Lazy Dublin Sunday

Sunday, 21 June 2015
It’s not oversleeping when you’re on vacation, right? I didn’t even stir until 8:30am, which is really late for me. We staggered down to breakfast, then came back up and showered and got ready for the day. And—more of my proper vacation—my sweet Orla called and we set up a date for a mid-afternoon brunch later today.

In the meantime, Gerry and I cabbed up to the National Concert Hall. I find it fascinating that this gorgeous building was originally built for the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures—a world’s fair! Some of the most interesting structures in the world today were built to house something for some Exhibition or Exposition, many of them from the Victorian era (think: Paris’s Eiffel Tower, Nashville’s replica of the Parthenon, Chicago’s Art Institute of Chicago … just to name three).

This is only the center hall. It actually takes up most of the block along Earlsfort Terrace.

This is only the center hall. It actually takes up most of the block along Earlsfort Terrace.

The building belonged to University College Dublin from 1908, but in 1981 it became the National Concert Hall.

I think it’s lovely. And the gate … look closely.

I think it’s lovely. And the gate … look closely.

When I saw this, I was truly sorry I wasn’t going to be in Dublin all summer. Beethoven, I must tell you, was my first celebrity crush. I fell in love with him when I was about eight years old and never fell out. :)

When I saw this, I was truly sorry I wasn’t going to be in Dublin all summer. Beethoven, I must tell you, was my first celebrity crush. I fell in love with him when I was about eight years old and never fell out. 🙂

But what, you might ask, were we doing loitering outside the NCH on a quiet Sunday morning? I’ll tell you. I’ve been slowly getting around to many of Dublin’s green spaces (not all—that would take the rest of my lifetime, and I have other cities and countries to see) and I’ve had the Iveagh Gardens on my list since 2012 but it just hasn’t happened. So Gerry made it happen. 🙂

Had I looked for the garden on my own, I never would have found it; it’s known as Dublin’s Secret Garden for a good reason. We walked along the front of the National Concert Hall, ducked under the arm of the gate leading to the stage door, passed through the parking lot, slipped past the trash bins … What’s that?

It’s a hole in that twenty-foot wall. The sign above it reads Iveagh Gardens in Irish and English. (Click and you can zoom in.)

It’s a hole in that twenty-foot wall. The sign above it reads Iveagh Gardens in Irish and English. (Click and you can zoom in.)

It looks like something out of a fairy tale. Will you dare to go in?

It looks like something out of a fairy tale. Will you dare to go in?

If you are lucky enough to locate a door to the Iveagh Gardens, you should definitely go in.

If you are lucky enough to locate a door to the Iveagh Gardens, you should definitely go in.

There are only three gates. The garden is completely walled. You won’t wander by it by accident—you’ll have to look for it, and know what you’re looking for.

Designated as a National Historic Property, the garden has a complicated history (which you can read here), but the green space as we know it now was designed in 1865 at the expense of Benjamin Lee Guinness, who acquired the land to act as a garden for his town house mansion.

Step through the hedgerow and prepare to be wowed.

Step through the hedgerow and prepare to be wowed.

These matching, facing fountains are magnificent.

These matching, facing fountains are magnificent.

Just gorgeous.

Just gorgeous.

We just about had the place to ourselves. We sat on a bench and just enjoyed the sun and the quiet.

The garden is described as “an intermediate design between the French Formal and the English Landscape styles.” The fountains set in the wide expanse of lawn are clearly the French Formal.

This is the English Landscape style, with deliberate plantings intended to seem like nature, with the sunken lawn. (None of these buildings have access to the garden, btw.)

This is the English Landscape style, with deliberate plantings intended to seem like nature, with the sunken lawn. (None of these buildings have access to the garden, btw.)

For awhile we walked all the paths, seeing what there was to see.

This is the Clonmel Street entrance. I don’t know whose back garden that is, but it opens right into Iveagh Gardens!

This is the Clonmel Street entrance. I don’t know whose back garden that is, but it also opens right into Iveagh Gardens!

This is the gate to a little grotto just beside the waterfall.

This is the gate to a little grotto just beside the waterfall.

Statuary is scattered around, but not too much. It’s understanded, for a Victorian garden.

Statuary is scattered around, but not too much. It’s understanded, for a Victorian garden.

But wait—what’s that?

See the metal arches in the distance? (I have no idea what the glass building is; it’s outside the garden.)

See the metal arches in the distance? (I have no idea what the glass building is; it’s outside the garden.)

It’s another garden, a garden within the garden!

It’s another garden, a garden within the garden!

The Rosarium—it’s a little jewel box!

The Rosarium—it’s a little jewel box!

So we sat in the rose garden for awhile.

In the Iveagh Gardens, June 2015.

In the Iveagh Gardens, June 2015.

These are old-fashioned rose bushes that pre-date 1865.

I was charmed by every single thing in the rosarium.

I was charmed by every single thing in the rosarium.

Just look at these beautiful old roses!

Just look at these beautiful old roses! How delicate they are …

This is the third gate—the entrance on Hatch Street Upper, near the Rosarium.

This is the third gate—the entrance on Hatch Street Upper, near the Rosarium.

We retraced our steps, exiting the same way we came in, and then walked across the big park and around to the Little Museum of Dublin, which is right on the other side of Stephen’s Green.

C’mon in to the Little Museum of Dublin!

C’mon in to the Little Museum of Dublin!

It’s what they call a people’s museum—much of what is displayed in the eighteenth-century Georgian townhouse was donated or loaned by Dubliners. It’s an interesting way to put together an exhibit, not always coherent but a lot to look at. The tour, though, is for the tourists. Too silly for Gerry, who lost patience quickly. So when they moved on, we ditched the tour.

You’ll know why this one appealed to me. :)

You’ll know why this one appealed to me. 🙂

This would be the rock-and-roll room. :)

This would be the rock-and-roll room. 🙂

Looking out at Stephen’s Green across the street, I saw this: a temporary housing for equipment used on street work … decorated with a full-size W. B. Yeats poster. Seriously—only in Ireland.

Looking out at Stephen’s Green across the street, I saw this: a temporary housing for equipment used on street work … decorated with a full-size W. B. Yeats poster. Seriously—only in Ireland.

Most recently the Little Museum purchased an archive of work by Christy Brown, the mid-century Irish artist, writer, poet who had cerebral palsy. You know him from his memoir, My Left Foot.

After the museum, we walked down past the Shelbourne Hotel to something I’d noticed the day before. It’s the sort of thing most people walk by and don’t even notice, but there it is, just a few steps from St. Stephen’s Green—the Huguenot Cemetery (here’s a bird’s-eye view).

Just this little oasis, dwarfed in the big city. And no one paying much attention.

Just this little oasis, dwarfed in the big city. And no one paying much attention.

Huguenots were French Protestants inspired by the writings of John Calvin, who fell under the hostility of the Catholic Church in the 1600s. More than half a million fled France, looking for religious freedom; some were encouraged to settle in Ireland by James Butler, Duke of Ormonde. Wikipedia says,

The Huguenots quickly established a thriving community in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland based on their skills in textiles, watchmaking and finance. Within a short time they had become an integral part of the commercial and civic life of Dublin.

They were welcomed. They married Irish folk. They integrated themselves into local society (read more here). Eventually they needed a cemetery. There are 239 family names inscribed on a plaque here, though I can’t imagine all of them having a member buried here.

Established in 1693, it was restored in the 1970s and is now cared for by the city. The gates are locked. I did what I could through the bars.

Notice the 300-year-old difference in the accepted spelling of Huguenot.

Notice the 300-year-old difference in the accepted spelling of Huguenot.

It looked like it was a little overdue for a cleanup crew.

It looked like it was a little overdue for a cleanup crew.

The little door in the back probably once let out into an alley. Now there’s a building there.

The little door in the back probably once let out into an alley. Now there’s a building there.

When we got back to the hotel, Gerry settled down to watch a game, and I called Orla, who came and picked me up. She lives in Ranelagh, a residential area now—but it was once a village just outside Dublin. It is—ahem—a very tony place. (Just how tony? Have a look at this realtor’s listing.)

“I want to show you something,” she said. “I think you’ll like it.” I’ve known this beautiful woman since she was a teenager, and—my heart swells as I type this—she does know me, and knows exactly what I’d like to see.

She took me to Dartmouth Square. It’s a green space, a park, surrounded by Victorian-era townhomes.

Victorian townhouses on Dartmouth Square. These are in the range of 1+ million euro.

Victorian townhouses on Dartmouth Square. These sell in the range of 1+ million euro nowadays.

The park itself is spacious.

This little bower bisects the park. There’s a gate on each end.

This little bower bisects the park. There’s a gate on each end.

Standing in the bower looking west. What a beautiful space! And they have yoga here twice a week!

Standing in the bower looking west. What a beautiful space! And they have yoga here twice a week!

While we stood just inside the gate, two beautiful unleashed dogs rushed up the outside sidewalk and very clearly intended to come in. Orla and I looked at each other; what should we do? And about that moment their owner caught up and all three came in together. The dogs were very glad to be at their park.

Two beautiful dogs … the larger one was carrying the stick and trying to keep it away from the smaller, younger dog, who kept catching up and grabbing hold.

Two beautiful dogs … the larger one was carrying the stick and trying to keep it away from the smaller, younger dog, who kept catching up and grabbing hold.

From here we went to Orla’s place, parked, and walked into the village. And we walked through yet another green space—Ranelagh Gardens! (Her street dead-ends at the park. Very convenient!) Here’s an overhead view.

Stepping into Ranelagh Gardens.

Stepping into Ranelagh Gardens.

The Dublin City Public Library has this to say about this history of the park:

This small park is all that is left of the five acres of pleasure gardens which were created in 1775. Called after Lord Ranelagh, the intention was to copy the gardens of the same name in London. Richard Crosbie launched the first hot air balloon in Ireland from here in 1785. In the 19th century the gardens became part of the grounds of a religious order, but in the 1980s the gardens were again opened up to the public, albeit on a much smaller scale.

It was very peaceful on Sunday afternoon. The sleeping ducks didn’t even move as we walked by.

It was very peaceful on Sunday afternoon. The sleeping ducks didn’t even move as we walked by.

We were on our way to Cinnamon, a popular coffee house / restaurant right on Main Street in Ranelagh Village. It was crowded and had just the sort of ambience (noisy but not too noisy) for a pair of girlfriends to work their way through a pot of tea, brunch, and all the problems of the world. The chat was especially nice. 🙂

Afterward we walked back through the village and garden, had another cup of tea at Orla’s place, and then she brought me back to the hotel. As we pulled up I realized we hadn’t taken a photograph together.

Problem solved. :)

Problem solved. 🙂

For the rest of the evening Gerry and I laid around, reading, working, watching TV. It was the perfect finish to a lazy Sunday.

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