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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.

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