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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 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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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 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 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 63: Grand Canal Square

There’s a new theatre in the city – the Grand Canal Theatre – situated adjacent to some office blocks but on the lovely site of Grand Canal Square.The theatre has opened for about a year now, and still I haven’t a chance to attend any event there. Unsurprising, given how often I was away last year, and I haven’t seen something that caught my eyes in particular to pay the theatre a visit.

I didn’t realise that the Grand Canal area also falls under the Dublin Docklands initiative. Silly me. I should have though. The colourful set up is one of the hallmarks around the quay area. But for tonight though, I tried to play away with just single chosen colour. Pretty interesting effect but I’m not entirely convinced that it shows off the Grand Canal Square properly as it should…

Day 62: Moroccan night

There are two Moroccan restaurants in Dublin city centre – perhaps the whole of Dublin, or Ireland even? – and since we had a farewell party in mind, we went to Dada on South William St. I’ve been to El Bahia on Wicklow St once a few years back and it just wasn’t too spacious. Our group was initially meant for 12, then 14 plus a baby, add another, minus another (sort of). And the baby was a real angel all through the evening.

We started with a selection of appetisers to share, which included grilled merguez (I <3 merguez) among the 6-7 items on the plate. For my main, I chose the lamb tagine which was generous in portion and I couldn't quite finished. With a bit resting time, I was then ready again for dessert, when which we were served a selection of sweet pastries and ice cream, complemented with Moroccan mint tea. A big massive thank you to all my friends who made it out for the evening for my going-away do (and the lovely presents). It does make it so hard to imagine leaving them in mere few days from now.

Day 61: Venetian masks

Venetian Carnevale fever hits Temple Bar currently, and as interesting as it may be, this image was taken outside an adult entertainment premises. Sure, they are as colourful as some of those paraded in Italy coming up to Mardi Gras, but they also come with interesting price tags.

I must admit, I miss the real Venetian Carnevale. A city full of revellers, and mysterious figures strolling the alleys and canalways of Venice in controlled steps, pausing every so often to be photographed and idolised. Caught in the moment, I once even had my face painted with semi-mask in blue. Unfortunately, those were the days when there wasn’t any Avatar to make bright blue a popular face colour, and I had to catch a train from Venice to Milan looking whichever way I did. For the few hours, I was attracting wrong attention – plenty of stares and even a stalking guy, hmmmm.

Day 60: Dublin Convention Centre

Ireland was certainly busy building during the boom time, and one of the nicest thing that came out from it is the Dublin Convention Centre, a world class conference venue that can accommodate even up to 3,000 people in a hall at a time. No surprises then SMBE Annual Conference for 2012 will be taking place here.

It has been a while since I walk by the docklands area, and they’re certainly coming along nicely. During the day, it may all seems a tad nondescript but once the sky is dark though, the colours displayed are just so lovely. I saw a few more photo ops around here, so I guess I’ll just have to come back another couple of evenings to take those shots.

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.

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