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.


Anonymous said...

I am sure your realize that Hodges Figgis is Ireland's largest bookshop? Sounds like a wonderful place to take a walk and enjoy the day. Do I have pictures of any of this in all my collection of pictures from you?

Courtney said...

I am a huge lover of Ireland and am so glad I stumbled across your blog. I have a deep, burning question for you - where did you get the street map you showcased at the beginning of your Dawson Street post? I would love to have one, as I plan on framing maps of cities I have visited. Do you know where I could get one? Thank you!

KT said...

Hi, Courtney, and welcome! I got the street map from the tourist center on Suffolk Street in Dublin, but you can also get one at the following link if you are not in the area:

Any map of Dublin that says "Ordnance Survey Ireland" on it is bound to be a good one :) Framing street maps of cities you've visited is such a good idea! I have been collecting maps, but haven't got around to displaying them properly yet.