Unique and quirky Siopa Gan Ainm –Shop With No Name – is located on the Coal Quay at
number 3 Cornmarket St, Cork city. This farm shop and café is open from Wednesday
to Saturday. It serves wholesome, honest-to-goodness local food. The shop sells
fresh-farm vegetables, meats, free-range eggs, cheese, milk, jams and honey as
well as being used in their dishes for breakfast, brunch, lunch and ‘high tea’.
This is where I go when I need to go to the city. The chef starts the day by
offering breakfast; there is something for everyone, whether you are in the
mood for a hearty breakfast or a light bite of French pastries such as
croissants. Drop in for your mid-morning coffee and scone. Lunchtime offers a
daily dish-of-the-day alongside the usual menu. Pop in for afternoon tea with a
slice homemade tart topped up with freshly whipped cream or a slice of cake;
there is a great selection of ‘leaf’ teas. Here you will find all local
produce, menus cater for vegetarians too. I usually enjoy the ‘veggie breakfast’
if I’m having an early lunch and I’m fortunate enough that it’s still being
served at that time of the day – the best poached eggs, just as I prefer them
otherwise my choice leans towards the ‘veggie toastie’.
There is a homely feel to the place. The owner and staff are friendly. Be aware that waiting times can be (but not always) a little long but please bear with them. Staff members are overseas students who want to improve their English. Once your plate is placed in front of you, you will not be sorry for the wait. Whether it’s the homemade soup or grilled sandwiches, the food is always tasty. The seating is colourful; tables are placed somewhat haphazardly as the place is small. Regulars have no problem sharing their table if needs be as it can get very busy; they enjoy a good banter. There is always someone to chat to; however, there are newspapers and books if you prefer to read. During the winter months there is a wood fire burning which brings a cosy atmosphere to the place. I enjoy having lunch there when I’m in town and usually indulge in some home baking afterwards. Drop in for a look and perhaps you’ll stop for a bite…
The shop is associated with the weekly
Saturday Framers’ Market, also located on the Coal Quay. From 9 am stalls are
erected; home-grown vegetables, homemade breads, goats’ milk and cheese,
locally-grown apples, and plants and flowers. So much to choose from… during
the summer season locals are delighted by the presence of Irish-grown summer
fruits – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries – scrumptious. And, to top all
that, pots of homemade jams are arranged alongside the wonderful-tasting
fruits. We are fortunate enough to be an island nation and, therefore, fresh
fish is easily available. All these family-run businesses are an inherent part
of Cork’s cityscape.
While I prefer exploring places
off-season for their authenticity, summer can have its benefits as it reveals
the connection locals establish with visitors. Coastal towns in summer are
vibrant. There is always some kind of festival going on; the connection with
the sea is significant to developing and enhancing these places and key to
Regatta… a word that evokes the coast, the sea, sailing boats… In Castletownbere, West Cork, the ‘Regatta’ takes place annually, on the first Monday of August – a Bank Holiday in Ireland. Let me take you on a trip down memory lane… It’s not sure when this event first emerged but many retired locals tell me that it is reminiscent of their childhood. I found newspaper articles referring to the ‘Regatta’ dating back to 1912.
A few people to whom I spoke recall a time when there were gig races only prior to the event becoming part of the wider Festival of the Sea. A lot of fishermen used to be involved; my dad recalls there being a specific fishermen’s gig.
Back to today’s event… there are both
senior and junior, ladies and men’s gig races taking place over the course of
the day. At intervals there are pillow fights, swimming races, greasy pole
among other fun events. The festival not only attracts tourists but also a
large number of the Castletownbere diaspora. The Regatta reveals a sense of
‘togetherness’. Fundamentally, this festival is about these people and for
these people − permanent residents and visiting members of the
Castletownbere diaspora − as a celebration of their maritime culture. People’s
attachment to their heritage is revealed through their regular return visits to
their native place.
It is a time and a place for all locals to meet and transmit the
local heritage to future generations. As many people do not meet with one
another outside of this festival due to professional and personal commitments
in addition to geographical circumstances it is through the act of socialising
during this festival that heritage and identity of the fishing community in
Castletownbere is maintained. The festival is important to fishing culture as
an agent that strengthens the ties between an increasingly dispersed
‘community’. It is interesting to observe these events take place. As crowds
watch the ‘unfolding’ of different events some gasp in awe at the tenacity of
certain competitors. The sheer resolve of the contestants offer a ‘theatrical
performance’ to the spectators.
People invest emotionally in these
events. Events like these reveal a collective sense of attachment to the pier
as a place for social gatherings. When the last gig race is patiently awaited you
can sense the excitement mounting. The atmosphere is electric, almost
emotional, especially when Castletownbere teams are involved in the final
effort to cross the line. So why not come visit us and experience for yourself
the Regatta, a day-long celebration of maritime culture which is part and
parcel of the wider Festival of the Sea.
I enjoy an early-morning walk; before breakfast,
especially during the summer time. I actually don’t do it very often as I
usually go for my daily walk at around 11 am but relish this early-morning
When both my sister and I are spending a few days
at our parents’ we always delight in our early morning activity, usually around
7h30 am. We fill a backpack with our bottles of water, a banana each and
sometimes our Mom’s homemade spelt scones with our Dad’s homemade blackberry
and apple jam. Delicious!
Always delighted to accompany us is my sister’s German Shepherd. Our usual walk is to the local strand which takes about 20 minutes. Then, we sit on a bench and have our ‘pre-breakfast’ and Darcy has his bowl of water. Depending on the weather we sit enjoying our time; mornings are always so tranquil. There is a certain peace about the place. We sit, watching and listening to the ebb and flow of the tide. Sometimes there are courageous swimmers and fishers out checking their pots. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Arriving ‘home’ we sit down to second breakfast and
a good strong cup of ‘real’ coffee. There is something innately therapeutic
about the sea, especially the ebb and flow of the tides that mirror, so to
speak, the comings and goings of everyday life. It’s good to appreciate and be
aware of the small and simple things in life that fill our minds with memories,
shared between two sisters.
Next time you find yourself on the coast, find a bench or anything that presents itself in the guise of a seat, and feel your ‘being’ in nature. Be part of the maritime landscape. Breathe in the briny sea air. Perhaps bring a yoga mat or even go for a swim; just 15 minutes of activity, as regular as possible, to increase your flexibility, strength, improve your health, relieve stress and possibly change your life. Once you start it becomes second nature…
I recently spent a week in Nice; it’s my second time there. I like to go
there during the off-peak season as it’s much quieter and there’s more of a ‘local’
vibe about the place. That said, the city is always dappled with both national
and international visitors. Anyway, as I strolled through Nice’s old district I
could almost feel a sense of Italy; an identity that remains connected to its
Italian origins. It must be said that during the course of most its history Nice
would swing between French and Italian dominance. You only need to raise your
head to appreciate the names over the shop-fronts. The myriad of restaurants,
cafés and other various establishments possess an ambience imbued with “all
things” Italian. By the way, for anyone wishing to taste some good pasta I’d recommend
La Favola, in Nice’s old quarter.
The Greek seafarers who established and settled in Marseille were those who founded Nice approximately three centuries BCE. The city was probably named in honour of a victory over a neighbouring colony – Nikē is the Greek goddess of victory. After the Greeks the Romans arrived in the first century CE and settled in the mountainous area behind Nice. By the tenth century, Nice was ruled by the counts of Provence when the House of Savoy of Northern Italy, who ruled from Turin, took over in the 13th century. It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that Nice would experience French occupation on several occasions. However, it wasn’t until 1861 when Napoleon III signed the Treaty of Turin that Nice definitively became part of France.
Sandwiched between the Alps and the Mediterranean – entre terre et mer – between land and sea, Nice enjoys an advantageous geographic situation. During the latter half of the 19th century the British aristocracy descended on Nice during the winter season to enjoy its douceur – mild – climate. The favourable climate of Nice and its hinterland continue to attract visitors from the world over. I hope I’ve given you a “taste” of Nice!
Back to my surname, that brings me to Baltimore, metaphorically, of course. I’d like to mention a book that i’m reading at the moment; it’s by Des Ekin, author of Stolen Village, a book that brings to light that sack of Baltimore, an intriguing story that occurred in 1631.
Back to the task in hand, the book I’m reading at the moment is Ireland’s Pirate Trail, the very name puts a smile on my face as my mom always says that the O’Driscolls were pirates; and, so they were, she is right in saying that but as a youngster it really wasn’t my ideal image of my ancestors!
Exploring our past is a great way to understanding our present, and who we are, and as such why we are…
My grandfather was a fish merchant and traded with France. My dad and his brothers were fishermen as were many of my cousins. Collectively, the family have an innate relationship with the sea and coastal environment. It’s in the blood as we say, we have salt in our veins.
You recall the sense of place I discussed in another post, an attachment that people establish with specific places, well for me, as long as I’m on the coast is what’s the most vital to me. Of course I have a strong connection to West Cork but just being able to see and feel the sea no matter where I find myself…
During my research in both Brittany and West Cork, many of the interviews and conversations held with locals highlight the importance of being in a coastal environment rather than being somewhere specific.