I have set up this new page as at December 2015. There are many things that we are doing during our residency in Ireland that are not blogworthy – that is, of no particular interest to a wider world except us and possibly other family members. At the same time, these activities may be worth just noting down here so that our memories may be jogged when we have returned home to NZ.
So here we go. The page will be accessible to anyone and in fact comments will be allowed but it is essentially just an aide-memoire for Pip and me.
20 January 2016 – Kildare Village day out
The day showed promise, sunny sky and a temperature of 8 degrees and we said to each other, “It’s very mild, so let’s go out for the day.” Yes, “very mild” – you can tell we’ve become acclimatised. Our destination was a purpose-built shopping centre consisting purely of Outlet stores for many well-known brands. It is in the middle of nowhere outside Kildare village and it attracts thousands at weekends so we hoped for a quiet Friday.
Getting there requires hopping from one form of public transport to another but it’s an easy process and worth documenting. First, we walked the 800 metres to our Dublin Bus stop. Because Drumcondra Rd is a major bus corridor you seldom have to wait long and sure enough within about 3 minutes we were on board the 41a into town. We left the bus at O’Connell St and walked around the corner into Abbey St to catch the tram, or LUAS as it is known here (the Irish word for speed). The LUAS took us just 5 stops to Heuston Rail Station where we hopped aboard the 10:15 to Waterford, with the first stop 39 minutes later being Kildare. Out into the station carpark, there waiting was the complimentary shuttle bus to take us the 10 minutes drive to the Outlet Village. And the amazing thing about the whole trip was that, because we are over 66, it was all free – bus, tram, train.
The emphasis is on clothes shops but there are others as well – Swarovski jewellery and Zwilling, the German knife manufacturers, L’Occitane and Le Creuset are just a few of them. The clothing outlets include many famous UK, US and European brands such as Barbour, Brooks Bros, Ted Baker, Versace, I could go on and on. And our visit was well-timed as the after-Christmas sales were still on. Many shops had 50% off the outlet prices, which themselves were pretty good value.
So it was a Lovat Tweed jacket for Sir from Hackett of London (label-basher? Moi?), original price €600 (about NZD900), outlet price €400, sale price €200. Couldn’t not buy it, really. And for Madam, a Cath Kidston bag. Plus one or two other things…
Then time for lunch at Dunne and Crescenzi which, as you might tell from the name, is an Irish-Italian venture. Pip had the pesto pot – pesto and toast with hazelnuts added to the pesto to give it a real zing and mine was the Bruschetta con Tonno.
After that it was time to retrace our steps back into the city with our ill-gotten gains – a great day out.
25 September 2016 – Le Petit Breton
Sunday lunch at a small cafe styling itself as an artisan creperie in Lower Drumcondra Rd, a 15-min walk from our apartment. And yes, le Patron comes from Brittany, where a typical lunch might be a savoury crepe followed by a sweet crepe and a glass of cider. We bypassed the savoury crepes today but Pip had one of their “classic” crepes with home-made salted butter caramel sauce and I had the crepe with caramelised apple, cinnamon, caramel sauce, whipped cream and sliced almonds (pictured). Yum. And all washed down with a glass of Coat Albret brut cider from north Brittany. As it happens, we are flying to Nantes in Brittany on Thursday this week, en route to Saumur, so may be trying out more cider and crepes!
11 September 2016 – Venice Videos
A view of the Grand Canal in the early evening.
A cellist busker on a warm Sunday morning.
5 September 2016 – Last of the Summer Light
A glorious late afternoon in Dublin, almost making up for the lack of summer, which was warm but very often cloudy and wet. And even here, you notice that one of those clouds is looking very pluvial! (Taken from our apartment balcony.)
7 August 2016 – Birthday lunch at Malahide
Well, a couple of days early but easier to accomplish on the weekend. Pip had organised lunch at Geisha, an Asian-style restaurant in the seaside town of Malahide which is about half an hour north of Clontarf station on the train. We were surprised and delighted to find Seifried Sauvignon Blanc (from Nelson) on the wine list. The food, chosen from a small set menu, was excellent. To start, Salmon Nigiri and Satay Gai, mains Mat Zui Fillet Beef and Slow Roasted Spiced Peking Duck, and to finish, two Pavlova-style desserts with strawberries, cream and a profiterole. Well, it was a birthday celebration, he said defensively. And we nibbled only a piece of cheese each in place of our evening meal. All right, total honesty. And a little bit of chocolate left over from Neltje’s visit. More photos from the day can be seen at our Flickr site.
4 August 2016 – Coffee at the Tram
A 1902 tram that spent most of its working life in Lisbon has found its way (goodness knows how) to Dublin’s Wolfe Tone Square in the north central city. We have walked past it many times and finally this week got to sit down with a couple of coffees and a share of one delicious orange and almond drizzle cake.
31 July 2016 – LA Guitar Quartet
Went to the National Concert Hall to hear this group perform, along with the Dublin Guitar Quartet and the inaugural Irish Youth Guitar Orchestra. The Youth Orchestra performed the Capriol Suite (Warlock) and Mars from Holst’s Planets suite and Music for Ghosts (Bolger), the latter led by the DGQ. A sub-group played Austin Tango (Dyens) and Diablo (Marsh).
Then the piece de resistance, the LAGQ who performed superbly, starting with a Venezuelan piece (unknown name as it wasn’t in the programme), a jazzy piece by Chet Atkins – Blue Ocean Echo / Country Gentleman – then de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance in a very literal transcription from the piano music (I don’t want to boast but I can do with two hands what it took them eight hands to do), finally ending up with Shiki – Seasons of Japan (Shingo Fuji) with both Japanese and Western melodies woven together very effectively.
2 June 2016 – Bloom Festival
This is an annual festival of food and gardens, rather like the Chelsea Flower Show on a smaller scale. Gardeners compete with their designs and Irish food is promoted alongside, like a large Farmers’ Market.
The name, Bloom, has of course floral connotations but it is also a nod to James Joyce who was raised in Dublin. The hero of his novel Ulysses was Leopold Bloom and the events in the book all take place on one day in June 1904.
24 May 2016 – All Hallows College
Attended an early evening choral concert here. The choir was good but the surroundings were superb. All Hallows is one of many Catholic tertiary institutions in Ireland run by one of many Catholic organisations, in this case, the Vincentians, who are followers of St Vincent de Paul. (So not all their properties are run-down shops selling second-hand goods, obviously.) In was founded in 1842 but some of its Georgian buildings pre-date that. It is about a 10-minute walk from our apartment and the campus is an oasis of calm within the busy streets of Dublin. It is such a photogenic spot that I will come back and do a full blog post on it, I think, but in the meantime here is an external view of the chapel, where the concert was held, and an internal view.
22 May 2016 – Tournament
We watched a golf tournament take place on our neighbouring “pitch and putt” course today. All the players were very proficient and it provided good entertainment from our balcony for us and our guests Kirsty and Richard as well, prior to their catching a plane back to Heathrow.
And here it is again if I’d had my paints out.
16 May 2016 – Irish expressions
Spent a pleasant hour in the sunshine reading my book in Griffith Park on a beautiful spring day, with the temperature forecast to reach 18 degrees. A young woman sunbathing on the grass called out to a passing acquaintance: “It’s a grand day for a lie out. You can be warm without having to move!”
14 May 2016 – Morning coffee at Le Petit Breton
A lovely Saturday morning, no lawns to mow, no gardens to be weeded, so we strolled down to Drumcondra village for morning coffee at a newish cafe, Le Petit Breton. Full of staff saying “Merci” and “Bonjour” (we think they might be French) and they also do flat whites, a rarity out of NZ. Their specialty is crepes and although we wouldn’t normally eat anything at this time of day, we (well, I) felt duty-bound to try their “Classique” crepe with homemade salted caramel butter sauce and a scoop of ice cream. Delicieux!
May 2016 – Ros and Pip at the Howth Summit
A pleasant ride out on the 31 bus to the summit, then we walked back into Howth for Ros’ first Irish Guinness at the Waterside pub along the shoreline.
April 2016 – Ferguson country
Thanks again to Mary and Mike, Rob and Jeanette, for their hospitality during our trip to Menstrie and Appin.
Thursday 31 March 2016
Went to the first of a series of lunchtime concerts in the Unitarian Church across from St Stephen’s Green to hear Janos Soos, a Hungarian. This organ has recently been restored and the range of sounds it now produces is superb. It must be one of the best instruments I have ever heard. There are 6 more organ recitals to come in this series so I will do my best to get to as many of them as possible. A challenge to play (and, in some parts, to listen to) was Franck’s Grand Piece Symphonique Op.17, lasting about 30 mins. Wonderful sound quality. He also played Bach’s well-known Passacaglia in C minor which is one of my favourites. Couldn’t get the recurring tune out of my head all afternoon! The third piece of note was a contemporary piece by Hungarian Davis Kosa: Toccata Festiva in the style of Widor.
Sunday 13 March 2016
Today, a free concert at the Hugh Lane Gallery by the Mornington Singers conducted by Orla Flanagan (good name, my Irish great great grandmother was a Flanagan who emigrated to NZ). The gallery where they sang was circular with a high domed ceiling so the acoustics were very good and resonant.
A superb choir whose emphasis was on modern music – Barber (1910-1981), Kocsar (b.1933), Lang (b.1957), MacMillan (b.1959) and Rautavaara (b.1928), although they also sang some Purcell and Vaughan Williams. Often quite dissonant music but still hugely enjoyable. We never listen to 20th and 21st century classical music so it does us good to be confronted by it from time to time. And not only the music. Some of the settings were to established poets such as Skakespeare and Burns but there were also a number of modern poets whose work had been set to music by the above composers. We were particularly struck by the words of Carl Sandburg, an American poet. Here are a couple of them:
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbour and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
Stuff of the moon
Runs on the lapping sand
Out to the longest shadows.
Under the curving willows,
And round the creep of the wave line.
Fluxions of yellow and dusk on the waters
Make a wide dreaming pansy of an old pond in the night.
Fluxions, eh? Great word. In fact, great image, the whole last two lines.
Wednesday 24 February 2016
OK, so the week has turned out a little differently from the last weekend. We have now had three days of brilliant sunshine and blue sky every morning, clouding over after lunch but still much more spring-like. frosts, too, but temperatures as high as 8 during the day. Tropical!
I walked to Griffith Park, about 1km away, and photographed a few spring flowers.
Sunday 21 February 2016
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? (Shelley)
Well, yes, if you live in Dublin. Winter is two-thirds through and there is no let-up in sight. Never mind, we are determined not to let it get to us so yesterday we went out on the town anyway. Taking a short cut through Powerscourt, I snapped the coffee-takers and because I like the picture, here it is.
We started with lunch at Il Posto, an Italian restaurant on St Stephen’s Green which had some good reviews and indeed they lived up to their reputation. Roasted garlic sausages and mashed potatoes in brandy sauce for Himself and fillet of chicken wrapped in parma ham with soya bean & mushroom garlic sauce and roast thyme potatoes for Herself, plus a mousse and panacotta for dessert from their set menu, good value at 18 Euros each. Add in a nice glass of wine each and very attentive service and it made a good start to the afternoon. We had booked for 12 and had the place to ourselves until getting close to 1, which is more typically the Irish lunch time.
Then off down the road about 200 yards to the Gaiety Theatre, dating from Victorian times (1871) and supposedly Dublin’s longest-established theatre in continuous use, complete with a Phantom of the Opera chandelier. We had seats for a matinee performance of John B Keane’s Big Maggie. This has as its centrepiece an Irish “Mammy” and is a searing and very funny look at how Mammy rules her family and her world.
Out of the theatre and straight across the road to Harry’s Bar, where we consumed three cocktails (it was a special deal) between us before tripping ever so lightly back to Dame St where we caught the bus for home.
Thursday 21 January 2016
The weather has been quite cold and gloomy lately with daily highs of 2 or 3 degrees.. Then yesterday, out of the blue, or more accurately out of the grey, came a glorious day with not a cloud to be seen, temperature soaring to 6 or 7 degrees, so I caught the No. 16 bus into town.
In winter, the buskers who are such a feature of Dublin inner city fade away, especially since the tourists, who are probably their biggest source of income, have also faded. Last year Ireland had over 8 million tourists and most of them spent time in Dublin. To give you some idea of the volume, there are three hop on hop off bus tour companies running double decker buses every 30 mins in Dublin during the summer. But even in winter, although their numbers may have faded there are still plenty of tourists about, making progress along Grafton St difficult for us real Dubliners!
So yesterday the buskers were back and I videoed someone obviously nostalgic for Acker Bilk. The sun is very low in winter here – about 1 and a half minutes into the video, notice how long the shadows are and it’s only 1:30pm.
Another fixture in Grafton St is a group of four gentlemen dressed all in black, faces blacked as well, who sit and stand perfectly still for hours at a time staring blankly ahead. They are accompanied by a Dalmatian dog which is trained to sit just as still (Pip tells me it’s stuffed!) although thankfully they have resisted the temptation to black out its white bits. And that’s their act. They all just sit there. Reminiscent of Blackadder’s cabaret act, the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem. “What do they do?” “They jump, my Lord”.
Sunday 6 December 2015
Went to a concert in the Unitarian Church on St Stephens Green at 3pm. They have just refurbished their pipe organ and had four organists and a choir providing a range of items to display its features. Pieces that we particularly enjoyed included Lefebure-Wely’s Sortie and Offertoire, the Vaughn-Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols, Percy Whitlock’s Folk Tune (from Five Short Pieces) Bourgeois’ Serenade in 11/8 time.
Quote from Sunday Independent: “The Game of Thrones TV series is partially shot in Ireland. We ticked all the boxes – particularly the one that’s marked ‘Angry Looking Locals Who Will Do Anything to Get on Television’.”
Wednesday 9 December 2015
Found a great quote from W B Yeats “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
Thursday 10 December 2015
An early afternoon photo taken from our apartment balcony on a wintry December afternoon, lit by that rarest of orbs, the sun. In the foreground, the houses along Clonturk Park, behind them the Skylon Hotel and behind that again the dome of Corpus Christi church. To the left at the back, on the other side of Drumcondra Rd, is the modern, just-completed library of St Patrick’s College, a recently-incorporated part of DCU. This is a slightly-zoomed version of the actual view we see.
Tuesday 29 December
No Christmas photos yet – they will have to wait until we are back in Dublin. In the interim, I am learning how to use my camera wifi to transfer photos to my iPad and then to the blog. So here is a photo of a wonderful greengrocer’s shop at the bottom of Beresford Rd where Kirsty and Richard live.
Friday 1 January 2016
We are in Hove where the weather is wet and cold so we are hunkered down with the grandkids, Grandma ‘reading’ the YouTube version of Peter and the Wolf for the umpteenth time.
Sunday 10 January
Well, Christmas is now just a distant memory, so to jog that memory I have selected 11 photos from the Christmas/New Year period. It was a very enjoyable time because of catching up with our UK family members but both Pip and I had colds which took the shine off things a bit. When you add to that the poor weather, it was altogether a very low key affair. Yes, we know what to expect at this time of year in the northern hemisphere and our expectations were fully met with unremitting cloud and constant rain. Much of the time we were in Hove, and although the seafront home of Chris and Sarah is in a lovely spot for the summer, in the winter the coast is very exposed and we were further assaulted with strong winds. At least it didn’t snow and certainly the temperatures were above average for the time of year so that was a small consolation.
The photos: the first three are from our Christmas Eve walk along the Hove promenade. It was cold but not raining, with the sun amazingly popping out from behind the clouds from time to time, allowing me to photograph the beach huts (once again), Angus on the beach and the two boys with Sarah. Then we see Angus being taught how to make Anzac biscuits on the kitchen floor with Grandma followed by the boys again, modelling their Christmas Star Trek costumes and Dominic in his Kiwi costume. Then Angus who built, with his father’s help, the Lego pirate ship. On Boxing Day we went to London, travelling very pleasantly but slowly by National Express coach as the railways were closed for maintenance. We were surprised to see that the crowds in Oxford St were still bargain hunting days afterwards on 29th December. A highlight of our time in London was going to the Charing Cross Theatre where Kirsty had managed to get tickets to see the musical “Piaf”. Well, a highlight for Kirsty and me, as Pip was not well enough to venture out that day. We had the best seats in the house – you can see Kirsty seated at the red-topped cafe table at the front. Then back to Hove and Orsino, an Italian restaurant where we went to celebrate Angus’ 7th birthday on 4th January, Angus holding up (not eating) his “7” badge. Finally, a shot of Dublin from the air, returning “home” on 5th January.
Our thanks to staff at the Langley Hilton and the Bourn Langham. Special honourable mention to chefs Chris (a full English Christmas dinner with all, and I mean all, the trimmings) and Richard (medium rare fillet of beef with roast tomatoes, gratineed potatoes with anchovy and cream sauce, rocket salad with pine nuts, all accompanied by a Te Mata Syrah. A team effort, with sous chef Kirsty providing the ginger and pear cake dessert. We wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes the first private residence in the world to be awarded a Michelin star and no, for the uninitiated, that doesn’t mean the beef was a bit rubbery.)
Friday 15 January
A touch of frost for the first time this winter, seen from our bedroom window. The sun is very low in the sky and the temperature is currently sitting at 1 degree C (10am) and threatening more of the same, maybe even snow, this weekend. December was very mild so to get this far before winter really hits is not too bad.