There was no way the rain was going to dampen our spirits as we walked around a sodden Bloom Festival in the vast and spectacular Phoenix Park. I was enjoying the hospitality of Bord Bia and Tourism Ireland after I won a competition in conjunction with Ocado’s new Irish Aisle where I created a feast to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Mum was my plus one and we’d been supplied with tickets to the outdoor event along with lunch and a stay at The Clarence Hotel. We’d also be having dinner at a local restaurant and spending some time looking at the food on offer in the City.
The Festival showcased thirty gardens from the very best of Ireland’s landscape gardeners and designers as well as over 120 food producers from the Emerald Isle. Keeling’s is the first Irish strawberry and they grow super-sweet, table-top strawberries and were absolutely delicious and screamed summer in spite of the weather.
Green Giant Fresh were another presence here selling Irish produce from Kale to sweet tomatoes.
GIY or Grow It Yourself injecting some fun into encouraging gardeners to ditch some of the daffodils and start to plant some easy-grow lettuce.
Even the paths are planted with fresh produce.
The Farmyard Feature was popular with the visiting school children although the calves were more than a little perturbed at being separated from their mother.
We took shelter in the Floral and Nursery Pavilion, and were treated to some magnificent displays,
we also visited the Plant Village, took pity at the models at the Weekend Style Stage and ate lunch in Bistro Bloom.
We came face-to-face with the Bloom Patron and President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife and munched our way through all the free samples.
We are entertained hugely by the TV Chef and Writer Edward Hayden, who is joined by his very own fan club in the Quality Kitchen tent. He’s got a popular cookery slot on TV3’s Ireland AM and has a few cookery books under his belt.
We watched judging for the only cheese awards to focus on Irish makers and 17 classes are prodded and tasted by a panel of experts. Marion Roeleveld takes the crown of Supreme Champion for her Killeen Mature Goat cheese.
At the end of the Bank Holiday weekend 106,000 visitors walked around the site taking in the sights, scents, colours and flavours that the Festival had to offer. The only downside for us was that we couldn’t buy any of the flowers or fruit and vegetables but we did eat our fair share of strawberries and had fun in the rain.
When we’d covered the Festival map, we hitched a ride on the free shuttle bus back into town and walked to our hotel via the Guinness factory.
The Clarence is an imposing presence on Wellington Quay, conveniently situated and in walking distance to everything. To the rear of the hotel is Temple Bar an incredibly lively area which has become a magnet for stags and hens as well as those who want to drink on the cobbled streets, soaking up the atmosphere, taking in the Irish hospitality, music and Guinness.
The only time we saw the streets empty, was first thing in the morning.
We walk around Dublin like locals and hit the Hotel’s basement bar, The Liquor Rooms. That’s the good thing about this City you can get everywhere pretty much by foot.
It’s here we taste Guinness for the first time and a rather wonderful gin-based cocktail called the Shoe Shine.
The next morning after breakfast in the hotel’s Cleaver East,
we follow the River Liffey and stumble across Tara Street Station. It’s here we decide to take a train to somewhere outside of the City and we pick up tickets for the DART to take us to Howth. After a twenty-minute train ride we arrive at the end of the line and the small fishing village. We walk along the harbour and look at the day’s catch.
There are plenty of fishmongers and restaurants that will prepare and cook the fish you choose from the ice – including the famous Dublin Bay Prawns.
It’s also home to the Olympic Council of Ireland.
We walked up the hill to the popular Howth Market Deli and had a delicious coffee and hot chocolate then wandered back down through the village to catch the train back into Dublin.
Back in the City we walked around the streets and were impressed by the wealth of great produce on offer. The locally dubbed ‘stiletto in the ghetto’ (among other names) is a rather fine piece of commemorative artwork whose official title is the ‘Spire of Dublin’ or the ‘Monument of Light’. It rises 400ft out of a traffic island in the centre of O’Connell Street. At night it lights up and takes the place of a statue of Anna Livia, the female symbol of the River Liffey. She sat quietly in a fountain, and was called ‘the floozie in the jacuzzi’ by the locals.
Wherever you look there are plenty of sights and sounds to take in – great advertising here by Johnnie Fox’s traditional Irish pub – even the locals can’t help but stare at this horse-drawn cart.
We wander around Dublin Castle
and take tea in the Queen of Tarts, a cozy tea room directly opposite the Castle, where every cake on sale is hand-made on the premises.
We said hello to Phil Lynott
and wander for hours looking for sweet Molly Malone – only to find she’s moved her cart elsewhere to have a makeover.
But we do find a great statue of James Joyce, a life-size bronze of the man who wrote Ulysses the book which captures, hour-by-hour, the lives of people and the scenes on Dublin’s streets over a period of just one day, June 16, 1904.
We find The Winding Stair Bookshop and Cafe, named after the Yeats poem, overlooking the River Liffey, recommended in many foodie guide books.
We also found a Farmer’s Market on our doorstep on Saturday morning.
We marvelled at the street artists (yes that’s sand) and
the luxury shopping on offer in Grafton Street.
We admired the boutiques and food spots in Castle Market
We pressed our noses against the glass at Murphy’s Ice Cream in Wicklow Street – perfect for that post-dinner hit of something sweet
and we loved everything about Avoca’s concept store, the cappuccino was superb.
Super Miss Sue looked the perfect spot to eat fish and chips (battered morsels sound just the ticket).
Discovered locks of love on the Millennium Bridge (much to the upset of Dublin City Council,who have removed locks here and on the Ha’penny Bridge) as we walked along the water’s edge. You can, but we didn’t take a river tour. And there are plenty of picture opportunities on the waterfront.
Here’s Mum joining the ‘The Linesman’ by Irish artist Dony MacManus which is found on City Quay.
‘Famine’ is a haunting piece of artwork commissioned to commemorate those Irish people forced to emigrate during the 19th century Irish Famine. Designed and crafted by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie, these can be found at Custom House Quay. They’re placed here as one of the first voyages of the Famine period was on the Perserverance which sailed from here on St Patrick’s Day 1846. The vessel arrived in New York on 18th May 1846. All passengers and crew survived the journey.
It’s also along this stretch of the River you can see the Dublin’s Convention Centre – it’s the tilted barrel you can see on the skyline.
You can even walk in the steps of James Joyce with a Ulysses guided tour self-guided tour. “Hot mockturtle vapour & steam of newbaked jampuffs rolypoly poured out from Harrison’s.”
Dinner at Fade Street Social was fun and an opportunity for us to sample Irish cuisine from local producers, exactly what Bord Bia is there to champion. The head chef here is Dylan McGrath and he even popped into the pass. We ate from a set menu and weren’t disappointed.
We both began with a scallop dish a Muirin (Irish for scallop) studded with a smoked salmon baton, which had been covered in breadcrumbs and finished with Hollandaise, all sitting upon a mound of colcannon mash.
For the main course I chose the rare breed pork chop with rosemary and crispy crackling and Mum had braised rabbit legs with white wine, smoked bacon and tarragon. We swapped – her rabbit was exceptional and the rare breed pork chop cooked perfectly and sliced to make eating it a lot easier, the ironed crisp of crackling was delicious.
For dessert, we had the banoffee with vanilla crème fraiche, banana sorbet and digestive crisp.
Great value from their group set menu at €40 each. A special mention to Angela who was absolutely fantastic to both me and Mum at the front-of-house.
If you fancy something a little off-the-wall you can opt to see the sights wearing a Viking Helmet and sit in a bright yellow amphibious craft like these tourists I snapped a picture of. The Viking Splash Tours take you around Dublin on land and on the water.
If you want to learn more about the food and pound the streets at the same time, you may wish to take a look at Dublin Food Trails – the Dublin Tasting Trail looks like great fun.
We spent three days in Dublin and saw so much but I don’t think we touched the surface and we will definitely return. If you’re off to Dublin I’d thoroughly recommend looking at Visit Dublin’s official site there’s plenty of information here to follow or to get inspired by.