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Day 31: Chocolates and heart

It seems the shops are gearing up for Valentine’s Day. Passing by the junction where Wicklow Street, St Andrew’s Street, Exchequer Street and South William Street meet, Butler’s is all red and pink and aiming to catch lovebirds’ attention to their heart-melting chocolate gift boxes.

Meanwhile, I continue to experiment with my new-ish camera. I have just (a couple of days ago, in fact) discovered the in-built miniature/tiltshift mode (no, I haven’t read the manual) so I couldn’t help playing around this function. The effect is pretty impressive too, given my baby is a compact PnS at the end of the day. What do you think?

Day 30: Chocolate biscuit cupcake

There is a sweet little stand of delicious goodness in the form of cupcakes at the Powerscourt Centre. They look pretty and well-iced, although I don’t normally buy them, given the rather extravagant price tag (for me) and I could bake them myself at home (although I admit to not being very good at icing the cupcakes). Still, today, I gave in to the temptation of a chocolate biscuit cupcake.

This is the most delectable marriage between chocolate and biscuit, and possibly a very Irish thing too since I’ve not seen this elsewhere abroad. Maybe I have not paid enough attention? In any case, it is actually quite easy to make some at home too, except it takes time for the cake to set. Not ideal, however, if one is looking for instant gratification.

My favourite places for immediate chocolate biscuit cake in Dublin:
– chocolate biscuit cupcake (€2.25) at Cupcakes
– chocolate biscuit slice (€2.60) at Café Sol
– chocolate biscuit slice (€2.00) at Pichet

Day 29: Saturday night Jazz

Another weekend comes round quickly and for anyone who claims January as a slow month for socials, they are wrong! And on this Saturday night, we’re out to celebrate Cait’s upcoming nuptial! No faux glittery tiaras or bunny ears folks, Miss C is waaay classier than that. Instead, we each receive a beautiful white silk peony as our group hairpiece.

We went to the Mint Bar at Westin Hotel for cocktails and music after dinner, and a live jazz band was in the house to entertain us all. The band seems to love playing songs by Michael Bublé (which I like anyway) in up-tempo beats and there were even couples swing-dancing to the lively tunes. Totally different vibe to last Saturday’s dance session but I love it! A big thank you to Fi who organised the evening out. :)

Day 28: Visceral

A new exhibition has just been launched at the Science Gallery called Visceral, so I nipped in quickly to have a look at what’s touted as “the living art experiment”.

Conceptualising and visualising science as art is a challenge that few can meet, but once again Science Gallery has came up with a winner. Each exhibit incorporates living cells (mini books with cover made from explant skin tissue, beautiful calve-derived installation in a bioreactor dome, allegory of Alzheimer’s disease etc) and each display prompted me to think of the inspirations for each experiment in a different light.

Visceral is open until 25 February, daily except Monday, from noon until 8pm weekdays, until 6pm weekends. If you are confounded by certain exhibits, there are assistants throughout the gallery who can walk you through the creative minds behind the projects. And like all living things, we die eventually. A Visceral funeral is due to be held on 24 February.

Day 27: Be kind to one another

I’ve found a sister graffiti to Kindness!

A stroll along the Grand Canal has always been lovely, from spotting swans and mallards further inland (towards the direction of Ranelagh/Portobello and beyond), to studying the gates system that controls the water level (near Leeson Street), to pondering food options (lunchtime market on Thursdays, the docked La Peniche, restaurants flanking the sides) and now, with a bit of philosophy thrown into the mix.

Reading this reminds me of an unkind remark that I uttered a couple of years back. I lashed out in a moment of frustration and anger. As soon as the words flew out my mouth, I berated myself over it. This behaviour was (and still is) inexcusable and that one sentence caused much hurt and damage. My apologies haven’t quite yet mend the bridge as I’d hope for. If only I’ve held my fraying temper tighter…

Day 26: Gentle sunset

I tagged along for a drive today to Dungarvan. It has been a while since I headed south of the country, so I thought, why not? I was hoping to get into the quaint harbour town for a walk and hopefully snap a few photos during my walk-about. Unfortunately, we got in a little late and even then, we were bypassing the town in order to make it for a meeting.

Unwilling to give up, I stood outside the meeting venue and surveyed the surrounding. Colligan River Estuary wasn’t as picturesque as it should be; its riverbed dry with murky puddles in parts in the low tide. Coolnasmearmountain looked majestic in the distant but in the dying lights of the day, I simply couldn’t get a good shot out of it. However, as I turned around, the colour of the sky took a soft shade of pastel pink and blue. Voila, the photo of the day.

Day 25: Passionately coquelicot

The unfurled ribbon-like Chinese fringe flowers in hues of red and coquelicot have by far been the prettiest sight of this mild and sunny winter day. The colours vibrant, the petals swaying gently in the wind, it’s akin to a beckoning of spring. And I <3 Spring.

In the mean time, I’m starting to map my travels for the year. First up, I’m off to Paris for a couple of days next week to deal with matters related to my big move to the City of Light. Hopefully there will be a couple of trips to Asia and a number others in Europe. If I’m lucky, I could make five new countries this year to go towards the challenge?

Day 24: A quiet Monday

Taking a break from going through all my worldly possessions (one really does accummulate without needing to give it much thought), I grabbed a late bus to Wexford for a wee bit of R&R. It may be viewed as running away or procrastination, I see this as an opportunity for some quality time with my family before my big move in a couple of weeks.

While things are still mostly bustling in Dublin, Wexford is another kettle of fish altogether. You do feel the recession here. Sure, Monday is traditionally a more quiet and subdued night, but the town felt dead in general. I was half expecting some tumbleweed to roll past me somehow. Maggie Mays may have live music this evening, but where is life heading for this country right now without a coherent working government in place?

Day 23: Big yellow-signed taxis

When a friend visited Dublin about a year ago, the very first thing he noticed and pointed out to me was the number of taxis in the city. They are absolutely everywhere. Reports at that time had it peg at 25,000 of them servicing Dublin, but as you can see from the taxi identifier number, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say there are a lot more of them on the road today.

I am not one who hail taxis on a regular basis, but I have observed something odd recently – there have been a number of taxis of which the driver doesn’t look anything like the person on the displayed licence (a case of bad ID photo?) and at times, I doubt the name is even the driver’s (e.g. very Irish name on display but the driver speaks with a foreign accent). I am quite sure driving taxi with someone else’s licence is not legal.

There have been reports of illegal drivers operating in the city, with a few of them sharing a single taxi/licence by working in shifts. This is dangerous, considering these drivers would most likely be uninsured, have not been vetted by the Garda, and may even be living here illegally and/or owning false driving licences. The crackdown process have been slow, much to the consternation and annoyance of genuine taxi drivers in their city, as their livelihood and their trade are under threat.

Day 22: Let’s dance

Saturday night: my friends and I have a surprise party to pull out of the bag. And I think we did rather well on that front. Mim was certainly surprised (“you guys are very bold to do this to me”) and we were all further taken aback (and roaring with laughter) when she couldn’t put the candles out. I did not realise that I have bought the inextinguishable variety… ops!

A delicious and perhaps overindulged dinner party later, it was rightly followed with a good dancing night out. Well, we need to burn the calories off the chocolate fudge cake, you know. ;) We headed over to Café en Seine which was busy and packed with the DJ spinning a good series of tunes to dance to. It was a lot of fun, reminding me how much I enjoy dancing. Certainly on my list, once settled in Paris, I’ll be looking for something like salsa clubs to go to. Woo!

Day 21: The guy that plays with fire

The streets of Dublin are not only populated by musicians, but also of street performers and mime artists. Certainly, no one can say there’s a lack of entertainers in the city. Come weekend, there can easily be an act every 50-60m down Grafton Street.

For some reason, the junction where Grafton Street meets St Stephen’s Green often has fire-related action going on. Usually, this is the spot of a couple of guys dancing to Jamaican tunes and doing fire limbo in some funny leopard prints – one of them would even limbo as low as the height of a beer bottle. Today though, it’s a jongleur that plays with fire. He’s not bad in getting the crowd going, but I didn’t have time to assess the show in entirety since I was heading to an appointment.

Day 20: Hustle bustle, Moore St

Moore Street is a lively street between Henry Street and Parnell Street in the northside of the city. There’s a market that runs here daily, except Sunday, with carts selling from vegetables and fruits to meat to fish to household products, at a cheap cheap price (15 plums for €1 anyone?). Mind though, the produce boughts here should be consumed as soon as possible.

Various shops, including FX Buckleys which is a renowned family-run butchers for quality meat, also line both sides of the street and immigration in recent years brought in a cosmopolitan feel to the street. Asian, African, low cost supermarkets (such is the nature of competition nowadays), quite a variation. I may be a bit cautious about setting in to that one shop selling wigs (I think) that was pitched dark when I passed by (hence why I can’t see what else are in it), and the trade was carried out by the door…

Day 19: The Musician

The Irish are renowned musicians; think U2, The Cranberries, Thin Lizzy, Sinéad O’Connor, The Corrs, Boyzone, Westlife, Damien Rice, Snow Patrol, The Script, Cathy Davey etc. Even those who are not famous, are musical at heart. I don’t know a single Irishman/Irishwoman who doesn’t like music and quite a few of them play musical instrument of some sort, if not several instruments per person. (It really is very impressive.)

It is not surprising then, on any day, walking down the main thoroughfares of the city, there are a number of musicians busking and entertaining the crowd. It makes the streets gay and merry and melodic. At night, the sultry sound of saxophone and violin often invokes the urge in me to dance to the songs. If only I am less self conscious about the whole dancing solo on the street thing… :p

There are plenty of venues in Dublin where new acts perform each day. Some are free, some charges nominal ticket prices. For you and I, this is the perfect opportunity to discover more new music by local talents while socialising with friends on any night out. Chances are, someone you know (or you!) are friends/relatives to the performers of the night. Yes, Ireland is that small, and that’s what makes it great in this instance!

Day 18: Liffey Boardwalk

It may be wintry cold but when it is sunny and the sky is blue, walking about Dublin is always so pleasant. There are coffee kiosks peppered along the boardwalk for the good ol’ outdoor cuppa and in the summer months, a river boat tour along River Liffey is also possible.

One of the best walking tours available in the city are those led by Pat Liddy, a charming historian who is an absolute fountain of knowledge when it comes to the stories about Dublin. Dublin City Council, together with Pat Liddy, also offers free walking tours under the Let’s Walk and Talk initiative for anyone who are interested in getting to know Dublin outside of the city centre areas. Also available are Sandemans’ free walking tours where participants are encouraged to tip their guides at the end of the tour.

For visitors keen on self-guided tour, apart from using recommended itinerary suggested by guidebooks, check out the podcasts available via Guinness Storehouse website. There, you should be set now to know more about the city.

Day 17: Grey Abbey

I cannot remember when I last visited Kildare, and even then my trip today has been rather superficial – to shop at Kildare Village. Granted, it wasn’t my idea to start but at the offer of someone driving us there, I thought, why not check it out after all the fuss I’ve heard from many?

The Village is actually rather quaint, well laid out, and good value purchases to be had. Adjacent to the Village is the ruins of Grey Abbey, a Franciscan site dated from 13th century. Its name derived from the colour of the robes wore by its monks and the ruins forming what was the Abbey Church, it looks very inviting for further exploration, if only I wasn’t pressed for time.

Visitors’ tips: if you take a train + complimentary shuttle bus to Kildare Village, present the train ticket at the Village Tourist Information Centre for a VIP card that gives you a further 10% discount on all purchases. Yes, even on top of discounted prices.

Day 16: Bouncing sunlight

I had wanted to visit the Chapel Royal, adjacent to Dublin Castle, since learning about its architectural beauty in an evening class I sat in but the previous time I tried, it was close for restorative works. However, when chatting to a friend following my detour to photograph Lady Justice, I was informed that it has since reopened.

For a relatively cosy chapel, its Neo-Gothic interior is very impressive. Beautiful stained glass panels, opulent Rococo stucco adorning the ribbed vaults to the sides, handsome oaked upper galleries; definitely worth visiting. What caught my eyes among the splendour this afternoon though, was the bounce of sunlight into the chapel against the pews. It gave the chapel a feel that is almost ethereal, serene. Until the next tour group arrives.

Day 15: Kitchen hands

Question: How can one have an enjoyable evening when the day has been extremely windy and quite wet on top of it?
Answer: Attend an Indian-themed dinner party; eat, drink and be merry, and meeting a lot of new people. Once one decides to brave the weather of course. ;)

Mo and Kathleen hosted this dinner party over in Ranelagh but when I arrived, I was quite the lone soldier. Nary a familiar face except those of my hosts and a few friends I know would not arrive till much later. Fret not. Through the course of the evening, over tasty and well-spiced Indian food, luscious desserts and mango lassi, I’ve met and spoke to some very interesting people. (It also felt like a preview of what’s to come in my upcoming big move, where I’ll play the new girl and try to build a whole new social circle.)

During the first hour though, I found comfort to be near the kitchen, observing the cooking (and be one of the first to get something to my plate when they were cooked) and learning a few things about Indian food. I love Indian food, but for some reason, have never really added them to my repertoir of dishes to cook. It must be remedied.

Day 14: Lady Justice

Overheard at Dublin Castle (not verbatim of course) and my personal takes:

This statue of Lady Justice is controversial for a number of reasons. If you look at it, what do you find missing? Yes, the blindfold. Lady Justice is supposed to be blind to status, wealth, power and race, but in this depiction, not only is she not blindfolded but her gaze hooded, as if to conceal something.

Weeeell, historically the blindfold is not really part of the iconography of Justitia, although she does hold a straight gaze. She probably also won’t have a little smirk like this one does.

Lady Justice is also facing inward, turning her back to the people of Dublin. Her scale is a working scale, and on rainy days, it used to tip to one side, as more water flowed into the plate with the finger pointing at. This cannot do as the scale should remains balanced, and a hole has therefore been bore on each of the plate to allow draining away of the water.

Certainly, to turn her back to the city is not something she’s supposed to do but the British Authorities made it this way. I also remember a friend mentioning previously that the tip is to the side where the Revenue Office is. I have no idea where the Revenue Office is in Dublin Castle, so I can’t verify this. You can spot the holes on the plates in this picture though.

“Take note also of the sword that she’s holding. Normally, the double-edged sword points downward, to indicate the violence should always be the last resort. However, this sword is pointing upwards, symbolising her willingness to use violent and wielding power over the people.”

In my opinion, holding would be an inaccurate description even. The sword is perching from her side in an almost careless manner. Seems to me she is more concerned about holding up her stola. I have also seen a number of statues of Lady Justice with the sword held upright and at times, posed as if ready for battle. The sword, however, does not represent violence but the prevailing power of justice.

Day 13: Chirp chirp

With the extreme changes in weather around here, I was pleasantly surprised to see flowering blossom while strolling the campus ground of Trinity College Dublin. And it’s only mid-January, yay! The little birdie is therefore the cherry on top. ;)

If you are visiting Dublin and intend to have a look around Trinity College, may I suggest that you download the podcast of Science Safari: The Trinity Trail to your iPod, together with accompanying brochure and map for extra guide. All these can be downloaded free. Enjoy your visit.

Day 12: Breakfast, not at Tiffany’s

The phone started buzzing early in the morning. It was my aunt, and the next I knew, I have an invitation to (free) breakfast. Yay! We went to Donnybrook Fair on Morehampton Road. The restaurant sits above the food grocer and deli of the same name, accessible via a spiralling staircase near the main entrance. I can’t think of a better start to the day with an order of Eggs Florentine and a glass of smoothie.

I admit it, I am a fan of Donnybrook Fair. They have delicious fresh ready-to-eat meals over at the deli, they stock a good range of organic produce and products, they sell goodies not found elsewhere in the city (Amedei chocolate immediately springs to mind) and they also run cooking and wine tasting classes. It’s an enviable playground for a foodie.

To top it all, the restaurant serves great seasonal food. Sure, buying at the grocer and/or deli comes with a price tag that may not suits all (look out for their frequent promotions to get better value of your Euros), but the menus of the restaurant are fairly priced for Dublin. I’d highly recommend it.

Day 11: Ornated door

This black and white gem can be found at 46 Fitzwilliam Square and has been touted as the most photographed door of Dublin (well, the hop-on, hop-off bus tours love to show this off, so no surprise there). Now, here’s a little trivia I learnt from a friend – while it is the entry to a Georgian townhouse, the door itself is from the Edwardian period. Still, I think it still fits well into the old English feel.

I managed to grab a few other shots of the more ornated doors to Georgian townhouses nearby and you can view them from this composite image at Flickr. The red and the maroon doors are both also located at Fitzwilliam Square, whereas the blue door is located at Merrion Square.

The majority of the Georgian doors, however, are less flamboyant than these but no less colourful and interesting in their own rights. There are many features to combine to make each door unique, including the colours of the doors (normally single colour per door set), the flanking pilasters (usually with doric or ionic capital), the entablatures (from simple to elaborated) and the fanlight transoms (may be plain, may be frosted, may be stained).

Day 10: Reflection of Georgian Dublin

Part of what’s beautiful in inner city Dublin, particularly in Dublin 2, are the Georgian townhouses (with brightly and solidly coloured doors) which surround a Georgian square. There are three Georgian squares in the southside of the city – St Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square. There are two other Georgian squares in the northside in Dublin 1 – Parnell Square and Mountjoy Square.

Back in the days, if you were some wealthy Lord or Lady, you’d live in these townhouses that face the greeneries of the square. If you were less affluent, then you’d be relegated to townhouses that flanked the roads nearby. One such example is Baggot Street where this photo was taken. However, not all properties along the thoroughfare remain in the same style. Some have been replaced by buildings with hallmarks of modern architecture. Not many of the new buildings are as pleasing aesthetically, but the distorted reflection certainly makes things a tad more interesting to anyone passing by.

I’ll try to photograph some fancy Georgian doors tomorrow and share them here.

Day 9: Kindness

Modern city life can be very impersonal. Add rat race to the equation and now, not only we can easily dismiss things that are irrelevant to us, we also often forget what is it to be kind to someone who crosses our path whom we don’t know and whom we may never meet again after that chance encounter.

This message, seen on Dame Court today, is a gentle reminder that I should always care. Kindness comes from the heart, is sincere, freely bestowed, and ultimately, there should be no expectations. Acts of kindness by others taught me to be kind in return. There is no place in society for excess selfishness.

Kindness can be as simple as a bus driver who waits for a passenger who is rushing to catch the bus but haven’t quite yet make it to the stop; a traveller offering a fellow traveller the use of mobile phone to tell his/her loved ones that his/her flight has been delayed; a passerby buying a hot cup of tea and some sandwiches for the homeless man huddling at the corner of the stairs; a worker extending invitation to a new colleague to join him/her for lunch at the canteen; a flash mob entertaining weary crowd and lifting their moods (let’s for a moment forget about the publicity value of this effort).

Day 8: Should be snowy…

I am playing an amateur weather forecaster tonight.

After the crazy amount of rain that we got last night, I woke up this morning to a thin layer of snow but otherwise a bright and sunny winter day. Sometime in the afternoon though, it started to drizzle and later in the evening, it turned frigidly cold. It feels like we’re getting all seasons in a day. I guess weather gods have hard time deciding which condition to unleash on us.

So I had a peek at the thermometer-barometer-hygrometer. The thermometer registers about 17-18°C/63-64°F (and yes, this is chilly for indoor temperature *), the hygrometer indicates a fair humidity level, while the barometer marks between “rain” and “stormy”. Somehow, I feel there should be a snowy option, perhaps sitting between “rain” and “fair”, where “change” usually is.

Afterall, rain is characteristics of low pressure, whereas high pressure is usually associated with a cold front that brings about clearer skies. Therefore, for the barometer to sit between “rain” and “stormy” right now, it doesn’t seem quite right. Hmmm, maybe the gadget is broken?

I shall recheck the measurement in the morning.

* Not that we have much choice. Current water shortage in Dublin means water restriction is in place (often, for some 15-16 hours daily – on New Year’s Day, 20 hours!!) and it wrecks havoc with our heating system that requires water to run.

Day 7: What’s your postcode?

Ireland is one of the few countries that do not use postal codes, but in Dublin city, there’s still some sort of code system in use in accordance to postal districts, numbering from 1 to 24 (although currently there are no districts of 19, 21 and 23). Areas to the north of River Liffey are odd-numbered, whereas southside areas are even-numbered. As you can see, Waterloo Road is situated in Dublin 4.

This may not be true for much longer. In recent years, introduction of national postcode have been discussed, delayed, tendered (and cancelled), re-tendered (and awarded) etc. It was supposed to be ready by early 2008, then early 2011, and now words have it that it’ll be in place by the end of 2011.

Day 6: Bickering

The big freeze is set to return to Ireland, with snow forecasted for the weekend. Daily temperature for the last few days have been dropping bit by bit but not enough to prevent me to go out for a walk and meet up with my friends.

The lake at St Stephen’s Green Park is today semi-frozen. On one of the frozen icy patches, a pair of mallards decided to bicker for some 10 minutes (I have no idea why I stood there and watched the going-ons for that long) before being distracted. Nearby, a little girl began tossing bread morsels into the water, effectively becoming the favourite visitor of the park among the mallards. ;)

Day 5: Red and gold, and floaty ribbons

The city of Dublin was bustling this afternoon, teeming with bargain hunters looking for discounted best buys post-Christmas celebration. My cousin and I were one of them, opting to shop around Grafton Street area, including in St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre.

The Christmas decors were still in place when we were there. I like it that the management didn’t overload the premises with baubles, tinsels, wreathes and fairy lights. I’d imagine these decors won’t stay up for much longer though. It is Epiphany tomorrow; traditionally this marks the time has come to take down Christmas trees and relevant festive decorations.

It seems like Christmas is coming to an end…

Day 4: An angel to watch over me

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

— Emily Dickinson


Time stole away. It was a little less than two years ago that I first stood in this cemetery, saying a final goodbye to D who was near and dear to me. All around us were intricate Celtic crosses and guardian angels, lending an air of ancient culture meet religious symbolism, yet on a closer look, modern marble headstones are found peppered around the site, proof of style transition of death monuments over time.

Personal association aside, Glasnevin Cemetery is managed by Glasnevin Trust, which functions include operating the Glasnevin Museum and in winter months, it even runs daily walking tour. The cemetery is the largest non-denominational cemetery in Ireland, and the graves of many prominent figures can be found here. I guess that makes Glasnevin Cemetery the Père Lachaise of Dublin?

Day 3: The Irish Sea

The town of Wexford is by no means flat despite its proximity to the estuary of River Slaney. This means there are spots all over the town with breathtaking views. However, the hills are not steep in most part either, therefore it’s not particularly easy to photograph the vista and evoke the feel of heights. (Am I making sense here?)

The photo above is a view of the Irish Sea from Mulgannon in the southern direction, towards Drinagh and The Barrow. The sun was setting when I shot the photo but I have not seen much colour in the sky for the past week, and today was no exception. This is such a pity, because on days with vivid crimson and coral streaking across the sky, it is absolutely gorgeous out there.

Day 2: Art or Graffiti?

Each time I walk past the locked gate that leads to the courtyard of Wexford Arts Centre, I’ve been piqued with curiosity over the painted walls. Were they specifically painted, or were they the works of artistic vandals (which the Arts Centre then decided not to remove, since street art is still a form of art)?

I must admit, I can’t quite recall when I last went to the Arts Centre. Must be a good 10 or so years ago, when my friends were involved in a local theatre production. I can only imagine changes that it has underwent over the years. I should go pay it a visit some time soon.

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