Africa Day 2017 Dublin

I danced to east African music and then Galway Girl

The shuttle bus was packed. It was free after all and the alternative was a 25 minute trek through the Phoenix Park to Farmleigh House. I was excited for Africa Day, but not twenty-five minutes excited.

I was late, rolling up to the lakeside cafe fifteen minutes after everyone else had clearly arrived. Some not so subtly checked their watches. Amateur photographers can be so impatient. There was still lingering to be done, as a few more latecomers stumbled upon the group, made easy to identify with all brands of camera swinging from our necks. Of the 62 who RSVP’d, a decent 12 showed up, with more to wade through the throngs later.

As with all ‘Days’ at Farmleigh, we headed for the main area, today the ‘Malaika’ stage, behind the colonial house. And suddenly the group had dissolved. All that waiting, only to disappear into the air with the notes escaping from the strumming guitar of Ines Khai. It would be another forty-five minutes before I found some semblance of the group gathered beneath a crowded tree as the clouds emptied their contents for the first time that day. The group had new faces, replacing those who had wandered off to the ‘Kwassa Kwassa’ stage. Sadly, those unlucky few had tripped right into the middle of the Minister’s speech. Was it too late to slipd quietly away back to the bazaar. There was a colourful rug I was looking at that would have matched the blanket on the couch.

Head wraps were offered at a reasonable rate. Ladies chose from prints of red, black and green fish-like patterns, burnt orange leaves, diamonds on yellow fabric and blue and red lined strips of white. The smell of beef stew and chapati carried across the car park to campers who had staked their claim on a patch of flattened grass before the skies reminded them where they were. Some ventured over to the join an already long queue. Some glanced and weighed up their chances of losing their spot or cradling a warm belly, smiling at the mere thought of spicy rice and chicken.

If you ever held an image of Africa in your mind’s eye, it could be found here. Tall men in white robes swatted away the ant-like diligence of photographers intent on capturing the image of the day, showing their wares from Senegal and Lesotho. Under grey skies, colourful dresses, head wraps and tunics could be seen.

Drumming workshops, a language exchange, even a debating session was on the agenda. But my favourite part of Africa Day was the ‘Atilogwu’ stage and the energetic DJ Spaqz and his crew. And it was here that I danced to Galway Girl, after dancing to music from Kenya, Ghana and Egypt.

I’ll be back next year, for the tastes, sounds and sights of a little bit of Africa in the middle of the Phoenix Park.

 

 

Solo Travelling

Alone but never lonely

I love this article from Hostelworld which outlines how undateable you become when you travel solo.

As someone who has always travelled alone, enduring food poisoning in Ho Chi Minh City and getting lost in Croatia, travelling alone is scary. Especially when it all goes wrong. You don’t speak the language. You don’t have a phrase book. You are exhausted from battling the everyday to see some of the most beautiful sights in the world. You have no one to rely on except yourself. And sometimes that’s the scariest part. But when you get invited to a party in a Madrid hostel even though you have rudimentary Spanish, or join a gathering on the rooftop of a ryokin in Tokyo, you realise there are worse things in the world than being alone.

Now that 2017 is in full swing and summer plans have been ironed out, it’s time to see where in the world I can go in autumn. Suggestions welcome. Tips and advise always a plus.

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.  Anais Nin

Travel blog post

Ireland’s Ancient East

Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

‘This I believe the only house in Ireland to which the term palace can be applied.’

Richard Twiss, 1775

Jumping on the #67 bus on the quays early on Sunday morning, I make a little wish for clear skies. We trudge along passed Heuston Station, Chapelizod, Liffey Valley, Dublin’s northside filing passed from the uncomfortable seat. Trying to remember the sequence of bus stops, I stop counting after Chapelizod. We pass bridges and rivers, churches and community centres. The city is just waking up. Still we slouch on.

Forty-five minutes later, I jump out of the stuffy bus to take in Celbridge. I’ve never been here before. Looking for those familiar brown tourist signs, I follow the groups of ramblers and early morning risers towards gates of stone and steel. Castletown House estate.

It’s an eye-opening ten minutes to get to the house itself. I try to spot birds and flowers and watch as locals and their local dogs romp through the fields ignoring every sign posted along the way. This is nature. No traffic, no noise, just green.

I pass by a pond with warring ducks. I spot a happy golden retriever with a joyful trot returning to his master. Children kick stones and parents shout to ‘watch out’.

Up at the house, my coffee is delivered hot and sweet. I find an empty bench outside to sit and watch people come and go. This must be Sunday life in Celbridge.

I wander around the 18th century Palladian house, inspired by Italy. It has orange wings on either side that would make a nobleman proud. Inside, the wallpaper speaks of centuries of parties, audiences and respectability. Impressive portraits adorn each wall. Ticking clocks announce the passing of time. The Ikea-inspired pathway winds its way through the house ushering visitors to the Print Room, the glorious first floor sitting room with three stunning chandeliers. Threadbare chairs and dressed tables, this was wealthy Ireland two hundred years ago.

These manor houses stand as a reminder of Ireland’s complicated past. English-influenced and continental in aspiration, they remind us that we haven’t quite yet thrown off the shackles of empire. Wealth is once again concentrated in certain areas. Obedience is demanded and dissent is not welcome.

 

 

 

 

Springtime glory

IMG_4469Tulips at St Patrick’s Cathedral

 

A sunny weekend, a generous park, reds and yellows and pinks. Barking dogs and laughing children. Sunbathers, ice-cream appreciators. This is Sunday in Dublin.

Trinity in Bloom

Springtime in Trinity College Dublin

 

It’s cherry blossom time again in Trinity College Dublin.

The Rose Garden shows off it’s pink petals with not a rose in sight. Surrounded by the noise of the city, the campus is an oasis of calm, and a lunchtime on one of the benches in the Rose Garden is a lunchtime well spent.

Bring a good book, or an even better article, and sit under the cherry blossoms. It’s what lunchtime is all about.

Bath Life

Independent, creative, unique and stylish indeed

 

Beautiful and historic Bath is indeed full of character and on a warm, sunny weekend in March, it moves with an energy that few places have.

Set in picturesque Somerset with a population of nearly 90,000, it is most famous for its Roman baths and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A fact the local council takes very seriously as care and attention is taken with the upkeep of the city. In fact, on some streets, it’s like being on a movie set as Georgian-era architecture utilizes Bath stone to remind the wandering visitor of the city’s grandeur.

Jane Austen resided here for a while. Something the city celebrates at the end of May each year with the Bath Festival.

While in Bath, a trip to Stonehenge is a must. It’s about an hour from Bath by car. The lead up to the ancient site is paved with military training grounds, with the expectation of seeing tanks turn the corner tumbling towards future conflict.

Visit Bath. You won’t be disappointed.

On a related note

For anyone interested in the fight for choice, Joel Gunter’s article from the BBC last week should give you a good idea of the struggle in Ireland. Weaving personal stories through an analysis of both sides of the argument, this article examines how the eighth amendment is used to push women who have/need abortions out of sight. It’s time for repeal.