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Day 59: Disco machine

This sign was spotted by Herbert Park. Someone has been getting creative while tampering with the sign, and what was meant to be the disc machine (for parking discs) is now a disco machine. Might the effect be better had the “o” also came in the size as all other letters rather than being the stuck-in-the-middle-red-ring?

However, this sign is not quite as amusing and clever as another I saw a couple of years back at Wellington Place nearby. Someone has transformed the “children crossing” sign to a grim reaper leading a child across the road, by adding a pointy hoody and a scythe. And it was nearly Halloween then. How apt :D

Day 58: Lunch @ Roly’s

Roly’s is a place pretty close to my heart. Situated in Ballsbridge, it was here where many a celebration have take place, from first day of college to birthday parties to no-excuse-needed “just because” meals with family and friends. However, since the departure of the Chef Patron Colin O’Daly, I haven’t been to the restaurant. With my imminent leaving on the card, why not a going-away meal there?

I was mildly surprised at the changes the place have undergone. There’s now a more informal cafe on the ground floor, with table service as well takeaway option of ready-made meals. The space upstairs remains reserved for restaurant service, with menu that hasn’t changed too much over time. The prices also remained of good value.

The food portion at Roly’s has always been on the generous side – methinks this is one of the winning factors for many customers – but this visit, I found it simply too much for me and my dining companions. However, the tragedy, in our opinion, came in the form of desserts. If you know me, you know I love my sweet course. Does this make me hard to please? Maybe. This is what we found. The Pavlova pillow was saccharine beyond words, the Paris-Brest heavy, and the pear and almont tart barely got a couple of bites out before being abandoned. Ooops…

Day 57: Millenium Child(ren)

More sculpture from around Dublin and today, I trekked over to Christchurch for this piece by John Behan, commissioned by Barnardos, a children-focused charity, with support of Tipperary Crystal. It was unveiled at the end of 2000, in line with its aim to celebrate children in the new millenium.

I must say I have not worked with/on behalf of Barnardos before. Normally, I’m involved with fundraising for Unicef and I also sponsor a child through Action Aid. I know what I’ve been doing so far are the “easy” options, nonetheless I hope that some impact are made even if I’m not involved in a more hands-on approach or out on active advocacy efforts.

Day 56: Hawthorne blossom

The weather has cleared up when I went out for a walk around Clyde Road and Herbert Park in the morning. When I spotted a cluster of hawthorne blossom, I naturally stopped and try to work some magic with my digital toy. I initially tested the macro lens, but let’s face it, given this camera is compact yet equipped with a 14x optical zoom, we all know that clear macro images would be a pretty tough one to pull off.

I switched to give the fisheye lens another go after the museum shot a few days ago. I quite like the outcome and I am also pleased to get a reasonably sharp close-up photo of the blossom. Of course, I was also squatting by the fence for a while to get this right. When I stood up, a bunch of kids at football practice nearby were staring at me, as if I’ve grown a pair of horns and a tail. Oops. Best be off so.

Day 55: Very rude gnomes

Soooo, speak no evil, see no evil, and give the finger?

I was en route out from the Chester Beatty Library today when I passed by Gallery Number One and spotted these chunks of gnomes at the windows. I had a double take when my assumption of “gnomes reenacting hear/speak/see no evil” turned out to have implants between them who happened to be a little rude.

The gnomes also reminded me of the travelling gnome à la Amélie. You know, the one which was posed at various famous landmarks so photos can be snapped? I think that’s a pretty sweet idea, except it would be hell should one flies low-cost and does not check any luggage in. That gnome can’t be light. However, I must say, if I could find such gnome as a plushy, I probably wouldn’t mind doing my own version of The Adventure of Travelling Gnome. Do you know where I can find one?

Day 54: DARTing along Dublin Bay

The suburban train system in Dublin is known as DART (i.e. Dublin Area Rapid Transit) and it runs mainly along the coastline of Dublin Bay. On a good day, there’s nothing I enjoy more than to either head northward to Howth and Malahide (pick a seat on the right) or southward for Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey and Bray (now sit to the left), looking out the window and take in the beautiful views of sun, sea, blue sky and rolling landscape.

However, when I travelled by DART today, it was late in the evening and just too dark for me to grab any photos along the route. So a photo of a moving train as substitute then? I thought I’d got a reasonable shot when reviewing the image on my camera, but I guess not quite so. Sorry about this rather shoddy photo…

Day 53: The Kiss

There are sculptures tucked away here and there aplenty in Dublin. The Kiss is tucked away from unaware public eyes across the road from the National Concert Hall, where Earlsfort Terrace meets Hatch Street. A commission casted by Blackrock-based sculptor, Rowan Gillespie some two decades ago, this is my favourite among his many works.

I’ve always been quite fascinated by the height and the elegance of the figures, closing in for a kiss but remains physically separated. Indeed, even the lips are not quite locked in yet, projecting a sense of longing and intimacy simultaneously. The bodies, untouching one another, makes me wonder if this is a moment of tentative reunion or a long goodbye; the figures putting a distance akin to holding an invisible shield to protect themselves from hurt.

Quite a number of Gillespie’s other works can also be found around Dublin. Among those that I’ve seen for myself, they usually hold much emotion in gestures and body language that one cannot help but be moved by the mood projected. I’ll try to grab some shots of them in the next couple of weeks if I have time to venture over to the sites.

Day 52: Ambassador’s mansion

The embassy belt of Dublin lies around Ballsbridge and its environs. Quite pronouncedly, just walk down Ailesbury Road (off Donnybrook) anyday and the majority of the compounds, both left and right of the road, would bear flags of one country or another. This photo of an ambassador’s mansion may not be particularly clear (it was a still day, with nary a gust of wind to fly the flags) but look closely – could you guess who lives here?

Security measure at the embassies are undoubtedly tight. Just take the American embassy on Elgin Road. It is like a small fortress in its own right. Security gate with guarding policemen, and if I recall my visit there a few years ago correctly, they will only admit someone in accordance to appointment list (no random drop-ins), they will take away your mobile phone/digital equipment (no recording policy inside the embassy) and there are scanners and delayed doors etc. I do wonder how did they do it, when they held election parties in the past, to vet US citizens plus guests in a relatively high number. Can’t be easy.

Day 51: Florists of Grafton St

There are a couple of spots where florists ply their colourful goods on Grafton Street. The first, at the junction to Harry Street (that’s the very short laneway leading towards Bruxelles and Westbury Hotel for most of Dubliners) and the second, at the junction to Duke Street, right besides Marks and Spencer.

I love flowers and blooms but oddly, I am not usually one to buy cut flowers. It feels wrong somehow, that they’re not growing out from soil in accordance to the season. Isn’t it much nicer to sit out in a garden somewhere and watch them all spruced up in rows with concerted adoration of the sun? Admittedly, sometimes, we do need something to cheer up the interiors, like a small bundle of daffodils in the lab. Nothing says spring better than these golden beauties!

Day 50: Red brick and glass

The home to Irish rugby in Dublin reopened last summer in the form of Aviva Stadium. I don’t know if I can even label it as an reopening per se, because truly, the old Landsdowne Road Stadium was demolished before this new glassy structure was put on site as replacement. It is, in essence, a brand new stadium, with the seating capacity doubled in comparison to the old stadium. Pretty impressive.

However, I am more charmed by the row of red brick houses along Landsdowne Road. Unlike many parts of south Dublin inner city, where Georgian architecture dominates the landscape, these houses are Victorian. The bricks used and stacked form much of the exterior styling and embellishment. No frivolous carvings, no fancy columns, no unessential portico. Perhaps I simply have a soft spot for red bricks – they look natural and timeless, no repainting required.

Day 49: Rayburst

Blue sky.
Budding daffodils.
Grass cutting.
Small slice of cake.
Chirp chirp.
A deep breathe.

I need very little to put a smile on my face lately. Just the simple things. Of being outside. Of taking things slow. Of savouring every bite. Clichéd as it sounds, knowing that my time in Dublin is limited seems to heighten the senses.

You may notice I am photographing mostly around my neighbourhood at the moment. For one, I have quite a lot of work to wrap up, so I don’t have much time to get away too far from where I am. Secondly, it helps preserving my memory of this part of Dublin that I’ve seem to take for granted. Until now.

Day 48: National Museum

Do you know, many of the museums in Dublin are free to enter? My favourite among all is the Chester Beatty Library at the back of Dublin Castle, of which currently there is an excellent exhibition of the lores of Shahnama and a number of related events have also been organised. Last week, I was at a showing of Azur and Azmar and I’m looking forward to a public lecture next week on The Shahnama and the Iranian Identity. Should be very interesting.

This photo above though was that of the entrance to the National Musuem of Ireland-Archaelogy on Kildare St, which houses a large number of artifacts and bog bodies. To its back is the Natural History Museum which recently reopened after a spell of structural repair works. A triumvirate of national museums is formed through inclusion of the National Gallery nearby, whereby these museums surround the Leinster House, current seat of Irish Parliament. There is no admission charge to any of these museums mentioned above.

Day 47: Red, red shoes

Grafton St is the equivalent of High St in Dublin, and quite the spot to go shopping in the city centre. (Alternatively, for more shopping option, head over to Henry Street.) Among the shops lining this pedestrianised thoroughfare, Marks and Spencer is probably the one I spent the most time – and money – in. Usually for food though.

I have never ever considered purchasing red shoes before (let’s face it, I’m no fashionista and I am incredibly boring that I usually buy something in black or brown) but this pair of M&S kitten heel pumps is just so cute. If only you can hear the inner debate I’m having with myself right now. On one hand, it would be good for me to step out of the fashion box and try something bold. On the other hand, I really shouldn’t be buying more things just before I move. Gah, I’m torn…

Day 46: Tower

I took a long-ish walk today, southward, past River Dodder. Then, right before my eyes, the Church of Sacred Heart of Donnybrook, with its imposing square tower (only one) that could pass for tower of a castle, neo-gothic architecture, and incorporation of various wings of the church in a rather peculiar configuration.

I’ve only seen the interior of the church once, years ago, and try as I might, I can’t recall what the interior was like. I remember it being tall and spacious, with an impressive set of organs and also a beautiful rose window. Other details – everything’s just hazy. I considered sneaking in for a visit, but chickened out.

Day 45: Giant meringues

I have been eyeing these giant meringues for a while now. Each time I pass the window of The Butler’s Pantry in Donnybrook, that is. The pink ones are supposed to be raspberry meringue, the white one traditional, and the baby blue ones, errrm, I don’t know what’s the flavour actually. Should I drop in and ask?

If you are wondering how big are these giant meringues, just compare against the tarts on the display dish right next to the meringue plate. I am also curious as to the amount of time it requires to bake these monstrous treats so each stays dry and airy on the inside while crispy yet not burnt on the outside. To be honest, I have never quite perfected the art of meringue baking, so I won’t attempt to whip up a batch of giant meringues just yet.

Day 44: Night light

It has been a long day. Between Castle, work, rugby (strictly as spectator), coffee with a friend, champagne reception and movie premiere, I am more than ready to be home than continuing the evening festivities with post-movie drinks and Q&A with the director. But not before taking this photo at College Green on the way home. ;)

What you don’t see in this photo is that this tree stands between two building with symbolisms from two different administrations of the country. On one side, the first purpose-built parliament house in Europe by the British, now a branch of Bank of Ireland, which still bears British royal coat of arms; across the road, the former Habitat Building which I cannot recall its initial purpose right now, bears a sculpture of Irish significance, having a proud face-off against the English stone carving. I should do a wee bit more research into this at some stage. It’s certainly interesting and worth knowing history of the city.

Day 43: Election creativity

There are election posters everywhere. Faces which some evoke a sense of trustworthiness, others a sense of trepidation. In between them, there are a good few creative non-election posters put up by UpStart, a non-profit arts collective. This poster can be spotted on Kildare Street. They are not just all photographs. I have also seen a number of posters featuring word extracts (from poems? quotations? I don’t know), doodles and paintings around the city, and I’m assuming they’re not exclusive to Dublin but also displayed nationwide.

In about 2 weeks time, the Irish general election would be held. However, unless you’re a citizen living in the country, you’re not eligible to vote. Postal vote is not available. There are some 70-80 million Irish worldwide and only about 5 million living on the island. Many of the Irish are descendants who claimed citizenship but have never step foot into the country. It’s hardly feasible to allow the “outsiders” to decide the politics that affect the residents. However, if you still would like to have a say, you can do so unofficially online at BallotBox.ie until 25 February.

Day 42: Paddling happily

Does taking photos from the same canal but along three different stretches count as different street photo locations? Well, I couldn’t help it. It’s one of my favourite spots around here. The ducks also seem to love paddling here. ;)

Well, canal stroll and duck watching aside, I think I have found a new favourite thing. Sila has been talking about Castle for a while, so I decided to give it a try today. And now I am hooked. I can see myself spending the entire weekend watching it (maybe, except Sunday, as Ireland is playing France in a 6 Nations match) and I would probably not stop until I catch everything up. The 48 episodes of the 3 seasons shown so far!

Day 41: Grill baby, grill

Woohoo, proper blue sky for once!

It was near one in the afternoon when I realised I was famished. I have quite lost track of the number of hours I’ve put in since morning too. Good thing my body is great at telling me when it wants to be fed. Recalling there is a lunchtime food market at Mespil Road on Thursdays, I changed from my comfy clothes (read: something that may be mistaken as pajamas but I assure you it’s not) to something of smart casual variety, and went out the door.

Even before I got there, the enticing aroma of food wafted in the air. I quickened my steps and the clearing opened to a handful of stalls – about 15 if I recall correctly, but in the state of hunger, I can’t be entirely certain. Bratwursts! Paella! Roasted chicken! Hummus and pitta! BBQ! Oh the BBQ…

In the mean time, professionals in smart suits from offices nearby were queueing for their grubs before marching to one of the many benches along the Grand Canal for a spot of impromptu picnic. I love the spirit of conviviality all around me, where nothing in life is hurried or pressed. I also firmly believe people who love food are happier folks. ;)

Day 40: February sky

It has been raining more or less for a week now, bar for the odd hour or two in the last couple of days. It’s wonderful to get that break from monotonous grey sky, to which I took great pleasure in sneaking out for a walk. Work has started piling up suddenly (I really shouldn’t have complained to my friend about the excess of free time – I’ve jinxed it!) and I’m practically attached to my laptop at all time. To be out for some fresh air, that’s luxury.

However, the grey clouds are omnipresent and seemingly menacing, threatening to swallow up the sun and whatever small patches of blue sky there is. Sure enough, shortly after this photo was taken, little drops started to fall from above, sending me packing and power-walked home as quickly as I can.

Day 39: Coffeehouse

I am not a coffee drinker. Nor a tea drinker. (Hot chocolate is my poison.)

I used to joke with my friends, when I was a graduate student, that cafés relying on my business would easily go bankrupt. I was the opposite of many other students (and non-students alike) who need their caffeine fix daily, often several times a day. There isn’t even a point for me to carry any loyalty card, because I’ll never reach the number of stamps required to get a free beverage.

Of course, coffee houses are great for short meet-ups with friends, or to get a cup of hot drinks and sit to read. Given I’m due to move to Paris soon, I should learn to ease in the café lifestyle a bit better. Perhaps it’s the romantic view that everyone have of Paris, that this is the thing to do. For sure, you’ll also be charged a premium for that sit down privileges. Do you know, most Parisian cafés easily charge 200-300% more for the cuppa at the table than serving you au comptoir (i.e. at the bar)?

Day 38: Bold monsters of Drury St

Passing by the area yesterday (George’s Street Arcade is flanked by both George’s Street and Drury Street) these colourful street art caught my eyes but in the miserably wet and grey weather, the vibrancy of the colour and form is just not that quite same as today, when the sun comes out to play for a little while.

I know I have been photographing mainly the southside of Dublin city for Project 365, and am considering venturing more often across River Liffey for variations, or perhaps to go to the suburbs areas such as Howth and Dun Laoghaire. If only it would rain a little less without the wind of 50km/h… I don’t fancy getting blown off the coastal areas into the sea!

Day 37: Facebook is a religion?

Sorry, I couldn’t help the dig.

Had this been a display of some sort, then the label below would denote the item on exhibit. Given this is a figure of a head normally associated to religious iconography, a signage of Facebook gives it a whole new meaning. (Not that this amount to much else but the possibility that the fortune teller of George’s St Arcade is trying to promote his page on Facebook.)

George’s St Arcade is a small gem of a “market”, boasting a couple of cafés, second hand bookstalls, clothes shops, knick knacks and collectibles. It also used to host my favourite gourmet food stall, selling delectable fudge, unusual ingredients (edible lavender, anyone?), pulse and lentils by weight etc but is today replaced with a sort-of stocking fetish and plastic mobile phone cover business. Not quite equivalent in exchange, as you can see. Probably also explain why I haven’t been browsing around here much in the last couple of years.

Day 36: A rainy night in Ranelagh

Weekend socials continue. Not that I am complaining. I’ll take all socials time with my friends as much as I can right now. Afterall, soon enough, I can’t just call them up for coffee/dinner with a mere 30 minutes notice. It’s a tricky business, to live in a different country.

Ranelagh is actually my old neighbourhood. I lived there for a good 4 years, loving the village vibe yet secure in the knowledge that I was only about 20 minutes walk away from south city centre. It is vibrant and dynamic, an area of choice of many young professionals of the city. For a short while, it even boasted a Michelin-starred restaurant, if only it was better managed. In the end, there just wasn’t enough good food to rescue the business from closing down. What a shame.

As I walked the streets of the village, I relived the memory of time past. One of my friends has just recently moved to the area and I think she would be very happy there. Had it not been for unwillingness of my previous landlady to renegotiate rent at a time when rental property prices were falling, I would have continued living there. I was happy where I was.

Day 35: Chinese Film Festival

Free movie? Opening night of a film festival? Sure.

I nearly pulled out from attending though. The weather has turned rather foul in Dublin in the past 30 hours or so, wet and extremely windy. There have been news report of overturned vehicles and a tragic freak accident by this very spot where a fallen tree killed a woman. Flower tributes now tie along the sign.

However, the weather did improve somewhat in the evening (drizzly with occasional gusts of wind) and I made it to the IFI in Temple Bar. The film festival has been organised in conjunction with Dublin Chinese New Year Festival, but the hope is to turn it into an annual film festival. We saw Bodyguards and Assassins which was very good (if a tad bloody), and the evening was followed by a small reception.

The DCNYF Chinese Film Festival will close on 13 February with a world premiere of Blood Oath, directed by Stephen Shin and produced by Zhang Yi-Mou. The director himself will be in attendance, opening the movie and taking part in Q&A at the end. I look forward to that.

Day 34: Is this Beauvais-Tillé?

The last time I travelled through Beauvais-Tillé was back in November 2010, and like all the other times I used the airport, it was teeming with passengers, trying to make their morning flights to Milan-Bergamo, Barcelona, Rome Ciampino, Stockholm, Fez and Dublin but to name a few. (I know, it’s a bit scary that I know what flights there are purely by the frequency of my trip via this airport.)

This morning, however, was all calm and the panic queues through security were missing. Sometimes in the 3 months, a new Terminal 2 has been opened and now many European flights have been distributed to the new terminal, reducing the passenger load of Terminal 1. I must admit this is a much more pleasant travel experience.

Looking back, this airport has changed so much over the years. The first time I used it must be about 10 years ago, where the building was partition into two, one for arrival and one for departure. There was nothing else bar a small cafe, so forget about duty free shopping even. Since then, the building was extended, shops and cafes added, duty free bonus, and now a shiny new terminal. Impressive.

Day 33: CNY in Paris

It’s the eve of Chinese New Year. Traditionally, family reunions/dinners are held today and downstairs, I think there’s a party somewhere, with cheesy Alan Tam music on. A number of Chinese residents (and friends) have been going in and out of the corridor where the music is blasting out loudly. I debated gate-crashing it, but as a newbie, it’s probably frowned upon to be quite that forward. Never mind, I’ll be getting my New Year dinner fix tomorrow with my friends back in Dublin.

There are 3 Chinatown areas in Paris. The largest of them is in the 13th arrondissement, mostly concentrated in around Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry and their environs. These streets are currently lined on both sides with large greeting banners and lanterns in red, with the Chinese community flocking the major Asian supermarkets to complete their shoppings for the festivities, from food such as roast pig – yup, the entire animal – and nian gao to decorative items including New Year picture and plum blossom. There will also be a Chinese New year parade this weekend, which alas, I won’t be here to enjoy. Quel dommage.

The second Chinatown is in Belleville and it is actually a lot more diverse and multi-cultural here with a relatively high number of African ethnic groups also living here. A third and much smaller Chinatown can be found in the 3rd arrondissement, near Rue des Gravilliers. They each will also have their own parades to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.

For a complete programme to CNY celebration in Paris, check out this link (it’s in English) from the Mairie de Paris. Happy Chinese New Year!

Day 32: Trompe-l’œil

I flew in to Paris this morning for a short 48 hours trip. As a thick layer of cloud shrouded the sky (the view during the flight was very impressive) over north of France, it was inevitably a grey and coooold day in Paris. Nonetheless, I find myself on a stroll around the Latin Quarter for a couple of hours in the evening before heading to Anne’s for dinner.

I’ve barely crossed the road from Place St Michel towards rue St André-des-Arts when this trompe-l’œil materialised before my eyes. The hues matched so beautifully, yet the painted reflection of the window revealed a season that is definitely not winter. Afterall, the trees outside are currently pretty bare. I should revisit in a few months for a follow up photo.

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