Dublin in Photos

When establishing the itinerary for this trip I had to choose between Dublin and Edinburgh for our starting point. I don't remember why I chose the former (maybe flights from Stockholm were cheaper), but I'm glad I did.

I was expecting a smaller version of London with nicer people and weirder accents, but oversimplifying the Irish capital that way would be doing the city a disservice. It's grittier than Stockholm, for sure - we may or may not have passed a trio huddled around a lit candle doing crack cocaine on the sidewalk one afternoon, but charming and beautiful in its own way what with all the cute houses, brightly painted doors, and sweeping public parks. The gaudy nightlife mecca Temple Bar is much less quaint, though I did enjoy catching a screening of The Killing of a Sacred Deer at the Irish Film Institute there. Most of the city's main attractions are within easy walking distance but, for the ones that aren't, the bus system is one of the best I've ever used. (And the buses have free wifi and charging stations!)

Dublin's food scene is much more Seattle or Portland than San Francisco, which I dread returning home to now that I know that there are places in the world where I can get just as good a meal at a fraction of the price. Highlights: beer-battered fish and chips at Fish Shop, classic pastas at Terra Madre, and the three-course prix fixe dinner for €27 at Camden Kitchen (because nearby Richmond was fully booked).

Some photos below. See the rest on Flickr.

Statue outside Christ Church Cathedral.

John's Lane Church, near our Airbnb.

John Dillon Street.

The Long Room at Trinity College.

St. Patrick's Park.

Interior of Kilmainham Gaol.

Gothenburg in Photos

The weekend before I left Sweden my roommate and I took a quick overnight trip to Gothenburg. Our co-workers (even those who hail from the west coast city) scoffed, asking us in that semi-sarcastic-but-mostly-serious tone, "But what are you going to do there?" She has extended family there; I have a friend and former co-worker. And since we worked opposite shifts and never saw each other at the apartment, it was a nice pre-goodbye girls' trip. We wandered, shopped, had afternoon tea, commiserated over our respective boy issues, etc.

Highlights: delicious Italian food at La Strega, all the chic AF design stores in and around Inom Vallgraven, coffee at Da Matteo, pastries with the chocolate likeness of Gustavus Adolphus (former king and founder of Gothenburg), Slottsskogen park.

Photos below.

Traditional sweets in old town.

Traditional sweets in old town.

City center.

City center.

Slottsskogen - think a Swedish version of Central Park. 

Slottsskogen - think a Swedish version of Central Park. 

One of two resident moose at Slottskogen. According to signs his name is Mooses.

One of two resident moose at Slottskogen. According to signs his name is Mooses.

Lil Sebastian.

Lil Sebastian.

Gustavus Adolphus Princess Cake.

Gustavus Adolphus Princess Cake.

Drottningholm Palace

Another weekend after another four-day, fifty-plus hour work week. Praise be. Blessed be the fruit, etc. etc.

Last week two of my dearest college friends were in town, so I got to show off the city I've come to know and love, make good use of my employee discount with the restaurant group's wine and cocktail bars, and cross some things off my Stockholm bucket list. 

Drottningholm Palace, about 45 minutes away from the city by public transportation, is the main private residence of the Swedish royal family. Situated on the island Lovön, it's similar to Fontainebleau in size and scale. Geometric, Last Year at Marienbad-esque hedges and manicured gardens (including a random off-leash dog park) surround the mansion. And, on the mid-morning weekday that we visited, it was gloriously empty.

Visitors are allowed to wander some of the palace's oldest and grandest rooms, as well as the Chinese Pavilion (a birthday gift to a previous monarch from her husband), with the purchase of a ticket, but the vast gardens operate as a public park. The 18 kilometer Antiquities Trail runs along the border of the entire property; my friends expressed interest but I was secretly glad that we opted not to do that.

Photos below. Click to enlarge.

Rear view of the palace.

Visitor's entrance.

Reverse shot from visitor's entrance.

Grand staircase.

Library goals.

Chandelier detail.

Theater, separate from main palace.

Front view.

Chinese Pavilion exterior.

Chinese Pavilion interior.

Foliage.

The gardens are dotted with statues like this one.

Chicago in Photos

When life hands you an invitation to a wedding in an obscure part of Indiana, you RSVP YES and immediately start planning your trip to Chicago, gastronomic mecca of the Midwest. Four days and as many nights was enough to just scratch the surface of what the city has to offer, though it would take at least a couple weeks to try all the restaurants that I wanted to.

Things we liked: river tour by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the food, Hamilton, the coffee, the 606, the International Museum of Surgical Sciences, food again, the American Writers' Museum.

Things we didn't like: ...

Photos below.

Marina City (aka the Corn Cob Buildings) by architect Bertrand Goldberg.

Marina City (aka the Corn Cob Buildings) by architect Bertrand Goldberg.

Mom and me at the Cloud Gate.

Mom and me at the Cloud Gate.

Revival Food Hall in downtown is an excellent lunch spot.

Revival Food Hall in downtown is an excellent lunch spot.

Street art.

Street art.

Library of the International Museum of Surgical Sciences.

Library of the International Museum of Surgical Sciences.

Original manuscript of  On the Road  below a map of Kerouac's travels at the American Writers' Museum.

Original manuscript of On the Road below a map of Kerouac's travels at the American Writers' Museum.

A biker on the 606, a former railroad line converted to public park.

A biker on the 606, a former railroad line converted to public park.

Saigon in Photos

We didn't spend nearly enough time in Saigon, but in our two days there managed to immerse ourselves in the city's smells, tastes and legacy. Our hotel, the Continental Saigon, dating back to 1880, was located just across the street from the opera house in an area dotted with architectural vestiges of the French colonial days. The double room I shared with my mother was cavernous and stately with ceilings of church-like proportions and a dainty sitting room area. At the same time, crossing the street away from the opera house brought on aggressively modern skyscrapers, designer stores, locals selling everything from street food to knock-off sunglasses, as well as hip new purveyors like the Gingko concept store. The city's disparate identities is perhaps best reflected in the fact that it has two names: Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon.

Like many other Southeast Asian metropolises, Saigon can best be described as organized chaos. Millions of motorbikes sort of, mostly, obey traffic lights and laws, at night forming an endless, slow-moving sea of lights amongst the honking cars. The bikes congregate ahead of the other vehicles at red lights, surging forward like an angry swarm the moment it turns green.

Despite the many many marks of history on the city's geography, it's also decidedly cosmopolitan - we passed many European designer stores, ethnic restaurants representing cuisines from around the globe, and even a subway project in conjunction with a Japanese company.

Photos below. 

Our first meal in Saigon - noodle soup at Pho 2000, made famous by Bill Clinton's patronage back during his presidency.

Our first meal in Saigon - noodle soup at Pho 2000, made famous by Bill Clinton's patronage back during his presidency.

City hall, with statue of Ho Chi Minh.

City hall, with statue of Ho Chi Minh.

A street vendor near our hotel.

A street vendor near our hotel.

Our hotel, another vestige of the colonial era.

Our hotel, another vestige of the colonial era.

A saleswoman portions coffee beans for a member of our group at a local market.

A saleswoman portions coffee beans for a member of our group at a local market.

Post office.

Post office.

A local purchasing fresh fruit.

A local purchasing fresh fruit.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.

Opera House.

Opera House.