Dalkey Adventuring

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Here’s what I know about Dalkey: if you’re driving, you should be in a Jaguar. As we sat on a corner eating our lunch in the sunshine I counted at least four in an hour period. That isn’t a ridiculous amount, true, but it still tipped the scales as the most common car that drove past us. So that’s the kind of place that it is. Dalkey is picturesque. There are huge flower baskets on every street light, it’s clean, it’s cute, it’s super fancy. It’s a nice stop for a “nice” lunch.

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After a trip down to the sea in Killiney, we found The Corner Note on a crossroads to sit and watch the world go by. And to eat our lunch. Inspired by our seaside adventure, C had mussels. They were delicious in a rich and tangy broth. I had a simple sandwich that was made much more exciting by the skinny sweet potato fries that came with it. The combination of the sweet potato fries in the mussel broth was actually the big win of the afternoon’s eating adventure.

I’m not going to say it was one of the best lunches of our lives, however Dalkey is a great place to walk around and to be in. It felt a little like we were on holiday; it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re near a city. And if you need some seafood or just a sandwich, the Corner Note will work. If you want to play “count the Jaguars”, even better.

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Killiney Beach Towards Bray Head
Dalkey Adventuring

Glendalough

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On St. Patrick’s Day earlier this month, a happy band of family and friends headed out to Glendalough, home of another Saint (Kevin), to walk in the fresh air and get the heck out of the party zone that Dublin turns into on the 17th of March.

It turns out most Irish people in the Dublin and Wicklow areas had exactly the same idea; there wasn’t a parking spot to be had in all of the Glendalough Park official car parks or along the road leading to the park. At one point I was afraid we had reached grid lock as we tried to pass from one lot to another. Everyone seemed to think that St. Patrick’s Day morning was a super time to stretch the legs, breath fresh Irish air and take in the fantastic scenery Glendalough offers.

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We managed to finagle a space about a mile up the road eventually. The plan was to hike the full Spinc Trail which runs around the lake, through the old mining village up over the ridge of the valley and back down through the forest on the other side. Eight miles in total.

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The day was foggy and grey as we started out around the lake. The trail was busy (not surprising considering the car park situation), not only with adult hikers but babies, children and dogs of all shapes and sizes. A celebration of the national holiday in one of the most gorgeous locations.

As we started our ascent out of the mining village, the sky began to clear. I ate an apple. We climbed up and up along the rocky, switch-back trail and after about an hour or so found a gorgeous grassy, not-too-windy spot to have our picnic.

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Luckily we’d packed enough food and treats to sustain us for the remaining climb and descent. I’d never walked the Spinc before and the views are incredible. It’s well worth the little burning in the quads to be high up above the Glendalough valley looking down on the lake, the graveyard and the mining village.

As we began our decent through the forest, we were aided by wooden steps. There is an option of walking up the steps and around the path the other way. Many people were coming at us from that direction. I am, however, thrilled that we went up the other way and didn’t have to face climbing all those stairs. The ascent that way would have been much steeper and more punishing. Also, if you go up the way we did, you get the views of the valley facing you as you walk back down. I don’t want to toot our own whistle, but that was clearly the best way.

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Once safely (if exhaustedly) returned to the valley, we had a little gander through the graveyard. The sun was over the lake, and the mist from earlier made the air sparkle a bit. It’s easy to see why Glendalough was considered such a spiritual place. It’s part of the new Ancient East Trail.

We rewarded ourselves with pints of Guinness (or whatever you’re having yourselves) before the mile long walk back to the car. If we’d parked a little closer the day would have been too close to perfection. The distance to the car made us feel very smug about our ten-mile walk.

Glendalough is close to Dublin and there are buses out there every day a few times a day if you don’t have a car. I highly recommend going. There are other trails and loops to follow if you don’t feel like the full eight mile Spinc adventure. Just being there is magic.

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Glendalough

George’s Street Market Arcade

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“Let’s meet at Simon’s” my friend’s text reads.

“Where?” I think, so I type that back.

“You know, the place that smells like cinnamon buns on George’s Street. The Arcade.”

Yes. It DOES smell like cinnamon buns. In fact, Simon’s makes the whole upper half of George’s Market Arcade smell like cinnamon buns. Delicious.

The Arcade is one of those places–pass-through, walkway, connecting tunnel–that I have come to take totally for granted. So much so that I didn’t even know that Simons was called Simons. I walk through it many times a week but don’t really take stock of the building or what it contains.

The other day I came out of a bar across the road from it and looked up. I had to snap a photo, it just looked so good sitting across the road. It is a stunning building. It sits squarely on one whole city block, and the middle of it is a market.

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There are offices upstairs, a cavernous bar around one side, a super market around the other with two music stores, and a fancy restaurant. There is also a chinese restaurant, a fast food Peking Duck place, a bike repair shop and a new health food store. You can get your haircut on both the west and east corners. That’s just what is along the outside!

Inside is an eclectic mix of vintage flannel, Irish wool, Italian Olives, homemade fudge, Chinese reflexology goods, bubble tea, frozen yogurt and jewelers. You can have your tarot cards read as you nibble a tiny cupcake or buy something clever and useful but very attractive for your home. You can also find a lot of crap. All of this within 100 yards!

I forgot to mention that you can also buy an old fashioned portion of fish and chips.

It is populated mostly with tourists poking around, students doing the frozen yogurt and bubble tea thing, or Dubliners just trying to get quickly from George’s Street to Drury Street and onwards.

There is a stall that sells old books and hanging off one of the walls is a photo of the Arcade in the 50s. There were no stalls down the middle, only shops along either side. It appears so much larger than it does now. Cars were allowed to be driven through it! It looks very elegant with the ladies in tailored wool coats walking along as the sun slants through the roof.

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George’s Street Arcade is one of those magic Dublin places where you can find just about anything you ever (or never) wanted.

George’s Street Market Arcade

The South Wall

Walking Partners on the South Wall
Walking Partners on the South Wall

I don’t consider myself an ocean person. I grew up in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is on the Pacific Ocean, but I never feel as though I grew up in a “sea town” or “by the ocean.” We didn’t live that close to the ocean so that is the obvious reason I feel that way, and Los Angeles is a huge city that also includes hills and canyons. Dublin is a much smaller city, but it is also right on a sea and it also has hills within its boarders. In both cities, though, I am always amazed at how different they feel when you are beside the sea. The city changes completely.

Bright Red Lighthouse
Bright Red Lighthouse

For the first time last Monday I went for a walk on the South Wall. The Wall boarders the entrance way to Dublin Port, the Liffey, the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal. It runs out beyond the famous red and white striped smoke stacks to a squat red light house at the tip. The views stretch from the Bray to Howth, including Bull Island and the Wicklow Mountains.

Fun and Games on the South Wall
Fun and Games on the South Wall
Smoke Stacks in the Distance
Smoke Stacks in the Distance

We walked on a foggy morning when the clouds couldn’t quite decide whether to take off or hang around. It’s always blowy on the Irish Sea. Dublin looked like it was behind a veil; for some of the walk we couldn’t even see it sitting there quietly just inland. As we got back to the smoke stacks, I could just make out the dramatic Beckett Bridge and Custom House on the quays. A few big ferries that were not in use idled in their giant slips.

Lighthouse's Little Green Partner
Lighthouse’s Little Green Partner

The South Wall is not as busy as Dun Laoghaire pier, though the walks are similar. It is not as easy to get to; you really need a car. Happily we were invited on the walk by a friend who not only can drive but was also in possession of a car for the day. We drove out past the scrap yards and energy plants to the edge of Dublin. It is odd to be behind the giant smoke stacks; to see them from a different angle. It is wonderful to be at the lighthouse and to be facing right into Dublin, right at it’s centre.

Reverse View of Smoke Stacks
Reverse View of Smoke Stacks

Even though Dublin is a fraction of the size of Los Angeles, it’s face can change just as completely depending on where you see it from.

Dublin from the Edge
Dublin from the Edge
The South Wall

The Phoenix Park

View From the Papal Cross, Site of the 1979 Papal Mass
View From the Papal Cross, Site of the 1979 Papal Mass

The sun decided to come out on Valentine’s day, so C and I decided to go out into it. I had wanted to go for a big coastal walk. A few late nights, and the scratchy first feelings of a cold helped us make the decision to stay a bit closer to home and not to exert ourselves too much.

Wellington Monument
Wellington Monument

The Phoenix Park is one of Europe’s largest city parks. It is a fifteen-twenty minute bike ride from our house and we almost never go. I would say I enter the gates of the park maybe twice a year. Maybe. From now, for 2015, I would like to remedy that.

Áras an Uachtaráin
Áras an Uachtaráin

Phoenix Park is incredibly beautiful and sprawling. Though it is used by a huge number of Dubliners (and their dogs) every day, it doesn’t feel busy. It is vast, with views over the city towards the bay and up into the Wicklow Mountains.

American Ambassador's Sweet House. (I should have gone into the foreign service . . .)
American Ambassador’s Sweet House. (I should have gone into the foreign service . . .)

C and I parked our bikes and walked from the Wellington Monument up to the Papal Cross and back. We found three herds of deer, the American Ambassador’s residence (man, oh, man, does the Ambassador have it made), and a satisfying amount of exercise for a Saturday afternoon.

The Papal Cross
The Papal Cross

We re-fueled at Ryan’s on Park Gate Street, because what is a big walk without a hefty portion of fish and chips and a pint of Guinness as a reward? These fish and chips were particularly delicious and I don’t think hunger was the only sauce.

You Know It's Dublin When There's a Horse n Cart
You Know It’s Dublin When There’s a Horse n Cart

Ireland beat France in the Six Nations match, the sun shone, the air was crisp, the deer seemed happy and relaxed. All in all, Valentine’s day was a win.

One of the Park's Herds
One of the Park’s Herds

(For more on the history of the Phoenix Park, see their website.)

The Phoenix Park