Ireland day 0122. Friday 28 January 2022- Botanic
I have spent most of the last week in and around the Malahide area – I wanted to save the Dublin explorations for when Val was back from the UK. And of course to allow plenty of time for marmalade preparation. But today we both thought a trip back into the capital would be in order – and in particular I wanted to go back to the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. Partly because Val hadn’t been with me the last time I went, and I thought she would like to have a look around. And partly because last time I went the greenhouses were closed and I was hopeful that perhaps this time, as Covid restrictions seem to be easing a bit, they might have reopened again.
The day turned out well, in fact. When we arrived at Connolly station, rather than taking the direct route up the Royal Canal to Glasnevin, we thought we would follow the LUAS (tram) line west from the station, to explore the outer regions of central Dublin before heading north to the gardens up Phibsborough Road. Dublin, being relatively compact, makes getting between all these places relatively easy on foot.
I need to make an admission at this point. I still harbour a lingering desire to see if Sevilles are actually available in Dublin (I can hear you sighing “I thought we had put that story well and truly to bed“) so as we were walking along Mary Street, Val boldly approached a fruit and veg stall-holder on a side street and asked her if she sold Sevilles. No, she said, not any more. She used to a few years ago “but only the grannies bought them, so it wasn’t worth it and I stopped“. Well I guess that makes me a granny then. But she did point us encouragingly in the general direction of the Dublin City Fruit & Vegetable market, although she was a bit vague about where it actually was. But she thought there was someone there who sold them.
Anyway, we kept heading in an westerly direction and lo and behold – we found the market! You can see the details in the photos below but suffice it to say, it’s closed now, sadly awaiting transformation into an Instagram-worthy tourist destination. But one of the nearby traders did have the fruit – and very nice they looked too – but the friendly shopkeeper told me, sadly, that they won’t split the cases and 13kg is the minimum order quantity. I did wonder if nobody apart from grannies makes marmalade in Ireland, who exactly would want to buy such a huge quantity.
A spin off from this detour was the happenstance discovery of an interesting looking café just round the back of the Four Courts building. It’s called Fegan’s 1924 (though I don’t know why) and from the outside it looks a bit unprepossessing. But once you get inside, it’s all eclectic wood tables, a gentle hubbub of conversation, and a fantastic brunch menu. In terms of genre, I’d say it’s as similar to Starbucks as Bennett’s is to Wetherspoons. What made it fascinating was the curious mix of clientele. Barristers in their legal finery were discussing the day’s business in hushed tones with colleagues, while virtually next to them were a couple of seemingly down-and-out people, avidly reading the newspaper out loud to each other. All in all, it was delightful, and because it felt so welcoming, we treated ourselves to one of the nicest brunches I have ever had.
Suitably carbed-up, we headed north up the Phibsborough Road to Glasnevin and the Botanic Gardens (or “The Botanics” as they are locally known). En route, we came across The Knitting Room – and as knitting to have become very much on-trend in the 2020’s, we decided to take a look inside. Well rather Val did, and I went along for the ride. Although I wasn’t as interested in the contents as Val was, I just love it when shop keepers are friendly, knowledgeable and non-pushy. This combination of traits seems to be a rare commodity these days – although perhaps less rare in Ireland – and when you come across it, as we did in the wool shop today, it can transform the whole shopping experience from a chore to a joy. Anyway the upshot is that we might all be getting woollen socks for Christmas.
Eventually, after succumbing to all these distractions, we made it to the Botanics. This was only my second visit, but I’m already beginning to like it. OK, it’s not Kew, but then again it doesn’t cost £20 to go in. In fact it doesn’t cost anything at all, thanks to the OPW. The best bit about today, though, was the fact that the greenhouses were open – and actually it turned out that they only reopened last Saturday. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, I think. They were lovely. I have always liked greenhouses and the exotic plants they contain and today was especially nice, when it’s January in Ireland outside but June in the Mediterranean inside.
We stayed in the gardens long enough to have a good look round, then legged it down the canal to Connolly, fortunately managing to catch a Malahide DART with only seconds to spare. Fortunate, because there was an incident on the line a bit further up towards Drogheda this evening, so only a restricted service was running. A long wait was, it seems, narrowly avoided.
So an excellent day was enjoyed by all, and it was particularly rewarding to make all these non-touristy discoveries just by wandering off the beaten path a little, and having a look around. It does make you wonder, though, how many more hidden gems there are out there, just waiting to be discovered if you only know where to look.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)