of blarney, that’s fine. The infectious Irish partying spirit can be experienced in many locations. For example, in the north, you can head for Calais and join their parade or take a boat trip through the ‘green’ river.
Paris has lots of events planned and at least thirty Irish pubs. From Murphy’s House close to the Louvre to O’Jason, and McBride’s Irish Pub near the centre, the city has you covered if you're looking for a decent pint in Paris.
If you’re farther down the country in the west, Lyon is a great place to visit. The Vieux-Lyon and the rue de Sainte-Catherine are particular hotspots, look out for Paddy's Corner pub, a local institution situated in the heart of Lyon's historical Croix-Rousse district. Further south in Montpellier, the Fitzpatrick is one of the most popular bars in the city, just a stone’s throw from place de la Comédie, in the heart of the historical centre. And down in Marseille, you can join partygoers on a pub crawl. Toulon and Antibes also have Irish pubs, and if you’re anywhere near Cannes, you’re in luck.
Some say Saint Patrick briefly lived as a hermit in the Lérins archipelago, in the heart of the bay of Cannes, before leaving to evangelise Ireland. The Trinity Chapel in Île St. Honoré is built in the shape of a clover, which may be significant.
In Toulouse, you’ll find an Irish vibe with O’Briens Irish Pub and The Classroom, among several others. And if you thought Bordeaux was an exclusively wine-growing area, think again. The Frog and Rosbif pub, housed in a former women’s prison, is the first pub in Bordeaux to brew its own beers. Several other hostelries, including The Connemara Irish Pub and the House of Parliament, offer an evening you won’t forget – depending on how much Guinness you consume!
Located in the heart Haute-Vienne, between Limoges and Poitiers, Kevin and Susan who run Le Trefle Irlandais (the Irish Shamrock) will welcome you in a warm and festive atmosphere.
Further up in the northwest, Saint Patrick’s Day is strongly represented throughout Brittany for special reasons. Lorient, a coastal town twinned with the Irish city of Galway since 1974, hosts parties for an entire week. And they don’t stop there.
Furthermore, Lorient holds its ten-day Festival Interceltique every August. Celebrating Ireland and its rich musical heritage. More than 5,000 musicians, singers, dancers, visual artists, and filmmakers, from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, and Galicia, among others, join in to celebrate the very best of Celtic culture.
In fact, there are over fifty areas in France where Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in a multitude of ways. So, if you fancy going green and trading your vin rouge for a pint of Irish champagne, wherever you are, there’s likely to be a parade, a cèilidh or a pub to welcome you with welcome arms and a good craic!”
We hope you enjoy this special day for all Irish people, their friends, and Patricks around the world, have tons of fun. Remember to be reasonable, plan for a taxi, look out for one another and finding a four-leaf shamrock is a lucky omen. While we’re talking about Celtic friends, why not discover Beth’s brand-new book, all about Wales this one or Pays de Galles as it is called in France.
17th March 2023
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