Dublin, Je t'aime: French Foodie in Dublin on life in the capital
Better known as the French Foodie In Dublin, Ketty Elizabeth is an award-winning blogger who's made Ireland her home. Here, she writes about why she's fallen for the Fair City
Originally from France's Loire Valley, I wanted to live in an English-speaking country ever since I started learning the language in school. I still remember clearly the day when, at age 15, I told my best friend I wouldn't end up living in France.
After studying tourism in college I left the Loire Valley to live in London. I had planned on staying nine months but only survived three. The city itself was too big and impersonal as well as being very expensive, so I moved back to France to work in the hotel industry in Paris.
In October 2004, while living in Paris, I came to Dublin for a weekend. I absolutely fell in love with the city, it was so lively, young, cosmopolitan and vibrant. Just like this weekend's big Six Nations clash, there was a match that weekend - Ireland versus France. You can imagine how exciting it was for me to discover the atmosphere of a real Irish pub filled with green-jerseyed soccer fans.
On my return to France I remembered my childhood dream of speaking English fluently, so I thought to myself: "Why not?" Two months later, I packed my bags and flew to Dublin on a one-way ticket.
I arrived a few weeks before Christmas, which is one of the reasons I loved the city straight away. The atmosphere was so festive, people were singing carols on the streets and all the shops played a loop of Christmas music. I had never experienced anything like that Irish Christmas when I lived in France. People seemed so much more cheerful and easy-going than in my own country.
Moving from France to Ireland was pretty straightforward and I immediately discovered that things were less complicated here. I arrived when the Celtic Tiger was still roaring and within two weeks I found a job in the tourism industry and a place to live. I was so amazed to see how easy it was to get a PPS number and to rent an apartment. In France, the bureaucracy can be a nightmare and everything takes so long, with loads of paperwork involved.
I had lots of fun for the first few weeks, getting used to the Irish accent and discovering the city and its unique cultural assets. I found it weird that you needed the exact change for the bus and I couldn't believe the size of an Irish breakfast - but I quickly got used to these quirks!
I also had to go to a GP the first week I was here and discovered that the healthcare system was completely different from my homeland. In France, I never had to pay for a consultation with a GP and most of the prescription medicines were refunded. It's one of the few things I still miss about home.
When I started my first job here I thought that the working environment was much more relaxed and less formal than in France. People going to the pub with their colleagues and office parties are perfectly normal here, whereas in France people don't mix too much with their co-workers.
Dublin is a popular Erasmus (study abroad) destination so I met people from all over Europe who were here to study and party. Lots of students lived in my building and, about four weeks after I landed in Ireland, during a dinner party at a neighbour's apartment I met an Irish man who lived just two floors above me.
Ten years later we're still together and engaged (readers of my blog will know him as Mr FFID). I think he's the main reason why I never left Dublin. He is also the reason why I felt so immersed in the Irish culture pretty quickly.
Being with a local certainly made me feel at home quicker but it wasn't the only reason that I loved living in Dublin straight away.
I've been living here for 10 years now. The first few years I saw Dublin through the eyes of a tourist but eventually I realised I would be here for good. Unlike France, I feel like I belong here: each time I fly back from France after a holiday and I see the island of Ireland from the plane I get goosebumps.
Dublin is such a wonderful city to live in and over the last few years my love for it has grown. This was one of the reasons I started my food blog in 2012, to highlight the burgeoning food scene and as an ode to the city itself. Of course it is not all about food, there are lots of things I love about the Irish capital. Here are just a few:
A human-sized capital city
Unlike London or Paris, the city centre is quite compact and you can walk everywhere within minutes. After living here a while you bump into the same faces on the street and it maintains something of a small-town atmosphere.
Other cities can be cold and anonymous, I don't feel like that here. Now it's even better because you can rent a Dublin bike if you wish to cycle around the city instead of walking, so nothing is more than a few minutes away.
It's true that the main thing that helps Dublin stand out from other cities is its people. I have always found Dubliners to be warm and friendly and that makes a huge difference. I'm still amazed by how good Irish people are at chit-chat or starting conversations on public transport, in a pub or even in a shop. You often see locals helping tourists who are struggling with their maps. While we see this as normal this doesn't happen in Paris.
The Street Art
Street art is something that I particularly love about Dublin and I'm happy to have seen it really taking off over the last few years. There are some great areas for street-art spotting such as Camden Street, around the Bernard Shaw Pub (inside their courtyard too), along the Luas lines in Smithfield and in some of the alleyways in Temple Bar. Talented artists such as Maser, ADW and Solus are among my favourites.
The Irish Pubs
Yes it's a cliche, but there is something unique about an Irish pub, the warmth and the cosiness combined with the banter. I like the Long Hall on South Great George's Street, Kehoe's on South Anne Street and the Stag's Head for their beautiful interiors as well as their traditional feel.
Live music and busking
I'm always amazed by the fact that so many Irish people can play a musical instrument. It seems that wherever you are in Dublin, music is present. You can find live music every night of the week either in your local pub or in some of the bigger venues such as Whelans or Vicar Street. But in Dublin you don't even have to go looking for music. The lcoals may take it for ganted, but I love walking down Grafton Street on a Sunday afternoon, enjoying the raw talent of the buskers as they entertain crowds of shoppers.
Christmas time in Dublin
Christmas time always reminds me of when I arrived in Ireland. That's why it will always be my favourite time of the year in the city. The Powerscourt Town Centre and Grafton Street are so pretty with all the lights, and the atmosphere is magical. I rarely go to France for Christmas as I prefer how the Irish really embrace the Christmas spirit.
My absolute favourite park in Dublin has to be Phoenix Park. It's great to have a huge green space so close to the city centre where you can go to walk, cycle, jog or picnic. St Stephen's Green on a sunny day at lunchtime can be pretty special and I like when there is something on in Merrion Square or the Iveagh Gardens during the summer months.
I like browsing through markets at the weekend. The Dublin Flea Market, which takes place on the last Sunday of every month in the Dublin Co-op, is brilliant. I also love the quirky atmosphere of the Ferocious Mingle Market on Camden Street. In terms of food markets, the Temple Bar Food Market in Meeting House Square every Saturday has some great food on offer.
Being beside the sea
Being from a land-locked part of France, I feel blessed to live so close to the sea. When the sun is out at the weekend I'm likely to be found running along Sandymount strand, doing the cliff walks in Howth or enjoying Dun Laoghaire's pier. There are some lovely spots with stunning views and the DART trip down to Greystones is just beautiful.
The food scene
My specialty! As well as writing about food in my blog, I also run food tours and workshops in Dublin. The food scene has considerably improved over the last few years and now Dublin is full of exciting cafes and restaurants. During the Celtic Tiger it was a little difficult to find good, affordable food but nowadays I believe you can find some great value for money. A host of new independent cafes such as the Fumbally and Brother Hubbard have completely changed the cafe landscape in Dublin. Some of my favourite restaurants, such as Forest Avenue or Mulberry Garden, are those that focus on showcasing the best of Irish artisan food produce through beautiful inventive dishes.
You can read my ongoing culinary adventures - and, indeed, my ode to my adopted city - on my blog, frenchfoodieindublin.blogspot.ie.
A taste of France in Dublin
There is actually plenty of France to be found in Dublin, you just need to know where to look. Here is a selection of some of my favourite places in Dublin that are perfect for lovers of all things French.
1 Kildare Street, Dublin 2
If you're a Francophile or just looking to brush up on your French, the Alliance Française, the French cultural centre on Kildare Street, is a must-visit. You can take French classes, eat in their café (La Cocotte) or even borrow French books and movies from their library upstairs. They regularly organise French-themed events on their premises which are perfect if you are interested in French culture.
133 Lower Baggot Street and 1 Palace Street, Dublin 2
With two restaurants in Dublin city centre (Palace Street and Baggot Street Lower), Chez Max is a favourite amongst French expats and French food lovers alike. Both restaurants transport you to a Parisian bistro with a menu featuring traditional Gallic dishes at very reasonable prices. The front outdoor space of the Palace Street branch is particularly good for people-watching - a traditional French pastime.
Brown Thomas, 88-95 Grafton Street, Dublin 2
Luxury Parisian macaron brand Ladurée is located on the top floor of Brown Thomas on Grafton Street. Not only do they sell a selection of delicious macarons but also chocolates, French biscuits and teas. Their branding is stylish and the products make great foodie gifts.
Castle Market, Dublin 2
For a romantic French meal La Maison restaurant on Castle Market is spot on. With its vintage-framed French posters on the walls, the covered front terrace and immaculate white table clothes, it's chic but without being too formal. There is a good mix of fish and meat dishes and a delicious tarte tatin made for sharing.
30 Drury Street, Dublin 2
Cocoa Atelier is a beautiful chocolate shop on Drury Street. It may be Parisian looking but all the chocolates are handmade and hand-decorated in their chocolate laboratory in Dublin 12. They also have French-style pastries such as éclairs, chocolate tartlets and opera cakes. Their French macarons are absolutely divine and their hot chocolate is one of the best in Dublin.
L'Occitane en Provence
15 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2
With its yellow facade and a bicycle basket filled with lavender, l'Occitane brings a little bit of Provence to Dublin. This French shop can be found at a few different locations in Ireland and sells quality beauty products.
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud
21 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2
This is the place to visit for a special occasion, the food is perfectly executed and the service is impeccable. Also, the cheese trolley is filled with French and Irish cheeses - c'est magnifique!