09 October 2010

Open House Dublin: "Welcome to the house of fun"*

Yesterday I heard about Open House Dublin for the very first time. Running from Thursday through to tomorrow (7-10 October), this festival of architecture has apparently been on the go for years and, along with tours and events, sees some of Dublin’s most interesting buildings open for exploration by the public. And it’s all for free.

 
So this morning we rose early (for us) and set off into town to check out what was on offer. And fit in brunch and a spot of shopping along the way.

Our first stop was Elephant and Castle in Temple Bar. This is a popular brunch spot and it didn’t disappoint. It was busy and buzzy, our waiter was friendly and the food -- eggs benedict for me, eggs Idaho, pictured, for him -- arrived quickly and tasted great. There was a moment of panic when himself couldn’t spot tea on the beverages section of the menu, but happily (albeit a bit oddly) this turned up under ‘Starters’. As did my beverage of choice, ‘berry sorbet with strawberries and prosecco.’ Hell yeah.
baby grand piano in drawing room

  
After a quick purchase at the book market it was on to our first architectural pick, which was just around the corner. But despite being located amidst the general hubbub of Temple Bar, at 25 Eustace Street a sense of calm and history prevails.

This 3-floor Georgian townhouse, now owned by the Irish Landmark Trust, dates back to 1720 and is packed full of character, with its sloping floorboards, narrow proportions, high ceilings and panelled interiors. It was great fun to wander about and imagine living in Dublin back in the day. Our delightfully convivial hosts had even laid on a spread of tea, coffee, biscuits and assorted snacks.

Next up was a quick coffee stop. Since we needed to replenish our Nespresso supplies we decided to save a few pennies and take advantage of the complimentary coffee bar in the Brown Thomas Nespresso concession. The new limited edition, Kazar, is their strongest, most intense coffee yet so I played it safe by trying it as a cappuccino – delicious.

And the free beverages didn’t stop there. I wanted a quick peek at Whistles before we left, which is right beside the Quinn & Donnelly section. It just so happened that Q&D were showing their new collection so we were handed glasses of prosecco which we swigged while watching the end of the show.

Thus fortified, we were up for a bit more architectural goodness. Himself informed me that seeing the inside of the Custom House was apparently a lifelong dream…this may have been the prosecco talking, but we caught a lift over in one of those very handy little ecocabs to check it out.

He was a bit put out that so little of this impressive building -- home to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government -- was actually open to the public, but it was still enjoyable and we learned a lot about its history. For example, I wasn’t aware that the building, originally completed in 1791, was burned down in 1921 and subsequently rebuilt by the Irish Government.


Open House Dublin finishes tomorrow and I would strongly recommend. There’s loads on so check the website to see which buildings are taking part. Continuing with the Georgian theme, my picks would be the Palladian Residence on North Great George’s Street and the Georgian mews that was owned and converted by Irish architect Sam Stephenson. Unlike what we saw today, both need to be pre-booked: hit the website so you don't miss out.

*Post title: Lyric from Madness, 'House of Fun'


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