The Irish Times' Generation Emigration project is on the hunt for the best Irish pub in the world outside Ireland. The following is one of the entries we've received so far. To read more, or find out how to nominate your favourite Irish pub abroad, click here.
Over three million people visit Carcassonne every year, mainly to explore the medieval fortress with its 53 towers and barbicans or to take a trip on the Canal Du Midi.
Meanwhile ordinary French life goes on in the newer part of the city: Ville Basse.
With a population of almost 50,000 it plays host to two Irish bars: Sheridans and The Celt. The latter is by far the most authentic, being owned and managed by a mainly Irish crew.
Killarney man, Patrick O'Sullivan, moved from Chicago to Carcassonne eight years ago and set about creating a new life in the south of France. With a background in construction, he bought an old bar just off Place Carnot, gutted it and relaunched it as The Celt.
Patrick has since developed the Carcassonne Guesthouse, a former Maison de Maitre, overlooking the river Aude and the magnificent castle. Here you can enjoy breakfast (prepared by Patrick) on the terrace whilst admiring the views.
It’s a ten minute walk from the guesthouse to The Celt pub, on Rue Antoine Armagnac. Three days a week there is a market on Place Carnot, with the big one on Saturday morning. After stocking up on the local produce it’s a quick stroll to The Celt to meet with a mix of expats and locals over a coffee or a cold beer.
Tipperary woman, Susan Barry, oversees the operation with a mainly Irish and English staff. The food menu features most of the pub staples: fish and chips, burgers, Irish stew, toasted sandwiches; all freshly prepared.
It’s at night that The Celt really comes alive. It is very obviously an “Irish bar”, but doesn’t pander to the usual image that conjures up. The clientele is probably 70 per cent French and the rest a mix of Irish and British that have settled in this corner of France.
Direct Ryanair flights from Ireland and the UK means there is a steady stream of tourists in the summer months and The Celt is a great spot to pick up some local knowledge from the staff. Susan switches effortlessly from English to fluent French when dealing with the various queries.
All the major Irish sports occasions are shown on the two big screens, with any Ireland v France game creating a special atmosphere. The Monday night darts competition - compétition de fléchettes - is surprisingly popular, especially with French customers.
Live traditional Irish music is occasionally played, but the Thursday night regular music slot is just as likely to feature a blues, rockabilly or country band. The musicians in France work hard, playing two sets, starting at 7pm and finishing at 1am. Two years ago I saw a French duo, Les Harpies, give a great show there. I was so impressed I brought them to Ireland to play four shows at the Kilkenny Roots Festival.
The Irish pub concept has become much maligned in recent years, but The Celt is a bar that compares favourably with any at home or abroad.
[ theceltpub.com ]
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