Libreria Acqua Alta | Venice

Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta
I remember finding out about this bookshop while watching a documentary on Venice during wintertime with my mum last year. I found it hard to believe that such a place existed in real life and was not a part of a film set. So when I went to Venice last January, I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes. It was actually one of the first thing I ticked off my ‘to-see-list’. It’s no easy feat to locate the Libreria Acqua Alta, like most places in Venice, really. I was walking on a shopping street, literally about to give up, when I stumbled upon a little square, or campiello as they call it there. At the back of it, an arched entrance, lit up from inside, seemed to invite me in. Could it be it, I thought, trying to match what I saw with my televised memory. ‘Welcome to the most beautiful bookshop in the World‘ says a sign… Surely, if one bookshop could legitimately claim this title, it had to be the one I saw in the documentary. So, in I went!
Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta
Once inside, there couldn’t be any confusion. I was indeed standing in the aptly-named Libreria Acqua Alta I had seen on my screen a few months earlier. Towers and towers of second-hand books standing in bathtubs, gondolas, crates and other little boats. All at the ready for the next flooding or Acqua Alta (literally meaning high water). As the bookshop stands just on the bank of the canal, it gets flooded during those extreme high tides that Venice experiences during Winter. If you go at the back of the shop, there’s a little corner with a couple of chairs facing an opening on the canal (the ‘fire escape’, see picture above), you can see there already the water dangerously licking the wall of the shop.

If you want to have an idea what the shop looks like during high tide, talk to the dapper owner who wears a tricorn. He’s super chatty and friendly and will happily show you pictures he took of his shop flooded. He will also make sure that you saw all the ‘best bits’ of the shop: the aforementioned fire escape, the courtyard with the staircase made of books (which you can actually climb!), a trippy 3D Venice picture and other bits and bobs…
Libreria Acqua AltaLibreria Acqua Alta

Also, this shop gets extra bookish points for all the cute cats roaming around. I feel like this place has been dreamed and imagined by every book-lover in the world. I wish I had bought a book so I can have a physical memory of this wonderful place but I was silly, too busy taking pictures and filming (multitasking is not my strong suit obviously). I did spot a selection of books in the English and French language so the shop is also catered to tourists. That is if you’re ready to rummage through boats and gondolas of books!

Libreria Acqua Alta

Practical Information

Libreria Acqua Alta
Campiello del Tintor
Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa, 5176
Castello, 30122

Opening Hours: 9am -8pm (every day)

Vaporetto: Ospedale

Mount Jerome Cemetery | Dublin

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

I thought it was about time to get this blog in the Halloween mood, and what better way than a visit to the cemetery. I personally love visiting them, especially during Autumn.
Mount Jerome is very much in the shadow of its big sister, Glasnevin Cemetery (Dublin’s biggest cemetery) but I think it deserves a bit of the spotlight. It’s a beautiful slice of Victorian Dublin. It’s often compared to Highgate Cemetery in London and Paris’Père Lachaise and rightly so, it gives off the same sort of moody derelict atmosphere.
It’s an impressive example of Victorian architecture and symbolism, it even features quite a few famous Dublin characters as well as a very spooky vault…

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome was created in the early 19th century as an answer to the worryingly increase of deaths due to the cholera outbreaks of the time. Despite being non-denominational in its original plan, it quickly became the Protestant cemetery.
You see Mount Jerome was located right in the middle of a rich and affluent neighbourhood of Dublin. Walking through the cemetery’s old part today, you can admire the big vaults and tomb stones of the rich families of the time.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome had to wait until the 1920s and the establishment of the Irish Free State to see its first Catholic burial. Since then, beautiful Celtic crosses have stood alongside Victorian features (urns, angels, wreaths, obelisks and other Egyptian inspired structures). And if you look closely, you could even spot some masonic symbols (skulls and hands).
My favourite kind of memorials though are the ones that tell a little story about the deceased. On top of one of the structures stands a howling dog, it is said that the animal was found inconsolable on the shoreline where his master had drowned (see picture below). Or there is this vault which was fitted with a bell and a chain for a lady who had the phobia of being buried alive.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome has also quite a few famous residents. First off, keeping with the Halloween theme, there is Sheridan Le Fanu, a writer specialised in ghost stories. He is one of the founder of the genre and was a huge influence on his peers, most notably Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. You may have seen a google doodle dedicated to him recently as this year marks his bicentenary.
The cemetery counts also among its ranks playwright J.M. Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World, the Guinness family vault and Oscar Wilde‘s father. You will find on Mount Jerome’s website handy maps (1 & 2) that will help you plan your visit and locate all the memorials that spike your interest.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Did you know that the real Mr Darcy was Irish? His name was Thomas Langlois Lefroy and he rests in a vault just next to the chapel in Mount Jerome. This member of the bar from Limerick had a few flirtatious encounters with Jane Austen. She was so deeply impacted that it is said she based Pride and Prejudice‘s brooding hero on her Irish suitor.

When I was a teenager, I used to have volleyball training just next to a cemetery. One evening my friend (hi Sandra, if you’re reading!) and I found out that there was a passage between the stadium and the cemetery and sneaked inside.
I may sound like the biggest chicken but walking in a graveyard at night is quite terrifying. We barely dared looking inside the vaults through the stained windows. I remember having to hold my breath while my eyes were getting accustomed to the darkness until I could discern the lines of a thankfully empty room.
Had I have to look into the Dycer vault in Mount Jerome then, I’m pretty sure my heart would have stopped on the spot. Even in clear daylight and knowing well what’s inside, I can’t help breaking into cold sweat when my eyes are met with those of a gawping skeleton with a twisted spine.
The vault belongs to Edward Dycer, a veterinarian surgeon from 19th century Dublin but apparently those bones are one of his relatives’.  The reason they are exposed is due to the fact that the coffin hadn’t been lined with lead.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of this jewel of Victorian Dublin. What do you think of visiting cemeteries? Is that something you do on holidays when discovering a new place? Or do you find it too creepy? Or maybe disrespectful? I’d love to read what you think on the subject.

 

Mount Jerome Cemetery

Practical Information

Mount Jerome Cemetery – website
158 Harold’s Cross Road
Harold’s Cross
Dublin

Bus: 9, 16, 49 54A

Opening Hours: 8.30am – 4pm (Mon-Sat) / 10am – 4pm (Sun & Bank Holidays)

Admission: Free

Bram Stoker Festival 2013 | video

Bram Stoker Festival 2013 Dublin
Bram Stoker Festival Dublin Castle Bridal Gowns

About a month ago, it was time for Dublin to paint the town in the brightest crimson in honour of its celebrated writer, Bram Stoker. And most specifically, his most famous work Dracula. It is only the second year of the festival but it already feels like a permanent feature of Dublin’s calendar as the event fits so perfectly with the Fair City’s gothic backdrop.

bram stoker festival 2013 dublin castle
Bram Stoker Festival Skeleton

Many events were organised across town (check the ones I was most excited about): a horror film marathon, an opera, themed walking tours, vampire hunts, discussions around the book, street performances, etc… I think it is a great introduction to Dublin’s charms, especially at that time of the year (Halloween) as an extra exciting atmosphere surrounds the cobbled streets, many landmarks get lit in red  and who doesn’t like bumping into vampire enthusiasts?!

Dracula's Bride Bram Stoker Festival

So I decided to take my camera and take you along to two events from this year’s festival: a reading of Dracula in the majestic Saint-Patrick’s Cathedral and a pyrotechnic show in Dublin Castle. Hope you’ll enjoy the ride!

Practical Information

The Bram Stoker Festival takes place the last week-end of October.
www.bramstokerfestival.com

7 things that make me excited about the Bram Stoker Festival

Bram Stoker Dracula

Who didn’t know that the myth of the terrifying Count of Dracula was created by an Irish man? *Raises hand shyly* Shockingly maybe, it only came to my realisation last year when I saw all the posters and advertisements for the Bram Stoker’s festival in Dublin. Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, changing the landscape of horror fiction forever. He is relevant today more than ever if you were to judge the massive popularity of vampires in pop culture. And this year, I’m ready to discover the dark side of Dublin and get to know Mister Stoker. The festival is held over 3 days from the 26th to the 28th of October, making it an unmissable runner-up to Halloween. Here are the 7 things I’m most stoked about the festival :

1. Reading the book

The festival is giving me the push I needed to finally tackle the classic. I’m about a quarter in and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! It is funny how the descriptions of the Count’s castle and its surroundings feel all too familiar, I didn’t realise how much the myth had seeped into my subconscious. It is also the perfect time of the year to read scary stories, the autumn air smelling of bonfires, a onesie, a hot cuppa; and I am in book heaven.

2. Firing up

The festival is setting up a fire garden on the Dublin Castle grounds. It is bound to be epic against the backdrop of the imposing structure.
More information and registration here

3. Shivering in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Readings of Dracula in the heart of the mother of all cathedrals accompanied by a choir, an organ and all by candlelight. If this isn’t proper goosebumps material, I don’t know what is.
More information here

4. Dressing up!

You can’t celebrate vampires and the undead without whipping out the white paint, the fake blood and the plastic teeth, amirite?! Walks and hunts are organised on the pavements of Dublin, in which you can partake wearing your best attire. Several pubs in the Dame Street district will also join in the celebration and open their doors to devilish bloodsuckers.

5. Getting to see my first opera (and for free)

Yes, I’m thirty and I never ever been to the opera. A vampire opera performed in a Church sounds like an excellent place to start!
More information and registration here

6. Joining in a horror film marathon

Iconic Vampire movies in an open air cinema in the centre of Dublin’s old Town sounds like a deadly plan!
Film programme here

7. Meeting the giant skeleton

This is pretty self-explanatory…. look at his cute little face though!
Check where you’ll be able to spot him here

Do you plan to go to the Bram Stoker’s festival next week? What are you looking forward to the most? You will find all the information and event programme over at the Bram Stoker Festival website.

PS: Keep your eyes peeled for my video of the event!

Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel

Bit of a strange one, a hotel as a tourist destination? Well, it doesn’t seem so strange when you’ve passed one of the many front doors of the Raffles Hotel. Its colonial grandeur impresses. You’ll soon get lost in the maze of floors and halls featuring quaint little boutiques, museums, bars and everything a guest on a luxurious  stay could dream of.
Built in 1887, the Raffles Hotel holds many stories. Upon researching the place, you’ll be sure to be impressed by its famous guests. Somerset Maugham is said to have written some of his stories after overhearing conversations in the courtyard. Ernest Hemingway was a frequent patron of the Long bar, where the famous Sling cocktail was concocted for the first time. Other names include Charlie Chaplin, Rudyard Kipling and Alfred Hitchcock.

I loved wandering around the hotel halls and looking over the courtyard where people were glamourously sipping cocktails and eating shrimps. For a second, you might forget where you are and think you’ve gone back in time but a slight tilt of the head towards the sky and the Singapourean skyscrappers will remind you what year it is. They certainly offer a a surprising contrast with the hotel’s historic stones.
Several hours can be spent amidst the hotel’s walls, lazing about, admiring the pretty shop signs, drinking and gossiping, … they certainly won’t be lost and who knows, come night time, you might see a glimpse of Hemingway’s ghost mumbling to himself down one of the many Raffles halls.

Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel

Practical Information

1 Beach Road
Singapore
189673
http://www.raffles.com/singapore/

MRT: Esplanade