September 22, 2014

Dublin - Huckleberry Jam at the Merchant's Arch

I love walking by a pub in Dublin and hearing notes from a banjo or hints of a guitar.  We are simply spoiled for choice here in terms of high quality (often free) gigs (buying a pint is usually the only 'fee' for entry).   We were walking home from the Northside last weekend when we heard tunes emanating from Merchants Arch.  The rain was about to start lashing down so we decided to pop in and see what was on.  We were treated to a performance of fast-paced Irish Trad by Huckleberry Jam.

September 20, 2014

Dublin Eats - OCB's

We love trying new coffee shops in Dublin.  We've been walking by OCB's for years and it was a 2 for 1 coffee offer that finally made us turn in to this 'old school' office complex on Lower Mount Street to seek it out.

September 18, 2014

Impressions from the First Ever Dublin Coffee Festival

Dublin has definitely hit the big time.  Our fair city now has its very own coffee festival which was held last weekend at the RDS.  We've been to London Coffee Festival and to be honest, our expectations were fairly low given that this would be Dublin's first time giving this a go. However, we were pleasantly surprised at the variety of coffee shops, roasters, and other suppliers in attendance.  The event was very professionally run and we had a fantastic time.  We arrived early on Saturday not long after the doors opened at 10 am.
Several Irish roasters were in attendance including Cloud Picker.
 Badger and Dodo pulled out all the stops serving up finely crafted espresso drinks along with rich decadent brownies from Urbun Cafe.
 We had a fantastic chat (and about 3 different coffee samples!) with Bruce from Matthew Algie.  Based in the UK, I didn't realize that Matthew Algie has been around for over 100 years.
 Some of our local favorites were conspicuously missing, namely Art of Coffee and 3FE.  Art of Coffee was there in spirit though as one of the vendors who makes bags and cups had their logo on display.
What goes better with coffee than a bit of good chocolate.  Chez Emily served up Belgian Irish treats.
Visitors from the North were also in attendance.  We sampled Bailies Coffee and learned that they supply at least a few of our favorite coffee shops in Dublin.
We spent quite a bit of time in the Roasters Pavilion.  We had a nice chat with Gareth from Picturehouse Coffee which was started up about two months ago in Louth and the coffee is roasted in an old cinema.  Love that backstory!
Two Spots coffee also hit the spot with their blends inspired by famous literary characters.
Of course, we couldn't let the occasion pass without seeing what was going on with Silverskin Coffee (as my regular readers know, Silverskin's Coffee Kiosk is our absolute favorite commute coffee stop). Brian put on quite a show preparing a fine roast from Malawi.  He even had a scent kit which we could use to try and draw out the different notes in the coffee.  Great stuff.
We were starting to feel a bit jittery from all the coffee we'd been drinking but couldn't resist just one more cappuccino at Joe's.
We lingered for a bit outside listening to a gig on the main music stage before heading for home with a caffeine-assisted spring in our step.

September 16, 2014

A True Sidewalk Safari - London - The Pelicans of St. James Park

I was lucky enough to visit London for work twice in one month.  I enjoyed my pre-work walk through St. James Park so much that I decided to do it again.  In a previous post, I highlighted that the park is fantastic for birding.  This time, I got to meet the famous Eastern White Pelicans unexpectedly up close.  Normally they sit on a little island in the middle of the lake in St. James Park.  This time, I found them on the sidewalk.  You could call this post a Sidewalk Safari in the most literal sense of the word!  Two pelicans had staked out a place not far from a sign that reads: Please do not feed or touch the pelicans.  

September 14, 2014

London - The Queen's 'Collection' at St. James Park

Taking a walk before work is the perfect way to explore a city when on a business trip.  I look at it as a way to maintain work-life balance even when I'm on the road.  It's like taking a mini-vacation when I get up an hour early and walk somewhere I've never explored before.  On my recent trip to London, I did a loop around the lake in Hyde Park near Buckingham Palace.  I noticed various birds on the water and along the shore.  There was soon a mad rush of birds surrounding me.  At first I wasn't sure why but then I saw this - an older man and his son throwing some bread crumbs to the birds.  He looked so happy doing this, it simply made me smile. 
London - Feeding the Birds

September 12, 2014

Travel Vignettes - A Weekend at the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren Complete with Puffins!

Every once in a while, we'll hire a car and explore some far-flung part of Ireland.  In this case, we were inspired to see puffins and as a result didn't stray too far from the tourist track.  We didn't know when we visited in 2010 that the Cliffs of Moher are one of the few places in the world where you can see puffins from land at certain times of the year (May through July).  I'm fascinating by these wonderful little birds so we decided to build a weekend around a trip to see them.  Here are some highlights from two days in the West of Ireland covering the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren with a few pitstops along the way.

Barack Obama Plaza

Irish people are fascinating by U.S. President Barack Obama and his visit in 2011 was well-received and widely followed.  Obama claims his ancestral home is in Moneygall and he famously downed a pint of Guinness while visiting the small town.  To commemorate the visit, the residents of Moneygall now have their very own Barack Obama Plaza (highway rest area) to call their own.  It's conveniently located about halfway between Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher so we stopped in for a coffee and a snack.  
Barack Obama Plaza

September 10, 2014

Dublin - Saturday Afternoon in Marlay Park

Marlay Park in Rathfarmham is about a 15 minute ride from Dublin City Centre but makes you feel like you're a world away.  We made an excursion down here on a Saturday over the summer to check out the food market and get a bit of a walk.  We were dropped off at an ornate gate marking the entrance to the park.

September 7, 2014

Dublin - National Botanic Gardens - Sculpture in Context 2014

The National Botanic Gardens in Dublin is featuring 'Sculpture in Context 2014' from September 4th - October 17th.  We went last year and had an absolute blast exploring the exhibit on a sunny weekend afternoon (link to post about 2013 Sculpture in Context).  I dusted off my camera and we hopped on the Number 4 Bus from City Centre to see what was on offer this year.  Yellow and orange seemed to be the dominant colors this year (click on this link or any one of the pictures below to see an album with full size pictures in Google Plus).
National Botanic Gardens - Dublin - Sculpture in Context 2014

September 6, 2014

Dublin Eats - Exchequer Wine Bar

Every once in a while we make a pilgrimage to Dublin's Ranelagh neighborhood for an infusion of all things hipster.  Ranelagh was buzzing and we spotted a few new bars and restaurants as we walked along the high street.  We decided to pop into the Exchequer Wine Bar for a drink.  They were certainly well stocked for it.

September 5, 2014

Dublin Eats - Peploe's

We decided to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner for my husband's birthday in July and booked ourselves in at Peploe's on St. Stephen's Green in Dublin City Centre.  
We availed of the pre-concert menu which included 3 courses for 26.50 EUR.  We were seated at a quiet corner table.