Browsing articles tagged with "Dublin Archives - I Love Saturday"
Dec 5, 2013

Merry Dublin! Twelve Shops of Christmas

Dublin city centre is looking really smart right now. Twinkling lights, winding lane ways and lots of lovely shops. Forget suburban Yummy Drummie malls and get where the action’s at. And you can have a pint after a hard days shopping! Town is back with a bang this Christmas. Dublin has reinvented itself as a cool city, following some lean years, and paved the way for a fresh mix of creative retailers and arty shops.

Okay, first thing for out of towners – keep off Grafton Street and Henry Street. The really interesting shops are behind the scenes. Dublin’s Creative Quarter is a buzzing hive between Wicklow, Georges and South William Streets. Lots to do and see here! From so hip it hurts to vintage gems and artisan foods to quirky boutiques, this jam packed area keeps on giving. Other side of the Liffey, Moore and Capel Streets are festive hotspots.

It’s tradition chez moi to do a family shopping day every Christmas. We meet at midday, fuel up on coffee and cake, mill about town picking out our pressies and finish with pub grub and some well earned pints. We get to soak in the Christmas vibes and ensure that nobody receives rubbish gifts. Winner! Dad likes books, the Bruv likes music and Mother loves hand crafts. Here’s where we’ll be heading…

1.) Makers & Brothers & Others. When I first chanced upon this new shop on Dame Lane, I was intrigued. There was cakes in the window, what can I say… I wanted to know what was inside. This smart lifestyle pop-up is the work of the Jonathan and Mark Legge, the crafty siblings behind Makers & Brothers. They’ve collaborated with a hip set of Irish designers to bring us some pretty cool stuff.

Cakes are from The Wild Flower Bakery and look almost too good to eat. Billed as a tiny seasonal department store, Makers & Brothers & Others is a joy to explore. The antidote to commercial Christmas. I liked twisty wooden stools from James Carroll, tableware from Jerpoint Irish Glass and a fun knitted fox from Claire-Anne O’Brien. Go here for housey things and kiddie gifts. And a cup of tea.

2.) Clerys. It’s back! After a devastating flood this summer, Dublin’s fave department store was closed for a five month refurbishment. Although Clerys has been a much loved haunt of mine, it was seriously in need of a facelift. And here it is, all shiny and bouncy, but retaining it’s old skool charm. Perfect. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognise it, but fear not – it’s Clerys, only better. The shop floor is bright and uncluttered with original features polished. And, well, modrin. Christmas under one brand new roof.

Chic newbies include – Moda in Pelle, True Decadence and Apanage. Gone are the granny wedding hats and in are quality handbags, scarves and shoes you really want in your wardrobe. Clerys offers substance and style. Send Himself to Carphone Warehouse, new on the ground floor, while you browse Benetton, Mexx and Mango. Meet Mother at The Tea Rooms and bring the kids to Santa’s Joy Factory.

3.) Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. I do love this place. It’s like a calm oasis in, y’know, the sprawling metropolis that is Dublin… Powerscourt is the ideal Christmas venue with plenty of artisan shops, galleries and cafes. First up, party outfits. Go vintage at The Loft Market and Irish at Marion Cuddy, both regular spots for yours truly. Up the glamour stakes at Covet, Design Centre and Dawn Fitzgerald. Genius for cool casuals.

Gift-wise, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre caters well for the hard-to-buy-for crowd. For something unique head to Article, an eclectic collection of funky objets and house wares. Bow for pretty little things. A Rubenesque and The Garden for decorations and flowers. Try the Bonsai Shop for an alternative Crimbo tree. Kennedy and McSharry for a tweed flat cap. The Bloke loves his! Rosemantic fellas who are thinking of popping the ultimate Christmas surprise… The best antique jewellery in Dublin. She’ll love it. And you!

4.) Ferocious Mingle Marcade. Believe it or not you can buy your Crimbo pressies second hand. Simply vintage, Darling! With so much post-recessionary re-purposing going on these days, markets are super spots to pick up something a bit different. The Marcade has moved from it’s old location to a bohemian den on Camden Street. I used to live in this part of town and am so excited by how lively it’s become. Wind your way up from the city with leisure.

Shopping, entertainment and food. What more do you want? These guys know how to throw a party too! Open every Thursday to Sunday, join in the fun with stalls selling everything from antique clocks and mirrors and grunge princess fashions to pre-loved books and handmade soaps. Relax after a hard days shopping at Dublin’s tiniest cinema and munch on home baked goodies from Oscar Verne’s Coffee Bar.

5.) Cocoa Atelier. Christmas is the one time of the year that you’re allowed to stuff your chops and get away with it. But I call quality over quantity. Instead of reaching into a tin of Roses, I’ll be savouring artisan chocolates from Cocoa Atelier. This is my (the Bloke’s) go-to place for sweet treats. Cocoa Atelier was born when French chef, Marc Amand, spotted a gap in the market for gourmet chocs in Ireland. Good work!

The shop, on Drury Street, is like stepping through a portal to Paris. Chic black and white detail show the exquisite chocolates off to their best, but it’s the taste that counts. There’s a range of flavours to choose from, including – salted caramel, ginger, lime, mango, chestnut honey and Earl Grey – as well as myriad bars and luxe foodie gifts. The chocolate Christmas baubles are too cute! Buy colourful macaroons and delicate eclairs for your Christmas table. And hot chocolate for now!

6.) Georges Street Arcade. I’ve been shopping here since my teenage days, when I was first allowed into town all by myself. Me & my best mate used to browse records and smoke ciggies. Good times! So the Arcade has a special place in my heart. The shops have changed over the years, new ones popping up all the time. But some things remain the same, like Simon’s Place, the cosy cafe that keeps me and the Bloke so well fed.

Housed in a Victorian redbrick market, Georges Street Arcade offers a quirky collection of shops. Pick up retro vinyl at Spindizzy Records (Himself is a regular), silver and stones at New Moon Jewellery and stocking fillers at Bombay Banshee. Make like Uncle Gaybo and hit Beaux Bows for your geansai Nollaig. Or try sheepskin in The Gift of Warmth to keep the chill out. And a Pieminister with mushy peas & mash!

7.) Siopaella. Can’t afford Brown Thomas? Then get down to Temple Bar. They say you can’t put a price on love, but at Siopaella you’ll find great deals on Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. And just about every designer you can think of. Items are selected by owner, Ella, who picks the cream of pre-loved, worn once and labels on fashion. She’ll even style you a fabulous party outfit.

The great thing about Siopaella is you’ll find something that nobody else has. With two stores, one on Crow Street the other on Temple Lane, offering high street to high end there’s plenty to suit your budget. I’ve scored a Rachel Mackey cashmere cardi, silk Custo dress and a Chesneau handbag among many bargains. Watch out for box fresh Louboutins. Siopaella’s menswear is the best pre-loved in town. Mother loves their vintage jewellery.

8.) Project 51. Tucked away on Dublin’s premier hipster strip, South William Street, this Irish design collective has it’s finger on the pulse. Project 51 is a creative hub and retail space. Hannah Flew runs things front of house, where there’s a great selection of gifts and home grown wedding items. I love Anita Conway handmade lace garters, intricate Grace O’Reilly Jewellery and stunning Kate Betts Hats.

Finding surprises is one thing I really enjoy when shopping, and out the back of Project 51 is a fun place to nose around. Funky neon clubwear brought me back to 90s London where I spent my college days wandering around Camden Market. Only for the young and daring! Meanwhile, there’s plenty in for Christmas. Nik’s Tea gift sets, Gillian Field illustrated mugs and Airmid Natural handmade soaps.

9.) Chapters. Here’s a place me and the Bloke could spend hours happily ignoring each other, lost in row after row of books. Chapters is spread out over two gigantic floors, new books on the ground floor and second hand upstairs. Stocking the whole gamut of readables from fiction and biography to reference and educational. There’s more art, photography, fashion and cookery books than you can shake a stick at. Chapters is also a great source for Irish books and lesser known titles.

It’s not just books here. Chapters does a great range of stationery too, including cards, notebooks and diaries. Brilliant stocking fillers. I went in to get a book for the Bruv’s birthday and these guys ordered it specially, with only one day delivery. The service is top notch. Upstairs is the place for random finds – the best way to buy books! Swing by Moore Street afterwards for fresh fruit and Paris Bakery for cakes.

10.) Cows Lane Designer Studio. Mother and me love this place. At the cool end of Temple Bar, Cow Lane Designer Studio showcases the best of Irish design and crafts. We’re big fans of Deirdre Griffin glass fusion jewellery. Her rings and earrings are simple yet striking. Manned by the designers themselves you can chat about creative techniques or commission a special piece in person. The atmosphere here is open and friendly.

A nice present-to-self (g’wan. I won’t tell anyone) would be a hat from Shevlin Millinery. John Shevlin’s head wear is beautifully made and well established in the Irish fashion world. Wear it on Christmas Day! Choose unique gifts from handmade Brookwood Pottery, fresh on the shelves, Bouji Organic candles and the softest scarves from Daiva’s Textiles. Cows Lane Designer Studio is also home to great prints and artwork. Come here for house inspiration.

11.) Fallon & Byrne. A top spot for posh foodie gifts, this place stocks a mouthwatering array of Christmas treats. Their fabulous hampers include a hand picked selection of the best artisan produce. Try the Gourmet Irish, which includes – Cashel Blue cheese, Pandora Bell nougat, Ummera Organic Irish smoked salmon, Mella’s butter fudge and Fallon & Byrne’s famous house granola. The food of life!

The Food Hall provides all you need for a tasty Christmas dinner table. Organic fruit and veg, fresh meat and fish, charcuterie and antipasti. There’s also amazing choice when it comes to the high end pantry – Italian extra virgin olive oils, French mustards and teas from around the world. The wine shop is well worth a visit too. Grab a seat by the front window and people watch Wicklow Street with delectable cakes and Dublin’s best latte. Yes Sir!

12.) Avoca. I’ve always loved Avoca, just for the pure chance to channel one’s fantasy lifestyle through their dotty displays and dreamy scenarios. I often picture myself wrapped up in a lambswool blanket, taking Ceylon and scones by a blazing fireside. Bliss. My most recent purchase was, in fact, one of their mill woven blankets as a wedding gift for friends. There’s a rainbow of jewel colours to pick from.

Appealing to the girl in me, Avoca does everything pretty. Kitsch even. Patterned plates, quirky teapots, ceramic door knobs, glass jewellery and cutesy hats. Clothes are whimsical yet totally wearable. The kids section is great fun with adorable wooly jumpers, Jellycat teddies and a sugar rush sweetie hamper. For the chef in your life, head for the kitchen gear, delicatessen and super yummy cookbooks.

So now you know where to go! I’ve gotta say, Dublin has become a real arty little city over the last few years, now that we’re out of the Tiger’s claw. I love nothing more than mooching around town – the Creative Quarter, Temple Bar, Capel Street – and chancing upon new shops and cafes. Do check out as many independent stores as you can, they’re so much more exciting and original. Happy shopping!

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Oct 16, 2013

The Threepenny Opera – Jazz Hands!

So it was that I met a friend at the theatre on Saturday afternoon. Matinees are such a pleasant way to while away the weekend. I’d had a busy morning, whisking Dad and the Bruv around town in search of a birthday present for Mother. I know, I’m a saint. We ducked in and out all over the Creative Quarter (South William Street & Co), Powerscourt Townhouse and eventually up to Wexford Street. Phew!

We struck gold, or should I say an opal and silver ring, at Djinn Jewellery. Gorgeous contemporary pieces. Designer and maker Simon Phelan advised us with his expert knowledge on gems and wrapped the dainty ring in a cool wooden box. Job done. Back down town and into the belly of Temple Bar, it was Mexico To Rome with the lads for a lunch deal. Burrito and chips with a bottle of Peroni for a tenner. Can’t go wrong!

Off they went, for more shopping (crafty pints), and I made the final stretch up to Parnell Square to The Gate Theatre. A small but smart space, The Gate features a low, open stage. You can catch all of the action, no matter where you’re sitting. Me and my mate were here for The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s the high octane story of lusty criminal Mac The Knife.

The production opened in style with the Street Singer (David Shannon), a sort of musical narrator, belting out signature tune ” Mac The Knife”. A tale of petty crime, street urchins, silly girls and crooked police, The Threepenny Opera unfolds first in the back street shop of Mr. Peachum (Mark O’Regan) and his formidable wife (Jackie Marks). This pair and their charge, the hapless beggar Filch (Laurence Kinlan) set the tone.

The Threepenny Opera is bawdy, in your face and actually does jazz hands. Brilliant. This version is directed by Wayne Jordan, with musical direction by Cathal Synnott. The cast, both young and vintage, are fresh and full of energy and there is some great voices in the mix. Set in Victorian London, though there’s Dublin accents at The Gate, Brecht and Weill offered a socialist critique of a capitalist world.

And so we are introduced to a cast of scoundrels, drop outs and hopeless romantics. Main protagonist Macheath (David Ganly) is a charming thief who steals the heart of not so innocent Polly Peachum (Charlotte McCurry). Their marriage causes ructions and we are treated to much hilarious to-ing and fro-ing, with Mac dodging the cops and Polly answering to her parents. His cronies add to the mirth.

We learn that Mac has friends in places high and low. His friendship with Tiger Brown (Stephen Brennan), Chief of Police, has kept him out of trouble. But he can’t resist Low-Dive Jenny (Hilda Fay) and her ladies of the night. Mac will never go straight and when Polly discovers a love rival in his other “wife” Lucy Brown (Ruth McGill), all hell breaks loose. The tussle for Mac’s affections land him in jail.

Ganly gives a big and bold performance as the incarcerated Mac The Knife, but it’s his women who steal the show. A scene with McCurry and McGill is great fun with the two gangster’s molls finally bonding over their plight. Hilda Fay shines as the tart with a heart, looking steely and sad all in one go. Mac is to be hanged. Alas, a comical reversal means that Mac is freed and a musical romp ensues.

I suppose the message is, life ain’t all that bad. We’re all in it together. That’s Mac The Knife, Tiger Brown and the Peachums. The beggars and the whores remain in the gutter. The Threepenny Opera, almost a hundred years old, is relevant in any society. The good and the bad triumph over the ordinary, as ever. This production at The Gate is action packed from beginning to end, a feel good take for sure.

The Gate Theatre, Cavendish Row, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 / www.gatetheatre.ie