Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bray to Greystones in Images

Last weekend I decided to shake up my regular trek around Howth, and instead take the DART south to Bray. There is a walk that goes from Bray, which is small seaside town, around Bray head and to Greystones, which is a slightly bigger seaside town, but one that seems to be growing. The pics below start at Bray's promenade with Bray head in the distance, and then they follow the 6km walk to Greystones. I love train tracks - always have, so they feature fairly prominently. I also have video of a train coming out of tunnel, but I haven't looked into uploading video yet. Greystones is a hip little place, with lots of fairtrade this and eco that for sale. The last pic is from my (alone at coffee shop, armed with camera) still-life study of a cappuccino and my gloves at The Happy Pear. What comes to mind most when I look at this pic is: I wish they washed their windows. I was punch-drunk on sea air and sunshine by this point, so the angle's a bit canted.

Uncool pubs and off-nights

It's become clear that I really like pubs that aren't cool. The cool ones are busy, and this suggests that lots of people like to go to them, and get packed in like sardines. But that's just not my scene - I need more personal space than your average Dublin venue offers (and this includes sidewalks, shopping centres, pedestrian walkways, and queues, where people stand really close behind you, even if they have several feet of space available behind them).

So, I've been steadily cultivating a list of uncool pubs. Of course, they are cool by virtue of being uncool, but it's all about taste.

For quiet drinks in a cosey old-school atmosphere, there is the Library Bar in the Central Hotel on Exchequer St. It looks like it sounds - bookshelves, old worn-velvet arm chairs, open (gas) fireplaces, and a little bar tucked in the corner. I've seen people reading here on a Saturday night, or opening presents at a little party of six, and generally just chatting. The sandwiches are great, and the academic in me feels at home. The lights are a bit bright, but there is no music, and this means that voices aren't competing for aural space. It's all about the space. Incidentally, the Central just opened a 'gastropub' next door recently, called Gastropub. The food is good, but it's a sardine kind of place.

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Library Bar, Central Hotel, Exchequer St.

A similar venue is the Lord Edward Pub, near Christchurch, above a fish and chip shop. Again, lots of red velvet benches and little wood tables, slightly bright lights. I had one of the oddest conversations I've experienced in Dublin with the bartender that night. My companion and I had picked up some fish and chips from the takeaway below, and brought them up to the pub to see if they were ok with us eating them there (while sipping a pint of course). The bartender quite firmly (but kindly) said he was very sorry, and wished that he could say yes, but he just could not. I asked whether it was because they also served food (we were unaware of this), and he said "Oh no, that's not it at all. It's just that, if you take your dinner over there (pointing to a far corner), and start eating it, sure enough the head on this pint of Guinness will just disappear. It's the oil they use - takes the head clear off the Guinness." Naturally, we were kinda confused. I thought he meant that the oil would travel through the air and attack the poor defenseless Guinness, and my friend thought that he meant the oil from our mouths would remain on the glasses, and affect the next user. We talked to him for quite a bit, practically falling into hysterics, and really, I'm not sure we ever figured out what he really meant. The oddity of that conversation endeared the place to me for good, I think.

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The Lord Edward Pub, Christchurch

The other uncool thing to do is go to an otherwise cool pub on an off night. I find Mondays-Wednesday are good for this, and my favourite place to go is the Front Lounge. It does happen to be right around the corner from my apartment, and it's a queer friendly pub, but at weekends, it's terribly packed. On a Monday night, it's the perfect place to sit with a pint and your laptop and write on your blog about sitting with a pint and your laptop in Dublin...

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The Front Lounge, Parliament St.

In terms of fun factor, however, uncool pubs can also really give it up. Take last night, which had to be just about the most fun I've had in ages. After yoga, I joined a few people at the Mercantile on Dame Street to hear this wacky band called The Sick and Indigent Song Club. (Yes, I did say that I went to a pub after yoga - this was a shocking thing to me the first time I did it, because post-yoga usually screams 'green goddess smoothie' to me more than 'pint,' but I got over this ridiculous Canadian confusion shortly thereafter). The band is great - the lead singer is Scottish, and she plays the banjo, wearing a flower in her hair, and looking very proper, but her expression is fantastically ironic, so you know she is much cheekier than she appears. Their sound is really hard to describe - lots of instruments, and a mix between gypsy, celtic, and chanson. They remind me, in mood, of Les Singes Bleues, who used to play at The Press Club on Dundas West in Toronto, before one of the band members moved back to France and killed our favourite weekly gig. So we were dancing around a bit to the band, but they are too fun to watch, so the real cutting loose didn't happen until the band retired and the DJ pulled out the chart tunes. We tore it up! And this was only possible because...the pub didn't have many people in it, so we could spread out over the dance floor, jump off the stage, and swing around the railings. You know, regular dancing-to-pop in your 30s kind of behaviour.

Love the uncool pubs of the Dubs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yooooo! Gaaaa!

I committed myself to a personal 30-day yoga challenge recently, and I figured it’s about time to update the blog on all things yoga, ‘cause I’ve been doing a lot of it in The Dub, and I don’t think the blog quite reflects this.

The 30-day thing is all over Facebook – different groups imploring you to join their challenge – and several studios back at home have created courses around it. I am not sure why one month is the key amount of time (other than Gaia’s womanly cycles), but it seems like a long enough commitment to feel substantial, but short enough to … not cramp my lifestyle too much. My dear sister Amber (who currently can’t actually do yoga due to a shoulder injury) and dear friend Paul (who lives on my kitchen table via Skype) have committed to join me in this journey. Amber is going to do some sort of physical practice every day that accommodates her injury, and Paul is going to keep up with the yoga. For myself, I decided that anything counts. Committing to 30 days is substantial, so I decided that I would not put other restrictions or limitations on myself. If I can only do 10 minutes of pigeon and cat-cow, then that counts.

I’m not sure about you, cyberspaceanonymous reader, but I have this thing: I don’t do very well with fitting important things into small spaces of time. If there is something that matters to me, I feel like it needs a big amount of time. An example might help to illuminate what I am saying: say that it is 6 pm, and I have tickets for a theatre performance at 8pm. And I haven’t had dinner yet. And I haven’t practiced yoga that day. In this scenario, I would not unfurl the mat on my laminate faux-wood flooring, because yoga takes an hour. If I do yoga for an hour, it is 7pm. And then I need to eat and change and get to the theatre, and there is just not enough time. So, I don’t do the yoga. BUT ... why don’t I just do 20 minutes of yoga, and call it a day? I am not sure ... I think I have issues around personal achievement. I think I have high-achiever syndrome. I once told my partner that I was a ‘competitive yoga player,’ but that was a long time ago, and I am so glad that I am older and wiser now. Time and space. These are things I am working on, during this sabbatical year ... during my personal sabbath – my year of rest and restoration.

So, enough soul-searching blather, and onto the yoga. There is a lot of yoga going on in Dublin. Kinda suddenly, things seem to have exploded. I would like to account for it based on my own great enthusiasm for the practice, but, it’s probably just a kind of Yoga Zeitgeist. A couple of months ago, the Open Minds Project opened their doors on Pearse Street, with donation-based yoga classes seven days a week. They have multiple classes with different teachers and different styles everyday, and the donation system makes it affordable to go frequently. This is important because -- I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this – established studios in Dublin charge 18 Euro per class, which is, frankly, astronomical. I mean, take your salary (if you are lucky enough to have one) and divide it by 356 days and subtract your required living expenses and ... can you afford to spend 18 Euro per class on a regular basis? I can’t. Anyway, I digress...

So, the Open Minds is pretty cool. Apparently it is run by a Dublin businessman who owns a bunch of properties, and wants to invest (morally?) in a not-for-profit space.

The other place I frequent is Yoga Dublin at Ranelagh (they have a studio now at Dundrum as well), but the reason I go there is because I LOVE the Thursday evening class with Deirdre. Yoga in Dublin is generally kinda relaxed and gentle. But Deirdre, with her Ashtanga background, really pumps it up. Last week I actually felt a bit out of breath, and I fell on my butt several times trying to achieve tittibhasana (this is an improvement - I usually fall on my head). I cherish the almost-bruises. I like to think that I do yoga primarily as a spiritual practice – as a way to balance myself in the universe – but let’s face it, I want to rock it out and do all the cool arm balances and inversions and REALLY DIFFICULT AND TOTALLY GORGEOUS STUFF. I’m not a competitive person by nature, except when it comes to athletic things. I used to play squash, and frequently I felt like I would rather beat my squash partner with my racquet than lose the game. I used to go a bit John McEnroe, but only in sports! I blame all of this on my Dad, who got me involved in sports, and never let me beat him. Well, blame is really the wrong term, because in fact I thank him. He kept saying “one day you will beat me, and you’ll have really earned it”. It’s funny, because this makes him sound like a drill sergeant, when really he’s a big teddy bear. He never pulls this crap in any other area, but I think he does it in sports because he is competitive with himself, and that is an important part of his identity, and he wanted to pass it on to me. To go all Irish on ya, ‘tanks Da!’

Where were we? Oh ya, at Yoga Dublin @ Ranelagh. I like the class, but I also really like the space. There are usually only a few of us, and the room is intimate, and the light is low, and it feels like ... community. I just wish that Deirdre would crank up the iPod and maybe play a little Florence and the Machine. I want my practice, sometimes, to just ROCK IT OUT.

In a previous post I mentioned that I joined this LGBTQ women’s group. I decided that I wanted to contribute something to the group, so I am in the process of organising a 6-week restorative yoga course. I do a lot of strength-building yoga by choice, but this has led to frequent muscle-cramping (don’t point your toes!), so I decided I needed a restorative course. I took a 2-hour restorative workshop several months ago at Samadhi, but I think I need the deep stretching and yin-calmness on a more regular basis. We’re in the process of working out the space and time (ah, back to space and time!), but my new friend Luna, who teaches at Yoga Dublin and Open Minds, is game to teach it. I feel good about organizing this course, because it means that I am creating something, as opposed to just availing myself of what is already out there. We’re all creators, but when we’re tired we can forget this. I am so glad I am not so tired anymore. Namaste, anonymousblogreaders.