Saturday, November 17, 2012

Coffeeneuring 2012

I really enjoyed Coffeeneuring this year (for those not in the know, please see the challenge description over here at Chasing Mailboxes). It was not without its challenges - I'm obsessed with my neighborhood and all the little shops and cafes in it, so it was a bit challenging for me to get to places that were beyond the 2 mile radius! That said, I did sneak in one neighborhood shop that was a wee bit further than the others. If you love hyper-local business and ever happen to be in the neighborhood, though, do be sure to check out Nelly's, Walls & Keogh, Tiesan Cafe, and Bibi's. My other major coffeneuring challenge was overcoming my fear of taking awkward photos in coffee shops. I don't know that I totally overcame that challenge, so please excuse the poor photography.

Without further ado, here's my control sheet:

Control One
Date: 10/6
Shop: Brother Hubbard
Address: 153 Capel Street, Dublin 1
What I ordered: Black Coffee
Notes: It was super crowded inside, even with all the outdoor patio tables taken. So, since it was a sunny day, I got a coffee to go and took it down to the Ormond Quay boardwalk to drink along the Liffey. Brother Hubbard makes an excellent cup of joe, and this was easily the best coffee from my entire coffeeneuring experience. It probably helps that they serve Has Bean coffee and grind it to order.
Total Mileage: 2.9
Photographic Evidence:

Boardwalk on the left. Ha'penny bridge in the distance.

Brother Hubbards = tasty

Control Two
Date: 10/8 (Tara Rule)
Shop: Cake Cafe
Address: Pleasants Place, Dublin 8
What I ordered: Black Coffee and a Brownie
Notes: I love Cake Cafe. It's adorable. And delicious. And called CAKE cafe (#teamcake). All of the outdoor tables have their own bike rack. It's in an alley. For all of these reasons I wanted to include it in my coffeeneuring list, but it's (lucky for me, not for coffeeneuring) just around the corner from my house. To up the mileage, I rode through Rathmines to pick up a coffeneuring co-conspirator at her house. Cake Cafe is always packed, so the secret is to not go on a weekend. Since I needed this to count for Coffeeneuring, I exploited Tara's Rule and went on a Monday.
Total Mileage: 3
Photographic Evidence:
Cake Cafe

Mismatched toile china = :)   Also, I realize the hypocrisy of ordering a brownie at Cake Cafe, but this was a kickass brownie.

The outdoor patio alternates one section bike racks, one section tables. Bike racks are almost always filled to the brim.

Control Three
Date: 10/13
Shop: 3fE/Foam Cafe
Address: 54 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1/24 Strand Street Great, Dublin 1
Website: /
What I ordered: Latte
Notes: I wanted to try Third Floor Espresso because I've heard so many good things, so I recruited my friend/coffeeneuring co-conspirator Julia and we went to find it. We failed at finding it. After checking the address one million times, we came upon a door that offered us both tattoos and body piercing AND watch repair, but not coffee. Not to be defeated, we wandered the neighborhood until we found a good coffeeneuring option. Foam Cafe drew us in with the spangly signage, and turned out to be a gem of a find based on the artwork alone. We had an adorable seat under the stairs. 3fE will happen another day.
Total Mileage: 4.2
Photographic Evidence:
Not Third Floor Espresso

It was cute inside

Spangly sinage, bikes.

Control Four
Date: 10/21
Shop: Fixx
Address: 13-17 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
What I ordered: Chai
Notes: I became a regular at Fixx when I first moved to Dublin because I was homeless/without internet and they're one of a handful of shops that don't limit your wifi use to 20 minutes. They also make an excellent chai, and have a secret bathroom door. Can you find it in the photo?
Total Mileage: 2.5
Photographic Evidence:


Control Five
Date: 11/4
Shop: Java Espressobar & Kaffeforretning
Address: Ullevålsveien 47, 0171 Oslo
Website: Unknown
What I ordered: Espresso. At $6.50, it was by far the cheapest menu item (Norwegians have an embarrassing amount of money).
Notes: I chose this shop off a yelp search simply because Kaffeforretning looks like coffeeneuring. My friends couldn't really recommend anything that wasn't 711 because they all make normal-people salaries and not Norwegian salaries. I was going to get a daily pass on Oslo Bysykkel (, but it would have cost me 2.5 espressos, so I borrowed my friend's membership card instead (his yearly membership costs 3 espressos). Remembering how to bike on the right side of the road was the hardest bit.
Total Mileage: 3.1
Photographic Evidence (crappy cellphone photos this time, sorry):
Norwegians are rich beyond my wildest dreams. 
Coffee made here.

Control Six
Date: 11/10
Shop: The Art of Coffee
Address: Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2
What I ordered: Cappucino and a goat cheese ciabatta
Notes: I've been wanting to try this shop for a while because the building is just silly. It's a giant glass pagoda in the middle of a residential/old industrial area. It's also right on the grand canal, so the view from my seat was of swans and houseboats (including, as possibly seen in the photo, some bizarre confederacy supporters). I also like that I can get to this shop from my house almost exclusively using just the Canal Way Cycle Route (which I'm obsessed with).
Total Mileage: 3.5
Photographic Evidence:
This building amuses me greatly.

Nice view, and near school. I'll be back between classes.

Control Seven
Date: 11/11
Shop: KC Peaches
Address: 2829 Nassau Street, Dublin 2
What I ordered: Hot Apple Cider
Notes: KC Peaches is across the street from the library and has a student discount. Wins all around. Plus, they have this ridiculous display of baked goods. I met some friends for Thanksgiving dinner planning, so apple cider seemed an appropriate choice.
Total Mileage: 3.3
Photographic Evidence:
She's working a chip and pin machine, not texting.

Awful photo of baked goods including my reflection, glare, and the camera strap.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tall Ships Tall Cliffs

I've been in a week of econ bootcamp, and for real classes started this week. Academics! But, before I started getting smart, I did some touristy stuff, and here's a rundown on a few tall things I went to see.

During the last weekend in August, Dublin played host and final stop to the Tall Ships Races. Dublin was the final port of call for a race that began in St. Malo, France, and passed through Lisbon, Cadiz, and A Coruña. The race is open to vessels with a crew who is at least 50% between the ages of 15 and 25 (Sail Training Int'l runs the race - thus the youth focus), and falls in one of four classes:
-Class A: Square-rigged and more than 40 meters long
-Class B: Traditionally rigged and less than 40 meters
-Class C: Modern rigged, less than 40 meters, no spinnakers
-Class D: Modern rigged, less than 40 meters, with spinnakers

View down the Liffy

Liffy lined with ships

There were about 10 ships from each class in the harbor, and lots of countries represented: (alphabetical so I don't miss anyone): Belgium, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy. Latvia. Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Netherlands-Antilles. Norway, Poland, Russia. Sweden and the UK.

The Alexander Von Humbolt II from Germany

Clearly there were tons of boats, and tons of kinds of boats. I noted at least one of each of the following, but likely there were more I couldn't identify - full-rigs, barques, brigs, schooners (2, 3, and 4 masted, and topsail), yawls, gaff ketch, brigantine, even a caravelle.
The Johanna Lucretia from the UK (it's flying the Red Ensign, which is bizarrely also flown by Taunton, MA)

For those of you who want to get really nerdy with boats and maps (so, me), you can see the race course here:

Just an idea of how unbelievably crowded it was.
Also pictured - the Dar Mlodziezy from Poland - curiously flying the Danzig flag 

Once the ships got to Dublin, there was a 3 day bonanza of super crowds, and ice cream stand, and tsotchke stands, and occasional boat tours, and people in sailor/pirate hats, and live music, and lots and lots of cider (Bulmers sponsored the festival bit).

The tugboats were wicked busy.

Anyway, I spent a few afternoons when the weather was nice delighting in the boats and not delighting in the crowds. The best/most fun ship was the Cuauhtemoc from Mexico. I went down for the final parade (when all the big boats sailed out of the harbor), and managed to get a spot right near her. The crew sang and danced before climbing up into the sails to sail out (presumably so they can let them down once they hit open water). It helped that the crew had matching sailor outfits, and endless enthusiasm.
Jubilation after the Mexican Anthem

Cuauhtemoc crew ready to let the sails down

Cuauhtemoc crew strapped in and ready to go

Cuauhtemoc crew looking out to sea

This boy was THE MOST excited, and then got really sad as the Cuauhtemoc left

In other news of tall things - and other pirate things, sorta - I went to see the Cliffs of Moher as a final hurrah before classes. The cliffs are better known (to me) as The Cliffs of Insanity. I've watched the Dread Pirate Roberts climb them plenty of times, so it was time to check them out in person.

The cliffs are notoriously rainy (cue my FAVORITE meteoroligcal/geographical phenomenon, orographic lift - no sarcasm for serious it's normal to have a favorite meteorological/geographical phenomenon), so I spent DAYS monitoring the radar. But, Ireland being what it is, the radar is basically useless. It will rain. Possibly while the sun is still shining. Nevertheless I was able to predict a day without torrential downpour, so my photos came out partly cloudy.


The cliffs are in County Clare. Despite being all the way across the country and down a bit from where I am in Dublin, it takes 2-3 hours to drive there (depending if you like the scenic route). If you drive across Ireland, you'll learn that Ireland is pocket-sized. And green.

Look, I don't mean to be rude but this is not as easy as it looks, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me.
If you're in such a hurry, you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.

The top of the cliffs are between 390 and 702 feet above sea level, which makes for some pretty stunning visuals. On a clear (or clearish) day (when I visited was clear enough), you can see the Aran Islands on one side, mountain ranges on another side, and Loop Head on yet another side.

Just a cow. That lives on the Cliffs of Moher. NBD.

The cliffs are named Moher after a fort that used to stand on Hag's Head - the southermost point. That fort was destroyed around 1800 to build a telegraph tower. Now the main man-made landmark is O'Brien's tower, the castle-like building in my photos. It was built in the mid-1800s by Sir Cornelius O'Brien to, no joke, impress the ladies. I did not pay €4 to climb it, but I was impressed by it. I also didn't climb it because there was a very narrow windy staircase, and unfortunately a woman (in town for the Navy/Notre Dame football game) slipped and fell and became wedged, and it took a long time to rescue her and I felt bad so I gave her space and went very far from the castle.

O'Brien's Castle.

The visitors center (in this instance, is visitor plural or possessive or both? I've always wondered) was built into a hill and looked like a hobbit house. It also contained a pretty fantastic exhibit on the geology and history of the area. Rather than bore you with fun facts about rocks (I took notes, no sarcasm for serious it's normal to take notes in museums), I'll just link to the exhibit here:, and show you another pretty picture.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Beach Reads

For all pictures - Click to Enlarge

School starts tomorrow! I've had a lot of summer reading I was meant to do before my program starts, so I thought I'd share with you my favorite fair-weather study spots so far.

I've been spending lots of time in the various beaches around Dublin. If you have to read, might as well do it by the ocean, right? One of my favorite spots is on Salthill, overlooking the bay between Monkstown and Seapoint. When the tide is in, Seapoint is a great spot to go for a swim. The beaches near Dublin aren't like the beaches you traditionally think of - there aren't really long stretches of sand. When the tide is out the beaches are rocky and full of tide pools (with the requisite toddlers poking at stranded sea life). When the tide is in, you can go right from the edge into water deep enough to swim. At some beaches (like Seapoint), there is a stone stair built in, so at high tide you can just walk down it.

Anyway, after a quick dip (which is absolutely bone-chilling), I head up to Salthill to dry out. Salthill is a grassy hill, dropping sharply down over a seawall into the ocean. Here's the view from Salthill. To the left you can see Seapoint - the tide is about half out. To the right you can see Howth. Dublin would be straight down the middle. The panorama covers about 180 degrees, so the perspective is a bit warped.

If you're ever in the Dublin area, you can take the Dart train about 15 minutes from the city center to Seapoint (it'll cost you around €2). From there, it's a nice seaside walk of about 20 minutes to the port of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dune Leary). You'll pass Salthill. On the opposite end of Dun Laoghaire is another of my favorite reading benches, with this view (a bit more urban and cloudy):

Dun Laoghaire is the biggest marina in Ireland. The main marina is surrounded by two giant piers. This view is from the East Pier, looking south towards Scotsmans Bay and the promenade. This area was a popular vacation destination in the Victorian era, thus all of the hotels, and remnants of pathways and baths.

I'm also a big fan of the parks within Dublin. The quieter and smaller of the two main parks is Merrion Square. Like many city parks, especially those in Europe, Merrion Square started as a private park belonging to the various wealthy households surrounding the square. Most of those gorgeous Georgians are still standing, although now they're mainly office space. 

The Catholic Church bought Merrion Square in 1930 with the intention of building a cathedral, but for some reason nothing happened beyond that, so in 1974 the church transferred the land over to the city for use as a public park. For some time, it was known as Archbishop Ryan Park after the bishop who donated the land, but was officially renamed in 2010. The park now contains shaded walking paths, one formal garden, and several statues, including one of Oscar Wilde on lived in No. 1 Merrion Square for 20 years. 

The above photo was taken in the rain, but there's enough tree cover at Merrion Square that you can still spend time there in fouler weather. (Also visible: a Dublin Bike - subject of a future post).

The larger, more popular, city center park is St. Stephen's Green. St. Stephen's Green is smack in the middle of town, and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike - so it makes for good people watching. The park is 22 acres, and like Boston Common used to be used as grazing land. It was walled in during the 1660s, and reserved as a playground for the wealthy until the 1870s when Arthur Guinness (who I'm quickly learning had his fingers in absolutely everything Dublin related), convinced Parliament to open it to the public and then paid to redesign it. Like with many other spots in Dublin, the Green got involved in the Easter Rising, although both sides did civilly cease fire now and again to let the groundskeeper through to feed the ducks.

I've noticed that the Irish are a big fan of picnics (perfection, as I am a founder of Picnic Tuesday!), and around lunch and dinner times St. Stephen's Green gets packed. I like to sit in the center of the green around the manicured gardens because it gets the most sun. My favorite spot in the center bit is the garden for the visually impaired, which is planted with scented plants that can stand up to being touched a lot, and everything is labeled in Braille. 

Fun fact: the lakes in St. Stephen's Green are fed by my local neighborhood favorite - and final study spot on this post - The Grand Canal at Portobello! (Well, technically, the ducts run from the park to the Leeson Street area of the Canal). There are several benches and dockside edges along the canal where you can cozy up with a book (if you're me) or a pint, a picnic, and a paper (if you're Irish). I like this one just a few blocks from my apartment both because it's local, and because on the weekends I can watch the kayaking tours launch.

I don't know that I'll ever go for the kayaking though. Even the feet dangling gets a bit dangerous - the ickies are very close to the surface in the canal.

And now tomorrow's my first day of school! What's my cutest outfit, you guys?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kyla and Kevin and Kilkenny

About a week or so ago, I was fortunate to have my arrival in Ireland coincide with Kyla's family vacation to Ireland. They were kind enough to include me on some of their touristing, including a day trip to Glendalough and Kilkenny. Glendalough is a valley in County Wicklow housing the ruins of a 6th century monastery (the English sacked the place in 1398). The monastery was founded by Saint Kevin - if you remember from the Kono Kastle in St. Kevin's post, Kevin happens to be the patron saint of my apartment. How thrilling!

The first building you notice when pulling into Glendalough is the Round Tower. Back in the day, villages and monasteries often had towers like these. There's no door or entrance until you're about 10 or 12 feet up. Inside there are 6 stories, separated by ladders. The idea was that when the Vikings showed up to invade, the whole village would crowd into the towers as high as they could go and pull up the ladders, hiding there until the Vikings were done pillaging and left. I guess the Vikings never thought to pack their own ladders - or they just didn't care much.

View of the Round Tower on the Approach
The Tower, as well as all of the ruins on the site, are surrounded by an expansive graveyard. The graveyard is still in use by families from the surrounding towns, so visitors can see graves dating from 600 to 2012. Some of the family plots have uninterrupted lines going back centuries.

Tower with graves, old and new.
A few yards from the Tower is the cathedral, the largest building on the site.

Cathedral from the Outside

Cathedral from the Inside
Just behind the cathedral is a building known as the Priest's House. It was probably a tomb shrine, at one point housing the relics of St. Kevin.
Priest's House

Down a slope from the Priest's House and the Cathedral, and nestled right next to a stream in the cleft of the valley, is a building called St. Kevin's Church, but more commonly known as St. Kevin's Kitchen (because apparently the tower looks like a chimney).

St. Kevin's Church/Kitchen
Saint Kevin originally chose the site because it was at the confluence of two rivers, just downstream from two gorgeous glacial lakes were he would go to meditate. I only had time to hike up to the lower lake (about 3 kilometers away - the other one was 4 or 5, and we were only able to stop for about an hour and a half). The visitors center built a boardwalk trail, and it was just me and sheep who decided to make the trek. I guess most tourists don't have the time.

Boardwalk to the Lakes

Sheep and the lower lake draining into the river that leads to the monastery
Our next stop was the Brownshill Dolmen in County Carlow. A dolmen is a megalithic tomb. These can be found all over Europe, as well as Asia and some of the Middle East. The one in Brownshill is the largest in Europe, with a capstone that weighs 150 tons. It was built somewhere between 4000 and 3000 BC. Now it sits in the middle of a field - it looks like a farmer just works around it. Though it's designated as a National Monument, there are no facilities beyond a footpath around the farmer's crops and a small plaque. No one knows how that massive stone got to the middle of the field. Its "stone DNA" - or whatever the correct term is, I didn't take a picture of the plaque, sorry geologists - matches that of the granite in some rather far away hills, and there are no other large rocks about to suggest glacial movement. But, even if it was just sitting there all along, no one knows how anyone managed to get 150 tons propped up like that. Cue mystical druid theories.

Dolmen all on it's lonesome in the field
The field in the photo above was fully plowed, but I might do a post later on the the number of fields that cannot be harvested this year. Ireland has gotten so much rain this summer, that the fields are too wet to support the weight of the machines that do the reaping. I would make a grass is always greener joke at the poor US midwest, but that would probably be awfully poor taste.

Dolmen up close, people for scale
Then it was off to our final stop of the day: Kilkenny. First we stopped for lunch, where obviously I had a Kilkenny in Kilkenny. Delightful. Then we hit the main event in town - Kilkenny Castle. It was built in 1195 for the Earls of Pembroke and was used as a defense fort until the Butler family bought it in 1391. The Butler family (Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde) lived there until the Irish Civil War when they were somewhat forcefully moved to more humble housing across the street. Unfortunately, a bunch of unpleasantries happened to the interior during that move, and then the castle sat abandoned until the city of Kilkenny bought it from the Butlers in 1967 for £50 (bargain! Although, I guess it was one of those as-is deals, a real fixer-upper). It's since been restored and decked out in Victorian furniture. Almost everything inside was replicated based on photos, personal remembrances, and other evidence. Most fascinating to me, the Butler family managed to produce a receipt for the original carpets from the 1790s. The carpet company - which is still in existance! - then used their records to match the receipt, and recreate the exact carpets which were installed before the castle fell into disrepair. Some people are really, really good at balancing their checkbooks. The Butlers must be ace at doing their taxes.

Kilkenny Castle from the Courtyard

Kilkenny Castle from the Front
I didn't take any pictures of them that I liked, but know that the castle grounds are extensive, well manicured, gorgeous, and could suck away several hours.

Throughout the day we drove through the Wicklow Mountains. You can see in the photo below that they're mostly quite bare, but if you look on the right you can see some of the new forest that's being built. These hills used to be all forest, but the originals were cut down years and years ago. I've heard that the trees in these parts were used mostly to create beer barrels, but I haven't had a chance to research the veracity of that yet. What's important though, is that there is a real active, and visible, effort to reforest the area, starting with high-erosion-risk hillside areas and working throughout the hills.

I'm so glad Kyla's family let me tag along on some of their vacation. If you're ever in town (or really, anywhere in Ireland - you can drive the long way across the darn thing in 3 hours), do get in touch, and I will happily be a barnacle to your vacation too!