Archive for October, 2009

St Paddy or St Nick?

St Paddy or St Nick?

St Paddy or St Nick?

My (French) friends are adamant that this is St Nicholas since Christmas is coming along soon and all, but I still think this is St Patrick. So whose chocolate sculpture do you think this is?

And whoever this sculpture is has got to eat less sweet stuff – the teeth are falling out! :p

U2 Live on Youtube

I doubt anyone would not have heard of this yet…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2xae9dcAVg[/youtube]

Given we’re changing the clock this weekend (yay, an extra hour to sleep!), good thing the transition is between Saturday and Sunday, as the gig is scheduled for Sunday 8.30pm in LA -> therefore Monday 3.30am in Dublin. Since it’s a bank holiday on Monday, it shouldn’t be too difficult for fans to stay up late and watch the live streaming with a few mates.

The official streaming page.

Maybe just make sure it’s not too loud that disgruntled neighbours end up sending the Gardaí over…

140 Characters

It’s all very intriguing and while the inspiration was drawn from Twitter, it is not about Twitter. 140 Characters is a series of short film clips, featuring 140 people in Dublin from all walks of life, answering one same question with answers that are each withing 140 characters or less. This is all part of the programme for Innovation Dublin 2009.

The blurb reads:

140 Characters

Shot over the course of one week in Dublin City, 140 Characters captures real people from Dublin City talking about their lives. The film features children, teachers, singers, travellers, nuns, fathers, mothers, dancers, hipsters, grandparents, dreamers, believers, cleaners, creative people & people who are creative with the truth.

Every person is different & every person gives a different answer.

In answering the question people reveal something about their lives, their community, their hopes. In listening to these people we can learn something about ourselves, our city and our society. 140 Characters becomes a snapshot that we can all identify with.

How would you answer the question? What was the question? Meet 140 Characters. Look at them and listen to their stories. You just might see yourself in there too.

That’s as much as I know, unless there’s a reader or two here who were tapped to participate in this project? In that case, will you be able to tell us what question you were asked? Pretty please? (Or was there some sort of confidentiality claused that you signed to?)

Otherwise, fret not. On Friday (that’s 16th October) there will be a free screening of 140 Characters in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar at 7.30pm. No tickets required, so just show up. Perhaps wrap up well, since the weather has gone a bit chilly in the last week or so.

Ps: if you watch the video on the official site, what do you think the little girl is talking about? I reckon, to get a role in the last Harry Potter movie. ;-)

Calls to abolish passenger tax

Rarely do the chief executives of the main airlines operating in Ireland see eye-to-eye but today, Christoph Mueller (Aer Lingus) Michael O’Leary (Ryanair) and Geoffrey O’Byrne-White (Cityjet) are on an united front in urging the government to get rid of the €10 passenger tax for every traveller leaving from an Irish airport.

Ireland is a small island country, and to get away anywhere at all, we either travel by ferry (to UK and France) or by flight. We don’t have the luxury like our neighbouring European countries to hop around the continent by rail or by car directly. But the competitive air travel market has enabled us to travel in and out of the country very easily, and at a reasonable price. Most of the time anyway.

Dublin Airport

Last year, approximately 23.5 million passengers used Dublin Airport as their travelling hub. The tourist tax that’s currently in place would have generated €235 million for the government without further ado.

However since the introduction of this tax on 1st April, the number of passengers using Dublin airport have fell by about 3 millions. Assuming a linear model of projection, by the time the tax scheme operates for a full year, approximately 6 millions passenger losses will have taken place. That’s about 1/4 of last year’s number! Such a large scale drop in passenger number must be worrying for the airlines which are already struggling with high operating costs, increasing debt burden (alright, mainly Aer Lingus for now) and diminishing profits. Not to mention, this will actually also affect government’s taxation income when these companies simply aren’t posting that much profits that are taxable.

Hence the dilemma – is there a balancing point between the two? The government needs to generate revenue somehow given the state coffer is in a dire state. Yet at the same time, they cannot afford to alienate travellers at times of economic downturn. This country does not have bountiful natural resources to see through the hard time, but it does have a reasonably buoyant travel industry to keep things going.

Nonetheless, the passenger tax must not be cited as the main reason for the drop in the number of travellers passing through the airport. We are facing a worldwide recession right now, and many people simply are not inclined or cannot afford the international travel right now. Staycation is on the rise, not just in Ireland, but elsewhere too. Not only the Irish are not going away for holidays, tourists from abroad are also not coming to Ireland. Add on the horror stories from the past couple of years that earned the moniker “Rip-Off Ireland”, any wonder if the tourists are cautious about making Irish holiday plans when their dollars/pounds/yen etc could stretch further if they go somewhere else.

On top of it all, the economic downturn also takes it toll on businesses, that many are simply not travelling for work like they used to in order to cut down the business costs. Instead they turn to conference calls, voice calls (like Skype) and networking sites (like Twitter) to conduct their business and to market themselves.

Perhaps if the government deem that they really cannot afford to scrap this tax altogether, how about reducing it? Already examples are being cited for countries that have scrapped similar passenger taxes (Belgium and Netherlands) or reduced the charge (Spain, Greece) in an effort to stimulate tourism. Now, on a parting note, it would be interesting to see if the US is really going to start charging $10 entry fee per person, supposedly to fund tourism promotion costs.

Upper or lower? Top or bottom?

Here’s something a bit random that I wonder from time to time, but never really took the time to clarify with the locals. Afterall, having live here for years, I’m quite sure I’m past the stage where I can ask without being embarassed about it.

Never mind, I’m asking anyway.

Foggy and a tad confused - St Stephen's Green is at the top of Grafton St?

Foggy and a tad confused - St Stephen's Green is at the top of Grafton St?

So there are street names with “Upper” and “Lower” attach to them. “Lower” would means it’s at the stretch closer to the city centre, while “Upper” would be the stretch further away from the city centre. Is this correct?

And talking to people sometimes bring forward something along the line, say, “the top of Grafton Street” or “the bottom of O’Connell Street”. I’m going out on a limb here and deduce “top of” is somewhat equivalent to “Upper”, and therefore is farther away from the city centre. Hence “bottom of” would be similar to “Lower”, and would be closer to city centre?

In terms of parallel streets, e.g. Upper Mount Street and Lower Mount Street, the street closer to the city centre is again indicated as “Lower” and the other as “Upper”.

Am I right? Please someone tell me that I’m right, or else please help educate me in this matter. I would really appreciate it. There’s no place for embarassment in learning. ;)

In case you wonder how I’ve coped so far with people who use these terms, especially the “top of” and “bottom of” designation, I usually double check by means of landmark(s) near it. E.g. top of Grafton St – that’s near St Stephen’s Green, right? Otherwise, if I’m giving a meeting point to people, I usually use landmark(s). Just to keep everything clear and straight forward, you know.

Good day folks.

My memory of (Boyzone and) Stephen

Everyone’s tweeting today on the sudden death of Stephen Gately. News outlets internationally are writing columns of obituary and tributes. Media notables and fans are saddened by the news. Boyzone found themselves to no longer be a band of five.

Growing up in South East Asia in the 1990’s, boybands were de rigueur du jour. There was the sensational New Kids on the Block, soon rivalled by Take That but also quickly usurped by Backstreet Boys. At the same time Boyzone came onto the radar and sure enough, the entertainment magazines were pitting the Americans against the lads from UK and Ireland – NKOTB vs TT, BSB vs BZ. It wasn’t even unusual to see magazine covers graced by these guys issue after issue.

Boyzone : Mikey, Keith, Ronan, Shane and Stephen

Boyzone : Mikey, Keith, Ronan, Shane and Stephen

My initiation to Boyzone was during a school trip, when a friend raved over “Love me for a reason” and had played the cassette (yes, cassette!) of the band’s debut album on the bus as part of the road entertainment. A couple of years later, when I was moving to Ireland, said friend made me promised to tell if I ever meet any of the boyz.

Sure enough, Ireland is a small country and Dublin is not all that big either. About a week or two before Stephen came out publicly, I bumped into him at the Westbury Hotel. (I got an autograph but I don’t think I ever remembered posting it to my friend.) Not long after that I also bumped into Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch at Dublin Airport, when I was there to meet an aunt who was returning from her holiday.

What I remember of the boyz were chart-topping pop songs loved by many (SE Asian market was – and still is – very much pop/rock-orientated). An ex even bought a special collection Swatch which had been programmed to scan as entry ticket to their concert as a birthday gift. I couldn’t go though, bummer.

Moving to Ireland, I found it rather strange then that not many people I know seemed to like them. Or at least nobody was admitting to it. Yet they continue to sell their singles and tour dates like hot cakes. I began to think maybe the people I know were closet fans. Or perhaps it was an uncool thing to openly claim listening to boy/girl band of any sort?

That mattered not to me. I happily listened to them from time to time, and I attended a gig during their last tour prior to their split. I got lucky and had amazing seats near the front, at the centre block. I went on to have a great time, and so did my cousin who was highly sceptical of them (she was more into R&B than pop).

Never one to follow artists’ careers closely (even to this day), and as my music preference changes over the year, I never quite knew exactly the direction each of the boyz were taking during the split. I saw videos of Ronan on MTV, news article on Stephen’s West End shows, and glimpses of Keith Duffy on Coronation Street when I was channel-hopping. When they re-formed the band last year, I respected their decision to perform a come-back tour but by then I have left my teenage-year admiration behind me and not at all too nostalgic over it.

On hearing the news today, that Stephen had died in his sleep at the age of 33, I was saddened nonetheless. He was gracious to me when I bugged him for an autograph (what can I say – I was very young and impressionable back then, with too little sense) and he was a talented young man who co-fronted Boyzone with Ronan. His role in the band was an important one, his voice distinctive and instantly recognisable in their hit tunes.

There will be investigation in the next couple of days to look into the cause of death, and the boyz are reported to be heading out to Majorca where Stephen was on holiday with his civil partner Andrew Cowles. A family spokesman claimed there was nothing untoward that led to his death but attributed it to natural causes, and a funeral in Dublin is planned for hopefully by the end of the week, accounting for time to conduct the post-mortem examination and arrangement to fly the remains home.

Meanwhile, in memoriam of someone who loved to sing and to please the crowd, here’s Stephen singing Beyoncé’s Single Ladies.

Go, go, go, Green 19!

It has been madness with work in the last few months that my social life is dwindling to near-nothingness, but a girl has still got to eat no matter how busy it gets.

Enter Green 19.

A friend mentioned this place in passing, and the inner foodie in me could not resist the urge to dine there pretty much the same day. Except they were booked out solidly when I rang, and I was told I can come in earlier to try and grab one of the tables that they’ve set aside for walk-in customers. I must have sound pretty crest-fallen when the lovely staff relented and gave me a table for the same evening. Hurrah!

Green 19

Green 19

That was about 2 months ago, and since then I’ve been back several times with different friends. A cosy restaurant/cafe tucked neatly on Camden Street, I like the simplicity in terms of the decor and I definitely dig the paintings on the wall. It’s akin to dining in a small art gallery and I find myself charmed.

There’s nothing pretentious with the food that they serve in Green 19. Good, solid menu of hearty food and at a very reasonable price too, which has got to be a major plus at times when everyone’s tightening their belts. Nary a price tag beyond €12 and even those are for shared plates of either cured meats and sausages, or cheese, or pinchos. Otherwise, it’s a tenner or less.

Clockwise from top left : tomato soup, portobello mushroom on toasted foccacia, lamb chump tagine with orange-scented couscous, chicken Caesar salad

Clockwise from top left : tomato soup, portobello mushroom on toasted foccacia, lamb chump tagine with orange-scented couscous, chicken Caesar salad

Having tried several of their dishes by now, I have not yet come across anything that I don’t enjoy. I do have a favourite though, which is the lamb chump tagine with orange-scented couscous. Another thing to note – it is quite a feat for anyone who can do a 3-course meal here. I’ve only managed 2 max, if one of the courses is a main course portion. Next time I ought to go for 2 starters and a dessert I think.

Speaking of desserts. There are only 3 choices but at great value of fiver each – rhubarb crumble with mojito ice cream, chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, and cherry and bourbon sundae. All delicious treats I assure you. If only they would serve a bigger portion of the mojito ice cream… hmmmm…

As for the drinks, you may booze up as you wish as the price range is variable, and the cocktails come at €9 each if that’s what you fancy.

If only there are more places to dine out in Dublin that is as affordable as this, without the customers resorting to eating at ungodly time of 6pm in order to catch the early bird menu and the likes. This place has won my heart (and many of my friends), and here’s to many more happy meals at Green 19!

Green 19 Café
19 Camden St Lower, Dublin 2
01 – 478 9626 / Open daily
(Dublin Metblogs Restaurant GoogleMap)

Temple Bar Chocolate Festival

“The 12-step chocoholics program: NEVER BE MORE THAN 12 STEPS AWAY FROM CHOCOLATE!”

I am in agreement with Terry Moore. Anyone who knows me, knows of my love for chocolate. Mind, I’m not a choco-junkie per se, because even I am not living such decadent life to be eating them every single day.

But I have a deep appreciation for chocolate. I am willing to try new flavours and concoctions in a heartbeat (chocolate with chilli and peppercorn, anyone?). I have travelled just to attend chocolate fairs (EuroChocolate in Rome, Salon du Chocolat in Paris – twice!). I pay some crazy amount of money for small nuggets of chocolatey goody when I think it’s worth it (and I’m afraid it happens a tad too often).

Last year, a colleague who was out of idea what to get me for Kris Kindle ended up giving me – no prize for guessing correctly – voucher to Butlers Chocolate.

Chocolate (picture taken at Salon du Chocolat in Paris)

Chocolate (picture taken at Salon du Chocolat in Paris)

So I’m excited. I’m excited that Temple Bar Chocolate Festival is back. There are free demonstrations (but ticketed, so ring up to book your place), truffles making and chocolate tasting workshops, chocolate beauty treatment (also free and booking essential), and I could go on and on. Just have a look at the full programme here.

The Temple Bar Chocolate Festival runs from Friday 30th October to Sunday 1st November. In conjunction with the festivities, No Grant Gallery is presenting an exhibition entitled “Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure imagination”. It opens ahead of the festival, on Thursday 22nd October and will close on Tuesday 3rd November. The exhibition is free and no booking is required.

Ah, chocolate… yes, I’m eating some right now. Lindt Ecuador 75%. Smooth and delicately sweet for a dark chocolate. Nyom nyom.

Mapping Dublin City Centre

I have a couple of friends visiting recently from Switzerland and France. As they were arriving late in the evening, they assured me that I wouldn’t need to meet them upon their arrival and we arranged to meet the next day instead. Which we did. And the very first thing they asked me – “where are all the maps next to the bus stops?”.

Ops. Come to think of it, we don’t have those in Dublin. In fact, we don’t even normally have maps of the bus routes at the bus stops (which is rather annoying actually), least of all to expect a map of the area in vicinity. Dublin is not, unfortunately, like many European cities, where lost tourists can consult large maps adjacent to bus stops or metro stations etc.

Pat Liddy and one of the tourist information traffic boxes (Photograph by Aidan Crawley)

Pat Liddy and one of the tourist information traffic boxes (Photograph by Aidan Crawley)

Luckily, a few weeks before that, the good folks of Dublin City Business Improvement District (BID) and historian Pat Liddy (who runs excellent walking tours – I’ve been on one with him and loved it) had just launched a new initiative of using traffic light boxes as historical and tourist information points, and guess what – there’s a great map on every one of them! Needless to say, I pointed those out to my friends so they know what to look for the next time they want a city map in a jiffy.

Living in the city and with the city centre area being relatively compact, this is something that I’ve never paid much attention to. But I can imagine the difficulty visitors may face, especially those who are staying only for a weekend or so and didn’t think they would need to get a map before hand. But now, we have these amazing traffic light boxes that educate and aid orientation. Fabulous.

There are 14 of these info-boxes around the city at the moment, including on Dawson Street/Trinity College junction, Dame Street, Temple Bar, O’Connell Street and Capel Street. Of course, there are more traffic signal boxes around the city. Those not used as info-boxes are now visually enhanced with decorative art coverings.

Personally, I like these changes and I’m sure many would agree with me. Do take a look at them the next time you pass by one, or better, recommend them to your visitors. After all the efforts put in to improve the city, we should rightly appreciate and make use of them. ;-)

Dine In Dublin is back!

My, has the weather turned nippy or what? It feels distinctly autumnal, to wake up to darker sky as the day shortens and as I look out the window, the leaves on the tree are turning into shades of red and orange and all the hues in between. Meanwhile, Is it raining in Dublin? has been telling me for days that no, it’s not raining, but it IS cloudy.

Dine In Dublin

An email from a friend though provided me with a little pick-me-up – the Dine In Dublin Restaurant Week is back on Monday week! So from Monday 12 October to Sunday 18 October, there’ll be much to be indulged on the gastronomy front. Wheee!

Similar to the concept of Dining by DART just a few weeks ago, a list of participating restaurants have set out 3-course menus with tea and coffee for either €25 or €30. All you need to do now is look for the place(s) that catch your fancy and book a table. (I do wonder if l’Gueuleton will take reservation seeing they normally don’t.)

Something new for Dine In Dublin this time round is participating hotels that gives 10% discount on the lowest quoted accommodation rates. That’s pretty sweet, especially if you have visitors coming to see you during the event period.

Now, where shall I go? I have eaten in a fair few of them, and would like to try something new. Is there any restaurants on the list that you’ll highly recommend?

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