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weighing in
There is nothing better than taking a mid-week day off and a lunchtime trip to the theatre. Bewleys Café Theatre are currently showing ‘Weighing In’, a fast-paced comedy about life, love and dieting – and how we just need to adjust the scales to find the right balance. It was laugh-out-loud funny and the perfect lunchtime treat.

Starring the perfect team of Isabel Mahon as the uptight, diet-obsessed posh newcomer Pam McGowan and Rose Henderson as the fun-loving, easy-going family woman Breda. After one Easi-Slim meeting the two women strike up an unlikely friendship with Pam encouraging Breda on her quest to shed those stubborn pounds. It is Pam’s enthusiastic energy and obsession with calories that creates the most laughs. The only thing I found a little distracting was the annoying chatter when Rosaleen Linehan voiced the Diet Leader. As their friendship grows and Breda starts to lose the weight, it becomes clear that beneath Pam’s slim exterior lies an insecure woman whose life isn’t as perfect as she makes it out to be. The play doesn’t take itself too seriously and the script is well-written. It is on till January 24th and definitely worth a look.

The sad news of Bewleys refurbishment hit the papers lately but be glad in the knowledge that Powerscourt are hosting Bewleys Café Theatre in the interim so lunchtime theatre lives on.
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ourfewandevildays
This is a truly powerful play that makes a killer impact and deserves the hype surrounding it and its’ sold out status. It is written and directed by Mark O’Rowe who is a rising star in Irish playwriting. It’s great to see the Abbey doing contemporary plays and taking chances on new Irish writers.

I must warn you though the subject matter is disturbing without doubt. It is a play about the guilt and shame of family secrets that will have you on the edge of your seat. The acting is first class with standout performances from both Sinead Cusack and Ciaran Hinds. It also stars two Love/Hate actors, Charlie Murphy as the devoted daughter and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as her new boyfriend who unknowingly kickstarts the revealing of some old family secrets. I loved the homely stage setting, the normality of it and the underlying tension that pervades the play.

It is on in The Abbey until October 25th but at this stage I think it may be returns only. There was a large Standby queue the night we went so you may be lucky.
http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/our-few-and-evil-days/

mariner
I was invited to the world premiere of The Mariner by Irish writer Hugo Hamilton as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival last Thursday night. It’s set in 1916 during WW1 and tells the story of an injured sailor, Peter Shanley, after the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea. He has returned home to Cork after an incident in Portsmouth where he left his boat without permission and has been dishonourably charged from the Royal Navy. There is also some confusion as to his identity as his head is heavily bandaged and he has been rendered mostly mute and when he does speak he does not make any sense. The war has changed the boy his mother knew and she begins to question whether it is indeed her son. His wife is delighted to have him home and her love for him eventually is the key to drawing him back to reality. This leads to conflict between the three of them as the mother searches for answers.

It is lovely to see a play with two strong lead female characters. Sally, played by Lisa Dwyer Hogg, shines in the part of the young, slightly naive wife delighted to have her sweetheart home. The part of the overbearing mother, Mrs Shanley, is played splendidly by Ingrid Craigie. It is play about a mothers love versus a wives love and the struggle between the two but ultimately it is a tale of the brutal aftermath of war and the changes it leaves upon the people it touches. It is a very well written play using the power of dialogue to reveal just enough to make us question the man’s identity.

There is no interval and the play runs for about 90 minutes and this lack of interruption works well. The sparse staging and lighting add to the dark atmosphere. There is an injection of humour in the play throughout the dialogue which is much needed. Sally also adds a brightness and lightness to the play but ultimately war leads to a loss for everyone involved. I was kept captivated throughout the 90 minutes.

It is on in the Gate until 11th October. For more information and to book tickets, click on the link below: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheMariner2014

tedx
After having gotten hooked on TED Talks on the Internet, I was thrilled to hear TEDx Dublin 2014 was being held in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre on the 13th September. For those not familiar with TED Talks, TED is a nonprofit devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

TEDx are independently organised local events that happen all around the world. TEDx Dublin is organised by the Science Gallery at Trinity College and 2014 was their eighth such event. It was sold-out weeks before and the theatre was packed with around 2,000 people.

The event included 13 speakers over six hours. During the day, we heard about life on Mars, the power of solar disinfection, the social impact of language, the encouragement of women in politics, designers helping fix everyday problems to make a difference, the Irish prison service, homophobia, the effect people are having on our environment, the change in libraries as well as the invasion of jellyfish!

My favourite speakers were David Puttman, Kevin Gildea and John Lonergan. Lord David Puttman, film producer and public policymaker, challenged us to get angry about climate change and realise we all have a duty of care to the next generation. Kevin Gildea, award winning writer, comedian, and actor, made us laugh about the language of nothing. John Lonergan, the retired Governor of Mountjoy Prison, got the biggest standing ovation of the day as he spoke about the Irish Prison Service and the poverty trap. The day was truly inspirational and enjoyable as well as being educational. It made us question the landscape of the future.

voyage-of-discovery
Image taken from Language Lens.

Don’t you just love Autumn and going to the movies? There are some excellent books being made into movies and coming to a cinema near you…some of the ones I’m dying to see as I loved the books include:

Before I Go to Sleep

Gone Girl

This is Where I Leave You

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Last weekend I went on a roadtrip to Strandhill in County, Sligo with a few good friends. I planned the trip using the fabulous website Go Strandhill. We stopped off at the Landmark Hotel, Carrick on Shannon which is en route. We had soup and sandwiches in the conservatory of the Boardwalk Café. We stayed at Strandhill Lodge and Suites, a boutique hotel located on Top Road about a five minute walk down the hill to the village. I would definitely recommend them – great location, fabulous views overlooking Knocknarea on one side and Strandhill on the other and very friendly staff. It’s a family-run hotel which in this day and age is a rare find.

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When we arrived and had settled in, we went for a walk down to Strandhill beach to build up an appetite for dinner. That night we ate in Bella Vista where we sat in the Captains Quarters. Everyone enjoyed their food and we stayed for one drink downstairs to watch the closing minutes of the football.

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On Saturday, after a lovely continental breakfast, we headed down to the village to do some more exploring and some surfer-watching. We enjoyed a coffee in the very popular Shells Cafe and had a look around their Little Shop. I had booked myself in for a Seaweed Bath in Voya. It is a real treat – you get your own private room for 50 minutes where you spend 5-10 minutes in the steam room before enjoying the seaweed bath. They advise drinking lots of water. It does get pretty hot in there but it is very relaxing.

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For the afternoon, we headed to Lissadell House. It has recently reopened after a few years where there was a court case over a right of way. It is €12 for a tour of the house and gardens. I would definitely recommend it as a lovely way to spend a few hours. The house is impressive especially the difference between upstairs and downstairs and you learn about the history of the Gore Booth Family. Yeats was a frequent visitor and his love for Lissadell House is evident in his poetry. Also, we hear the impressive story of Countess Markievicz, a remarkable strong revolutionary woman and her equally fearless sister, Eva. It is hard to believe that the Cassidy-Walshes live there but they are very much visible in the modern photos of them and their seven children dotted around the rooms. The house overlooks Sligo Bay and Ben Bulben and the alpine gardens are particularly impressive. They are hoping to bring the walled gardens back to their former glory.

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That night we enjoyed dinner in Tra Ban, the restaurant above the Strand pub. Afterwards we watched the sunset before finishing the night off with a few drinks in The Venue with stunning views of Strandhill.

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On the Sunday, after more surfer-watching and a quick walk along the beach, we checked out the People’s Market. There are lots of stalls on offer selling food and beautiful crafts and a nice addition is some live music while you shop. We had coffee in the Strand Bar to shelter from a heavy shower. The sun came out again in time for us to enjoy some homemade ice-cream in Mammy Johnston’s, a beautiful sweet shop and ice-cream parlour, definitely the stuff of children’s dreams, before saying goodbye to Strandhill and heading for home.

I would definitely recommend a trip to Strandhill, a beautiful part of our country and well worth a visit and as this year is all about the Wild Atlantic Way, it is worth adding this to your list of places to go.
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theprice
The Price now on in The Gate Theatre in Dublin, involves two brothers, Victor and Walter Franz, and focuses on selling their dead parents’ belongings, all housed in the attic of a large brownstone because the building is about to be demolished and they must dispose of the remaining furniture. The set design was impressive with an attic full of beautiful antique furniture loaded to the ceiling. A giant harp takes centre stage.

The Price, although set in 1968, has at its heart the timeless themes of family relationships and materialism. As well as being the price that an appraiser was willing to pay for these antiques, it also has a deeper theme of the price we all pay for the choices we make in our lives. Their father was bankrupt during the great depression of the 1930s which meant Vic had to sacrifice his education to look after the old man ending up as on the police force for 28 years. On the other hand, his brother Walter went on to become an eminent and wealthy doctor and washed his hands of his family not speaking to Vic for 16 years. Vic and his wife feel they sacrificed their dreams and eked out a ‘living like mice’. We feel Vic’s resentment towards his brother from the very start and his wife’s frustration with Vic who on the verge of retirement is still dithering about his future where in scene one, we meet them in the attic preparing to meet the appraiser.

The appraiser, Gregory Solomon, turns out to be an elderly Jewish gentleman brimming with a zest for life despite being nearly 90 and a real character to boot. He regales Vic with tales of his past – three marriages, several bust businesses and some great stories. He is a realist and a man who lives in the moment contrasting with Vic who seems stuck in the past and unable to move forward. He talks honestly about the disposable nature of things, how modern living places no importance on antiques that last and how shopping has become the new happiness – “…everything has to be disposable. Because you see the main thing today is shopping. Years ago a person, he was unhappy, didn’t know what to do with himself; he go to church, start a revolution, something. Today you’re unhappy? Can’t figure it out? What is the salvation? Go shopping.” Gregory fails to make an offer until the very end of the first part and just as they have agreed on a price, Walter shows up.

The second part is more about the brothers and years of resentment and bitterness bubbling over into angry scenes of confrontation. Walter waltzes in after sixteen years and takes over the deal much to Vic’s dismay. Both brothers have their own version of the past which has led them to where they are. Each brother believes that he has paid the greater price. The real truth about the father comes out in the end but it is too little, too late.

The production stars Barry McGovern, Fiona Bell, Denis Conway and J. Stadlen. All four actors/actresses play their parts to perfection. The play is engaging, at times both funny and touching.

The ending is reminiscent of the bitter, calculating old man who ruined his sons’ relationship as Gregory Solomon sits in his chair and laughs an evil laugh. Well worth a night out in The Gate – you won’t be disappointed.

gottour3

I spotted a voucher on Pigsback for a two for one deal for the Game of Thrones Winterfell day tour from Game of Thrones Tours and as it was my sister’s birthday decided it was the perfect treat for her as an avid Game of Thrones fan. Having never seen the series myself, I thought it would be a good day out. We met the bus @ 9am sharp for our departure in front of Jury’s Hotel, North Quay. It was my first time in the Port Tunnel – not that long or exciting but anything that gets the traffic away from the city centre is a good thing in my book. Susanna from Spain was our tour guide and she was more than a little nervous upon realising the majority of the bus was from Ireland. We hit the motorway and as it is not too scenic, Susanna told us some history relevant to Northern Ireland and the Viking invasions. The bus takes the scenic Mourne Coastway and we were lucky with the beautiful weather we had, the scenery was breathtaking. We had a short stop for fifteen minutes at a rest station in Castlebellingham for breakfast.

Stop 1. Winterfell/Castleward
Our first stop was the setting for Winterfell which was in Castleward, a beautiful Manor house on large grounds. To set the scene, Susanna played two videos from Game of Thrones post-production companies showing before and after the addition of special effects. There was the option of hiring costumes from the Game of Thrones and we received a sales pitch upon arrival. There was also the option of archery but this meant missing out on the walk. Susanna took us on a walk through the grounds pointing out scenery from Game of Thrones. These are clearly marked though and they appear to have a cycle trail around the grounds to DIY it. It took about 50 minutes and it was a bit rushed as we had been late arriving due to traffic and lunch was due for 1.30. I enjoyed the walk and the scenery and it built up an appetite for lunch. Lunch was soup and sandwiches followed by cake and tea/coffee. I found it a little disappointing as the sandwiches were on the stale side. Also the girl serving us informed us that we were only allowed one piece of bread and one cake per person which felt a little mean and inhospitable. The function room itself was dark and dreary looking but as it was so sunny, she opened the door onto the courtyard so we could sit in the sunshine.

Stop 2. Inch Abbey
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After being fed and watered, we left Castleward for our next stop, Inch Abbey, a beautiful, unspoilt monastic site in County Down in a tranquil setting. Susanna provided some more information on the Irish history at this time. She is certainly passionate about Irish history and knows her stuff. We took a short walk to the abbey and then went in search for a specific tree which the owner has since protected by erecting a fence supposedly to stop overzealous GoT fans from access. This was only a short stop before being herded back onto the bus. The setting is so peaceful and out of the way so I can see why it was chosen as a film location.

Stop 3. Tullymore Forest Park
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Our last stop of the day was Tullymore Forest Park in Newcastle, County Down. Another beautiful spot with breathtaking beauty covering an area of 630 hectares (1,600 acres) at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the sea. The entrance is quite impressive and the forest park is simply stunning. We did another walk, this time to the spot where the Starks discover a dead stag. Again, I enjoyed the walk through the forest park along the river. Lots of school tours were around and children were having lots of fun wading through the river. After our walk, we hopped back on the bus to head back to Dublin. We got to watch episode one of Game of Thrones which was a delight for me as I hadn’t seen it and passed the journey back to Dublin. It has left me wanting to watch the whole series now.

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I would recommend the tour for fans and non-fans of the show but think it could do with some tweaking especially lunch and time management issues. It is a fairly new tour only in operation for six weeks so there is bound to be some teething problems. Aside from that, I enjoyed the day and found the guide to be very knowledgeable and friendly. For dedicated fans of the show, I don’t know whether it contained enough about the show to hold their interest. I know my sister was dying to sit on the throne. The scenery in Northern Ireland is spectacular and the places we visited were all places I would recommend adding to your to-do list. We were lucky with the weather and not so sure I would have been equally as enthusiastic had it been bucketing down! One word of warning though, there is quite a bit of walking and some of it involves slight hills so wear runners. I’m not sure this was pointed out to people when booking as one girl was on a crutch and ended up not being able for the second walk. Also I would recommend bringing water for the walk in Tullymore Forest Park as there is no shop nearby and on a hot day, it is thirsty work. All in all, it was an enjoyable day trip to Northern Ireland and I would love to return to the spots to enjoy a more leisurely visit next time.

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frenchfoodiemovieclub
Fabulous food blogger and savvy business woman, Ketty, of French Foodie in Dublin [FFID] brings us a new night out with a twist, the Foodie Movie Club. The idea is that each month she chooses a different food themed movie screened in the private cinema in Brooks Hotel. I attended her last screening of Julie & Julia which proved so popular, I think she had to put on four separate screenings. It is the movie that inspired me to start blogging. You can read my review of the movie here. I also love Meryl Streep’s performance as Julia Child, an over-the-top, eccentric and exuberant chef and author of the best-selling cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

After popcorn and the movie, we headed en masse [well there were around 20 or more of us] around the corner to French restaurant, La Maison, on Castle Market. Through it’s red curtains and up the stairs to a private dining room where we dined on steaming pots of the most delicious French classic Boeuf Bourguignon. I had come on my own but quickly made friends with a fellow blogger, the lovely Marta of Cook It, Eat It, Love It. She has recently relocated to Dublin from Galway. The movie was a real talking point as was the luscious Boeuf Bourguignon complete with puff pastry surround which we demolished. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and I ended up staying way longer than I thought I would as I was enjoying myself. We happily ate and talked and laughed. I had to tear myself away reluctantly as I had work in the morning.

As Ketty says “It’s more than just watching a film, it’s about meeting people, enjoying food and building a community of those with a shared love of food and film.” Judging from the success of the night I went, it’s a concept that clearly works. I would heartily recommend it as a fun night out and going alone ensures you make some new friends.

This month FFID has selected the movie Ratatouille, the story of a little rat who dreams of becoming a French chef in Paris. The movie will be followed by an authentic ratatouille dish in French restaurant La Maison. There are two screenings on the 23rd and 28th of April – check out her website www.frenchfoodieindublin.com for further details and to make a booking.

cocktails
On Thursday 20th February, myself and the sis attended DublinTown and TGI Friday’s Movie Night as part of the launch of Dine in Dublin Week. I won tickets from DublinTown. We were treated to cocktails and finger food and a showing of that classic 80’s movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise. Apparently he did all his cocktail training in TGI Friday’s and it also features in the movie where he meets Doug Coughlin and learns the tools of the cocktail trade. It was held in the new TGI Friday’s located on Fleet Street which is well worth checking out. It is huge and I loved the little touches like the cox hanging from the roof and the funky pictures. It looks shiny and new and is a welcome addition to temple bar. All the cocktails were customised and inspired by the movie such as The Hippy Hippy Shake; Lady Jordan; Flanagans Pour and The Red Eye. The staff were most accommodating even bringing the sis mocktails as she was driving. One of the bar men also did a demo of the Tom Cruise moves, I think they called them flairing – most impressive! TGI Friday’s offer cocktail-making classes. I loved the movies – a blast from the past and we had a lovely night. We’ll be back to try more of the cocktails.

Be sure to check out Dine in Dublin for some great value meals in some of Dublin’s best restaurants. They also have a food pavilion outside The Central Bank on Dame Street from Monday the 24th February to Wednesday the 26th of February from 12-5pm. It runs until March 2nd.

Thanks to DublinTown and TGI Fridays for a lovely night.

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