Dublin Gardens in the Spring

For several days this May we visited a number of gardens while in Dublin, Ireland. The weather was mostly good with one morning of rain when we headed out for the National Botanic Gardens. By the time we reached the gardens the rain had lifted.

The National Botanic Gardens – This is a really beautiful garden with a number of greenhouses matching several environments. There were greenhouses dedicated to orchids, another to tropical plants and another to desert flora. The outside gardens cover a number of acres and feature several different styles. Admission is free, there is a restaurant and gift shop as well as a number of special programs including lectures and concerts. If you have time while in Dublin do yourself a favor and go see this garden.

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National Botanic Gardens
Glasnevin Cemetery

Backed up to the Botanic Gardens is Glasnevin Cemetery and Glasnevin Cemetery Museum. The museum’s web site describes it as “the guardian and storyteller for over 1.5 million people. From the ordinary to the truly extraordinary, these people helped shape the Ireland of today. We want to share their stories and times with you through tours of the cemetery, a visit to the museum or through a genealogy search for your family history”. While in the neighborhood stop in at the well known Gravediggers Pub for a pint.

St. Stephen’s Green
St. Stephen’s Green
St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen’s Green is located in the heart of Dublin and is a focus in the area, and provides an oasis of green in the middle of this busy city. The Dublin Public Works web site describes this garden as “four centuries of history that are eventful and complex, involving such important figures as Arthur Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun, and Countess Constance Markievicz. The park itself hosts a large number of important sculptural monuments to Irish history. Many species of birds and plants also call the park their home. Public facilities at St Stephen’s Green Park include a playground and a garden for the visually impaired”.

Blessington Street Park
Blessington Street Park

Half way from the River Liffey to the National Botanic Gardens we stopped at the Blessington Street Park or “The Basin” and what a find. Located near the intersection of Royal Canal Bank and Primrose Avenue this is a beautiful and well kept pocket park surrounding a lake. After walking thru this park we thought how lucky the neighbors are to live next to this gem.

Blessington Street Park

 

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Cedar Key, A Piece of Old Florida

If you travel west on Florida State Road 24 from Gainesville to where the road ends, you find yourself in a bit of old Florida. Out in the middle of nowhere on Florida’s northwest coast is the little village of Cedar Key with its’ population of around 700.

A post office named “Cedar Key” was established here in 1845 and by 1860 Cedar Key became the western terminal for the Florida Railroad, connecting it to the east coast of Florida. The town grew as a result of the railroad but in the late nineteenth century when shipping terminals and a railroad line where built in Tampa, the town got passed by.

At the start of the twentieth century, fishing, sponging and oystering had become the major industries but, when the oyster beds played out, the town became primarily a draw for sport fishing. It probably looks much now the way it did sixty years ago but, behind the façade, there have been some changes. The town now has a thriving art community and attracts tourists to the galleries and shops and fishermen to the Gulf.

We made our first ever visit to Cedar Key in July of this year and, while the town has its’ appeal, summer is not the time to go as a good deal of the town is actually closed. When we went looking for a cup of coffee in the morning we simply could not find anything open. The town has a few coffee shops and a donut shop and they were all closed for vacation when we were there. There are only a few hotel/motels in town and none of them received much in the way of inviting reviews. The one we chose, The Beach Front Motel, was basic and nowhere near a swimming beach.

You arrive in the town as Florida 27 turns into D Street. It crosses 2nd Street which is the main thoroughfare and offers a number of nice shops. If you turn left on 2nd Street and in a block make a right on C Street you will find yourself heading toward the Gulf and Dock Street.

Back in town at the corner of D and 2nd is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant which is famous for award winning clam chowder. That was where we went for our first meal and we were not disappointed as the chowder was remarkable. You can also take some cans home with you or mail order later. If you are looking for white tablecloths and atmosphere in Cedar Key you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Along the waterfront on Dock Street there are a number of gift shops and five or six restaurants worth considering. We tried Steamers Clam Bar and Grill which offered a fairly extensive menu including lots of fresh seafood in both small plates and entrees. They also featured a nice selection of local craft beers and a full bar.

Cedar Key is not the sort of town you just discover since it is so far off the beaten track. There is very little in the way of a beach to draw people and nothing like a resort area vibe. Unless you are into fishing, it’s hard to think of a reason why you would spend more than a day here. There is one recommendation we would make, however. If you are spending time in north central Florida say near Gainesville, Cedar Key is an excellent choice for a day trip. It is less than an hour and a half drive. It has a character that reminded us of the Florida Keys thirty years ago – a laid back place with good seafood, fishing and salt air.  The town has a vibrant art colony and the galleries and craft/gift shops are worth perusing. Also, in winter when more things are open, we were assured that we would find more to make a trip off the beaten path worth the time.