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.
Nearly 20 of us met in February to start planning our exhibition for Dublin Maker 2020. The big event is to be held on the 27th of June in Herbert Park, on the south-side of Dublin.
Last week, a portion of our team reassembled to get different people’s parts working together in a coordinated way. I’ve created a little video of that second prep session for you to enjoy.
One thing that worries me, though, is that all the stuff my colleagues have made looks so very cool, so incredibly professional, that visitors to our Dublin Maker booth will think they BOUGHT this ready-made. Not so.
For instance, Keith Colton (in the video with the bandaid on his thumb) used a 3D printer to make the car he’s holding. He made it from scratch.
Shane Ormond combined a whole bunch of cutting-edge technologies to get a tiny camera on top of his race car to feed video into the VR headsets and TV monitors, all the while controlling the car’s behavior from a hand-held device. He’s been sending us video updates from his house and it’s been cool to watch his car speed under sofas and chairs and around his lovely home.
When I tired driving, I couldn’t control the car too well–and I’m pretty used to driving sporty cars! In this case, the car didn’t quite have the handling of my 2004 Nissan Z350. The car was racing around at top speed and the VR googles made it all seem much too real!
Note in he video how Paul Leamy’s stomach turned when his car flipped over. Seemed real! You can see on the TV monitor, but viewed through VR goggles it’s all the more gripping.
So, see for yourself!
Come on out on June 27th to see where all this leads. Our team is just at the start and we plan to build a plethora of buses, stop lights, trams, and Dublin city sites for our cars to whizz though on Dublin Maker day 2020.
It’s been a busy and exciting week here in Dublin. Monday at noon I was appointed as Programme Chair for the new BSc (Hon) in BIM (Digital Construction) at TU Dublin. We launched the programme at lunchtime today, Friday, just four days later. I had a lot of studying up to do to get up to speed to host the induction/orientation.
This course is for people who have a three-year Bachelors degree (called level 7 in Ireland–this is the standard Bachelors in Europe). They will have studied Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) for their first degree and want to learn about Building Information Modelling and upgrade to a four-year Honours level Bachelors (called level 8 in Ireland, and more like the Bachelors degrees offered in the USA). In the future, we will also accept people who have level 6 (apprentice) degrees and Recognition for Prior Learning (RPL).
So, today we held induction and welcomed 24 students into our first cohort!
This time next year, successful students will walk away with a BSc (Hons) and a host of new knowledge and skills related to digital construction.
My colleagues — Dr. Avril Behan, Mr. Kevin Furlong, Dr. Barry Mcauley, Ms. Deborah Brennan and others — were involved in designing this programme, and they even got a grant (Springboard+) to cover much of the cost for the 2020 cohort. They did all this work while I was away, working in London. What a truly lovely programme they have built!
It’s really needed here in Ireland — it’s great for the people taking the course who will gain valuable new skills — and it’s great for the Irish construction industry which desperately needs people skilled in BIM. I find this to be an extremely worthwhile project and I’m delighted to be part of it and to work with such a great team.
Here’s a press release from TU Dublin:
Technological University Dublin is delighted to announce the commencement of its level 8 BSc (Hons) in BIM (Digital Construction), designed and delivered by the same team who created TU Dublin’s award-winning MSc in aBIMM suite (ICE Postgraduate Course of the Year 2019). This programme is designed to meet the Lean Construction, BIM and digital transformation upskilling needs of holders of level 6 qualifications (including craft apprenticeship) plus industry experience, and of level 7 (ordinary degree) award holders in construction-related areas. Focussing on discipline-specific BIM modelling (architecture, construction, MEP engineering & structural engineering) and multidisciplinary co-ordination, underpinned by a Lean Construction philosophy, this programme will equip graduates with the skills necessary to take up roles as BIM Modellers, Technicians, and Coordinators with consultants, contractors, clients, and public sector bodies. The programme is delivered in blended format with attendance required on the Bolton Street Campus for one afternoon per week (typically Fridays from 12:30) from late January to late May with additional online delivery (one evening per week – evening tbc and depending on discipline). From September to December the programme is delivered fully online with a number of support face-to-face workshops.
TU Dublin secured 90% of the funding for places in this year’s cohort from the Irish Higher Education Authority’s Springboard+ programme. Thus, the cost to selected participants in 2020 is only €220.
The application deadline for this year has passed (it was was Monday January 13th 2020 for commencement at end of January). This first cohort will commence their coursework in January 2020 and walk away with diplomas in a highly marketable field of expertise (BIM and digital construction) in February 2020.
If you would like more info on the programme, please register your interest by emailing the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies <email@example.com>. Our school administrator can then send additional info as we prepare for upcoming cohorts.
I cycled to the post office collection point over lunch today, using Dublin Bikes, to fetch a birthday gift. My rear tire hit a wet manhole cover and slid out from under me. My body hit the ground, belly first, flying toward an oncoming car. I stopped 18” short of its tires. The driver didn’t stop or apparently even consider it.
I am a bit bruised and had quite a scare but I’m okay and I’m home now. I might stay in my home office for the rest of the week as this experience was terrifying! I’m kidding of course, but I will stay put until my afternoon research appointment.
At least I discovered I can ask the Post to convey my packages to their local office, across the street from where I work. (The intercom in my flat doesn’t work and won’t be fixed. C’est la vie.)
So it appears I’ve used up another one of my nine lives, and just one day short of my 50th birthday, I’m down to fewer than six lives now. The precise count is unclear, but I definitely squandered one in 1979 when my crazy acrobatic attempt landed me in the hospital. Hopefully the remaining number, whatever it is, will see me safely through the coming 50 years.
Cheers—here’s to a happy but purple-kneed birthday!
It’s been a great start-of-semester and welcome-back here in Dublin. I’ve been settling back in at TU Dublin, since the first of the year. I’ve been learning to juggle a host of new job responsibilities along with my favorite existing projects. There’s so much work to be done!
In addition to teaching first-year engineering modules/courses, I have also been helping launch the new MSc in BIM, working on curriculum development (which buys out half my work time), finalizing research projects for publication, and drafting my final report for the 2018-12019 fellowship I had to UCL.
I’ve also attended a host of special events:
The launch of TU Dublin’s new strategic plan
A two-day conference on “Rethinking the Crit” in architecture and design education.
Tech support workshops for staff on Brightspace and Agresso
Personal wellbeing workshops for staff on insurance and personal finance.
A planning sessions with our ever-expanding RoboSlam team preparing for Dublin Maker 2020 (June 2020) and our upcoming Engineering Your Future week (May 2020)
TU Dublin’s new Strategic Plan
The unveiling of the strategic plan was quite well organized and inspiring. The speakers and panelists all did a great job explaining the shared aspirations of our academic community. I hope the details are as well done as the vision they presented.
Soon, I’ll read the plan and see how it matches up against the evaluation rubric I published back during my doc studies, which you can download here.
The take-home message of the strategic planning launch was that TU Dublin values diversity and inclusivity. The student voice was clear, strong and impressive. The leaders were well-spoken.
TU Dublin’s workshop on “Rethinking the Crit”
I attended a hands-on conference alongside architecture students from all over Ireland as well as teachers and critics from Ireland and abroad.
The workshop was organized by my College’s office for Learning Development, under the direction of Patrick Flynn, our Head of Learning Development. In many places, his role would be called Vice Dean for Academics, but DIT (the parent of TU Dublin) tended to do things its own unique way.
As I’m part of a team developing a brand new Architectural Engineering curriculum, this conference on how to improve the studio jury system was of great value to me. That Arch Eng course will graduate people ready for architecture licensing.
One of the presenters, Dr. Kathryn Anthony, literally wrote the book that got this conversation rolling: Design Juries on Trial. It was published in 1991 but there’s still a lot more uptake needed of her ideas across the globe. She collected data at Hampton University, where I used to teach, and at HU we used many of the techniques she proposed—with great success.
I hope to use techniques we discussed to help improve architecture education near and far.
Photo taken while visiting Kevin Donleavy in December 2012, during my Fulbright Fellowship to Ireland, but visiting Virginia for Christmas.
A friend of mine in Virginia delivers a radio program of traditional Irish music. Tune in 3-5 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on Saturday, March 2. That’s 10-12 EST to hear Kevin Donleavy’s show!
Learn more about Kevin and how I met him here, about a past show here, and about our dear, departed friend Jerry Crilly here.
A chairde and pals, howreya,
Yes, time for Irish traditional music on-line again. The date is this Saturday, March 2, and the program will be broadcast from 10 am till 12 noon as always. Or 3-5 pm that day in Ireland. You need visit WTJU.net on the Web, and then click on the Launch button. Your host, Kevin Donleavy of the O’Neill-Malcom branch of Comhaltas. So do mark your calendar.
Here are some highlights from the upcoming show : A couple of selections from the Sweets of May collection of music from South Armagh. Liam Weldon singing the tremendously touching song, ” Where Is Our James Connolly ?”
Tunes from such fiddlers as Ciaran Tourish and Oisin MacDiarmada and the powerful Mick Conneely. Lovely uilleann piping from Christopher McMullan’s new compact disc. Two songs from the woman’s band Girsa: “I Courted a Wee Girl,” and “Mary and the Soldier.” Cuts from the traditional groups Danu and Teada. A political song or two, of course. A seldom played reel called “The Nine Points of Roguery,” played by the fine Sean Norman Ceili Band. And more ….
This Saturday, time to wet the tea, roll back the carpet, and get cracking! Mi daza!