The Bacchus Bar

Bacchus – Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility.

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Before the show yesterday we treated ourselves to lunch in our favourite, and one of what must surely be the most interesting, bar in Birmingham. The Bacchus bar is literally one of Birmingham’s hidden treasures because if you didn’t know it was there (or someone like me hadn’t told you), you’d be highly unlikely to find it. Located beneath the Burlington Hotel, opposite New Street Train Station, on one of Birmingham’s oldest streets (dating from the late 1300s), it’s just not somewhere that you’d happen upon unexpectedly.

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The fact that whoever designed the interior had a somewhat confused understanding of historical style might lead you to wonder if you had stepped into a film set or a series of alternative worlds: Roman, Greek and Ancient Egyptian, a touch of Harry Potter with ecclesiastical overtones, grand stone archways and heavy wooden castle-like doors. But it really doesn’t matter because this comfortable, slightly decadent hotch-potch, with a large main area and several smaller rooms, private alcoves and, for those who prefer them -dark corners, is nothing less than a delight. It shouldn’t work but it does, fabulously so.

Above: these two frescoes each took up the entire wall in the side room where we chose to sit.

Below: the bar where we ordered

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And finally: one of the other seating areas

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My Emerald Heart … continued

My father was brought up in Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary), a seaside town a few miles south of Dublin. Dún Laoghaire  means ‘the fort of Laoghaire’ who was the 5th King of Ireland. Once a busy port, nowadays the town is home to several sailing clubs including the Irish National Sailing Club & School, and various other other water-based activities. The marina is the largest in Ireland.

I love this place and visit when I can. Dad was the eldest of five and sadly only his youngest sister M survives. Rather wonderfully she is only a little older than me and in the absence of a sister,  she is the nearest I have, and we two are very close.

It’s a difficult thing to explain but I love the sense of belonging that I experience when M and I walk the length of Dún Laoghaire pier.

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Then we stroll slowly along the seafront out to Sandycove, where the James Joyce museum is housed in one of the few remaining Martello towers (a small defence fort built across Britain and Ireland in the 19th century. The opening scene in Joyce’s famous novel, Ulysses is set in the tower.

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Also mentioned by Joyce is the Forty Foot which is probably Ireland’s most famous swimming place, and for generations it has been the place for Dun Laoghaire’s male swimmers, though for the past twenty years its clear, clean waters have become popular with women and children too. Even at low tide the sea here remains deep and at any time of the year (including Christmas day when hundreds congregate), no matter the temperature,  you can watch people diving from the rocks. 

The Forty Foot

Forty foot

Close by is this amazing Avant-Garde house (below) designed by, and lived in, by Michael Scott (not to be confused with the Irish writer of the same name), a high profile Irish architect and winner of the Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture.

Scotts house

Here too in Sandycove is the house that was the family home and when I visited as a child I marvelled at the sheer luck of of my father as a boy living so close to the seaside! At Sandycove we leave the seafront and continue our circuitous route through Glasthule. Full of pretty gift shops, classy cafe bars and almost every kind of service you would expect in a sizeable town, this delightful village is a thriving little jewell.  In common with most places houses vary in style and size and if you have €1.5 million to spend, you’ll have no problem doing so here.

The road from Glashule leads straight into Dunlaoghaire town but just before we reach the main thoroughfare we usually stop for the obligatory coffee (and quite possibly lunch)  at Poppies. I love Poppies!  Entering this delightful little coffee shop is rather like going into someone’s cottage home. Here is what we DIDN’T have today.

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Sadly, at the moment, M is not very well and not up to the lengthy walk, so after a shorter walk this morning, I went off by myself this afternoon whilst she rested. Our intention was to go out for something to eat later (there is an abundance of restaurants within a short walking distance of the house) but by the time we’d have gone the the sunny,  crisp autumn day had changed to a wet, windy squall. We looked at each other, looked out of the window and both shook out heads. Crackers, cheeses, cooked chicken, hummus, grapes and apple made for a satisfactory substitute.  The weather’s not looking too good tomorrow either but M’s daughter is coming to pick us up for lunch in Monkstown.

 

Dublin – The Bank on College Green

Given the recent uncertainty surrounding Ryanair it was with a sigh of relief that I found myself at Dublin airport this morning. This was not the only relieved sigh of the day:  as one who detests flying and fears the worst from beginning to end of the entire process, the first occurred as we landed safely.

I left home at 5.45am and, quite apart from being far too stressed to eat,  I cannot face breakfast at that ungodly hour anyway so my first port of call on arrival was The Angel’s Share, a bar at Dublin airport. It’s far less crowded that the coffee shops – mostly businessmen having meetings. Two slices of toast and a cup of good coffee  followed by a make-up touch up, and I felt ready to face the rest of the day.

I caught the aircoach into Dublin city centre where, before my onward journey to my relatives’ house with whom I am staying, I met up for lunch with some old friends who moved from the UK to Ireland a couple of years ago to be near their daughter and grandchildren. I had thought them just a few miles away but discovered that their journey to Dublin takes an hour and a half. I was touched that they were willing to travel that far to have lunch with me.

I had suggested that we meet at The Bank on College Green. In the latest of a string of awards, it has recently been voted Dublin’s best eating pub. It is located in one of my favourite (and oldest) areas of the city close to Trinity College on a site which has been occupied since Viking times. This building is truly spectacular, a lavish mix of ornate plaster-work, intricate mosaic, marble pillars and hand-painted gold leaf embellishments.  But it is the ceiling of the bar which , which was once the main banking hall, which literally outshines all else as the sunlight streams through the magnificent stained glass roof.  The building was  described as at the time as one of the foremost jewels of Victorian Dublin.

The bar, previously the main banking hall

Bank College Green

That wonderful roof

Roof

And from another angle

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As if that wasn’t enough to leave me awed, the food was pretty good too! It was lovely to catch up with my friends but all too soon, time to say goodbye and after lots of hugs and promises to meet up again next time, I called a taxi to take me to the DART station. The Dublin Area Rapid Transit system, an electrified rail network links Dublin to its various suburbs. I was now on my way to Dún Laoghaire.

* Husband is at home decorating the bedroom.

 

Pteromerhanophobia…

…also known as Aviophobia or Aviatophobia. I’ll give you a clue:

It’s shortly before 6.30am and I am sitting in the departure lounge at Birmingham Airport feeling with extremely large, extremely fluttery butterflies in my tummy. I’m sure you’ve guessed: I hate flying; I detest it.

If you are wondering where I’m on my way to, take a look at yesterday’s post.

More to follow …

 

Lifting the gloom

I woke up this morning feeling rather glum. I knew why, and I had I known that it was likely I’d feel this way, so I had already planned a number of activities that could fill my day. Today my son and his family are moving house. Not to the other end of the country by any means but a lot further than the couple of miles away that they have been living until now. I have friends whose children live not only in other countries but on other continents so I fully appreciate my exceptionally good fortune in having easy access to my three, and therefore to my beautiful grandchildren. I know that I’ll still see the family regularly and I understand their reasons for moving  but nevertheless, glum was how I felt.  Son had declined help. There’s plenty we can do over the weekend but today we’d have just been in the way.

My day began with a hair appointment. I am very lucky to have a hairdresser daughter-in-law (obviously not the one moving house today – that would have been a request too far!). Once I’d been ‘silvered’ (a little plug here for Charles Worthington Ultra Violet shampoo which has at long last given me the tone I’ve been craving for years) and blow-dried I was off to the gym. I love my gym and have been a member for seven years. Don’t be lulled into admiring my commitment too much – whilst in theory I go for the exercise, it’s actually the coffee and the company of a great group of ladies who have become friends, that regularly spurs me on to attend. I wrote about this great facility, aimed specifically at ladies over forty, a while ago:   https://thisissixty.blog/2017/05/14/the-gym-for-women-who-dont-do-gyms/

Having not yet spent the M&S giftcard that I’d received for my birthday, I had planned to drive over to Longbridge, about ten miles away, where, in late 2015, the most enormous branch of M&S was opened by Twiggy. Don’t you think she look more and more fabulous as she gets older? I wanted to buy a skincare product that my local branch doesn’t stock. We have a small branch which is a long, long way from being ‘top of the range’. One of my gym friends hadn’t been so, on the spur of the moment, decided to come with me.  We had a good look at the Christmas clothing range (including a beautiful rich blue sequinned skirt. It was love at first sight. Sadly unrequited, but it would look wonderful on a size ten),  had a coffee, bought the item I’d gone there for and then went into the food hall. It doesn’t quite compare with the amazing Harrod’s food hall, but it very, very good and there were lots of samples of the new Christmas specialty foods on offer. We had a free mini-lunch full of tasty morsels. Can you believe it, the store even has a champagne bar! No, we didn’t.

Longbridge, until 2005 was home to the Rover motor company. In its heyday the company offered employment to around 25,000 workers and it is where the original mini was built. The site had been abandoned for almost ten years and The Daily Mail reported years later that unfinished cars could still be seen rusting on the production line. It was later reported that a one billion pound regeneration project would see the vast 468 acre site turned over to housing, business and retail. Apparently it may take as long as twenty years to complete.

The journey there had been a bit tedious as we slowly worked our way through the roadworks so I chose a different  route home. Some of the journey was through a quite rural area and it was really uplifting to see the lovely colours of the countryside in the autumn sunshine.

Once home it was inevitable that I would turn to my usual stress buster … cooking. First, for a late lunch, was Red pepper and tomato soup. Although this soup bowl is very small, I use it because it’s so pretty. One of a set of four, I inherited them from my mum. I’ve no idea where she got them from for they are not the kind of thing she would have bought for herself. No yummy crusty bread because I put on 2lbs after my recent holiday and I want it off by Monday’s weigh-in.

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Then I made up a chicken recipe using chestnut and shiitake mushrooms, onions and mange tout. The sauce was a simple blend of oyster and soy sauces. We ate it for dinner with ‘giant wedges’. These are made by cutting baking potatoes into four lengthways, sprinkling with sea salt and black pepper, spraying with oil and popping in a hot oven for half an hour. I like them better this way than baked. The chicken was so tasty! I’ll definitely be making it again.

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Finally, I made a lemon Madeira cake for Husband. Just a small one as there was some chocolate cake left from the last baking session. I’m hoping that I’ll manage to resist.

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So that was my day. No so bad in the end.

More of Devon and a new friend

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Arriving in Brixham is a little like going to the home of an old friend as we’ve visited so many times.  This time we stayed in a ‘lodge’ which is really a glorified caravan, though like no other I’ve seen. At 40 ft long and 20ft wide it was only a little over a year old and was very spacious. Complete with dishwasher and washing machine it was a far cry from the holiday caravans I stayed in as a child. There were two bathrooms so we had one each. Brixham is a busy fishing town and, a few years ago, was the focus of an enjoyable TV series called, appropriately, Fish Town. Apparently there exists evidence of inhabitation since the Ice Age. We always enjoy the walk along one side of the marina where the previously scrubby wasteland has been taken over and cultivated, with some imagination, by local volunteers.

 

A little further along we came to a stunning sculpture, Man & Boy which was erected to commemorate those from Brixham who lost their lives at sea.

Man & Boy

In my last post I mentioned that I’d share my experience of my ‘internet date’.  For some months now I have been following an excellent blog  http://www.margaretpowling.com/  which is written by a lovely lady, a writer who lives in Devon – in fact, just a few miles from Brixham. We have discovered, via our blogs, that we have a great deal in common. It seemed a wasted opportunity for us not to meet up when I was so close. Despite some slight concern from our husbands who have clearly heeded all the advice on staying safe whilst meeting people with whom one has been in contact over the internet, we were both absolutely certain that we’d be ok. And we were – we hit it off immediately, chatted seamlessly for two very enjoyable hours, drank coffee and ate cake in Liberty’s cafe and cocktail bar which is certainly an unusual place. Margaret suggested ‘Art Deco meets fairground’ and I think that’s a pretty apt description. I just know that if we lived closer, we’d meet up on a regular basis .

Cake

Other highlights of the week included visits to Torquay where we ate a very tasty lunch in the delightful Pier Point restaurant, and to Cockington which I read is the most photographed village in Devon.

 

On our last day we walked up to Berry Head to see the remains of the Napoleonic fort,  relics from the Cold War – the Roc bunker and observation post, and the lighthouse.

 

Finally we entered the Guardhouse Cafe which is housed in the old guardhouse where a delicious cream tea with warm scones, strawberry jam and thick clotted cream provided a fitting end to our visit to Devon.

 

 

 

 

A couple of days in Dartmouth

You might, if you were interested enough, wonder where I’ve been since I have not posted for over a week.  The answer is – in Devon. First we stayed in Dartmouth for a couple of days. The promised wi-fi access in the B&B did not really materialise. The poor signal meant that I managed to respond to an email but that was it.

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Just look at that! Well, what else would a girl do on a wet Sunday morning in Dartmouth other that sit in a comfortable armchair in the delightful Bayard’s Cove Inn drinking hot chocolate (complete with whipped cream and a chocolate flake) whilst leafing through the Sunday supplements? Should you ever find yourself in Dartmouth, I recommend the inn as a lovely place to go. We had eaten lunch there the day before; they make incredibly good fresh crab sandwiches.

Dartmouth is always one of our go-to places when in Devon. I’ve liked it ever since first visiting back in 1981. The pretty, bustling little town sits, as its name suggests at the mouth of the Dart estuary.

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Sunday afternoon was much drier and we took a walk along Bayard’s Cove which became famous during the 1970s as the location for the BBC’s drama – The Onedin Line, but it was an important landmark centuries before then. At the end of the cobblestone walkway sit the ruins of the Bayard’s Cove fort which provided protection (from enemy ships and pirates) to the town. The second picture shows me in 1981 with my then two year old son in the same spot.

I am no photographer but I was quite pleased with the picture below taken through the fort’s entrance.

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We sat for ages watching the boats sail in and out of the estuary. Later we took a stroll along the harbour and just look what we saw!  It’s a harbour Seal (also known as a common seal but, whilst he or she might be a frequent visitor to Dartmouth harbour, I can tell you that they are pretty uncommon in Worcestershire!)  He’d followed one of the small fishing boats in and was eagerly enjoying the fish they threw to him.  He put on a great show for us and for half an hour or more we watched him dive and reappear.  At an estimated six feet long and perhaps twenty stones in weight, I expect he treated himself to a few more fish when beneath the water.

Seal

The B&B in which we stayed was nothing special, despite its claims to be superior so on Monday morning as we caught the car ferry over to Kingswear on our way to Brixham for the rest of our holiday we were hoping for something better … and we certainly found it. I’ll post more shortly and also tell you about my internet date!