Sunday, 24 October 2010

Baile Átha Cliath

Hello blog. I have returned from the crowded delights of the fair city of Baile Átha Cliath, otherwise known as Dublin.

Most of the time was spent walking around. There are an insane amount of tacky touristy things you can do, but then you'd not have time to see the really interesting (and free) things, like the Irish National Botanic Gardens, 20,000 plants spread across 27 acres, many of them filling up the wrought iron glasshouses. The picture here is of inside the Palm House, a huge glasshouse built in 1884.
If succulents, sub-tropicals, palms, cacti, sugarcane & creepy insect-eating vegetation (a whole room of them - brr!), outside there collections of dahlias, pampas grasses, trees, herbs, vegetables and all manner of things leafy, smelly & colourful.
There are also events & exhibitions at the visitors centre (which also has really tasty fruit scones)
There is also the Herbarium - a collection of over 600,000 preserved plants. Oooo!

There is also the National Museum of Ireland. Well, there's actually 4 of them!
The Decorative arts & History Museum (exhibitions of clothing, furniture, weapons, religious paraphernalia & rammel from around the world).
The Archaeology Museum has exhibitions of Celtic bling & Viking loot, plus a sober & moving collection of Bog Bodies.
And the Museum of Natural History. This has to be my favourite, even though it's commonly referred to as the 'Dead Zoo'. First opened in 1857, it's a mind boggling collection of around 2 million specimens of beasties, birds & bugs, divided into 2 exhibitions; creatures of Ireland & pretty much everything else, all displayed in Victorian cabinet style.

A few things about Dublin.

1, The bus drivers hate you. No matter who you are, how often you smile and thank them, they hate you. Try not to take it personally.

2, People will warn you that the beer is expensive, which is true. You go into a pub or bar & you're looking at 4 or 5 euros a pint (except for the glorious Czech Inn, which is slightly cheaper, and also has dark lager. Yum!). But in supermarkets it's as cheap as in the UK. A bottle of something Spanish & red in tesco will set you back about 5 euros, but in a restaurant or pub it'll be more like 20. I tried asking a local what the deal was, but he was halfway through a heroic attempt to drink every beverage in the Porterhouse Octoberfest range, and could only manage a brief rant about taxes (and a recommendation on which Weissbier was worth trying). If you can afford a pint, Messrs Maguire on O'Connell Bridge & the Porterhouse at Temple Bar are excellent brewpubs. I heartily recommend the Porter & Red beers.

3, There is a giddy range of foods for vegetarians (speaking as someone who lives over 40 miles & a bloody great estuary from her nearest Vegetarian restaurant, this is about as thrilling as life gets!). If you're short on cash, Govindas is the place to go - friendly staff, delicious food & huge portions. Cornucopia is a cracking vegetarian & wholefood restaurant with a dizzying range of hot & cold food, salads, soups & oaty snacks. Cafe Azteca gets a special mention, even though it isn't vegetarian. They have a vegetarian pozole that I will probably be dreaming about when I'm ancient & we're all living on the moon anyway. The staff were lovely, and if you ask nicely, will happily sell you some of their stash of chiles (I got some chile de arbol!)
If you're in the mood for a cup of tea & a slice of cake, you can't do better than Queen of Tarts, an adorable cosy little cafe down the road from Dublin castle, for an enormous chipped enamel pot of tea & one of the sweet treats (everything from Muffins to Bailey's Chocolate Cheescake**) piled up at the counter.

4, The city is in a distopian-future style permanent gridlock. If you need to get anywhere, you'd better head out at 7am when they're hosing down the streets (though how people have enough money to get that drunk is beyond me). Cars pay little attention to the pretty coloured lights by the road, and the cyclists barely notice the difference between road and pavement, let alone the finer points of the Highway Code. Pedestrians take a rather Zen* approach to crossing the road. Perhaps living in a city where a pint of beer costs the same as a 15 mile taxi ride makes you a little bit suicidal.

So, travelogue over, back to posting recipes & pictures of vegetables!

*I'm not suggesting that they believe in the Universal nature of transcendent wisdom, it's more that they sail out diagonally across box junctions & allow the universe to screech wildly around them.

**Yes, I did. As the song goes, Je ne regrette rien

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