Dublin v. Paris…

I’ve lived in Paris for two months now and I’m settling in rather well. Though sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I do in fact actually live here.

Since this is my second expat experience, I can’t help but compare Paris with Dublin. I’m not talking about who has better museums or a more picturesque countryside. That’s a comparison of tourist attractions. I’m talking about how these two cities stack up against each other when it comes to LIVING in them.

Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:

  • People – You’d be hard-pressed to find a population nicer than the Irish. They exude friendliness and it was one of the things I knew I would miss most. But, surprisingly given their reputation, the Parisians I have encountered have been almost shockingly friendly to me. My french is, in a word, appalling, yet whenever I must apologize that I don’t understand something because I’m new in Paris, I don’t get eye rolls or corrections on my accent. Most often, they ask where I’m from and compliment me for at least trying to speak french. It was a surprise and it’s been nice.
  • Landlords – So, those friendly people I was talking about? Landlords are excluded from this category – in Dublin and in Paris. However, my situation in Dublin was especially dire and it was the greed of my landlords that ultimately had me decide to make the move to Paris. Parisian landlords aren’t much better but at least in Paris the laws favor the tenant, whereas in Dublin, tenants are pretty much shit out of luck.
  • Weather – No one moves to Dublin or Paris for the weather, and I’m one of the very few people who actually didn’t mind the weather in Dublin. This freak-show of a winter notwithstanding, it doesn’t get too cold and the summers don’t get too hot. Paris is much the same, though for me, I think the edge goes to Dublin because every year Paris has the canicules (heat waves) where the temperatures soar and everyone, especially the heat-averse moi, becomes pretty miserable.
  • Food – Everyone knows that Parisian food is ridiculously good. But, I’ve been struggling with the food in Paris this time around. Since I moved here I’ve adopted a reasonably strict LCHF (low carb, high fat) way of eating (and I’m down 20 pounds, yo!). In Dublin, I feel like there were more LCHF choices and that restaurants were more willing to make substitutions. In Paris, with the pastries and the bread and the frites and the… well, let’s just say eating low carb can be a challenge. And restaurants are less willing to sub out something like potatoes for a salad or some veggies. Thank goodness that wine and cheese are both gloriously low carb.
  • Ease of Travel – Ireland is an island. There’s no way around that. So, if you want to go somewhere you need to get on a plane. Paris is much better located as a travel hub and being able to take trains to places like London or Amsterdam is amazing. I feel like I have all of Europe within reach now that I am in Paris.
  • Amazon – I was addicted to ordering from Amazon when I lived in the States. Sadly, Dublin only has access to the UK Amazon and it’s therefore very limiting and very expensive. Now that I am in Paris, I am back to my old Amazon habits. I have my french Prime membership and order just about anything I need in the click of a button. Oh Amazon, how I missed you.
  • Time Zones – I know, I know, how can one time zone be better than another? Trust me, they SO can be. Paris is only one hour ahead of Dublin but I was shocked at how big a difference that hour made. I still work mostly with people in the GMT or EST time zones. I’m forever confusing my schedule because I don’t know if calls are set for GMT or CET. And being one hour later means I usually end up working an hour later. I’m a GMT gal all the way!
  • Transportation – Paris has this one down. Even in a spring that is set to be riddled with strikes, it is so easy to get around this city using public transportation. The metro is one of the best in the world. And I’ve recently overcome my bus phobia and now take the Paris busses BY MYSELF on a regular basis. Dublin, for a european capital, has always sadly lacked in the public transportation arena. Apparently the LUAS lines are now joined up – that only took about 15 years. I took a bus in Dublin once and feared for my life the entire time. Never. Again.
  • Coffee – Some might find this shocking but the coffee in Paris is average at best. For a coffee snob like myself that borders on the tragic. Dublin, though, had great coffee. How I wish I could walk to Nick’s in Ranelagh right now for an americano.

So there you have it – my initial take on little bits of living in each city. Two cities I love. Two cities that are “home”. So, who wins?

Me.

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Goodbye to the Hill…

The other night I met my friend for a drink at The Hill pub in Ranelagh. The Hill is famous. It has been a part of Ranelagh since 1845. It even appeared in a book by Irish author Lee Dunne, called, Goodbye to the Hill. Every Dubliner, not just those living in Ranelagh, know it. Which makes it very convenient when I am telling taxi drivers or delivery people how to find my house – I literally live right around the corner from it.

The Hill has always personified the traditional old Irish Pub to me. While they only served little airplane bottles of wine, they poured one helluva pint of Guinness. The only food they served were tiny bags of peanuts or crisps. The bar was usually lined with regulars – male and well past seventy years old.

Since moving into this house, I’ve always brought my out-of-town guests to The Hill for a proper pint – and they’ve always loved it. I’ve developed a fondness for The Hill during my time in Ranelagh. It’s always been scrappy and unprententious – and rather empty. Part of its charm was knowing that I could walk in, even on a Saturday night, and there’d be a table (okay, several) available. Not being one for crowds, or even people, I loved this. But it’s hard to imagine how the owners made any money.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when I was there earlier this week I learned that The Hill is under new ownership and is now going to be a gastropub specializing in craft beers. I am not sure how I feel about this. I like that I can now order an actual glass of wine. I like a nice craft beer as much as the next person. And it’s still The Hill, so I think it’s safe to assume that their Guinness pour will remain unchanged. The kitchen isn’t operational yet but within a few weeks, they will serve what I’m sure will be lovely gastropub food, that I’ll probably enjoy more than the tiny packs of peanuts that made up the old Hill’s menu.

But as my friend and I were chatting, I noticed first one, then another, then a few more bearded, hair-gelled, skinny-jeaned hipsters walk in and make themselves at home – something I doubt they would have done during the previous Hill’s incarnation. It was all I could do to resist the urge to tackle them and take a razor to their stupid, pretentious faces.

I’m sure that I will drink and eat at this new Hill. I imagine I’ll still bring my out-of-town guests there. But I can’t help feeling that this change may not be for the better. Ranelagh has, I think, suffered quite a loss.

 

 

 

 

Dining out in Dublin: Fallon & Byrne

Those of you that know me know that I love wine.  So, it should come as no surprise that the wine cellar at Fallon & Byrne has become one of my favorite spots in Dublin.

Fallon & Byrne has a rather fancy restaurant on its top floor (€18 burgers) and a food hall on the ground floor where you can buy a box of Lucky Charms for €10.  But the wine cellar is surprisingly affordable (food ranges from €3.50 to €12.95) and makes for a really fun night out in Dublin – especially on Monday nights where you can buy any bottle of wine off the shelf and enjoy right there for only a €1 corkage fee.

Not surprisingly, the walls of the cellar are lined with bottles and bottles of wine.  And if you are there on €1 corkage night, the possibilities of what to try are virtually endless.  On one of my visits my friends and I made our way through three different Spanish reds – and there were only three of us at the table, you do the math. Even if you are not there on a Monday and don’t want to spring for the corkage, they have a nice selection of wines by the glass.

Now, while I am a wine lover, I am not a wine snob.  I’m happy to drink Two Buck Chuck if that’s what’s available (of course, if there’s an Opus One or Foxen that needs to be drunk, sign me up!). The Fallon & Byrne wine cellar is not a place where you must know your wines.  The servers are happy to give you suggestions or you can just wander and look at the walls and pick a bottle for no reason other than you like the drawing on the label.  This place is not pretentious or hipster or trendy.  It’s fairly casual and I find it quite cozy and welcoming.

Word of warning – while one obviously visits this wine cellar to enjoy the wine, do not forget about the food.  On that night of the Three Spanish Reds we really should have ordered more food to soak up some of the alcohol we were consuming.  They have all sorts of nibbly-type dishes to choose from – marinated olives, crostini with dips and of course, cheese and charcuterie plates.  And really, is there anything tastier than a glass of wine, some cured meat and a soft French cheese?  I think not.

The wine cellar at Fallon & Byrne has become one of my go-to places in Dublin.  If someone leaves it up to me to choose where to dine, chances are we will wind up here. And thus far, we’ve never been disappointed.

http://www.fallonandbyrne.com

don't forget the food!

                     don’t forget the food!

The wine cellar at Fallon & Byrne.
     The wine cellar at Fallon & Byrne.

 

Where everybody knew my name…

A few posts back, I reviewed a lovely little cafe in my neighborhood called Door 51.  I went on and on about how much I enjoyed this restaurant, how it was the first place I felt at home in my new neighborhood, how the owner and waitstaff already knew me by name. Even after starting work, I made a point of going in there at least once a week. I loved the food. I loved the people.  I loved Door 51.

But as of this past Tuesday, Door 51 is now NoodleMee – an asian fusion restaurant and take-away.  Imagine Norm going to Cheers and finding a sushi restaurant in its place. That’s how I felt.  I literally started crying when I saw that Door 51 was no more.

At first, I was worried that the owner had been forced out of business.  Luckily, that isn’t the case.  NoodleMee has the same owner and waitstaff, so no one lost their job.  But I lost my neighborhood hangout.

I wandered into Door 51 during my first week as an expat.  I was very lonely and very worried that I’d made a huge mistake.  The welcome I got there made me feel better, made me feel like maybe I was going to be okay, and that made Door 51 a very special place to me.  And now it’s gone.

I’m learning that, as an expat, places like Door 51 are important.  They help make me feel more at home in this new city, they keep me connected to my community, they give me a place to go if I’m feeling lonely.

So, I’m actively seeking a new place to call my own – preferably one that serves american-style bacon..

 

Dining Out In Dublin – Tribeca

My neighborhood of Ranelagh has no shortage of really lovely restaurants, ranging from cozy cafes and sandwich shops to high-end steak joints. But there is one particular restaurant in Ranelagh that is somewhat of a Dublin institution: Tribeca.

Tribeca is tremendously popular.  So popular that we even had a bit of a hard time getting a reservation for a Sunday afternoon.  They are known in particular for one specialty: chicken wings!  That’s right, the girl from Buffalo lives right down the street from the most popular wing place in Dublin.

But how would the Tribeca chicken wing hold up when tasted by the wing connoisseur that is myself?  We shall see.

The place was packed when we walked in, and it smelled like chicken wings.  You Buffalo peeps know what I’m talking about – that combination of fried chicken and hot sauce that invades your nostrils and clears your sinuses.  Ah, the smells of home!

I was surprised when I ordered the wings that I wasn’t asked how spicy I wanted them, but I decided to just go with it and try the wings exactly as Tribeca makes them.  A bit later, a heaping basket of wings was placed in front of me.  Seriously, the order is huge.  And, happy happy joy joy, they came with a side of bleu cheese (no ranch, no honey mustard, no other heathen dipping sauces) and two large celery stalks (not the celery sticks a purist like me prefers but better than nothing or, gasp, carrot sticks).

And the wings were good.  Quite good, actually.  I’ve noticed that Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is available in grocery stores here so I think Tribeca is the real deal when it comes to the hot sauce recipe they use.  The wings weren’t as big as what you’d get from Duff’s or Big Daddy’s or any other pizza joint in the greater Buffalo area, but honestly, those mutant wings worry me sometimes.  Can you imagine the size of the chickens with those wings? Genetic engineering at it’s finest.

So, while they were smaller, they tasted really, really good.  For me, I would have wanted them quite a bit hotter and the next time I go, I will ask for extra, extra hot.  But in fairness, you are talking to a gal who wants her eyes to water when she eats her wings and I don’t think Dubliners are there yet.

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that I can get a little taste of home just down the road.  Now, if they only delivered…

Tribeca, the famous Ranelagh wing spot.

Tribeca, the famous Ranelagh wing spot.

http://www.tribeca.ie

Dining Out In Dublin

I was talking to my dad last night and he said I should do some “Dining Out In Dublin” blog posts and I really liked the idea.  Some of you may know that I’ve done a wee bit of food writing for some online publications so this isn’t entirely new to me.  Besides, it’s my blog, I can write whatever I want, right?!

I’m not going to post any bad reviews.  If I go someplace and don’t like it, I’m just not going to write about it.  There’s enough negativity out there without me adding more.  But if I go to a place that I do like, I will let you know all about it.  I’m not sure if anyone who actually lives in Dublin is reading this blog, but maybe they will find a new place to try for dinner or brunch.  And when any of you come to visit me (hint, hint) you’ll have an idea of what you’d like to try.

So without further adieu, I present to you, my dear readers,

“Dining Out In Dublin: Door 51 Cafe”

Door 51 Cafe is one of the first restaurants I tried in my new neighborhood of Ranelagh. The fact that I’ve only lived in this neighborhood for two weeks and already have enough stamps on my frequent diner card to get a free sandwich and coffee is a clear indication of how much I love this place.

Door 51 is the neighborhood cafe I have always wanted to have on my doorstep.  It’s welcoming and homey, with only about 12 tables.  I’m already on a first name basis with the owner and wait staff and, perhaps most importantly, the food is great.

They serve breakfast all day and the menu is pretty extensive for such a small place.  The traditional Irish breakfast is offered of course, but also pancakes, french toast and omelets. And most joyous of all, they serve “crispy bacon” which is the American style bacon I covet so badly over here.

I’ve been working my way through the lunch menu which consists of sandwiches, soups, salads and the like.  Thus far I’ve had the burger, chicken club and BLT – all featuring crispy bacon, and all delicious.  And just yesterday, on a blustery Dublin afternoon, I tried the traditional Irish comfort food – bangers and mash with onion gravy.  In a word, yum!

Right now, Door 51 is only open for breakfast and lunch, but I’ve been told that they are soon going to be open in the evenings as a wine bar and I cannot wait.  What a lovely place to go for a glass of wine and a bite after a long day at work.  So, if you are ever in Ranelagh, check this place out.  Chances are I’ll already be there at my usual table.

Door 51 Cafe, where everybody knows my name. 🙂

http://www.door51ranelagh.com