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?

1 comment:

  1. Google + just sent me your blog. What are you doing in Ireland?