This past weekend there was a march in Dublin in support of the movement. I didn’t make it as my babe’s feeding schedule and the pouring rain together were an obstacle I couldn’t surmount. But I was there in spirit.
Having a baby has not changed my mind regarding my views on Ireland’s abortion laws. Having survived the twelve weeks of my son’s short life, I can safely say motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It is not for everyone. It is certainly not something to enter into casually. Pregnancy and motherhood should never be forced on a woman. It’s too hard, too all consuming. For the past ten months my body has been completely highjacked; out of my control. Pregnancy is absolutely like something from Alien and I would not wish a quick nine hour top to bottom drug free labor and delivery on my worst enemy.
Yes, pregnancy and motherhood are also magical. They are/were magical for me because I wanted it, I chose it, and I have a lot of support mentally, emotionally and physically. I am so lucky.
I fully support all the women in Ireland who are not so lucky. It is my hope that the Irish government decides to as well. For more information on how to join the movement see these websites:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lunch at Fumbally is an obvious weekday go to not only for me but for most of the people I know in Dublin. Plenty of people I don’t know frequent Fumbally as well. Sometimes there is an Irish celebrity of some form or other. I have never heard anyone say that they were not a fan of Fumbally.
Now Fumbally is serving dinner on Wednesday evenings from 7-9. The menu has two options: meat or vegetarian. The same dish is made two ways. I love the fact that I don’t really have to choose. I also love that I know what will be placed in front of me will more than likely be delicious.
This Wednesday was Korean night. The option was a huge rice bowl filled with kimchi, scallions, spicy peanuts, and either crispy tofu or pork belly. Nothing is more comforting than being handed a big bowl of steaming, spicy, sticky rice when it’s chilly outside. The whole place smelled of pickles and spice.
There were sides available as well. Various pickled vegetables, peas and more spicy peanuts and seeds, and (slightly off theme) burned butter with sourdough bread. We made the very easy choice of ordering one of each.
I opted for the vegetarian option as we were eating late and pork belly seemed a bridge to far if I wanted a relaxed dream land adventure. I had to stop myself from eating to quickly. Luckily the food arrived all at once, which saved me from eating ALL of the burned butter and bread. It is hard to be polite around Fumbally’s homemade burned butter.
There was nothing that arrived to our table that wasn’t a taste sensation. I sipped on the in-house turmeric, ginger and lemon kombucha and there is wine available too.
We ordered the dessert because didn’t want to be the people who left one untasted item on the menu. It’s not a big menu! Might as well try it all! So we did. We were delighted with ourselves and our incredible peanut butter mousse, chocolate soil and a dark chocolate crisp. Fluffy, nutty, rich, chocolaty goodness that no Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup could hold a flame to.
Fumbally’s vast interior dresses up in coziness for the evening quite successfully. Lots of candles, low lighting and all the mismatched furniture make it feel like you are at a friend’s house. The service is a bit like that too: attentive but not at all fussy.
There are some fantastic places to dine in Dublin and Fumbally is certainly at the top of that list. For day or night.
Rustic Stone got a re-vamp last year and along with new décor a new restaurant was placed above the original. The new restaurant is Taste, a Dylan McGrath fusion experience. The menu tells you which taste sensation to be ready for: sweet, salty, sour, etc with each dish. That’s the gimmick, I guess, but I don’t remember paying attention to those “taste menus” at all as we ordered. Taste is highly influenced by Japanese cuisine, but there are elements from South America and other Asian locations as well we’re told. These days focusing on one cuisine seems amateur to most celebrity chefs. “Fusion” sits across the room batting her eyelashes, and you’d better start mixing your materials.
I went to Taste the other night with my godmother, her partner, my husband and my appetite. We climbed up and up (passing a hip bar with young, attractive, pre Patrick’s Day revelers getting into their cocktails) to the L-shaped restaurant. There is a sushi bar along one wall, then seats and tables along the others. It’s a nice space; exposed brick, naked light bulbs, plenty of copper. It glows.
We all opted to order dishes from the “small dishes” and “small warm dishes” item lists as well as a few rolls of sushi to share. Though it was unintentional, we enjoyed a full pescatarian dinner. Eating as either a pescatarian or a vegetarian would be both simple and delicious here.
The dishes came out like little works of art in pretty bowls or arranged nicely on little plates. The artichoke hearts arrived over smoking hot coals. This is fun if entirely unnecessary. It also takes up a lot of elbow room.
We especially enjoyed the “blowtorched” scallops (which we ordered only because the word blowtorched was in the title) and the sweet chili prawns with a tempura crunch. The highlight was certainly the king crab sushi roll. It was warm, salty, sweet and sticky. There was a siracha mayo for dipping and some fresh ginger for palate cleansing. We ordered another one of those (one just wasn’t enough) and one of the shrimp rolls as well. The shrimp was almost as good as the crab. Almost. I didn’t even reach for my camera for these guys. You’ll have to just go meet them for yourselves.
I would go back just for the king crab sushi roll, but the other taste treats were delightful. The service let the side down. Yet again, Dublin restaurant service puts the overall experience the wrong side of extraordinary. We arrived very early and had the full attention of about three servers for about fifteen minutes. As more tables arrived, we were less and less important to anyone. It took far too long to order a second glasses of wine and to ask for the bill. You’d think they would be on it because two of the staff members running the show had blue tooth ear pieces in. It looked impressive, but maybe they weren’t on?
The food, the ambience, the wine, etc, is all great at Taste. If the service had also been great, it would have been a truly excellent dinner.
Today, this famous Irish national holiday, I will be going for a walk in beautiful Glendalough. We will walk for up to two hours over hills, around a lake, and up to look-outs. The weather is perfect, spring is springing, the sun is shining and I’ve packed a picnic.
The best thing about our walk today is that I won’t have to worry about coming across a snake.
Snakes are my biggest natural fear. I would rather stumble on a nest of spiders than one solitary snake minding his own business. The fact that there are no snakes in Ireland is one of my favorite things about living in Ireland. Some days it is my favorite thing. Like today.
I don’t know much about St. Patrick, but the fact that he supposedly ridded Ireland of snakes is enough for me to unabashedly celebrate this day but getting out in this snake free nature.
I watched the annual RTE Toy Show last Friday night. It was my Toy Show maiden voyage. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to avoid this Christmas tradition. I only avoided it because we don’t have a TV, really. When a friend invited us to watch her TV, there was no excuse.
For those of you non-Irish readers, the RTE Toy Show’s nearest American equivalent would be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Most of the country’s houses will have it on while the cooking, organizing, table setting, etc is getting underway. Everyone knows what it is even if they have never actually watched the whole thing soup to nuts.
Most people in Ireland, especially those under the age of 15, watch the Toy Show every year. Both the Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Toy Show are happy reminders that Christmas season is upon us and it is only about shopping.
The Toy Show is a TV event that introduces the nation to the best toys of the moment as well as to some lucky children from around the country. Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade there are big song and dance numbers, adorable children, and too many chaotic moving parts to ensure that things will run 100% smoothly. This is why it is worth watching.
The Toy Show is hosted by the Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy. Everyone my age mourns the loss of Gay Byrne as host. As one of my more detail oriented friends pointed out Trubridy looks exactly like the Scarecrow and Byrne exactly like the Cowardly Lion. I don’t know where that metaphor is meant to go from here. It’s just a fact.
On Friday we cozied up on the couch with mulled wine to watch the whole thing. It is at once hilarious and embarrassing, sweet and offensive, in only the way a three-hour long broadcast with one man talking to at least 30 sugar-high racing children can be.
It was a bit of a surprise to have the show open with a stuffed animal that was “pregnant” (you could pull little ponies out of the big pony’s belly), and then move onto the “farm toys” and “kitchen toys”. There were little boy farmers and a little girl in the kitchen. Obviously.
Tubridy seemed to be running on fumes (and maybe something more potent) by the end of the show, having worn a total of four different Christmas jumpers as well as one full velvet Lumiére (from Beauty and the Beast, the theme of the evening, don’t ask anyone why no one knows) costume, complete with dancing flames.
I don’t think The Toy Show aims to put on a spectacle quite as grand as The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, the other American classic. I mean, a budget for camels, sheep, a mini ice rink, and a rake of Rockettes just isn’t in the budget at RTE and that is fine! Less poop to worry about.
It’s still a huge event. Tubridy did well to get out alive. I think that Irish people watch it now mainly to say “Ah, Jeez, it was so much better when I was a kid.” But I bet they didn’t get to drink mulled wine while watching it.
“I’m alive. Welcome home. Do you need me to darn any sweaters?”
“Actually, yeah! I think so!”
“Bring them over when you come. And bring me a gallon of milk. 2%.”
Then I would take my wool and cashmere sweaters over to my grandmother, my Nonnie, at her house. With the milk. My grandmother would darn up my worn sweaters so that I didn’t have to throw them out or stop wearing them. She was a huge believer in recycling not only clothes but just about everything else you can imagine. Don’t WASTE IT. You don’t NEED anything NEW.
I still hear her voice in my head. Luckily for me, there are two wonderful shops in Dublin where over the past few weeks I have been systematically dropping off various articles of clothing to be shored up for the coming winter.
This spring I took two of my favorite cashmere sweaters (one was my mother’s! It’s done well to get so far!) to Fitz, on Drury Street, to have patches sewn on the warn elbows. They came back not only in better shape, but much sturdier! Not to mention I now have some pretty rad Liberty print patches that get comments when I wear the sweaters.
Fitz has also altered two of Nonnie’s dresses for me, helped restore a dress that was my paternal great-grandmother’s to it’s original late-20s glory, and most recently assured that I would look perfectly fitted into a bridesmaid’s dress. Last week I dropped in my most favorite cashmere cardigan in for a quick elbow tuck that will keep the thing going until the next tug ‘n pull.
Up the road in Rathmines is the scene of my other big saving success. Cleaning out my closet I found three pairs of boots and one high heel that needed re-heeling. One of the pairs of boots I wasn’t sure could be fixed at all. They have been sitting in my closet for two years with heels that look like a bear cub had a go at them. Another one of the pairs needed new soles as well as heels.
I dropped them all in, and the lovely gents in Clegg’s said that every pair (and the one high heel) could be saved. I collected them this week and now I have basically got four new pairs of shoes. All for the bargain price of 60 euro! That’s a savings that my very thrifty Nonnie could appreciate.
What I appreciate most about all this repair work is that one of the sweaters that got the new patches earlier this year still has Nonnie’s original “darning” all along the lower part in the front. It’s not noticeable to see, but I can feel it.
I realize that coupled with my last post I am getting off the “theme” of this blog a bit. Like my post before the 22 May Marriage Referendum, I want to use this platform to support a movement happening right now. #WakingTheFeminists has exploded onto social media and into newspapers around the world. As a female actor living in Ireland, it clearly affects me and those close to me.
When people in the States ask me why I moved to Dublin, one of the many reasons I list is that “I can work at what I love. I can do what I want.” Dublin is a much easier place to be an independent theatre maker and actor than New York or London. Sure, it’s a smaller pond, but this pond is very supportive and full of incredibly talented fish.
When I want to do something, be it audition for a role in a play or TV show, or even do my own one-woman show, I know that I can call or email someone who will respond to me. I can get seen for auditions. I know that with a little time and elbow grease I can make my own show happen. Once I make it happen I know that “people who matter” (ie casting directors, directors, producers) will come and see it if I invite them. It’s a small town. I know people. I know people who know people. Those people–all of them!–want me to succeed.
Yet I often have to make my own work, or think about new projects that I want to grease with both my elbows because often there just aren’t roles for me. There isn’t enough work for female actors in Dublin. But why aren’t female playwrights and directors getting more work?
Dublin is not alone in this. But Dublin is FULL of talented women actors, directors, artistic directors, casting directors, producers, playwrights and designers. There has been a massive outcry about the lack of representation for all of this female talent, specifically at The Abbey Theatre.
I am going to the Abbey on Thursday the 12th to lend my support to this movement and listen to all the points of view as to how we can move forward. “We” being women AND men of all artistic bents who are ready to focus on gender equality in the workplace.
I’m excited to be living in Dublin during a time of great cultural shift. Yes, of course “it’s about time!” but now is now and I’m grateful I can be a part of it.
Lining up for food stuffs is something that New Yorkers do. Actually, paying someone to line up for you is something that New Yorkers do. New Yorkers are happy to line up for sweet confections particularly. This started with the Sex and the City Magnolia Bakery buzzness (there are still lines outside Magnolia on any given day), and reached a new zenith with the Cronut craze of 2012. I’m not saying that these delicious delights did not warrant standing in line for, but when you tell someone who does NOT live in New York that you waited in line for a croissant/donut hybrid for twenty minutes they are going to give you the “um, I think I have somewhere else to be” face.
I stood in line for fifteen minutes for four donuts on Aungier Street last Friday. With a tip-off from C’s sister, I knew that this was the place to be. A donut shop worth waiting in line for. In Dublin. Far be it for me to miss a “food moment”.
The queue (even if it is for food, it’s a queue in Dublin) was made up of mostly students from DIT across the street. Onlookers would try to get a peek into the tiny shop front to see what we were all queuing for. The street around the shop smells like fried dough in the most seductive way. Bikers craned their necks as they flew by: “why is there a queue on this stretch of road?” each helmeted head said as they sailed pass.
It became obvious that the queue wasn’t moving quickly because we were waiting for the special Halloween Donut to be fried, iced and sprinkled. I wasn’t walking away without the Halloween special. If I was in, I was IN.
There were only five donuts (including the special) to choose from once I got up to the counter. To be honest, they all looked fairly intimidating; they looked more like mutant donuts for a five-year-old boy’s birthday party than something I should have queued for in an effort to arrive at a dinner party with “dessert”.
I skipped the bannoffee donut. I’m not a massive banana flavoring person and I was the one who queued, so I decide. It’s not like my dinner partners would know which I hadn’t chosen.
So I got the classic jam donut, the Boston eclair, The Halloween special (that was fully deep red with white frosting), and a Cherry Bomb. Whatever that means.
I walked up to my house trailing fresh donut smell with me as I went up the hill. Note to self: new perfume idea? I kind of wanted to eat the fresh donuts NOW NOW NOW, but I kept control of myself.
It should be noted that I didn’t manage to take any photo of the donuts out of their box and served up (cut into fours) at the dinner party. They were set upon like fresh gazelle meat in the Serengeti.
They were delicious. They were worth the wait. At 3 euro a pop they weren’t cheap, but maybe I won’t share next time. 3 euro is a pretty decent price for a “self treat”, I think. If I’ve got time to wait in the queue, of course.
C and I just spent a really wonderful two weeks in Southern California. I grew up in Los Angeles, so landing at LAX always feels like “home!”, even though I haven’t lived there for longer than I have lived there.
The day after we arrived we drove up the coast to Santa Barbara. The Pacific Coast Highway is a great drive. The big, dry mountains down to the pacific waves couldn’t look more different to Ireland. This stretch of road It is mostly populated and there are houses hanging over the sea and built into mountain sides. You’re never far from humanity in California.
We also spent time out in the desert, staying in Palm Springs for three nights and Joshua Tree for one. The desert landscape feels completely foreign to me. The lack of green, the dryness, the browns and beige and soft colours are the opposite to the lush jewel tones of autumn in Ireland. The harsh sunlight is also a clear difference as well.
There is something quite wonderful about waking up and knowing the sun will shine. Seeing a perfectly blue sky, palm trees, and the sun every day really does make it feel like a holiday. It was a treat to spend time in pools, lounging in the warm shade, and getting to leave all “outerwear” safely packed away.
I think it is good for the soul to get a chance to be in landscapes so completely opposite to those you live with every day. Parts of Joshua tree were almost like a joke: piles of rocks and sand and cacti. It was like being on the set of The Flinstones movie.
It was a relief to come back to turning leaves and cool autumn air. Driving on the motorway yesterday was like being inside a pumpkin; the orange and yellow glowing along the road against a dark sky.
I am certainly more suited to this Irish climate, but it is lucky to be able to get out and remember to appreciate it. That blast of heat and sun and sand and memories of all those palm trees will carry me through the dark winter that is descending.