Tuesday 3 February 2009

It's not you, it's me...and the fact that I'm seeing Wordpress

Hey everyone --

I've decided to ditch Blogger, as far as this blog goes, and move on over to Wordpress. All the old posts are there, but according to my beta tester (AKA my mother), it's easier for her to navigate and it's also easier for me to make pretty and keep track of.

So, from now on, you can find me at: http://dublincityyank.wordpress.com/


Monday 2 February 2009

Let it...well, whatever

You can't really tell, but that man is running like he's running for his life.

One of the saddest things about my moving to Ireland and my parents moving away from Buffalo was that I was pretty convinced I wouldn't see snow again for the foreseeable future.

My parents were sick enough of shoveling out the car every day for six months that they were thrilled at the prospect of their first 60-degree winter, but for most of my Buffalonian life, I had been able to enjoy all the snow-related fun while encountering none of the responsibilities. I never had to dig out a car, plow a driveway, or try to drive to work on an ice-covered road.

Instead, I got build snow fort after snow fort, or, when I got older, I could sit safe and warm indoors and drink hot chocolate while watching a fresh few inches slowly cover the crusty old slush lining the streets. It's no wonder that the one sound that can take me instantly back to my childhood is the sound of a snowplow.

This is the view from my kitchen window. The DART station almost looks pretty with all that snow.

Today we got snow in Dublin -- well, not really snow. Snow Irish-style, maybe. According to everyone I have talked to, it rarely snows over here. Especially in Dublin, as we are really close to the River Liffey and the Irish Sea, two large bodies of water that make extreme weather really incredibly rare. So while a blizzard was clearly out of the question, we somehow have managed to get probably two inches of snow-like hail in the past 18 hours.

Whether this is something to celebrate, or if 18 hours of hail actually signals the end of the world, I'm not sure. But for now, I'm just going to enjoy the view.

Friday 30 January 2009


Hey everyone -- just wanted to let you know that I've added pictures to a few posts, here and here. This means I am no longer just stealing random pictures off Google Image Search and pretending like that's ethical.

I have started going through old posts and adding tags, which means if you want to see all the posts that mention Dublin Streets or Lemon, you can. Just click the little word in the bottom right-hand corner of a post with the desired tag.

Also, I know I've used the spire picture before. Shut up already.

Friday 23 January 2009

Northside Jaunt

This is part two of a series on the streets of Dublin. Not like 'on the streets' (aka in da hood), but the streets or areas I frequently find myself in. Each area has a crazily different feel, no matter how close they really are, and this is my attempt to show you my favorite spots in the city. Part one can be found here.

There are four things I feel you should know about my week:

1) I accidentally bought orange toilet paper yesterday. I am beginning to think that all Irish people are color-blind, as they mix colors like bright yellow, gray, and green together, and then color their toilet paper orange. Weird.

2) The espresso machine at the Italian place was broken this morning. I couldn't even get tea, because they get their hot water from the machine. I am not sure what I am going to do with myself, besides settle for a very expensive substandard latte from West Coast down the street. All I can say is, they had better fix it soon or I'm going to snap.

3) I am now obsessed with Sex and the City. I am hoping that by the time I get through Amy's DVD collection
, I will be in love with New York and will have no trouble if forced to move there in a desperate attempt to land a job.

4) Jillian and I took a day to walk around Dublin 1 and 2. I will talk about Dublin 2 in greater depth in later posts, because it's where I spend most of my time and I love it. A lot. But the Northside, aka Dublin 1, gets one post all its own, and then I will ignore it like I always do, until I need to sell books or get cheap veggies.

It's not like the Northside is really all that bad. It's just...the Northside. There are fewe
r tourist spots, more malls, and everything suddenly gets a lot cheaper. This is because this is the 'poorer' side, I guess, with a higher 2-euro store-per-block ratio, more sketchy 'massage' places, and fewer panhandlers (they follow the tourists, usually). It does have some redeeming factors, however.

Tourist-wise, there are three, maybe four things that you would have to visit in Dublin 1. The first is the Millennium Spire, at the intersection of O'Connell and Henry Street. It's famous, and I'm pretty sure most people love to hate it. I've heard it called the Stiffy by the Liffey, which I suppose is appropriate, but generally I think people call it the Spire. Rumor has it that you can see it from anywhere in Dublin, and while my view of it is blocked by a large building in exactly the wrong place, you can see it lit up at night from the Library Square on Trinity's campus. This is also where they lit the Christmas tree that looked like a pile of balls.

The second is the General Post Office. This is the headquarters for An Post, the Irish postal service, and is in this huge building on O'Connell. App
arently it served as the headquarters for the leaders of the Easter Uprising in 1916, and there is an original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on display there (we also have one at Trinity). Anyone interested in architecture should definitely check this building out -- it's absolutely beautiful.

The third is the statue of Charles Stewart Parnell at the corner of O'Connell and Parnell Street. I once did a paper on how having an affair with a woman named Kitty O'Shea (later, Katharine Parnell) helped to bring down his political career, but all I can remember is that she had a few kids by him that she passed off as her husband's, that Parnell was a great orator and leader in...something...and that he caught cold while giving a speech in Galway in the rain and then died just as his career was coming down around his ears. (NB: That picture to the left is not of the statue of Parnell. I think that's Daniel O'Connell. But you can see all the flags flying on top of the GPO if you look to the left of the statue. Clery's is the one with the flags on the right. I just liked the lamp post.)

Still, he's really famous, and so you can take a picture of the statue and then show it t
o your friends, saying, "Oh, of course you recognize Charles Parnell," and have them nod sagely in agreement just so they don't feel dumb in front of you and your superior Irish knowledge.

The fourth is Cleary's Department Store. This was, I believe, the largest family-owned store in Dublin...but Mrs. Cleary died at a ripe old age and I don't know who owns it now. Anyway, it's a beautiful old building, definitely a landmark, and apparently the place to go for all your
Irish souvenirs. I bet it's cheaper than buying them on Grafton, anyway.

Actually, the shopping as a whole is pretty good on the Northside. In fact, the only Gap in Dublin (in Ireland, for all I know) is inside Arnotts, the huge old department store on Henry Street. The exchange rate makes it barely worth it to trek all the way down there for what will end up being a $150 sweater, but I have always loved Gap's clearance racks, and last time I went, they were selling all of last year's jeans for around $30. And on top of it, they size like Levi's does over here -- waist and inseam, rather than some weird size that means little to nothing.

I also used to shop at the H&M up near Parnell Street until they opened one closer to me. There is no H&M in Buffalo or Castaic, so being this close to two stores full of cheap accessories and trendy clothes is pretty much heaven for me. I a
lso like Zara, which is part of the Debenhams department store on Parnell, but I realized last month that there is one next to the closer H&M, so now I hardly ever walk up to the other one.

There are, however, two stores I will happily w
alk up to the Northside for: Chapters and All Rooms.

Chapters is the largest independent bookstore in Ireland. Now, I know Hodges Figgis claimed to be the largest on some website or other, but according to some sources, Hodges Figgis is owned by HMV. At any rate, it is certainly not larger than Chapters. Anyway, Chapters has printed 'Irelands Largest Independent Bookstore' on their bookmarks, and despite the lack of apostrophe, I believe them.

Chapters is really two bookstores in one: there is the bottom floor, which is all new and bargain books, and then there is the upstairs
. Upstairs is a full floor of used books, all in good condition, as well as movies and music, if I remember correctly. Great selection, pretty decent prices -- the only problems I have are that first, sometime you can find new books downstairs for cheaper than the used ones upstairs, and second, no matter now new your used books look when you bring them in to sell, they will only pay you one euro per book. But hey, that's one more euro than I had before...and also one fewer book to ship back to the States.

All Rooms is kind of like a D&K, or a dollar store, except it focuses on home goods, mostly kitchen and dining stuff, and the items are more than a dollar (or a euro, in this case). H
owever, you can get some pretty awesome stuff there for not a lot of money. I ended up getting a set of nice heavy flatware for 2 euro a piece, and a great bowl for 3 euro. It's enough to make me wish I hadn't bought the random kitchen/bedroom pack from Trinity, really.

I have heard claims that grocery shopping on the Northside is better, too. It's true of the two places I have been: the Moore Street market and the Parnell Tesco. The Moore Street market is a place I really should make the effort to go more often; cheap produce pretty much lines the street, and it's all good stuff, lasts a while, and doesn't have that sort of plastic look that the produce in Tesco does.

I suppose if I were a better person (not to mention a better cook), I would appreciate this more, but for the moment, all I can say is that I managed to get a kg of carrots, a kg of potatoes, a crown of broccoli, five lemons, and something else I can't remember now, all for just the change in my wallet. Amazing.

The Parnell Tesco is where you go if you've got some time or you're looking for so
mething special. It's twice the size of the Tesco near me, cleaner, better-stocked, and possibly cheaper. I could not believe the amount of groceries I managed to buy for very little money there last week. However, it's also quite a trek back to my apartment with a backpack that is threatening to drag me to the ground.

Then, of course, there is also the chance that you might get lost if you head into the Northside. This can be scary, I am not going to lie. There are alleys and drunk homeless people up there. But it can also be kind of interesting -- I got lost last week walking back from Tesco, and not only did Jillian and I find where all the bagel places have been hiding, we saw the back of the Customs House and found what appeared to be Hostel Central about a seven-minute walk from our apartment and a three-minute walk from the bus station.

We didn't go to Phoenix Park or the Dublin Zoo on this jaunt, which is probably enough for another post later, but since I'm talking about everything north of the river that is slightly in city centre, it has to be mentioned. Phoenix Park is a short walk from the LUAS line that runs through the centre of town, right near Dublin 7, which is a little more residential and a little less scary than Dublin 1. I wouldn't want to, you know, wander around there alone at night, but it's fine to trek through on your way to the park. We went in November and got lost, so we were not that thrilled with the park in general, but I'm sure it's beautiful in the spring and we are going to have to do some exploring.

In short, if you're looking for cheap and not particularly cheerful, Dublin 1 is the place to go. Otherwise, well...how about you take a nice walk down O'Connell to see the sights, and then head back to Grafton? The panhandlers will be glad to have you back.

(PS: Because I know you were concerned, I checked on the Italian place when I came back from grocery shopping, and lo and behold, there is a beautiful new shiny red espresso machine sitting there on the counter. People were carrying coffee cups out, which means that they are back in business :D )

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Ah, Dawson, how I love thee

This is part one of a series on the streets of Dublin. Not like 'on the streets' (aka in da hood), but the streets or areas I frequently find myself in. Each area has a crazily different feel, no matter how close they really are, and this is my attempt to show you my favorite spots in the city.

Those of you who read my entry about Hodges Figgis, as well as the short blurb about Lemon a few posts back, are already familiar with my two very favorite things about Dawson. But there is soooo much more, so much more in fact that I've decided this street deserves its own post.

Dawson is the street directly across from the side Nassau Street entrance of Trinity's campus. Nassau itself has certain connotations (mostly involving tourists, Germans, and various sexual acts performed against Trinity's hallowed walls) that Dawson is inherently free from. For me, when I turn onto Dawson, it's like reaching a safe haven -- the Comfort Object of Dublin city life, if you will.

First, there are trees on this street. Amazing. Though they're bare now, being the middle of January, they are going to be beautiful come spring. Combined with the relative quiet of Dawson--since it's surrounded by Nassau and Grafton, it naturally seems almost peaceful--and the fancy lampoles I seem to recall, it's eay to see why this is my favorite street to walk down.

But it's a fun street to hang out, too. Dawson is home to a branch of Cafe Sol (the ubiquitous Irish coffee and sandwich place) and Lemon, home of the amazing magic crepes. The second Starbucks is here, too, only blocks away from its more-crowded and harder-to-find predecessor on Grafton. A duck down a side street takes you to Davy Byrne's, a famous pub that I think is mentioned in Ulysses, and on the corner stands Carluccio's, where you can find amazing soup, bread, lattes and Italian-accented waiters.

As for bookstores, Dawson has been hailed as the book-buying center of Dublin, because of its proximity to Trinity and relative proximity to UCD. Hodges Figgis is by far the best, filled with bargain tables in addition to a bargain basement, pretty fair prices, and amazingly friendly staff who will not laugh at you when you ask them who the author of Beowulf is.

I go in here so often that Jillian asked if there is a sex camp of some sort hidden in the basement. There's not, but I really don't think I could go more often even if there was. The company is also amazingly old (18th century -- older than our country, kids), and I believe it is still Ireland's largest independent bookstore (sources differ on this point).

There is also Waterstone's across the street. I have only been in there once, partly out of loyalty, but I hear there is a cafe upstairs that I think I am going to have to try someday soon. Murder, Ink is another fun bookstore, with a specialty in murder mysteries, mysteries, and detective fiction.

I have two other favorite shops in this area. The first is Farrell and Brown, which I have only been in once, but the building is so beautiful that I feel happy everytime I walk past its greystone exterior. It's kind of like an Irish Abercrombie, with similarly outrageous prices, snooty sales people, and loud rock music. Still, they have nice scarves and I'd rather shop there for a sweater than at one of the tourist traps on Nassau.

The second is the WONDERFUL toy store whose name I don't remember. (Edit: It's just called The Toy Store.) You know those stores where you walk in and feel like a kid again, surrounded by Playmobil and Klutz and various other toys you would have possibly killed for as a child? This is it. There were books on how to make friendship bracelets. There were plastic knights and dragons. There was a turtle in a knit hat and a Long John Silver puppet. Does life get better?

Of course, after shopping and reading and coffee-drinking, you can always walk straight down Dawson to St. Stephen's Green and walk off that venti caramel macchiato with extra caramel. That's where I saw the horse and cart rentals on a Sunday morning a few months ago, and this is a much more pleasant walk down to the Green than trying to fight your way down Grafton. Dawson is pretty much the best possible place to start a day from -- grab a coffee, read a book, and head off to one of the other awesome places nearby. Perfect.

NB: Can't find any pictures not under copyright. Will try to take some in the near future and post them as I get them...sorry! Also, map courtesy of Ordance Survey Ireland.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Forget elections, BOOKS are my porn

Just wanted to let you all know that I am, in fact, not suicidal. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea to post that in my tired/jetlagged/homesick state.

Today, in an effort to get over myself and enjoy life again, I wore my favorite sweater and went to Hodges Figgis, my favorite bookstore in Dublin. It's not the cheapest, but it's the easiest to find things in, they cater to Trinity students, and the service people are always so helpful.

It's amazing the effect bookstores have on me. Seriously, it's a little scary. First thing this morning, I thought to myself, "I'm going to Hodges Figgis. Full stop. I need a bookstore." I even got up early to make sure to miss the crowds.

And miss the crowds I did. It was basically just me, my latte (oh, I forgot how good they are here) and the entire fiction section. For I while I just wandered and stared at the covers, picking up books at random and flipping through.

Then I pulled out my list. Big mistake. Apparently the book list for my Tolkien class is not so much a list of books as a list of topics we will be discussing. My panicked look and my sheet of paper drew a very concerned salesman, who asked me if I needed help in a way that suggested perhaps I might need someone to take me back to the place with the padded walls and the white jackets.

But eventually, after about ten or fifteen minutes of going through the list topic by topic, we sorted out what was what, and I was promised they would order my books and call ASAP. I then tripped lightly through the rest of the store, grabbing Tolkein, Cecila Ahern, Nora Roberts, chick lit for Thursday's class, and even a treat for myself -- Phillip Pullman's The Subtle Knife.

A stop at Lemon (the crepe place from two posts ago) for a BLT made my morning complete. And while I still have to get groceries and read Nora Robert's Hidden Riches for my class tonight, I think, overall, today will be a pretty decent day. It's amazing what a good bookstore will do for one's state of mind.

Monday 5 January 2009

Little Miss Disaster

"Honey, can I make you anything? How about some buttered noodles?"

My mom was trying to feed me again. So far today, I had been offered goulash, Italian sausage, macaroni and cheese, and leftover Chinese food. Quite the cornucopia, considering I could barely choke down some coffee this morning.

"Hey, do you need any more of those sinus pills? Remember how you were half dead when you got here and that one pill cleared you right up? Here, take like half of them. Do you want the whole bottle? Here, honey, just take the whole bottle."

My dad, on the other hand, was busy pushing pills. He had dragged his basket o' medication out of the kitchen cupboard and was offering me everything -- well, except the Vicodin.

Why were my parents acting like this? Because it was the day I had to fly back to Dublin, and needless to say I was having a nervous breakdown. Those of you who read the entry a while back about my conduct in airports are familiar with the kind of state I was in.

Back when I first left, I thought my problems were caused by the fact that I inherited my father's wanderlust and my mother's homebody tendencies. But now, really thinking about it, I am pretty sure I didn't inherit the wanderlust. If I had, the thought of getting on a plane and flying to another country (which, by the way, is my second home) would probably not make me want to puke.

At least I didn't cry through any airports this time. I did have to re-pack my carefully arranged suitcase at LAX, since it was over the limit. I did have a minor panic attack when they delayed my flight to Heathrow, then when I missed my flight out of Heathrow, and then when I discovered it was canceled anyway. I got airsick for the first time in a long time on my ten-hour flight, sandwiched between the window and two French (Swiss?) men, one of whom I had to climb on a seat to get over in an attempt to make it to the washroom before passing out. I sat on the runway for an hour in London, praying my bags would at least make it to the right plane after all the confusion.

Truth be told, even without the crying, I am clearly not a graceful traveler.

I also realized something, somewhere between the cab ride and the unpacking. I am so over traveling. I'm over going somewhere new, getting used to it, uprooting myself, and having to do it all over again.

And I'm over this whole living in another country business. Ireland is great, sure, and obviously I've been able to stick it out so far. But frankly, it's weird living someplace where everything is different. Every single thing. You don't know which side to pass someone on the sidewalk. You don't know how to dress for the weather. You live in fear that, since you don't have a car, you will walk one block too far and find yourself stuck in a horrible neighborhood with no way out. When you go grocery shopping, you never know what you will find, how expensive it will be, and whether it will taste like it's supposed to. Tipping rules are different and confusing. The laundry is different. Paying rent is different. And every single person you pass on the street has an accent. Oh wait, no -- you're the one with the accent, and the one who has to feel stupid every time someone says something you don't understand.

I'm also over feeling this homesick every time I go somewhere. And I'm really over knowing that even if I did just stay in the States, nothing would be the same anyway, because no way would my parents let their grad school dropout sponge off of them.

So in conclusion, living abroad sucks, and since I'm locked in for another six months, I'm screwed.

Oh, and Happy freaking New Year.