Sunday, 29 April 2012

Spring in St. Stephen's Green 2

It's still Spring in Dublin!  My awesomer half and I walked through St. Stephens Green on Saturday afternoon.  Gosh, Grafton Street sure was busy!  If anything, it was just refreshing to take a break from the hustle & bustle of town.  The park is still making a great show of its tulips.  The weather was very accommodating yesterday; it was sunny with large lumpy clouds floating about.  Teenagers gathered in groups on the park lawns and couples walked hand in hand.  It was a really nice day.

Iveagh House and Arthur Edward Guinness

This tree was in bloom and was covered with tiny white flowers.  I have no idea what type of tree this is.  St. Stephens Green has over 750 trees planted.

Closeup of the flowers on the bushes under the trees

New spring growth.

Suddenly a wild child appears!  The exact moment I snapped the shutter, this child leapt over the stairs here.  haha I had no idea she was there.

The Office of Public Works does a fantastic job with planting and landscaping the park.  Aren't these tulips great?

Closeup of the purple tulips.  The tiger stripes cool.  Thank you Holland.

We had to wait like 5 minutes while a group of Japanese school girls took pictures of each other in front of this flower urn.  I guess everyone likes flowers.  :)

The lake as viewed from inside The Kiosk, a structure build in 1900.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dublin is confusing

Maybe it's just me, but the weirdest stuff goes through my mind when I see signs in foreign countries.  For everyone who has gone to Germany and chuckled at the Ausfahrt sign, you know what I'm talking about.  Today we got off the bus in front of a bead shop called Yellow Brick Road and we passed this sign offering Jewellery Courses and a peyote workshop.  Wait, what?

Here are 10 things about Dublin that confuse me...

Come for the beads, stay for the drugs

Why would you want your tattoo pierced?  Is this some new thing?  "Yeah, I got this hula dancer on my bicep, and I think she needs earrings now..."

So this is how toilet paper is made:  It's forged by TPsmiths.  I can just see them beating on boards, flattening them out until they are soooo thin.

They charge 12 euro to use the pay toilet?  Those pee spaces are outrageous!

Come for the cheap cider, stay for the fights...

I always wondered who doctors went to when they got sick?

Um yeah Caesar, she poops all over, she terrorises the cat, she's just impossible at home.  Can't we do something?

OK true story.  So I move to a country where it rains a lot.  I want to buy a Goretex coat.  So I walk into Superdry... and it's like an Abercrombie & Fitch store with music blaring at full volume and pop-collared, pastel-colored polo shirts.  There is not a raincoat in sight.  Confusing name.  Seriously Superdry, wtf?

Why stop with a nose job?  Heck, you can get new ears too!

"Hey baby, how you doin'?"


Monday, 16 April 2012

Siam Thai

We went out to dinner last night at Siam Thai, on Andrew Street in Dublin.  My better half and I are big fans of Thai cuisine.  We would really love to visit Thailand some day.  Every time I talk to one of my friends who has been there, they rave about how kind and wonderful the Thai people are.

At the moment the closest we can get to Thailand is through the culinary world.  Ireland is a very multicultural place, and Dublin is something of a European metropolis.  Ireland is not the Quiet Man township of thatched roof cottages like the movies would have you believe.  There are several excelent Thai restaurants in Ireland.  Some day I would like to do a blog about Thai Garden at Spanish Arch, in Galway.  The service there is excellent and OMG the green curry is fantastic... anyway back to Siam Thai:

This evening we both ordered Duck with Tamarind Sauce.  The skin was perfectly cooked.  It was crispy and golden without too much fat.  Duck can be quite fatty.  We were actually wondering how they cooked it:  Perhaps it was deep fried, but then it was not greasy at all... so maybe it was roasted, but then the skin was so evenly golden.  There were no brown-and-burnt spots like you would get in the oven, so we're confused.  How did they do it?

In any case, I'm doing my Homer Simpson "loooolllarrrrrgggghh" tongue noise right now because it was so awesome.  That's the noise he makes whenever someone mentions Krusty Burgers and Duff beer in the same sentence.

For dessert we ordered boozy-coffee.  I had an Irish Coffee and my fiancee' had an Amaretto Coffee.  We shared a chocolate & strawberry ice cream with strawberry, kiwi and tangerine.  It was romantic.  Even the ice cream had heart-shaped waffles in it.  Awwww.

I'd give the restaurant 4 out of 5.  It was a nice experience:  The service was satisfactory, and the interior was clean.  We sat in the front window where they have brightly colored LED floor lights.  Unfortunately we got the full glare from them.  During the meal they played fashion-show runway music.  It was a bit too metro for me... a French girl sang over electronica that went Oontz-Oontz-Oontz.

On the positive:  The meal was cooked perfectly and it came out in a decent amount of time.  The waitress was nice and didn't pester us during the meal.  The interior had kind of a zen thing going on, and the decor looked new.  The tamarind sauce served with our duck was decadent and fantastic.  The rice tasted like it was cooked in pure Evian water; it was that clean.  My Irish Coffee was flavorful and they didn't skimp on the whiskey.

On the negative:  We ordered a wine by the glass with our meal.  We selected a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile and it had an interesting cinnamon character to it.  Unfortunately there was also a diesel taste and metal-on-the-back-of-your-teeth thing going on.  The bottle had obviously been opened a couple days earlier and it had oxidised...   Come on guys, you should open a new bottle every day.  (If you don't sell it, take it home.)  Life is too short to drink bad wine.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

No boots at Boots?

Today my awesomer half and I took the comfortable and ever-efficient Dublin Bus to the Liffey Valley Shopping Center.  Wait a second, the Dublin bus is "comfortable" and "ever-efficient?"  No not really.  I'm just drinking a big gin & tonic right now and I'm in that "I love you, man" mood.  Do not attempt to adjust your set.  We are experiencing cognitive difficulties.  Your regular blog post will continue in a moment.

Liffey Valley is pretty much like every other mall in the Western World.  Except they don't have a Cinnabon.  I'm pretty sure Ireland isn't ready for a Cinnabon.  Look, they just got an Ikea.  Give them time.  Anyway, our mission today was to purchase cosmetics at Boots.

Boots is a pharmacy.  Wait, what?  Boots doesn't sell shoes?  No, it's a British pharmacy chain that has outlets in Ireland.  Think of it as a Target, just without the homewares.  Or, maybe it's more like a CVS just not such a rip-off.  Or like a Wallgreens, just more upscale.

Apparently this Boots is the only place where you can find Stila cosmetics in Dublin.  They used to have it at Cleary's on O'Connell Street in town, and at the uber-posh Brown-Thomas store on Grafton Street.

So, while my awesomer half was in cosmetics-valhalla, I wandered around the store.  Being an American, the brand names always amuse me.  Some things are the same the world around, like Oral-B toothbrushes and Colgate toothpaste, and some things are re-branded.  For example, in America we call this crap "Axe Body Spray."  Over in Europe it has been re-branded as Lynx.

You've seen the commercials; some pimply college freshman is in grocery store and he sprays a gentle "test-spray" of Axe deodorant on himself; he is promptly tackled by sex-starved co-eds making sensual "mmm" noises.  Yes, it's all bullshit.  But 18 year olds buy this stuff.  Hell, they BATHE in it.  Even the bottle promises instant sex appeal.

I am much too mature for that kind of stuff.  So I immediately found the Doctor Who toys.  OMG Boots is awesome.  Where else can you get asprin, dental floss AND a Sonic Screwdriver?

By the way, I bought the Tardis pen.  It rocks.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The crème brûlée

Last Monday was a bank holiday for us.  I guess a bank holiday is what they call it when your regular holiday falls on a weekend and they make up for it by declaring Monday a freebie.  We do the same thing in America, but we have more rules about when it's officially observed (you get Friday off for a Saturday holiday and Monday off for a Sunday holiday.)  In Ireland they just simplified the rule; Monday is the holiday, end of story.

We visited Café en-Seine for lunch again.  The restaurant is on my favorite street in Dublin, Dawson Street, over by Nassau Street and the south side of Trinity.  I like it better than Grafton Street, which is always crowded and full of street musicians with their guitar amps turned up too loud.

We like to order the soup of the day and coffee.  One of my favorite soups there was a squash soup with chili.  Wow, that was delicious and had a nice kick to it!  This time it was a brilliant cream of parsnip soup.  It's always served with brown soda bread.

The decor at Café en-Seine is amusing.  Have you ever watched Dr. Who?  It's kind of like a couple rooms in the Tardis that the first doctor (William Hartnell) forgot about.  It's got sort of an Art Nouveau flair with 18th century antiques left from your crazy rich aunt.

I wonder what this building used to be?  I'm told that it used to be two separate buildings and one of them may have been a bank.  The other one must have been either a Freemason's Lodge or a Knights Templar treasure warehouse.  Seriously, I have no clue.

They are fond of statues of nekkid ladies in this joint.  Well, I can't complain.  Having a Y chromosome and the usual sexual orientation, such things find a way of charming me, even though they tend to be gaudy.  For example, check out these Cabaret babes in bronze:

They're kind of cute in a weird way.  I guess this is what posh people and Mafia dons buy when they want something for the mantle.  The place where I draw the line is pretentious art from Carmel galleries.  Imagine my surprise when I--a Monterey boy--found they have these Todd White paintings hanging in the hallway to the restrooms.  White has a gimmick:  He paints highly stylized people with skinny bodies and angular heads.  In this painting, some Pebble Beach fops sip vodka with spider-like hands and wear Ushanka fur hats, you know, because they're Russian.  Todd White is just one step up from Rodrigue the blue dog guy.  Puh-leeeze.  Todd, if you're reading this:  You're not the next Andy Warhol like your web site says.

Despite the cheesy art this place has great crème brûlée.  Bank holiday Monday brings us bourbon vanilla crème brûlée.  Nicely done chef!  They did a fantastic job on caramelising the sugar on top; it was thick and hardened evenly.  My only criticism--and this is mild--was that the crème brûlée could have spent a couple more hours in the refrigerator setting up.  It was mildly pudding-y and not mousse-y as one expects.  However the bourbon vanilla was quality stuff and they obviously used real vanilla beans.  Our dessert was full of luxurious little black seeds which add an explosion of flavor.  Mmmmm.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring in St. Stephen's Green

My awesomer half and I went to Cafe' en-Seine today (more on that later--the crème brûlée was fantastic) and afterwards we took a walk through St. Stephen's Green.  We had the day off work because today is a bank holiday.

The City of Dublin does a great job with landscaping the park.  We were blown away by all the flowers in bloom.  They probably could have bailed out the banks with all the money they spent on tulips!  Well, we're glad they didn't.

The entrance by Grafton Street

Memorial to O'Donovan Rossa

Aren't these great tulips?  Just making a guess here but I think these are called "Carnaval de Nice"

 Wait, what?  Washingtona palms can grow in Ireland?  No way!  Yes way.

Prunus Kwanzan in all her glory

St. Stephen's Green:  Bringing you awesome flowers since 1877

Planting at the south end of O'Connell bridge in the park

Tulipa Angus Young (a.k.a. AC/DC)

People enjoying their bank holiday

Friday, 6 April 2012

I Got a New Bike!

Ireland has a government-sponsored tax-relief plan called Bike 2 Work.  You can deduct the cost of a new bike and accessories up to 1000 euro from your income tax.  For example, if you make 40,000 euro/year, you only pay tax on 39,000.  That's a pretty good deal.

When I first got to Ireland, I was in the market for a bicycle.  Being a fan of BSA, I wanted to buy an old BSA Parabike.  The Army designed fold-up bicycles for British paratroopers in WW-II.  The grand scheme was to have troops jump out of airplanes with bikes strapped to their backs and then ride quickly to the front lines.  Germany won't expect soldiers riding bicycles, ah-ha!  (Maybe when you're in a time of war, even the most zany ideas make sense.)  Anyway I guess they weren't used heavily because there are a lot of these things left in England.  I contacted a collector who had five and wanted to get rid of one.  The only problem:  I didn't have a job at the time and he wanted 1200 euro.

So I kept looking and found this really great company in England that makes NEW parabikes!  Pashley to the rescue.  The new parabike looks just like the 1940's namesake but it has modern conveniences and costs half as much as a WWII collectable.  I bought mine through my company and they are taking tax-deductable payments out of my monthly paycheck.

The modern Parabike bike comes with lightweight Cro-Mo steel tubes, a five-speed Sturmey-Archer hub, a top-of-the-line Brooks B67 saddle with comfortable springs, and puffy 26" x 1.75" tyres.  The frame is surprisingly light.  Modern materials are awesome.  Oh hey, here's something else that's cool:  I may own the only Ash Green Pashley Parabike in Ireland.  This shop is Ireland's only Pashley importer and they have only imported one other Parabike so far in Dusk Blue.

The bike was purchased in town from the Eurocycles - Eurobaby store.  Please don't ask me why the store has combined bikes with baby accessories.  None of the Irish people understand it either.  The only reason I can think of for combining two non-sequetir themes like that is a husband-wife team; perhaps they each wanted to do their own thing and take advantage of combined retail/warehouse space.  Who knows?  This might be just an Irish thing; there is a combination Bar, Hardware Store and Bike Shop in Dingle called Foxy John's.

Here are some photos from my ride home today.  Thanks for reading.

My new bike at the cash register inside the shop

The shop on South William Street in Dublin

What a classic look!

Hand Built in Stratford-Upon-Avon (nice badge!)

Detail of the dual-tube frame

The Famous Brooks Saddle

Two-tone chrome bell, (bong-bing!)

Five-speed all-weather planetary-gear Sturmey-Archer hub, yeah baby!

On the road to adventure