Browsing articles tagged with "Temple Bar Archives - I Love Saturday"
Jun 16, 2016

Joyce & Rebellion – Dublin on Bloomsday

ReadingIt was a day of threatening rain, that didn’t quite bucket down as expected. But the gloomy clouds above did nothing to dampen the city spirit below. Wandering around were all sorts of wonderful characters. Bowler hatted gents, straw boatered chaps, flapper girls, meringue hatted ladies and modern day Molly Blooms. I’ve been mingling with these types around Town all week, but today we joined in the fun!

Bloomsday Festival guide in hand, our first stop was St Andrews on Westland Row. My church. A holy place neither breath taking nor dull, but imposing if only on the inside. Most folk scurry past this impressive building every day on their journey home via Pearse Street Station. St Andrews is not an intimate church, so its size lent itself perfectly to the concert Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey.

St Andrews is one of the many Dublin landmarks immortalised in Joyce’s Ulysses. The programme evoked times gone by with a beautiful mix of song, music, poetry and story. And of course history. St Andrews’ association with the 1916 Rising is celebrated by an exhibition at the church, well worth a visit. Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey reminded us of the heart and courage of local men and women.

Hosted by Elizabeth Watson and Jean Monahan, the pews were filled by plenty of well dressed Joyce enthusiasts. None under 40… Opened with a reading of Thomas Moore’s The Minstrel Boy, by Carmel Heapes, then Moore again, Silent O’Moyle, read by Connie Murray, both accompanied by Carole O’Connor at the ivories. Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile was performed by Greenore Community Choir.

JoyceIt really took me back to a time (the 1980s!) with my Granny and Grandad O’Shea. Being in their tiny kitchen singing old songs. The fire blazing, the wireless humming in the background. A big pot of stew brewing on the stove. Tea for the adults, lemonade for us. Grandad with the toasting fork (hot buttered toast…) in one hand and a billowing Woodbine in the other. Granny standing, stirring, chatting.

Down by the Glenside sung by Jean Monahan, followed by George Smith and Simon Heapes’ performance of The Rising of the Moon and The Wearing of the Green. Catherine Byrne read W.B. Yeats September 1913. More memories! School, this time. Too young we were to appreciate anything at all… Of course I remember these poetic rhymes, learned by heart, but how they really speak to me now.

Simon Heapes took to the stage (or altar) once again with Love’s Old Sweet Song. We helped him, nowhere near his tenor, but enjoying it all the same. He was joined by George Smith, belting out A Nation Once Again, with all of us on hand once again. Catherine Byrne brought us more Yeats with The Song of Wandering Aengus. Historical tales of our 1916 heroes knitted together the songs and prose.

George Smith sang Grace, Carmel Heapes read Pearse’s The Mother and Connie Moore sang The Last Rose of Summer. It truly was an escape from the commercial, digital world we live in today. In fact, my iPhone had run out of juice, I didn’t even have to worry about capturing shots. Just being free of technological distraction for a few hours… It’s so relaxing! How art did thrive before Twitter tyranny.

AltarTo My Daughter Betty by Thomas Kettle was told heartfelt by Carmel Heapes, Oft in the Stilly Night performed by Simon Heapes. The final curtain at St Andrews; all three, Simon Heapes, George Smith and Connie Murray with Carole O’Connor on piano, as throughout, in a roof-raising rendition of The Holy City. We were invited up to encore, us fellow Joyceans, and linked arms with Love’s Old Sweet Song.

The concert was free. It was absolutely excellent. Thanks to the St. Andrews Church Choir and St. Andrews Church Heritage Working Group. And, of course, the hugely talented performers. Nobody my age really goes inside a church these days, unless for a wedding, christening, communion or funeral. Not a regular Mass goer, I pop in for solace from the city. And music. And exhibitions. And fun!

Back out into the light of day, dark as it was, we sailed past Kennedy’s, spying the Bloomsday brethren within. We popped in last time, for a wicked performance by the bold Rose Lawless, doing Molly Bloom to only the flawed perfection she can. This time we were in want of tea, not ale, (’twas only midday!) so we tucked ourselves in at cosy café Tri Via, on Lincoln’s Place. A great people watching spot.

Indeed, as we put away delicious homemade muffins, brownies and croissants, did we see a certain Senator, dressed to the nines cane and all, approach Sweny’s next door. David Norris is a familiar face to all Bloomsday patrons and a huge supporter of the Irish arts. Cameras clicked as he swept in and out of another fabled Ullyses stop. Sweny’s Pharmacy is now an olde worlde bookshop and Joyce museum.

Tri ViaIn we went, events sure to unfold. There was a stall outside doing lemonade and madeleines and plenty of vintage fillies and gents milling about. And the scent of lemon soap filled the air. But an impromptu reading from the Dubliners meant we were in luck with perfect timing. A Scottish man, whose name I do not know, gave a swaggering version of a chapter’s events. It was really very, very cool.

A bar of brown paper wrapped lemon soap in the bag we made our way up into Temple Bar, my neighbourhood. This culture vulture lark is hard work, so we broke off to the Porterhouse for a bit of footie action. England v Wales. It’s a top spot for pub grub. We polished off Scampi, Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich and Mixed Veggies all with lovely fluffy chips and a pint each. Oyster Stout for me. Very nice!

Meeting House Square was next on the agenda, for Bloomsday Readings with Keelin Shanley. The journalist and broadcaster was joined by various Irish actors, writers and musicians for another gratis gig. I’ve been known to listen from my bedroom, which looks onto Meeting House Square, in the past. I can catch bands at the Olympia from here too! The square was filled with Joyceans, old and young.

Roisin Ingle, of the Irish Times, was on the stage as we approached. There were hearty performances from Colm O’Gorman, Domini Kemp and, you guessed it, Senator David Norris. We segwayed into the National Photographic Archive to mix up our rebels with our rascals once again. The exhibition, Rising, is free entry (can you see a theme here?) and documents the events in and around the day.

Davy ByrnesBlack and white images of the destruction done to Dublin, the bravery of young Irish men and the effect on the everyday lives of locals are just fascinating. It’s hard to believe it was only 100 years ago… A walking tour of the exhibition is available, but we were happy to take it all in ourselves. I’ll be back with Himself, who’s a big history buff. And we do live next door! Mama and Papa certainly enjoyed it, too.

We were done by now. Off they went, Mother and Father, to Grafton Street, and up to Davy Byrne’s for one last nod to James Joyce. Bloomday is fast becoming one of the city’s most celebrated events, with Bloomsday Festival running events throughout the week. It’s great craic and I always find Townie friends out and about. Next year, Madre and me have promised to dress up! Or don a hat at least…

www.bloomsdayfestival.ie

Feb 11, 2016

Silver Boots… A Life in Style

Silver platforms - CopyI want them, I need them, but there ain’t no way… Silver boots. For my 40th birthday? Hell yeah! Or no way Hose? There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must put away her childish things. For some it’s buying a house. Others, getting married. Most, having kids. Me, turning 40! There’s a new sheriff in Town & it’s my older, (slightly) wiser self. The big sister I never had (or wanted). Anyway, she talks more sense than I ever did… So it’s “Non!” to silver boots.

I saw them in the window of Buffalo only last week. Came home & told my husband. Rookie mistake. Eyebrows were raised. Laughter was stifled. “You’ll end up looking like that Mad Oul Wan with the crazy paintings on Merrion Square”. Indignant, I stroke my fun fur leopard coat. The time has come. So soon… I stare down at my shiny black leather Chelsea boots. He’s right. There’s a fine line. I open my wardrobe. The sequins, the statements, the madness… Everything must go!

shopaholicI’ve always known this was coming, so last New Year I got the ball rolling. Several black bags straight on down to Age Action, never to be seen (by me) again. Bubblegum pink 1960s Babydoll dresses, Granny’s curtains 1970s Maxi dresses, electric blue metallic platforms, gold knee-high Wonder Woman boots, patchwork corduroy Baker Boy hats… Buh bye! Clothes I’d lovingly collected over the years; worn to gigs, parties, dates. Even work! Alas, I’m too vintage for Vintage. Sigh…

Ah, glory days! So, before I say a fond farewell to the rest, a trip down fashion memory lane… Aged 0 to 5, as a child of the 70s, I wore a fetching mixture of brown pinafores, anything made of floral sofa material, mustard cable-knit cardies & homemade woolly bobble hats. We also lived abroad in a hot country, during which time I wore just pants & armbands. Stylish! Up to age 10 it was all novelty ankle socks, Mickey Mouse watches & neon pink polyester Kylie Minogue sweaters.

MadonnaThen followed a tres shady Tween grey area of finding one’s fashion feet. I had an old Singer sewing machine by now… We’re talking homemade rah-rah skirts with matching Fergie bows (remember?), a t-shirt with “Madonna is Cool” written with one of those glitter fabric pens, liberal use of diamante & studs, plastic clip-on earrings & my first pair of high heels. And my first lipstick. I can still taste that synthetic pink gloop. So, basically the same gear I was running up for my Barbies.

Secondary school changed everything. First I tried to keep up with the Joneses. Whatever the popular girls were wearing, I had to have it. My Mother was tormented keeping up with trends. Levi’s sweatshirts, Converse, tie-dyed t-shirts, khaki bomber jackets. Next thing… Rebellion! I started buying records. Then began the snakeskin boots, velvet blazers, second-hand purple flares, Morrissey t-shirts. Topped off with Bjork buns, blonde streaks and a complete disregard for school.

LifeMe and my best mate went to gigs every night of the week. Suede, Pulp, Blur, Radiohead, Nirvana, Elastica, Oasis. We mitched off to catch the Manics in Cork, even though we’d just seen them at the Tivoli. I have a vivid memory of the pair of us lusting after serious Rock Chick trousers in ASHA. Silver PVC for me, tartan bondage for her. We’d visit them every week, our baby-sitting money getting closer, but for our pesky record buying habits. We never did get them in the end…

I was 19 when London called. Art School. Parties. Days in bed. Going up the West End. I hated it as much as I loved it. A curious phase of collecting dolls & wearing pink plastic platforms, with a Barbie backpack, melded with a spell of serious clubbing. I was lonely for my friends back Home, yet doing things I would never have done at UCD. I took a second bite at London after finishing college in Dublin, this time all lip gloss & tight jeans. Aged 22, I was King of the World. And then some!

TopshopBlonde & yoga-toned, I worked in a gym & wore my jeans painted on. I had the arms for vests & the nerve for killer heels. Living with five other girls (and, at one stage, two blokes & a dog) in Central London, we’d start in the flat & end up down Soho, in Camden or Shepherd’s Bush. Shopping for Saturday night, I’d hit Topshop Oxford Circus, at the bottom of our street. Loud dance music pumped through it’s floors. Portobello Market & Covent Garden were regular haunts.

Eventually London moved on, and so did I. Back to Dublin. The wilderness years of my late 20s followed. What was I going to  with my life? I lived with my parents for a bit, working lots of silly little jobs. Did writing classes, wrote plenty of fiction. Got into astrology. Started learning French again. Went to music festivals. Partied just as much as ever, only now with hangovers. Wore combats, slogan t-shirts. Adidas Superstars. Cut my hair off. Got a bit fatter. Lost my mojo big time…

Night FeverI wondered if I should return to England. Not London, maybe Brighton? It’s funny, when you’re 30 you think “This is it… if I don’t sort my life out now, I’m fucked!”. For my birthday I had a 1970s disco at my parents’ place (always a party house). Music, lights, glitter. Everyone got dressed up. I drank Babycham & got sick. It was class! But the Celtic Tiger had arrived, roaring madly. My mates got mortgages, careers got real. Folk even got married. But, I was unemployed & living at home…

Then a random phone call. A typing test? A job interview. My first office job. It lasted nearly five years. I got a place in Town. I was workin’ 9 to 5, doing a Journalism degree at night. Still living like it was 1995. Shopping was one of my fave pastimes & the office was my catwalk. I’d do Grafton Street late-nite Thursday, pop into TK Maxx on Saturday morning & browse the Dublin Flea Market, around the corner from my flat, of a Sunday. I loved the Sales. And I adored Vintage.

GirlsMy Boss would ask me, over the phone, “What are you wearing today?”. He hated City Shorts, so I wore them. And silk Pussy Bow blouses with a slick 1970s flared jumpsuit. A black peplum mini dress with a leopard top, fishnets & red t-bar shoes (a colleague thanked me for wearing “Ann Summers” to work). A lilac polyester 1960s dress with cravat & balloon sleeves. Sunshine yellow heels with a green pencil skirt. Heidi plaits with diamante hair slides. Wool suits & knee-high boots.

One day I wore a floaty silk dress. Nothing unusual there. I showed a couple of Big Wig clients to the boardroom, got them some tea. Then clocked my rear-view in the Ladies. Garishly patterned Pink Panther boy-shorts screamed for attention underneath the see-thru fabric. I’d gotten dressed in the dark. A lunchtime dash to M&S for a more subtle pair of work knicks. And a slip! It wasn’t the first or last time I left too little to the imagination… I really don’t know how I got away with it.

TypingRedundancy. I’d graduated by now & decided to give my writing career a go. I had no choice. The Recession was at full tilt & there was no chance of a job. Over the last five years I’ve had gigs as a Costume Assistant in films, Commercial Copywriter, Proof Reader, Shop Manager, Social Media Content. Wrote plenty of fiction. Still not published. And I Love Saturday, of course. I was skint, but I still managed to socialise like crazy. I met lots of new friends & certainly didn’t settle down.

Any clothes money was spent in Oxfam. Granny chic. I filled out again & covered my cushioned tush with floral chiffon dresses, cashmere cardies, an electric blue wool cape from Avoca (second-hand). Red cowboy boots, Kate Betts hats, rainbow silk scarves, stripy tights. My wardrobe, although organised (sometimes), was like a jumble sale. I was losing my edge. Sometimes I looked put together; more often thrown together. I longed to live in a minimalist hotel room, with zero stuff.

HepburnBut, then I met my husband & moved to our one bedroom loft in Temple Bar. I won’t lie, we’re both messy. We binned a load of things. There’s still too much. Most of my clothes are at Home (sorry Mom & Dad). Lying dormant in a Sliderobe prison. I’ve lost the lard (again!) & I’m ready to wear these clothes. However, I’ve moved on… I’ve never been a “classic” dresser. I always loved clothes that made me laugh (I know). So, a more mature image is in order, no doubt about it… Let the cull begin!

I’ve read Marie Kondo’s best seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. Yes indeed. The Madame Chic series by Jennifer L Scott also speaks to me; I have all three books. Today I picked up Stylist Annmarie O’Connor’s “The Happy Closet”. Mindful dressing. I like! And a pair of black Lee skinny jeans (birthday present to self). No silver boots… And no idea what my brand new look is gonna be, but as the Konmari Method promises; it will Spark Joy. Here goes nothing… *opens wardrobe*

Apr 20, 2014

The Library Project – Cool Reading

The Library Project in Temple Bar is probably the hippest space in town right now. It’s clean, it’s cool, it’s a thoroughly modrin library. Run by PhotoIreland, The Library Project is a collection of contemporary publication from around the world. Photography & image are the mainstays here, as well as art, fashion & history. Everything’s laid out on easy to browse shelves & tables, so that covers catch your eye.

The Library Project aims to offer an on-going collection of the latest photobooks, magazines & zines from independent & large publishing houses & self-published works too. I picked up some interesting German art zines. Visually, the place is inspiring as a gallery-like feel allows the books to capture your imagination. That sounds wanky, but you know what I mean. Show rather than tell, if ya like.

The curated selection already boasts 900 items & is growing all the time, with companies & folk welcome to contribute to this unique public resource library. There’s also artists prints, Irish made stationery & quirky postcards. And vintage tape recorders. Me neither… The Library Project represents part of the counterculture scene that’s popping up all over Dublin. Not just for hipsters. Check it out.

The Library Project, 4 Temple Bar, Dublin 2 / www.photoireland.org/the-library-project

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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Nov 6, 2013

Corfu – Greek Feast

As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of dining deals. There’s so much good food in this city and often it’s below the fashion radar. I’m not talking online discount sites, but genuine lunch offers and early birds. So when a mate called me yesterday, for a spur of the moment rendezvous in Temple Bar, I knew we’d find nice nosh at a stone’s throw. Corfu on Parliament Street was the venue. A Greek triumph!

Two courses and a glass of wine (or soft drink) for a tenner makes for a pretty good lunch in my book. Eating in good restaurants for less is a bit like clothes shopping in the sales. D’ya see what I’m saying? The lunch menu at Corfu offers quality over quantity. We started with feta pies, delicious salty cheese spiked with herbs and wrapped in the most delicate filo pastry. Me and my mate ate these on holiday.

My request for vegetarian moussaka was kindly obliged by our lovely waiter, while my pal went for the traditional minced Irish beef version. Mine was a colourful square topped with rocket. Rich in flavour and light of texture, layers of aubergine, peppers and butternut squash were sandwiched between potato, tomato sauce and a fluffy bechamel topping. So simple, so tasty. I was left satisfied, not stuffed.

Corfu offers an extensive menu of trad Greek fare, including impressive mezzedes (mixed platters), souvlaki (charcoal skewered meats) and kleftiko (lamb on the bone). Not to mention home made desserts. Mmmn, baklava… We’ll be back for the mezzedes, for sure. Like tapas, you can sit for hours sipping wine and savouring Mediterranean bites. And gossiping. In a cosy farmhouse atmos to boot.

Corfu, 12 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 / www.corfurestaurant.ie

Oct 17, 2013

Very Extremely Memphis – Rock’n’Roll Roots

Having another of our Sunday-like Mondays, me and the Bloke rocked along to the Grand Social that night for Very Extremely Memphis. Free gig, we parked ourselves upstairs in the Loft and ordered a pair of Guinness. The set up was a Q&A with film director Paul Duane and MC Pat McCabe about Duane’s latest release, Very Extremely Dangerous. A documentary on the life of the mad, bad Jerry McGill.

Opening tomorrow at the IFI, Duane’s film charts McGill’s musical beginnings in 1960s Memphis, through his odyssey of crime and jail to his present day ex-con lifestyle. No less wild than his younger days, he brings Duane on the road to recording a follow up to his 1959 single, Lovestruck. Off the rails, McGill isn’t a regular dude. Gruesome too, it deals with his terminal cancer. McGill passed away since.

It’s clear that music and it’s history are Duane’s passion. He spoke animatedly through a number of clips from hazy Memphis days. Really cool, rare stuff. Pure rock’n’roll. Alex Chilton and Jim Dickinson were two memorable features, anti-establishment figures with real rebel blood in their veins. It really gave Himself a thrill. A little slice of New Orleans in Dublin! Duane and McCabe were equally enthralled.

Time for a bit of music. First up were The Problem Blob (ex-Female Hercules), with singer and guitarist Conzo giving it socks. I loved the punky ‘tude of these guys. Using their instruments as weapons of intent. The Slick Hicks were a different kettle of fish. A polished rockabilly outfit, these cats sailed through a blinding set. We shuffled happily to the double bass rhythm. Then home to bed. Rock’n’roll.

Very Extremely Dangerous – Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin / www.ifi.ie

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

Oct 10, 2013

Mexico To Rome – Mojitos and Burritos

When the Bloke suggested dinner last Sunday, I put word out to my Facebook peeps. Where to go? With Himself living in Temple Bar, we have the world at our feet and I wanted to try somewhere I hadn’t been before. Mexico To Rome piqued my interest. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a restaurant that serves Mexican and Italian food. And Asian. And Irish. There’s something for everybody in the audience!

Genius for a couple, or a party, in different food moods. Both of us were channelling Mexican, as it happens. Off we went down the cobbles, to East Essex Street. Temple Bar was alive with a brilliant band busking outside the door. I love this town! We settled in with a beer and a mojito (quite a good one for a fiver) and shared toasted tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. Enough to whet our appetite…

I munched on a veggie burrito while the Bloke tucked into a beef taco. Mine was a soft tortilla with crunchy edges (how do they do that?) packed with mixed veg and re-fried beans in a spicy tomato sauce. Covered in sour cream and salsa, with Mexican rice on the side. It was seriously yumsters! Himself enjoyed the chilli beef but would have liked more heat. Jalapeno peppers would add extra kick.

Mexico To Rome is homely, a nice place to chillax of an evening. We found the service just the right side of easygoing, which helped us to wind down. With such a reasonable and unpretentious menu, this is the sort of place you can pop into off the cuff. Just what you want in Temple Bar. For dessert it was whiskey and rum at The Globe, where we bopped along to top rockabilly boys The Pavement Kings.

Mexico To Rome, 23 East Essex Street, Dublin 2 / www.mexicotorome.com

Oct 3, 2013

Cappuccino Bar – Breakfast of Champions

This is one of those places I’ve walked past a million times, but never gone in. Y’see, despite what it says on the tin, Cappuccino Bar isn’t chic or slick or like a little Italian cafe. There aren’t any cakes in the window. It’s all pizza, paninis and burgers. So, none of the things I like…. But the Bloke loves it. They serve all-day breakfast and it’s next door to his gaff. He doesn’t need fancy decor. Less is more.

When we met for brunch on Saturday, instead of mooching about town deciding what to eat, we went here. He got the Full Irish, I got the Veggie Breakfast. So that was sausage, bacon, eggs, beans and tomatoes for him and mushrooms, eggs, beans, tomatoes and hash browns for me. Cappuccino Bar don’t deal in gourmet fare, but rather straight up grub. Our breakfasts were fresh, fast and very tasty!

Fifteen quid for the pair of us, which included rounds of toast and a pot of tea. It’s a winner! The menu, otherwise, is all about carb loading. Great choice of sambos, wraps and bagels. Not for salady sorts like me, but Cappuccino Bar is a good place to fill up. There are plenty of meal deals including Big Al’s burgers (beef, chicken, veggie or fish) with fries for a fiver. Sit outside for Temple Bar people watching.

Cappuccino Bar, 10 Crow Street, Dublin 2

Aug 3, 2013

Porterhouse – Chowder and Brew

Me and the Bloke were looking for somewhere close to basecamp for a spot of lazy Sunday dinner. No cooking for us, no Siree! The Porterhouse Temple Bar on Parliament Street was ticking all the right boxes so off we went down the cobblestones. Perched at a quiet counter we whet our appetites with a pair of Porterhouse Plain. A deliciously rich and nutty stout, nay porter, with a hint of bitterness.

Live music filtered from upstairs filling the whole place with a feelgood factor. Locals and tourists alike happily tucked into good food. The Porterhouse has a reputation for hearty fare and the menu makes yummy reading. Sunday was the last day of their Belgian Beer & Mussels Festival so I ordered my dessert first. Belgian waffles with vanilla ice cream, chocolate buttons and hot chocolate sauce. Get in!

I went for the seafood chowder, while the Bloke tucked into bangers ‘n’ mash. My chowder was a creamy, salty sea of smoked haddock, cod, mussels and prawns with brown soda bread for buttery dipping. His pork and leek sausages didn’t last long, always a good sign. Maybe it was the beer gravy! My Belgian waffles came with two spoons. Phew… We left the Porterhouse with a waddle in our step.

The Porterhouse Temple Bar, 16 – 18 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 / www.porterhousebrewco.com

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