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Missing Dublin

Late November, upon getting news that a close friend of mine would be back in Dublin all the way from Australia, I did a quick search for flights, asked for a day off work the following morning, and bought my tickets back to the Fair City too. It was impromptu enough for one of my aunts to complaint that I didn’t give her enough notice to make arrangement to see me!

Dublin from the air

Dublin from the air

I woke up super duper early to catch the first metro to Porte Maillot, then bus to Beauvais Tillé, and Ryanair to Dublin. Tired, I ended up taking a quick nap during the flight and when I next opened my eyes, we were approaching the Irish coastline and I could make out the Wicklow Mountains in the horizon. We approached by way of Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Bay and then Howth, before landing in Swords. It was a beautiful day for my homecoming.

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Postcards: late Irish autumn (IE)

A few weeks ago, I was back in Ireland to meet my god-daughter for the very first time and to see those who are near and dear to me. In between, I had a little time to visit one of my alma maters (Trinity College Dublin), the centrally located St Stephen’s Green, and the luscious Wicklow mountains. Everywhere I went, the autumnal golden hues were unmissable. Everywhere I went, I saw unrivalled beauty.

Late Irish autumn

Late Irish autumn

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Project 365 – Week 46

I have a couple more posts on Malaysia to come, then we’ll be back to talking more about Paris and other random things. In a way I’m rather pleased that I’ve managed to write up about the various trips before I forget more of the details, even if they are already a little later than usual. You don’t mind it too much, do you? ;)

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Window decoration

11 Nov: This has got to win some sort of window-dressing award! It’s like someone has gone to a bric-a-brac and came back with a random selection of things – Kennedy-like bust, miniature pig to go above its head, a selection of transportation methods and plushies as company… I’m still not completely sure how to interpret the pig over one’s head thing though. Do you have any theory?

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Project 365 – Week 45

It has been a smashing week, one which I get to spend with old friends that I have not seen for a while, once which I accidentally ran into an university friend quite by chance, one which I played peek-a-boo and sing-a-long with my niece, and one which I met my goddaughter for the very first time. I had such lightness in my heart when I think of just how fortunate I am to be surrounded with so much love.

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Calla lily

4 Nov: I don’t see calla lily all that often around the city, so it’s always a pleasure when I happen to spot one randomly while I’m out for a walk. It is one of my favourite flowers, afterall, but perhaps I am biased, given its name and mine share some similarity thus creating a sort of affinity between us. What truly draws me is its elegant form, just like the way tulips make their way into my heart.

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Postcards: From Bray to Greystone (IE)

On our final morning in Dublin, we woke up at the ungodly hour of six in the morning. Frédéric had been a little restless through the night. The unpredictable Irish weather had rendered our planned cliff walk from Bray to Greystone a no-go on the previous day, and he really hated the idea of leaving the excursion to another trip. He had stealthily checked the weather right before waking me up, and quietly declared “it IS clear this morning so shall we go to Bray?”

I groaned at remembering my promise from a few hours earlier that we would go if it’s not raining in the morning. Unfortunately, we could not leave any later either or we risked not getting back in time for our lunch meeting with Nora. Bray and Greystone are situated to the south of Dublin, of which travel time by DART from Lansdowne Road (the station closest to us, 10-12 minutes walk) takes about 35 minutes and 45 minutes respectively. A trail of cliff walk of about 6km separates the edges of these two small towns and here are some photos from the walk.

Bray-Greystone cliff walk

Bray-Greystone cliff walk

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Hillwalking and sightseeing in Glendalough

Frédéric loves Dublin. Rather, the nature of Dublin that’s close to both the sea and the mountains, while at the same time it being a bustling capital city yet maintains a particular quiet charm that isn’t drowned out by the sound of city traffic. He sees a life where weekends away from the work desk are spent exploring the great outdoors, especially in the Wicklow Mountains, given the taster that he’d got when we went to Glendalough recently.

Glendalough

Glendalough

Glendalough Valley

About an hour drive the south from Dublin city centre, Glendalough (i.e. glen of two lakes) is a former monastic city and today a popular site for visitors who are keen to see the traces left behind from the monastic heyday against the beautiful setting of the Glendalough Valley. We’ll come back to that a bit later in the post.

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Postcards: Connemara (IE)

Drizzle, drizzle – just another typical Irish weather that greeted us in Galway. Like good troopers, we pressed on with the second part of our express roadtrip to the west coast. Direction: Connemara.

We hurtled down the small and windy roads of the region, while keeping an eye out for spots we’d like to take a break and enjoy at the same time. It was not always easy to find shoulders where we can safely parked though – the roads that are good for one-vehicle access in both direction often border ditches. Half-parking the car between the shoulders and the roads is a no go as oncoming traffic of some 100km/h at bends means certain blindspots that could very easily lead to some nasty bangs.

As the morning progressed, the sky did clear up considerably. We were lucky too, that for most part, it was rainy while we made our way in the car but when we stopped for photo-ops, the rain abated or ceased altogether, at times accompanied by bright blue and sunny sky. Couldn’t really complain about that now, can we? ;)

Lough Corrib

Lough Corrib

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Postcards: The Cliffs of Moher (IE)

My niece was wrapped in five layers of clothes and she also had her mittens and hats (yes, hats) on, yet among the first things uttered by the adorable 15-months-old was “cold cold”. Oh, she was happy to be out of the car, cheerfully demanded we hold her hands so she can “walk walk” – no one can accuse the girl of not knowing what she wants! – but the wind was strong and relentless. Not too many steps later, she gave up battling the wind-opposed walk in favour of being carried by her mummy, and only her mummy.

After taking a few obligatory scenery and family photos, her parents decided it would be best to take her into the visitors’ centre where it would be warm and cosy. Meanwhile, Frédéric and I stayed on for a short walk along the designated visitors’ path, partly to admire the beautiful cliffs, partly to stretch our legs after a long drive in from Wexford. I’ll let the photos take you through our path.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

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Postcards: The Sunny Southeast (IE)

Despite the nickname, Wexford was not particularly sunny when we visited recently. Like most part of Europe, it seemed to be mired in the unescapable winter chill, accompanied by frequent showers. The transition between sunny and rainy happened often and rapidly, making it singularly difficult to predict if we could go for a walk yet not be roasting under our winter coats and/or be drenched without a brolly.

Nonetheless, maybe I present, by photos, the County of Wexford that we saw, however briefly it may have been.

Hook Head

Hook Head

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Project 365 – Week 21

A whirlwind week away can only be matched to a whirlwind week at home, right? Well, it may not look it but it certainly felt like it. As I set my to-do list for the next few days, and reviewed my calendar for the coming weeks, I realised things are liable to be crazier than ever. On the plus side, I manage to sneak in some reading time, which makes me pretty content at the same time.

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Fruit juices

20 May: I know, a photo taken at Marks & Spencer is hardly exciting but have a read at the labels of these bottles. Juices with red pepper or asparagus in them? We tested out the one with asparagus in it and it actually was quite nice. Granted, there wasn’t too much asparagus in it to start with, but enough to give a hint of the taste. Honestly though, I miss the food hall of M&S. There are a couple of them in Paris; the food section in the branch on Champs-Élysées is very limited and the other branch is a bit far in Levallois-Perret (actually outside of Paris), thus why I’ve not yet been there, but it does boast a much bigger food hall so maybe I should at least check it out once!

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Project 365 – Week 20

This week’s photos come to you from Ireland, where we are on holiday for just over a week. Visiting family and seeing friends aside, we’ve also gone on an impromptu – and looong (as in the distance) – roadtrip as well as stretching our legs for a few hours via walking excursions. All in all, it has been a great week and even the weather has been pretty kind to us. Couldn’t ask for more!

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Turning Point sculpture

13 May: Our flight was delayed so we arrived in Dublin about an hour later than expected. At Terminal 2 (we flew with Aer Lingus), a familiar sight which greeted us was the sculpture of Turning Point by Isabel Nolan. A yellow, abstract-y object, I used to think this was a representation of some sort of an atom, with the charges flying around the core, you know. Anyway, it felt good to be back to familiar territory, even if the immigration officer only gave me a visa valid exactly till the day of my scheduled return to Paris. (Why so strict? If I had wanted to overstay, I would have never left in the first place!)

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In retrospect: St Patrick’s Day 2008

My social media feeds have been flooded with various St Patrick’s Day-related photos, videos, well-wishes, articles and more. They are making me very nostalgic for the good ol’ days when I celebrated the festival with much gusto, as well as certain level of silliness, with my friends.

Today, I found a folder of photos from St Patrick’s celebration back in 2008 on my computer. These photos are precious to me. I have not been in Dublin for Paddy’s Day since 2009 (I was elsewhere, then I moved to France) so this was more or less the last time I properly celebrated the big day with the whole shebang: parade, céilí, pub crawl! (Previous years I even hosted parties at home – fun, but a lot of work!)

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

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Day 365: NYE Dublin

This is it, another day, another year done. I’m ringing in the new year in Dublin with my friends (we’re heading out for dinner at my favourite restaurant in town – One Pico) but will be back in Paris in the morning on new year’s day. Such is the life of a wannabe-jetsetter, you know ;)

With the curtain call to 2011, it also marks the end of the current Project 365. How fun it has been, with occasional days of frustration when I didn’t think I had a good enough shot, or the days when I was feeling a tad tired or too bummed out to go on a photowalk (usually due to awful weather outside); overall though, I had loved this project. It certainly encouraged me to be more of an explorer of places, and I find myself trained to notice little things here and there.

I will miss this project, but I’ve decided in 2012, I’m going to blog differently. Or maybe not. Just more like regular blogging instead of pushing for daily posts. I have a few things to consider yet, on the direction this blog should take. Regardless, I hope you have enjoyed the journey together with me, and I thank you for your support, which in turn motivates me to try to do better each time.

Happy New Year – Bonne Année – and see you on the other side ;)

Day 364: Sales now on!

Half the fun of Christmas break is feasting on delicious treats that various members of my family whip up over the few days that I’m around (have I mentioned there are numerous chefs in my family?) and the other half would be to take the opportunity to laze about. Or as my cousin quipped, bummin’ around.

The bonus then, would be hunting for bargain finds during post-Christmas sales. It is a lot more fun to shop when I don’t have to pay as much as I would, say, a week ago. While I didn’t grab this dinky serving tray, I have scored myself a good few items at incredibly low prices, including shoes, blouse, skirts and even a casual but cute dress. The trouble now would be trying to fit everything into my luggage that is not terribly big to start with and bring everything back with me to Paris!

Day 363: Bride Street Church

Yesterday I touched briefly on the twin churches of Wexford. Since I was walking past the church on Bride Street this morning, I figured it would make a nice photo of the day to show at least one half of the “twin” a little more up close and personal. Plus, once you’ve seen the exterior of one, then you’ve effectively seen the other too, isn’t it? Two for the price of one ;)

I must admit to have never step foot into either churches. It’s strange considering I traipse in and out of various churches and cathedrals whenever I travel. Perhaps there’s something in us that tells us not to treat something local as mere visitor’s attractions? As a result, unless you’re a person of the faith and attend services held, the interior would remain somewhat of an unknown…

Day 362: Wexford town

After blogging of different facets of Wexford through Project 365, I realised I have not yet share a picture of the town itself. Of how it looks like from a vantage viewing point. So here is one, of the good ol’ Wexford town, formerly a Viking stronghold, today home to about 20K inhabitants. It is really quite picturesque, with a compact town centre surrounded by mainly residential areas.

Dominating the skyline are two large 69-meter spires of the “twin churches” (they are identical, with foundations laid on the same day and built at the same time – pretty smart way of budgeting by making use of one architect and one plan for two churches if you ask me) of Bride St (Church of the Assumption, in the foreground) and Rowe St (Church of the Immaculate Conception, in the background). These churches are neo-Gothic in style and were opened in 1858, making them currently 153 years old. Pretty neat stuff.

Day 361: Modern Viking Ad-man

Ah marketing gimmicks of today – presenting: a modern Viking!

I was vaguely curious when I first saw a man in a huge drape-like cloth over him. “Was he wearing a snuggie?” Apparently not. It wasn’t exactly a doublet, nor a gambeson, so I reckon it to be a bliaut. Mind, I’m not exactly conversant in historical clothing items. He then proceeded to put on a gilet, and out came the Viking hat. Alllllllriiiiiightio.

His job was to stand outside (in the cold) with a sign panel, an advertising strategy that seems to be very popular in Dublin since the last couple of years. Not an easy job by any mean, especially in winter (you try standing out there for a couple of hours – even 12°C would seem like 3-4°C), so hat tip to these sign holders. I tried to then papparazzi-shot him but as you can see, I think I’ve been busted.

Day 360: Morrison Chambers

The business premises that were once Eason at the junction of Nassau Street and Dawson Street have been taken over by Costa Coffee. I didn’t notice this change the last couple of times I was back in Dublin, although admittedly I don’t think I have passed by the area either both trips. So imagine my surprise today upon seeing this change. I wasn’t the only one. My friends who were with me (ok, we all live away from Dublin now) had similar reactions.

Housed within Morrison Chambers, a building that was once built for North British & Mercantile Insurance Co, this café is lucky to have also bagged the beautiful entrance beneath the dome. It still features the coat of arms from the four provinces of Ireland (the harp for Leinster, the half-eagle and upright sword for Connacht, three antique crowns for Munster and the red hand over Cross Gules for Ulster) over the immediate entrance from the exterior, as well as a coat of arm representing Ireland over the side of the inner door (not seen, but just beyond the left hand motif curve in the above photo). All in all, a grand entrance to a coffee shop that’s part of a chain. More importantly though, the heritage beauty is being maintained.

Day 359: Not a very Christmassy photo

Merry Christmas everyone!

A few things you should know which would explain the lack of a more Christmassy photo-of-the-day. First of all, my motivation is waning in light of the lack of snow like last year, which gives the whole place a feel of winter cheers. Terrible excuse, I know. Secondly, not only we have no snow, it has also been a rather wet and blustery day, so I’m in no mood to go wondering about. Still a terrible excuse but improving? Thirdly, we’re no longer in a large city so it’s great to escape all the glittering lights for a change. How’s that? And finally, I’ve been busy helping out in the kitchen and even busier eating that it cuts into photography time. Acceptable now? ;)

Still, a countryside scene of smoking chimneys does have a certain sense of simplicity, which is what I like about coming home. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, keeping things on the down low and not having to fuss too much over anything at all. I like standing here and looking out to this view, and I am so very lucky that I have such a view to enjoy anytime that I’m back in this home. I have been asked on a number of occasions where home is for me nowadays. Well, anywhere my heart belongs. It doesn’t have to be only one place at a time. Love is very accommodating that way.

Day 358: (Not quite) Winter Wonderland

This time last year, much of Europe was blanketed in snow. I barely made it back from London after 14 hours of train and ferry travel following the cancellation of my flight from Heathrow, and every land journey got allocated twice the amount of time to reach the eventual destination. Nonetheless, for all the inconveniences, it really felt like Christmas as how it has been sold to us in books and movies, which was quite wonderful.

However, with temperature hovering at a mild 10-12 °C, there’s nary a hope for white Christmas this year. Winter wonderland would not be quite as it claims, and the poor merchants who have been stocking up gears for icy winter are going to find themselves with a surplus of stocks of snow boots, de-icers, and whats not – Ireland is not exactly a country of extreme weather in the first place. OK, last year was a bit off the chart crazy with lows of -18 to -20 but that’s exception rather than the norm. Perhaps the colder weather is yet to come this season. We’ll see.

Day 357: Last minute, Grafton Street

Just how packed can Grafton Street be? A couple of days before Christmas? Very. Super duper. Crazy actually. I took one look and decided this is probably not the place for me to be today. Even escaping to Hodges Figgis didn’t help, but within 20 minutes, I emerged with about 8 new books so at least I was kept happy with my bargain hunting.

Of course, to be in Dublin and not take a look at the windows of Brown Thomas would not be right, so I went over quickly to see what they have whipped up for this year. They are fantastically busy with a touch of twilight fairytale and at the same time retro in certain styling. A bit of a fashion mayhem if you ask me. Then again, what do I know about style and fashion? Except Karen Millen currently have a coat to die for and one look at its price tag, I dare not even try it for fear it would haunt me!

Day 310: Fusiliers’ Arch

Mention to just about anyone in Dublin “the arch entrance of St Stephen’s Green” and they’ll know just what you’re talking about. However, if you ask for the name of the arch itself, that may be trickier to come by. Even I didn’t know it for a very long time, and learned about it after a friend came visiting. The things we do to impress our friends ;)

Modelled after the Arch of Titus in Rome, it commemorates the 212 soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who were killed fighting for the British in the Boer War (1899–1902). For that reason, the arch was also previously called the Traitors’ Gate by strong nationalists, who believe that Irish should not be fighting a British war but to demand for independent Irish states. Today, history largely forgotten by many, it serves as one of the main meeting points of the city, quite likely before a walk down Grafton Street for a shopping spree.

Day 309: Silence at Sandymount

I don’t often go out to Sandymount but on a friend’s request to play photographer for an hour or so for shots to be used on his website – honestly, I was nervous and didn’t know if I’d do a decent job of it – I took a leisurely stroll over from Ballsbridge. And on the way, I passed by a deserted Sandymount DART station.

It was rather odd and seeing there weren’t any train coming, I stood smack in the middle of the track and snapped a couple of quick pictures for today (spot the glassy Aviva stadium in the background). Only later, when I spoke to my friends that I got to know that the rail service at that stretch is down. Part of the track collapsed after the massive flood last week and it’s still in reparation process.

Day 184: Dublin Bay

How beautiful the sight of such blue open sea against the small cliffs of green. This is the kind of scenery that makes Ireland attractive to visitors, even if the threat of ever-present rainy weather lurks closely in everyone’s mind. Then again, without the natural watering system, would the country remains so green? In any case, there’s always a pub here and there that one can dashes in for shelter, chips and pints.

I took this shot as I sat in the DART (the suburban rail system) while it runs along the Dublin coastline. This is the stretch between Killiney and Shankill. What you don’t see is at the foot of these soft cliffs are secluded beaches, which on a sunny day, are filled with families and friends on picnics and swimming outings. Sure the water would be freezing, but I haven’t seen it stop anyone just yet. Not if you’re Irish ;)

Day 183: Sparkly

It’s weekend in the Irish capital. That means a lot of fashion observations to be had, and how different it is here in comparison to Paris. There are certainly more colours (French wardrobes have more neutral colours and good ol’ reliable black), a lot of more skin (some of the right amount, others rather questionable…) and a variety of trendy pieces and accessories.

The wearer of this pair of sparkly shoes practically skipped along the street before halting in front of the bus stop. She must had had a good dancing night out. I know I certainly have, and it felt sooooo good. It has been a while since I danced and I miss it lots. I’m waiting for September to come round so I can start with dance classes in Paris. Salsa, tango, what else?

Day 182: Traditional ice cream

It’s officially summer I guess, even in Dublin. Sure the sky is grey-ish but it’s set to improve over the weekend. Have I brought the lovely sunny Parisian sun back with me? Maybe. Not that I am complaining. It’s always nice to bask in the warmth of the sun. (Sure sign I’ve been living in Europe for too long.)

Perhaps it’s just not quite warm enough to have some ice cream. Trade was slow for this vendor that in the few minutes that I was standing here (waiting for someone) he had always been on the phone, chatting away. Then again, it could well be because he was on the phone so much that people were not approaching him?

Day 68: Somewhere over Dublin

I woke up this morning and there are plenty work still to be completed, but I had no choice but to halt all activities and concentrate on one task and one task only – finish up packing. With flight to Paris but a few hours away, tough choices were made, on what to bring and what to store away in boxes. In the end, I departed with a suitcase of 23kg (slightly overweight, ops) and a hand luggage.

We took off as the sun was setting, but unfortunately I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane and missed out on photographing what was a spectacular and vivid evening sky. However, it did afford me the view of Dublin Bay. I think the pier at the corner of this photo was that of Dun Laoghaire. I can’t be completely sure though, as the view from above was completely obstructed by cloud for a couple of minutes following take off.

Au revoir, Dublin.

Day 67: Magnolia

More signs of springtime! Blooming magnolia down the road from our house, at Pembroke Park, and crisp clear day of blue sky and light breeze. Perfect for a walk, but not to be stuck indoor with work (still plenty to do) and the looming urgency to pack (I admit, I have been putting off packing forever but with flight only some 25 hours away, I’m running out of time).

I retrieved my passport back from the French embassy yesterday, complete with my temporary visa affixed within and therefore I am finally good to go. Right now, the key is for me not to forget any important original documentations and accidentally put them away in one of the many boxes I’m leaving in storage here. Wish me luck!

Day 66: Wheel of Dublin

All these “city eye” can be a bit of a gimmick, from London to Sharjah to Singapore, and quite recently, Dublin too. However, fair play to the other cities, the locations are quite spot on for wonderful bird’s eye view of the cities and their environs. For Dublin though, I’m not sure if the same can be said, which is a real shame.

It’s hidden all the way down by The O2 (formerly The Point), an area not known for casual visitors but busy when there’s a (sold out) gig/show being played/ performed. Not only that, its location and size (it’s only half the height of London Eye) also means many landmarks of Dublin are not easily seen, given we don’t have many tall buildings and with most road being relatively narrow, from a distant, all the buildings easily blurred into continuous rows.

Passing by to have a look at it carves a rather dejected sight. Not all the pods were lit and the carousel was not even in operation. Granted, it’s Monday today and I was there after its closing time. However, last week, when I was around the area on a Friday evening, it was the same. And according to the website, it should still be open until 11pm. It makes me wonder – is Wheel of Dublin even in operation anymore?

Day 65: Wexford Bridge

I’ve gone a bit trigger happy with miniaturisation mode it seems – two pictures two days in a row with similar effect!

Supposedly the longest bridge in Ireland (really? I supposed if it’s a bridge spanning across water and not including motorway bridges) Wexford Bridge spans over nearly some 400m across the River Slaney between Wexford town and Riverbank. It is rather handsome, I must say, and it not only serves traffic purposes, it provides spots for fishing too.

Yes. Fishing. From the bridge. Particular in the warmer summer months. Armed with rods and baits and pails, usually from evening on till early morning, there would be someone fishing which may or may not include my relatives… In a good season, the boys would catch fairly good size sea bass quite easily, and for days on end we would be cooking the bass in a variety of way. Steamed, fried, fillet and coated with corn flour before frying, etc. They are so very delicious.


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