I’m finally coming out of laptop-induced hibernation. I’m ready to move between in-person and online realms, and hoping this will ensue rather seamlessly. It’s been hard to muster enthusiasm for blogging after working behind the laptop all day, every day. Maybe spending time outside will provide inspiration to blog, as it has today.
This morning, I delivered a seminar (7-8 AM) to the Center for Research on Engineering Education (CREE) at the University of Cape Town. The topic was writing research proposals for publication and securing grants and fellowships. I delivered a similar session earlier in the year as part of a workshop series conducted by the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN), and CREE asked me to bring it to their group.
A really enthusiastic group attended and I received several follow-up emails. I really appreciate hearing what attendees valued and how we might connect more in the future. I met most of these folks in delivering Master Classes in South Africa when I was working at UCL, and also when attending the Research in Engineering Education Symposium in Cape Town in 2019. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them better through regular meetings, online during Covid. I’m currently developing a special focus journal issue with one of them, Anita Campbell. We had a meeting about that project yesterday that was so exciting I had trouble sleeping last night!?
Logging off the Cape Town session, I headed over to Bolton Street TU Dublin to help lead a field trip for Transition Year (high school) students to visit sites in Dublin.
One-half of the students toured the “waste to energy” facility in Dublin (which they don’t call an incinerator, as that word seems politically incorrect here but is easy-to-envision thanks to Toy Story). The other half of the students came with Kevin Gaughan and me to see a construction site downtown. I included two photos of our site visit below, but you can see more about the visit, including a full gallery of images, at https://roboslam.wordpress.com/2022/05/12/engineering-your-future-at-tu-dublin-2022/.
While I was busy on the tour, some of my colleagues were preparing for tomorrow’s activity for the same students, a BioSlam. You can view the instructions for making little blood flow monitors on our RoboSlam site, at https://roboslam.wordpress.com/bioslam-ppg/.
I’ll have to step out of the BioSlam for a while to attend an online Meeting on engineering ethics — I hope earbuds do the job and I can attend from the corridor outside the electronics lab.
At the moment, I am taking a breather, listening to an online talk by a leading expert in the history of Grangegorman. The speaker, Brian Donnely, Senior Archivist in the National Archives, is currently talking about Richmond Surgical Hospital (a block from my flat) and as well as TU Dublin’s campus site at Grangegorman, which was used as an “insane asylum” with a prison placed between the two in the past.
And, I’m multi-tasking (a rarity for me) and posting a blog (also very rare these days).
Online lecture by Brian Donnely, Senior Archivist in the National Archives.
In just over two hours, I’ll be teaching an online evening class on Research Methods for my BSc students in BIM/Digital Construction. Before then, I’ll read the peer reviews I’ve just received for the European Journal for Engineering Education, so that I can recommend tomorrow to the Editor in Cheif how to move forward toward publication of the manuscript.
The pandemic closed life down on our little island just days after Christmas.
After a long winter’s hibernation, Ireland has just started to lift the lid. For months, I’ve rarely left home. Aongus got Covid the week his worksite opened back up, just after Easter. But despite staying right by his side, I didn’t contract the illness. I actually tested negative twice, but had to isolate (for what seemed like forever) nonetheless.
I did, though, get a wave of something while Aongus was sick. I felt drained, although not to the same extent as Aongus was.
It hasn’t helped that the big volunteer/publication project I’m currently wrapping up has taken five-times the effort it should have. I couldn’t be happier to see the backside of this lockdown. Or this project….
Fortunate for my sanity, things are gradually opening back up in Dublin, and the sun sometimes shines. My flat is still a nice sun trap which makes life bearable.
In the past couple weeks, Aongus and I have had a few nice outings.
We had a lovely coffee and pasta last weekend sitting outside the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge on our cycle ride to Dun Laoghaire. I’ve always admired this majestic Victorian building but had never ventured onto the grounds.
Last weekend, visiting friends’ back gardens was finally allowed again. We had an absolute ball visiting our friends Diana, Stefan, and Diana’s mum on Sunday evening. We’re looking forward to the day we can welcome them to our place for a meal. (Inside visits are off limits until one of the two families is fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid. We’re well in our way to meeting the criteria!)
Yesterday we ventured out again, taking the local commuter train down the coast to Bray—the town where Aongus and I met over five years ago—and this time we hiked to the top of Bray Head.
I thought I’d been to the summit before, but I’m now sure I remembered wrong. It’s a surprisingly steep and rugged path. Back in the 50s and 60s, there was a chair lift, seen as necessary since it’s so steep.
We chose the climb since part of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk had collapsed, and that favorite path wasn’t an option yesterday.
There’s a spectacular view from the summit, and I’m glad we’ve had that experience. It’s not likely I’ll have it again!
I can’t wait to get fit again. The gym opens tomorrow and I’ll be in the pool bright and early!
Although tomorrow is a bank holiday here, Aongus and I working so we can take off Friday for a new adventure on wheels! We’re going to re-live a favorite itinerary from last summer. Stay tuned!
My Dad passed away one year ago today. It’s never easy to lose a parent, but I’m thankful I was able to be there in Virginia with him in his final stages. It was a long and hard fought battle with carcinoid cancer. Dad loved life and resisted leaving us with all his might.
I really feel for those going through life’s end stages alone during Covid.
As today is Dad’s one-year Anniversary, Aongus and I remembered him; we celebrated his life, our love and our small circle of friends. In the days leading up, we have chatted with relatives on the phone.
Today, we tried to stay busy and make the most of the day. We started late-ish, with a breakfast of blueberry-raspberry, buckwheat pancakes and a side of bacon.
Then Aongus headed out by bike to visit his auntie and I jumped on a Dublin Bike to meet colleagues for a walk around the new campus of TU Dublin.
I got a bit of exercise alongside Damon, John, and Heitor—at a much greater distance from them than unusual. In the past we’d have had our sleeves rolled up building robots!
Masks and 20’ between us each today. Still, it was great to see them and view the progress on TU Dublin’s new buildings!
I went straight from campus to join a virtual mass, said for my father at a church nearby. Aongus had asked the priest at St. Michan’s (Dublin’s oldest Catholic community) to mention him and put in a good word. The Irish are careful about marking anniversaries like these and remembering their forebearers. It was so kind of both him and the priest.
Drawing can be therapeutic, so I decided to make a couple videos for my Tech Graphics students. The strategy I developed for teaching them Hand Drawing online has been working out well, so far. Hope it holds out! Marks are nice and high and they seem to be learning well.
Mid-day, my friend Cinaria dropped over an amazing home-cooked Arab meal. I met Cinaria via a Facebook discussion on preparing applications for Marie Curie fellowships. She grew up in Kansas and I in Virginia. More recently, she has been doing research on lung cancer here in Dublin. Such admirable work!
Aongus and I had planned to have Cinaria for in for a visit, but a few days ago the government said no more discretionary visits to other’s homes. As it was, I met her on the Quays just long enough to exchange a bag full of goodies she had prepared. I do look forward to having her over as soon as health regulations permit.
Since lockdown, we’ve had only two other people in the flat besides ourselves–a washing machine repairman and a graduate engineer I’ve been mentoring. It will be nice to get back to normal one of these days.
The meal Cinaria cooked for us was extraordinary! It was clearly cooked with both skill and love. Really lovely flavors!
How blessed we are to have friends and health and delicious food during these trying times.
Thank you, Cinaria, Damon, John, Heitor, and Auntie Eithne, for helping make our day a positive and uplifting one!
We will end the day with a swim at the gym. Then it’s headlong into another intense week of work.
I may be far from home and family, but I felt surrounded by love today.
The zone of town around Grafton Street is ripe for pedestrianization. Right now, Dublin City Council is testing the use of street space for people rather than car occupation. Aongus and I are delighted to support that test!
It’s lovely to be in this quarter when you’re safe from cars, as we discovered during the height of lockdown:
Since lockdown started in mid-March, Aongus and I had gone months with no meals out.
We pretty much waiting until the government opened the country for internal travel to start eating out.
Awakening for coffee
By June 21, it was finally time for our first sit-down coffee in Dublin since lock-down.
We sought out a little pop-up container shop at St. James’s Gate, based on a Twitter recommendation from Ciran Cuff. I wanted to support the use of this greyfield site (location of a former gas station), in the hopes the land gets assigned a greener use in the future than petrol sales.
They’re using a shipping container to house the shop itself, and they provide outdoor picnic tables in the back. It was an ideal first stop for the day’s in-town cycling adventure on the southside of the city.
Such a joy to be outside!
First Dinner Out, Post-Lockdown
Later that day, on June 21st (and well after the 20km zone opened), we were overjoyed to find a street-side pizzeria offering a couple of sidewalk tables. They had gotten their Guinness tap up and running earlier that day, and we got to sit down and enjoy pizza and a pint in true Irish-Italian style!
We’re delighted that Dublin is re-awakening and we hope to see more street-side dining. Yet, we hadn’t eaten out again here in Dublin until today, August 1st. We have gotten so accustomed to cooking and eating at home, except when we’re venturing far from home.
Instead of traveling far outside of Dublin over the bank holiday weekend, we stayed here in Dublin. We stayed in town for a few reasons: (1) Hotel reservations outside Dublin were somewhat hard to come by for this three day weekend, and quite pricey. (2) We wanted to show support for the pedestrianization trials going on in Dublin over four weekends. (3) We exhausted ourselves the weekend prior by cycling 50 km in one day during variable Irish weather. (4) Aongus is studying for a big test–cramming a three-year degree into four months.
The pedestrian experience of Dublin town did not disappoint!
We really enjoyed the car-free areas. Dublin City Council is still allowing the flow of traffic (heavy traffic at that) into and out of the multi-story parking garages in the town center. But they put people in place during these trials to direct the automobile drivers and help with “traffic calming,” so it’s not the wild-west free-for-all of drivers heading into these garages that has become the norm.
I’m baffled that so many drivers disregard pedestrians in these areas most days. It’s clearly a pedestrian-centric area but drivers barrel on through and expect pedestrians to scatter in their wake.
Last Saturday, we shopped at the ILAC center and wandered the walkable streets, Henry, Grafton and surrounds.
We looked for a pleasant place to sit outside and eat. We found ample selection and couldn’t decide on just one… so we ate twice. Yep, back to back.
Tables in the Street!
We had our first encounter with “Sole,” which opened while we were living in London. They’re part of the pedestrianization trials and are providing really pleasant and visually pleasing on-street dining on weekends. The manager said they were getting permission to double the size of the on-street area the following weekend.
We each ordered a steak and blue cheese salad. Amazing!
There were little bowls with–mints?–on the table when we arrived. Seemed odd, as mints usually come after food. But the waiter showed up with a pitcher and poured water over them. They were actually little cloths for freshening up!
The deserts our neighboring diners ordered looked fabulous too, but we decided to eat light for lunch and to enjoy an early dinner at another place.
Oh, and I wanted to add that the interior design of Sole was pretty spectacular as well. We’ll be back! Soon!
After some shopping, then lounging in Steven’s Green and watching the people swirl past, we sauntered down Anne Street, where the businesses have been keen to pedestrianize. News reports say the Council raised the sideway in the fenced-in areas shown below over the past week. Hoping to get out later today and see for myself.
Around Anne Street, we found a few moment that reminded of us London and one of the neighborhoods where we lived while we were there: Shoreditch E2.
A bit later, we headed over to the street-side tables at Salamanca. A couple tapas and an order of churros hit the spot!
Incidentally, the people watching from this street-side table was second to none!
We cycled home. I got too far ahead when Aongus got hung behind a traffic light. So I stopped to admire the architecture. New design aside old, with interesting colors and textures everywhere you look.
So in closing, Aongus and I are asking, begging, Dublin City Council to keep these streets pedestrianized and to encourage businesses to place more tables and chairs outside. Everyone deserves the chance to try the outside seating and find out just how enjoyable it can be. If we can’t go to Italy, we can at least have a slice of Italy here!
Yet, we see the pictures from Cork and realize that what’s in place in Dublin right now is only just a start. We’ve enjoyed outside dining in countries with Ireland’s climate and we *know* it works.
Thanks, Dublin City Council, for the great work you’ve done since March to improve quality of life in our city and keeping the air and the surrounding clean and healthy. We applaud what you’ve been doing and we yearn for more. What a fabulous transformation this can be!
At the start of Ireland’s lockdown, we had some adjusting to do. New ways of living and working, for sure! Aongus was working from home for about six weeks, with the occasional visit allowed to his work site to make sure things were locked up tight and everything looked right. We found new ways to exercise and study together, expanding out the balcony during nice weather. Such weather is rare here, and even our south-facing balcony isn’t usually warm enough for outdoor work.
I really started to notice little things, like how dramatically the sky changes from hour to hour, day to day here. The view from my balcony was every-changing–a painting of gorgeous pastels and a hundred different types of clouds.
Early on, Aongus was completing a training model online. I tried to stay fit with online zumba and Down Dog yoga.
This day was warm enough for balcony use, so I took a little break with one of the books I’ve read this spring, a gift from Inês, called “Quite: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking”. Appropo for this period of isolation!
On the other hand, the look of work didn’t have much diversity. As I do educational/social science research, I don’t require access to a lab. I already had plenty of data collected that I could work with and study during Lockdown.
For me, life during lockdown looked a lot like this, each and every day:
Don’t get me wrong, each of these images captures something I found interesting! The diagrams, for instance, came from a UCL ‘show-and-tell.’ Researchers in Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) are doing fascinating work tracking Covid—looking for patterns—from how droplets move, to tracking the flow of a sequence of coughs by someone tapping to pay on a bus (shown here), to transmission patterns across cities and countries. Really interesting and important stuff! I was Tweeting up a storm that day, to share knowledge with others. Took care not to give away too much detail as the researchers were reporting, to close colleagues, research they had underway.
For me, it has been fun to attend meetings and events in places and with people I’d not have had easy access to in the spring of a teaching semester—like these UCL events and the Big Engineering Education Research Meet Up.
Here’s a screenshot of our UCL team coordinating one of the EER Meet Ups of the spring–Paula, John, Inês, and me (providing perspectives from REEN and TU Dublin). I love this group of people and was glad to work with them over the spring even though we live in two different countries.
There was also teaching to be done online, and new teaching arrangements to be planned for next year as well. I’m preparing materials for the Tech Graphics modules on hand drawing for the autumn, as the pile of tools on my dining table testifies.
And there was meal after meal after meal to prepare, as you’ll be well aware. Sometimes fancy, sometimes new (fried peaches on the suggestion of my cousin, Rebecca). A colleague from TU Delft, Dr. Gillian Saunders, crated this nifty mask and mailed it over to me. It’s coming in handy, especially since the Irish government has recently stated asking us to wear masks, and requiring them on public transit.
In addition, there’s been the occasional birthday party, with Zoom allowing us to gather from all around the world. Happy b-day, Tarrah Beebe and Mike Miminiris!
Aongus has gone back to work now, and I’m here working from home as has been my norm. I like working at home better when it’s sunny, but I pray most for sunny weekends. I must admit, most of my religious/spiritual intentions have gone for those less fortunate than we’ve been—this facing sickness, stress, and hardship due to Covid or living with addicted or abusive people.
We’ve been blessed and have been able to grow together during this time. We attempt to make each day new and interesting, whether it’s learning a new theory or just pulling out our Frank Lloyd Wright socks (a gift of my recently departed Dad). Other ways I’ve passed the Covid-time include studying for the Driver Theory Test (scored 40/40, yeah baby!) and—now that businesses have opened—finally getting haircuts and new glasses to match my improved prescription. I didn’t buy the Corbu specs (shown below) but they were fun to try!
Aongus and I hadn’t spent much time in Dublin’s very large urban park prior to Covid-19. We were, afterall, just returning to Dublin after two years in London.
I’d moved back at the start of January and got things organized. Aongus followed on February 5th. Luckily, I already settled back into the flat and gotten things arranged nicely when he touched down on the Irish tarmac–a full month before isolation set in.
A couple days after Aongus’ return, things got very busy for me at TU Dublin. I was appointed to Chair and launch a new degree program. We held the induction on February 14. We were four weeks into conducting modules that when the pandemic hit and campus buildings shut down. From then on, work was all from home.
When the Irish government asked us to keep inside a 2-kilometer radius from our homes, and only venture out for necessary purchases and daily exercise, I pulled out a map on the “2kmfromhome” app and very happily discovered the entry to Phoenix Park fell within our allowable zone. I loaded the radius map as my phone’s wallpaper for easy reference–that made Aongus feel a bit claustrophobic! He’s not used to such a small bubble. His parents, aunts and siblings live outside it. Sadly, he couldn’t see his parents anyway, as they live in a nursing home. There have been very few visits. His dad had symptoms of Covid but tested negative. His mom had no symptoms but tested positive–go figure. Both are doing fine, but lacking visits has really taken a toll on his dad, who is fully aware of what’s going on.
Considering the radius, I wasn’t quite sure where entering the park alone would get us. During an online School meeting, which we held weekly for months until summer break officially started, I mentioned in the chat box that we had the entrance to Phoenix Park in our allotted circle. A colleague said, oh how lucky! A friend of hers had the same situation. Catherine said it meant we could use the Park in full, as long as we were carrying verification of our address.
To me that made logical sense–afterall, the masses of Dublin living near the Park we couldn’t all stand in the first hundred feet of the entry gate.
And thus began…
Our love affair with Phoenix Park
Soon we cycled to the park using Dublin Bikes, with a picnic of left-overs in hand for sustenance.
That first day we didn’t make it too far, but on our next trip we discovered the expansive views of the field at the Pope’s Cross, with amazing views over the city of Dublin toward the Dublin Mountains.
Park it, Deer…
We also discovered the deer of Dublin, so calm and tame.
The deer cluster by gender–doe and children together, and bucks in their own groups. In the forested area shown at the top of this blog (with the nifty leg warmers, a gift from ‘me mum’), we once saw an organized lesson in being a male deer underway. There were three sets of young males with antlers joined, play wrestling, and one more deer–who appeared to be the coach. We didn’t get a photo that day, as we weren’t allowed by the Park Rangers to stop to observe. By loud speaker they announced “Keep moving. You’re here for exercise!” or something of that sort. They weren’t messin’ that day–taking no shite….
Fortunately, over time, the sense of panic and urgency has subsided. If you leave the deer be and avoid crowds, you’ll be okay. It is usually easy enough to stumble on crows if you don’t move far for the entry at Parkgate Street.
The deer have really loved having the park free of cars–the park is so large that motorists have typically used it as a cut-through, taking their cars at high speeds to get to the other side without much regard for pedestrians and cyclists, families and children. High-speed and rude drivers in the park, along with the poor quality of the pavement in the cycle lane leading into and out of the park, had previously discouraged me from cycling there.
I had, however, cycled to the US Ambassador’s Residence once to hear a NASA astronaut speak at a Fulbright Ireland event. There’s a sizable slope going into the park that takes some determination to climb. I felt so unwelcome by the hill and the rough pavement of the cycle lane going in (the car pavement is nice and smooth here), that I had avoided this park in the interim. I hoped–and still do–that they will repave the cycle lanes near Park Gate. Can’t imagine what has kept that simple act from happening.
Although we’d enjoyed our Dublin Bike adventure that first day, but realized we’d need our own bikes. My own had been stolen from my courtyard some years before, but our maintenance guy gave me a discarded bike as a replacement. I’d parked it on the balcony, but hadn’t much luck using it. Mostly, I needed a more comfortable saddle.
So, in March, I was quite pleased to discover that Pavlov at Bolton Bikes could get it back up and running. It’s heavy and I have to baby the gears, but it works and it has been nice and reliable. Bolton Bikes repairs and also sells used bikes. We were very fortunate to buy one for Aongus that suits him incredibly well. Neither of our bikes is a magnet for thieves, which is fortunate since rates of bicycle theft are off the charts right now in Dublin.
I didn’t even report the earlier theft–really no reason since the police don’t really investigate.
Our bikes have worked out fine. They really serve us well and we are learning to love them and the freedom they provide.
…enjoy a scenic overlook
On our second or third visit to the park, we found the far end, to the west, had the fewest people. We’d ride out there and eat a quick snack, tea, or sandwich before cycling back home.
Ireland had an amazing streak of glorious weather, in March and April. Perfect like this for several weeks. We discovered this stunning view at the far end of the park, and reaching it became a regular goal:
…and a quiet little pond
Over time, we ventured into the gated area around the pond. The water lilies were delightful; my photos haven’t done them justice.
Aongus enjoyed feeding crumbs to the ducks and geese.
Just be yourself!
As the weeks progressed this corner of the park remained sparsely attended. We encountered very few people and were even able to curl up with a book on occasion. Wild and free and happy as can be….
(…but not in America!)
Speaking of America, I felt safe enough in Phoenix Park to attend the very first Dublin-based rally in support of Black Lives Matter.
Stand up for what you believe…
I elected to attend the #BLM rally in Phoenix Park, as I believed there would be ample room for social distancing. This location meant participants weren’t likely to get hemmed in as I feared would happen near the American Embassy. My assumptions were correct.
There was plenty of space where we assembled at the driveway entrance to the Ambassador’s Residence. There was also plenty space as we processed slowly around the property in a long single-file line, and one the rear/southside of the house where we knelt for a minute of silence. Any groups were households that arrived together. Many couples and a few families, and many brave individuals as we did not know what to expect. I saw this advertised on Twitter, with two locations available so everyone could stay in their allowable zone (which, by this time was 5km, I believe).
In any case, I was glad to be able to do *something* to support the #BLM cause, and to achieve that without violating any rules. It was a very small thing, but I had to make a stand for justice and also stand in solidarity with my hundreds and hundreds of Black American friends, colleagues, and former students. And in memory of my honorary grandparents, Bush and Ravella and their daughter Dot. So many people I know and love who had the opposite of a head start in US life simply due to the color of their skin.
Incidentally, a newspaper photographer showed up and took our pictures at this rally, but as there weren’t any juicy scoops to be had, the pics didn’t go viral. Even a telephoto lens couldn’t make this particular crowd look too dense!
All the Guards and Park Rangers who came around expressed sincere support for the cause.
It was a lovely and heartwarming event, and a story you probably didn’t hear on official news outlets.
…just let time drift by.
Since lockdown, I’ve come to know and love Phoenix Park. I truly hope it remains a place that’s safe for families, children, and people of all levels of ability to use safely.
One last set of views out across the Dublin Mountains, daydreaming and soaking in the peace and quiet:
Aongus and I feel so fortunate to live close to the city center. During Ireland’s lockdown, the entire central core fell in our allowable exercise area–a 2km radius from home. We got out and about on weekends, though we sorely missed our gym (1escape, we love you!).
The streets of downtown Dublin were particularly tranquil for morning bicycle rides, and the weather blessed us during March and April. We eventually explored all around Temple Bar, Grafton Street, Synge Street, Portobello, and the Liberties.
We normally returned home before sunset. They can be so beautiful when viewed across the Liffey.
Here we’re at South King Street, near the still-asleep Gaiety Theater and St. Steven’s Green:
Our cycles brought us through Grand Canal Docks several times, with the Board Gaís Theater, designed by the office of architect Daniel Libeskind.
We found Herbert Park in Ballsbridge, which I knew of from Collene Dube’s “100 Days of Walking” Tweets. It’s near Dublin’s big Arena.
Riding out here, I felt that drivers gave me more space when they saw the orange vest. Aongus says it’s probably the style of vest I’ve chosen, which evidently suggests I do maintenance in the social housing complexes of Dublin. Whatever–it works! And yes, my sense of style is surely all my own!
We could only access the inner part of Sandymount in our 5km radius, but we made the most of it and dreamed of cycling even further southward, toward Booterstown, Blackrock village, and Dún Laoghaire in coming weeks.
Here we are playing around at Sandymount Strand:
Low and behold, we discovered the beach at Seapoint as our zone opened to 20km, permitting our ventures toward Dún Laoghaire. It was a bit crowded, but still possible to find the needed distance from others:
We made it to Dún Laoghaire, with its mega-sized harbor and its vibrant People’s Park. The harbor is so much larger than Howth’s. We always brought a picnic and planned for the lack of bathrooms. Although Howth opened thiers prior to our visits, Dún Laoghaire did not.
We have talked about a cycle out to Dalkey, which is just inside our 20km, but we haven’t made it there yet by bike. Something to look forward to…..
During lockdown in Ireland, we started with an allowable 2 km radius exercise zone from our homes. This eventually increased to 5 km, then 20 km. For Aongus and me, the entire center of Dublin falls within 2km. If you’re thinking “Wow, that’s small!” I agree, yes, Dublin’s central core is quite small.
Our circle expanded, very slowly, from our immediate neighborhood of Smithfield, to 2km with Phoenix Park (described in another post), Blessington Basin and the Royal Canal (described below). At 5km, we expanded to the Botanic Gardens and Griffith Park. At 20km, we cycled further, challenging ourselves to 20km there and 20km back, which would get us to Howth, cycling along the greenway at Clontarf or even over onto Bull Island and along Dollymount Strand. I’ve shared photos of all this below, as it’s just too picturesque to miss.
I wanted to document the experience for historical purposes (the life of empty nesters in Dublin during lockdown!?). I think the post has wider value, too: if you’re ever visiting Dublin, these are great places to explore!
Days before lockdown started, I reminded myself that I wanted to climb the tower at Jameson’s Distillery, shown above, which one could then access for a €5 fee paid to the Genesis Hostel on Smithfield Plaza. The tower could, I told myself, become inaccessible again, for any reason, at any time. It had been closed most of the time since I moved to Smithfield in September 2012.
Due to Covid, the tower certainly became inaccessible once again.
During lockdown, I rarely ventured out Monday-Friday. I tried to get indoor exercise during the week, but it wasn’t easy. With the Liffey four blocks from home, I motivated myself to get out and walk that far some evenings, between work and dinner. Below, Aongus and I are pictured on one of Dublin’s two Calatrava-designed bridge, which is five blocks from our home:
Below are photos of “northside” streets close to our home: (1) along the Liffey with Smithfield to the right/north, (2) cycling the new protected lanes along the Liffey, (3) the lovely steeple of St. Paul’s @ Smithfield shown as second time, and (4) a morning view of, vacant, taken by Aongus on his way to work once lockdown started to lift.
During the height of lockdown, the streets of central Dublin were actually quite eerie in the evening. The Irish police (called the Gardí) set up checkpoints all around Dublin—mostly to prevent drivers from exceeding their boundaries without reason.
On one walk we were stopped on O’Connell Street by a Guard. He asked us why we were in town, and since exercise was allowed and we were within our allowable zone, there was not problem and the guards let us pass. Other acceptable reasons were shopping for medicine or food shopping, or assisting someone who was cocooning.
We got stopped one other time, on the way to Phoenix Park because unbeknownst to us, a right-wing radical individual was trying to stage a protest. It didn’t work for her. People didn’t show up to join her shenanigans. The Irish are quite reasonable politically, in my opinion, and such radical views are unpalatable here.
Although Aongus initially thought 2km would be too restrictive, it turned out there was more to see than he realized. Within our 2km small radius there were urban delights to be found: we joyfully ‘discovered’ Blessington Basin for ourselves.
I’d seen it on the map while searching the web for property (I might as well be looking for leprechauns or unicorns as a sunny and affordable flat or house in Dublin). Though I knew its name and location, I’d never had reason to venture there. Until lockdown. It’s easily reached from our flat by foot or bicycle.
Ultimately, we ended up near the Basin while exploring on Dublin Bikes (which we both subscribe to for a very reasonable annual fee).
Aongus was flabbergasted. He had no inkling of the existence of this Basin– even though he was raised not far away, on the Northside of Dublin in Glasnevin!
There are several delightful murals in the park surrounding Blessington Basin, and the one pictured above, with me sliding through an illusionary door, is appropo. A step into Blessington Basin park feels like you’re entering Sinclair Lewis’ Narnia or Alice’s Wonderland!
A week into lockdown, I got my previously non-working bike up and running. At about the same time, Aongus borrowed a bike from his sister, because he was the one appointed by his family to keep his 82 year-old aunt supplied with food and meds.
With these bikes, we were able to explore more easily and we found more joys, like the footpaths, the little canalside park beside Shandon Gardens, and cycle paths aside the Royal Canal (with one of its locks shown above). We determined to return again when we’re allowed more distance to roam.
National Botanic Gardens
Our allowable zone eventually expanded to 5km. Inside that we found the Botanic Gardens and Griffith Park, although these photos were taken after we’d gotten 20km access. The Botanical Gardens had been closed for months before opening its gates to the public. The caretakers must have been there during lockdown, as the place is still meticulously manicured.
When amenities began re-opening on the northside of the city, the gates of the National Botanic Garden sprung open with colorful life:
The flowers had been developing nicely in the peace and quiet.
Aongus loves this place. It’s near his childhood neighborhood and one if his mum’s favorite spots for a weekend walk.
Aongus brought me through Griffith Park one day. It’s just to the south of his auntie’s house. Here’s I’m decked out in bright orange and a crash helmet, which I found helpful as cars returned to the streets of Dublin. Most drivers allowed me plenty of space, but of course, I was only cycling on weekends.
We had a snack beside the canal this day in Griffith Park, and then enjoyed a short and distanced front-year visit with his aunt.
Bull Island with its Dollymount Strand fall just beyond our 5km, so we had to wait for the 20km radius to enjoy these coastal amenities again. Fairview and some of Clontarf were allowed, but we couldn’t go up as far as Bull Island. It’s too bad that we couldn’t enjoy the Wood Bridge without cars.
Our visit to Dollymount Strand came after our cycle to Howth (described below). We took the long route on the way home from Howth, to enjoy the views, and the challenge of cycling in the sand. It’s much easier to cycle where the sand is wet than dry!
The wildflowers were stunning! Which is why I couldn’t decide which photos to include… so you get a bunch!
The real jewel in the crown of our 20km radius northward from Dublin is the little fishing village of Howth.
There’s a picturesque little harbor, protected by a lighthouse (and seagulls), that is today filled with pleasure craft in addition to work boats.
We have cycled out to Howth twice now. Once we bumped into friends of Aongus and enjoyed a distranced chat (after months of isolation seeing them was a highlight of the day).
The pictured below show us getting caught in the rain. We ended up taking the DART home that day and, as I had no mask, I had to improvise with a beach blanket.
Fortunately, there was also lots of space and sun in Howth.
And so very many eye-catching views.
Plus, some darned good company.
I couldn’t be more blessed than to spend this lockdown with the fun, kind, generous, patient, energetic, optimistic, healthy, share-the-load and ever-loving Mr. Aongus Coughlan. Now, if only I can get him hiking that Howth cliff walk with me (see the map below). Since the 20km rule has been lifted, it’s in our currently allowable zone. And yet, it’s still a bit too steep for the man. Never on a windy day!
Something was about to change here in Dublin on the night of March 11th. I knew this, and thus felt hesitation as well as excitement for an interesting day as I headed into work on the 12th.
You see, TU Dublin had an Open Day planned to show female high school students about our apprenticeship courses. My colleagues and I had put a lot of work into planning this, although we anticipated things could change due to coronavirus. Later this day, life was to shift decisively about our world here in Dublin.
The Last Day ‘Open’ at TU Dublin
We waited anxiously for word from the university about closures. In the meantime, we took care. Although plans went ahead and during this Open Day, the new norms of hand sanitizer and social distancing appeared. Wee conscientiously worked to hold intimate conversations about life plans at a two arm’s length–not an easy feat in a loud and active space like the lobby of Linenhall, home of the TU’s Dublin School of Architecture.
Attendance on this Open Day was higher than one would expect given the uncertainty of life, but not as high as the past year. Only a portion of those who reserved places made it to D2 that day. It was well worth my own four-block walk into work to meet girls from as far as Wicklow who’d ventured up to meet us.
I provided tours of the facilities–bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry, metal fabrication, painting and decorating, laser cutting and 3D printing, automated fabrication–at Linenhall and Bolton Street where apprentices learn. Those taking our sampler program, “Access to Apprenticeship” get to use to all these workshops, and to complete a small project in each to help them determine which to specialize in by completing a full course.
At the end of the event we heard that campus buildings would close that night at 18:00; after this, classes would meet only online.
The BIM modules we offer in my program did indeed meet that night, all online, thanks to the collaborative working platform my colleagues use to teach BIM. Kevin Furlong, Barry McAuley, and Emma Hays took it all in stride and kept on delivering! I was truly impressed.
Working it out during Covid-19
I already worked half time on research, so I actually labored from home 50% of my working hours, pre-Covid. For me, work life after the 12th of March looked pretty similar to before–lots and lots and lots of time at my laptop. There was less variety, though, and much less human contact.
I missed feeling creative. I wasn’t able to blog, as I didn’t feel reason to celebrate during a time of fer and hardship.
I got work done, but not with my normal level of zest.
The first two weekends after the campus shut down, we weren’t yet asked to isolate (we never officially ‘locked down’) but the government was asking us to keep our distance from others.
My household has one other person, Aongus, and this fact has kept me sane during isolation. I’m glad I haven’t had to go through this pandemic living alone. That said, my guy has much higher exposure to the outside world than I do, and could inadvertently drag Covid-19 home at any time.
As you probably know, Aongus and I really enjoy our weekends. We love getting out, exploring the world, getting exercise, fresh air and sunlight. In fact, not feeling pangs of guilt for taking weekend off is a major reason I moved to Europe from the USA. You’ll recall that Aongus and I made the most of every minute in London during my two-year fellowship there. We had plans to make the most of our precious weekends together in Dublin upon our return.
A Sunday at Greystones Beach
Sliding into a new normal, we had a couple weeks to adjust to freedoms and habits that were slipping away. We were still allowed to drive and explore, but were required to stay away from others. Our gym was still open during this time, as well, though we were distancing.
On Sunday, March 15, Aongus and I drove out to Greystones, where we were able to distant from others on the beach. We enjoyed the solitude in the cool winter breeze off the Irish Sea.
And we learned that lunches and loos were few and far between. From this day forward, we packed sandwiches whenever we ventured out, and planned ahead for long period of loo-less-ness.
The difficulty finding these that day told me that things were going to change more radically. We drove to some favorite spots hoping for lunch, but couldn’t stop because they were packed with people.
We did, however, find joy in simple pleasures: an apple, the sunshine, and loving company.
Holi-day at Bull Island Marshes & Dollymount Strand
St. Patrick’s Day was a holiday, so we made another trip trip to the sea, still pre-lockdown (to use the phrase lightly–we’ve never officially ‘locked down’ in Ireland to the degree of many other European countries).
Although Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade had been cancelled, and tourists discouraged from coming, we residents were still allowed out, but asked to keep our distance.
Aongus and I headed out to Bull Island, by car, as was typical for us before coronavirus. Walking and Dublin Bikes were our other main forms of transportation, and where they didn’t bring us, a bus or car would. “Back then”, we would never have dreamed of cycling to Bull Island or Dollymount Strand; they seemed so very far away.
Bull Island is a favorite among Dubliners though, and when we arrived the beach looked far too crowded to allow the distance I required, so we instead explored the marshes.
My colleague Damon Berry had recommended that I check them out, and this was the first time I latched onto the idea. Aongus and I had a nice picnic in the dunes.
Of course, we hoped to find passage across to the beach by way of the dunes, but the waterways prevented that. Nevertheless, we enjoyed discovering a tranquil strip of Bull Island where few people venture.
By the late afternoon, the beach had cleared out (it was the bottleneck along the wall that had presented the problem passing others) and we were able to visit the strand, which is called Dollymount.
As you can see, Dublin is quite chilly during March, but any opportunity to go outside, walk, and soak in the sunshine is prized.
The lifestyle we had known was quickly sliding away. Soon after our visit to Bull Island, the period of isolation began. Aongus and I essentially hibernated for weeks. I was able to keep working from home. He, as a construction site project manager, was able to do some limited amount of work from home and was allowed on site, alone, occasionally, to do essential work, or check for security.
As we have a range of grocery stores (Fresh Market, Lidl, two Centras and a Daybreak) within 1-4 blocks of our flat and the food supply chains serving Dublin never let us down, we were able to source food easily and have learned many new recipes with what we can find in these stores.
That 2km radius we were allowed to travel from home for the purpose of exercise kept us sane, and we looked forward to weekends, hoping and praying for sunshine.
Welcome to the homepage of Ireland by Chance, a blog sharing the adventures of an Expat architect/urbanist/teacher/engineering education researcher who moved from the United States in 2012 to make Ireland her home.
You can view archives (2012-present) by clicking the folder icon to learn what it’s like to be Fulbright and Marie Curie Research Fellow, to teach at university in Ireland, and to explore the cities and landscapes of Ireland, the UK, and Europe.