Wednesday, March 21, 2007

If You're Ever in Ireland...

As part of the arts journalism program, we got a free trip to Ireland for spring break. We stayed at the Forster Court Hotel in Galway from Saturday, March 10 to Tuesday, March 13 and then went on to Dublin until March 18, where we stayed in self-catered apartments. We saw four shows--"Leaves" at the Druid, "Julius Caesar" at the Abbey, "Salome" at the Gate, and "Don Carlos" at the Project Arts Centre. Not a bad deal. Anyway, here are some highlights and recommendations (I apologize in advance that I don't have pictures to post yet as I don't have a digital camera):

Roisin Dubh- A drunk man on the street told us that the Roisin Dubh was a touristy bar, but we went there anyway, and I didn't get that impression. It's located on Dominick Street in Galway and always has live music. There was no cover (at least at the time we went) and we got to see two decent bands, the Gorgeous Colours and The Cheerfuls (I love how happy those names are). There's nothing like getting to see a free concert when you're not expecting it.

Dun Aonghasa in Inis Mor- Inis Mor (Inishmore), the largest of the Aran Islands, is just a short bus and ferry ride from Galway. Although many of my classmates did not enjoy the ferry ride, I had a blast getting my "sea legs." I recommend sitting on the top level.

Once we arrived on the island, we took a mini-coach tour, stopping at various locations along the way. Inis Mor is very touristy over the summer, but it was still fairly quiet at the time we were there. It seems like it would be such a peaceful place to live, but the islanders work hard as well (Especially this one very nice woman who sells sweaters, hats, gloves, and socks. We sort of invaded her tiny shop). Gaelic is still the primary language, but everyone speaks English as well.

Our main stop on the tour was Dun Aonghasa, a stone fort atop a cliff that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The view was absolutely breathtaking (although I wasn't brave enough to lie down over the edge of the cliff) and I can't really do justice describing it.

Coole Park- Coole Park used to be the home of Lady Augusta Gregory (writer and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre). Her home was the center if the Irish Literary Renaissance in the early 20th Century and authors like Yeats, Synge, and Shaw used to frequent there. Not only is the park a lovely place to explore and collects your thoughts, there is an autograph tree signed autographed by the likes of Yeats, Shaw, and others. Needless to say, the literary nerd in me was quite impressed. My only disappointment was that I didn't get to see any wild swans at Coole.

Coole Park is located about an hour outside of the Galway city centre (we stopped there en route to Dubin).

Butler's Chocolate Cafe- The hot chocolate at this cafe is so worth it (even when you convert the price to dollars). There are various locations of Butler's throughout the city of Dublin, but both times we went to the Grafton Street location. The first time I had marshmallow hot chocolate. The marshmallows melt to the bottom, so when you get to the there, you have a treat of gooey marshmallow and chocolate deliciousness. The second time I had the cookie hot chocolate, which has either Oreos or Oreo imitations, which also melt at the bottom and the effect is just as delicious. Each hot chocolate also comes with a Butler's handmade chocolate. Yummy.

Nude- I was afraid I would have difficulty finding tasty vegetarian food in Ireland and was fully prepared to live off Cadbury's chocolate for a week, but I was very well-fed. I was so enamored with Nude in particular that I ate there twice, and I would have gone there a third time at the airport for a smoothie had it not been for stupid customs.*

Nude offers tasty wraps, paninis, soups, and smoothies. I had a toasted broccoli and goat cheese wrap which had just the right proportions of brocolli, cheese, and spinach. I also had a berry smoothie which was better than anything at Jamba Juice (and I'm a Jamba Juice fan). I also had a taste of the funky monkey (banana and chocolate). What I loved about the smoothies was the consistency--they aren't too thicked, but they aren't too liquidy either. On the second day, I had a mozzarella panini (because they were out of the jumping bean toasted wrap for the second day in a row and I still really want to try that). The paninis are really long and thin, and at first I wasn't sure if it would be enough, but again, it turned out to be the perfect size.

Nude is located on Suffolk Street, in the Grafton Street area.

Octagon Bar- I couldn't go to Bono's brother's cafe and not to go to Bono's hotel, The Clarence. The bar is called the Octagon Bar because, as you might guess, it's shaped like an octagon. It's a really good idea to have a bar shaped that way, because it allows for these little nooks. The bar is very expensive (8 euro for Bailey's and coffee) but it's worth it just to go for one drink and check it out. Plus, it has the nicest bathrooms in Dublin.

The Front Lounge- After the Octagon Bar, some of us went to the Front Lounge, located on Parliament Street. The combination of these two places was my favorite of the nightlife that we experienced.

The Front Lounge has a mix of gay and straight clientele. Drinks are pretty pricey as well (I asked how much a black Russian would cost, and the bartender said 5 euro, which I thought was reasonable so I went ahead and ordered it. When she rang me up, she said, "Sorry. It's actually ten.") I was still in a good mood, though, because I got to dance, and I had been looking for some dancing in Dublin. When I was getting my drink and I heard "Sexy Back" come on, I knew I was in the right place.

Project Arts Theatre- I loved all the theatre spaces that we saw. They were all pretty small, even the Abbey and the Gate, but especially the Druid and the Project Arts Theatre. It allows for such an intimate theatre experience. I think the Project Arts Theatre was my favorite space. It was a thrust theatre, with only a few rows of seating on each side. I was already pretty invested in the story of "Don Carlos," but being so close to the action heightened the experience.

Bewley's Cafe Theatre- Bewley's is a multi-level all-in-one cafe, bar, restaurant, and theatre space located on Grafton Street. On the top floor, it offers lunchtime theatre for the bargain price of 13 euro (15 if you're not a student). This includes a play and lunch (soup and bread).

We saw the play, "Living With Johnny Depp," which I was attracted to by the title. It was a one-woman show starring Joanne Mitchell and directed by Miceala Miranda, who played a 15-year-old student, her 60-year-old English teacher, and her 35-year-old principal, all obsessed with Johnny Depp for different reasons. Mitchell was fully committed to each role, and it was an entertaining and at times hilarious show.

Odessa- This is where we ate on the last night (fortunately, it was paid for by SU abroad because I probably wouldn't be able to afford it). As you can see from the picture, it's pretty fancy schmancy. For my starter, I couldn't decide between the butternut squash soup (my favorite) and the selection of dips with pesto, hummus, and harissa. I went for the dip, which turned out to be a wise choice, but I did taste the soup, which would have been an equally wise choice. The highlight of the meal, though, was the creme brulee with strawberries and rhubarb (I was also tempted to go for the chocolate marmalade torte). I wasn't sure what to expect, but there were pieces of strawberry and rhubarb in the creme brulee. I was about to burst, but I forced myself to finish it.

*In all my years of traveling, I've never had an experience like this. We had to go through American customs in Ireland (which I guess makes some sense, so they don't have to send people away once they get to the US), but the gates closed at 9:15 and we had to wait for such a long time behind this marching band that by the time we checked in and went through security it was 9. The Dublin airport is nice and I wanted to do some shopping and go to Nude, but we had to go through customs before it closed, only to find out our plane was delayed. We had to wait in this cramped room with tons of coughing people (which may explain why I'm sick now) and only one very very small cafe. Our plane was not scheduled to leave until 10:30 anyway, so I don't understand why we had to be there so early, and they should have extended the time once the plane was delayed. OK. That's my rant on that.

1 comment:

RedTomato said...

I happened across your entry about being in Ireland and I work beside Nude on Suffolk St. Whata small world it is.

The prices in Dublin Bars (and Dublin in general) are generally high in the city centre.

glad you enjoyed!