The Bram Stoker Festival

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Now that it’s December and the holidays are upon us, what better time is there to talk about Halloween festivities?  Why none I say!

Thanks to a very hectic November schedule (here’s looking at you Nanowrimo and CTYI) I wasn’t able to write here very often.  I’ve been holding on to a post from an adventure Mister S and I had back on the last week of October.  Looking for something to do for the long weekend, and for the only weekend I’d have off for the next 6 weeks, we started to look at events in nearby cities.

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And boy were we in luck!  It turns out that from the 23rd until the 26th of October it was the Bram Stoker Festival!  For those of you who don’t know, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, was from Dublin Ireland even though the setting of Dracula was not in Ireland.  A rather new event to Dublin, the festival has only been around the last 3 years.  The whole city gets filled with costumes and vampire  capes.

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We looked at the schedules and made up a schedule of fun!  We took the train early Saturday morning and dropped off our bags at our AirBnB house and hit the road.  I had heard about the Dublin’s Merchant’s Market a few times on Adverts (Ireland’s Kijiji) and was informed that it was a place that was chock full of vintage items and cheap fabric.  What the websites didn’t tell me was all the brilliant wall murals that made up the path to the Market!

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It was a nifty market.  I was shocked by all the things we found there!

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DSCF6899It makes me wish that I had actual money in order to buy pretty things.

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DSCF6908That said, I did buy some pretty pink linen, thread, and a vintage dress pattern.  I made Mister S wait as I sifted through 3 messed up boxes of patterns looking for the right one.

My favourite Bram Stoker Festival poster.  This one teaches you how to say 'Bite Me' in Irish

My favourite Bram Stoker Festival poster. This one teaches you how to say ‘Bite Me’ in Irish…just don’t ask me how you pronounce it

We spent much of our first day finding Mister S. a suit for upcoming interviews *fingers-crossed*.  The ‘Goths vs. Zombies’ dance off was sadly a no-show.  That’s alright though, because Mister S. got a great suit and that night we were off to Literary Death Match!

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I saw this one on the list of events and knew that we had to go to it.  The format of it was that they brought in 4 writers and each one had to prepare a piece to present.  They were split into groups of two and then the three judges from Dublin would pick one from each group to compete in the finale.

DSCF6943The event was held at the incredible Smock Alley Theatre.  It was a stunning venue.  They had free wine upstairs and a small gallery where people could walk around and wait for the theatre to open.

DSCF6954It was a small venue with seating along three sides of a ground level stage.  All the views were grand though.  Best part of it?  The seats were all high enough that no matter how tall the person sitting in front of you was you would still be able to see!  As a shortie, this is exciting.  DSCF6958

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DSCF6960Here was our winner of the night.  He did a great piece he wrote about Vampires in Dublin.  Personally though, I thought that someone else should have won, but that’s my own personal opinion.  My biggest complaint about the competition was that one girl who made it to the finale got there by performing some poetry that she had written before the event.  Now, that would be fine, but none of her pieces were anything at all related to the Macabre-themed event.  It was different which is why she made it through, but it was sort of a skewed judgment.  Long story short, it was so much fun and in a great venue.  I would definitely go again.

DSCF6963As we were leaving the theatre, Mister S. and I got pulled over to be asked some questions for a radio station that was covering the events of the festival.  My voice may have been on Irish radio ^^

DSCF6974The next day Mister S. and I joined up with the Macabre Walking Tour.  I had to buy the tickets four days before the event because all four of the tours on Saturday and Sunday sold out.  The tour was put on by Pat Liddy Walking Tours.  We were in luck because our tour was led by none other than Pat Liddy himself!  He owns the tour company and employs 12 other guides to lead people through the city.

DSCF6977We were led around the city center of Dublin and were shown the ‘haunted’ locations.  One of which was this Rubrics Building in Trinity College.  It’s rumoured that teacher Edward Ford, who resided in house number 25 haunts the campus.  Since I had done the walk more than a month ago, I’m going to take an excerpt from the Trinity News website:

“A college fellow and famous academic, Ford occupied House 25 of the Rubrics building. As controversial as he was talented; he was described by one colleague as an “obstinate and ill-judging man.” One evening, a group of typically rowdy Trinity students threw stones at his window, rousing him to anger. Pulling out a gun and muttering profanities, he shot into the taunting crowd. Although uninjured, the group was furious and decided to retaliate. Having collected their (illegal) firearms, they returned to fire through his window. Unfortunately, the prank was fatal, as Ford died from his gushing wounds. To this day, a man dressed in a wig, gown and high knee breeches wanders beyond the rubrics at dusk. Often taken for a misguided arts student, he ambles down to Botany Bay before fading into the air.”

Pretty neat, huh?

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Fun little story, the provost of Trinity College from 1888 until 1904, George Salmon, was amendment that woman would not be allowed in his school.  He had bitterly stated that he would allow woman in ‘over my dead body’.  When 3 woman were granted access in 1904, Salmon dropped dead 2 weeks later.  DSCF6994

I actually learned quite a bit about Halloween on this tour.  Did you know that Ireland has always had some sort of Halloween festival?  Samhain (pronounced ‘Sowen’ in Irish) was the Gaelic end of harvest festival.  It was celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November 1st.  As with many pagan and pre-Christian traditions, Samhain had strong roots with the spirits or fairies (the Aos Si).  It was believed that on these days it was easier for them to travel to our world.  It was believed that by placating the fairies their livestock would survive through the winter.  Gifts of food and drink were often left out for them.  Costumes were used to disguise themselves from the spirits.  I found this wonderful little quote while researching Samhain on wikipedia: ‘Mythology suggests that drinking alcohol was part of the feast, and it is noteworthy that every tale that features drunkenness is said to take place at Samhain.’

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Our group getting to entered the otherwise normally locked gates of St. Audoen’s Church

Our tour guide gave a neat little talk about how they used to keep skulls with a taper lit in them to keep the spirits away, but I haven’t been able to find a source confirming this.  If anyone else has heard of this, please let me know!

DSCF6982The tour led us throughout the old part of the city.  We got to see the Viking Walls (made nearly 100 years before the Dublin City Gate), the St. Michan’s Church (which is in possession of over 300 mummies, some of which are over 600 years old!), the oldest public library in Ireland (made in 1702, if you want to read one of the books they lock you in a little cell and only let you out once you return the book), and walked through ‘Hell’.  Hell, what was the name of For Courts back in 1790 was an area renown for it’s drinking culture and strange wooden statue of the Devil.  There was a humorous ad posted around that time that read: ‘Apartment to let in Hell suitable for lawyers’.

DSCF6998Once the tour was done, and we were both frozen to the bone, we went back to Dame Street to find some lunch.  We pulled in to HaiLan Korean and Japanese Restaurant and let me tell you, as someone who has eaten a lot of Korean food, this was probably the best one I’ve been to in Ireland (and in Canada).

DSCF7001 I haven’t had 오징어볶음 (ojingeo-bokkeum – stir fried squid) since leaving Korea.  It was delicious!  Our waiter was Chinese, but his wife was Korean.  When he found out that I spoke some Korean, he sent his wife over and we chatted throughout the meal.  It was nice to get to practice my Korean again.  I give this restaurant a big recommend.  Prices were good, Korean tea was free, but make sure you ask for kimchi if you want some.  I guess it isn’t to the taste of many so they don’t include it as they normally would, but I can’t imagine getting Korean food without it.

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This marks the second of 3 times we ran into this same woman throughout the weekend.

After lunch we took the Luas (their tram system) to the Smithfield Gothic Market.  By a twist of faith we actually ran into 4 people who had gone on the walking tour with us!

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Attached to a hostel (the Generator), there was a cafe/bar that you could sit at and listen to the life music.  There was also a little projector room filled with puffy couches where you could watch the match that was going on (where we found many-a husband waiting).

DSCF7015  It was filled with the sort of thing you would expect to see in markets around Dublin.  Lots of vintage and handmade items.  A girl recognized the sewing pattern I had used to make my dress.  We shared a giddy moment as we talked about Colette Patterns.

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A lady near the entrance was selling ‘spoookkkyyyy’ cookies and I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the witches fingers.  I have so many fond memories of getting to make those around Halloween back in Canada when I was younger.  Granted, we tended to dye the dough green for extra ‘spooky’ factor.

DSCF7018The area around the market was quite neat.  You could see the old smoke stacks from when the building used to be a Jameson distillery.

DSCF7019There were also some neat murals in the surrounding green…

DSCF7020And little wooden sheep statues.

DSCF7032To round off our day we attended one of the movies put on by the festival.  We attended the music documentary called ‘Beautiful Noise‘.  Since I had picked out the Literary Death Match, it was Mister S.’s turn to pick something.  This was definetely more his type of thing than my own.  I had never heard of any of the bands before watching the documentary on ‘noise’ music, and it is highly unlikely that I will look up any of them after watching it.  It really wasn’t my kind of music.  Plus the strong use of strobe lights throughout the documentary had me shielding my light-sensitive eyes.  It was an interesting watch, especially for anyone interested in music, but once was enough for me.

DSCF7061For our last day, we decided to get tickets for another one of the Halloween film festival movies.  This time we watched ‘Lost Soul: The doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau’…yes that is it’s entire title and no I will not be typing that out every time.  From henceforth it shall be known as ‘Lost Soul’.  We arrived early in to town in order to get some breakfast.  We had to walk from our AirBnB to the downtown (about twenty minutes) because the Luas was actually shut down for the morning thanks to the Dublin Marathon that had started.  We had some good half and full Irish breakfasts from one of the cafes before heading back to the theatre.

DSCF7057The IFI (Irish Film Institute) is quite the neat little building.  You can see the old exposed building walls that had been preserved for the building.

DSCF7054  Attached was a small coffee shop and a full licensed restaurant in the vicinity as well as a small shop filled with movies and movie posters.

DSCF7052Because we were still quite early Mister S. and I decided to get some cappuccinos and cheesecake for the movie (the coffees we could take in, the cake not).

DSCF7053I actually liked this cheesecake much more than Mister S. did.  It wasn’t your standard, heavy cream cheese based cheesecake, but one that had gelatine in it to make it a bit more fluffy.  It reminded me so much of the cherry cheesecake my grandma used to make with its crumbly graham cracker crust and the tasty pie filling topping.

*Ahem* back to the movies.  As a self proclaimed cinephile I found this documentary fascinating as well as entertaining.  It was filled with humorous parts of the outlandish events that were made up around the making of the 1996 movie.  Such as the director’s immense hatered of Val Kilmer.  How Marlone Brando was trying to ruin him.  And how director Richard Stanley camped out in the Australian wilderness after getting fired from the movie and then later sneaking back on set as an extra.

DSCF7063After the movie most of the festivities of the festival were concluded.  We walked around a few more markets,

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DSCF7067Checked out what was supposed to be the ‘best coffee shop in Dublin’ (or at least according to the sign outside the shop).  Mister S. liked it, I found it only ‘meh’.  I find that I have yet to find a decent matcha latte in Ireland.  They all use the same powder mix that comes presweetened.  Mister S’s cappuccino was decent though.

DSCF7083After more walking around and unsuccessful dress searching for the wedding for me, there was only one last thing left to do before catching the train back home.  Get some supper.  Mister S. is a pork fanatic.  So when he heard about the BBQ Project, that was all he could talk about.

DSCF7088It actually had a pretty small selection of main courses, but both of the ones tried were incredible.  I had the housemade ice tea and it was delicious!

DSCF7095It’s hard to find good ice tea.  For each main you got to pick two sides.  Mister S. had the pulled pork, marrow mashed potatoes, and baked beans.

DSCF7094I had the ribs, onion rings, and coleslaw.  Both means were utterly tasty…but between the two of us we maybe ate one whole platter.  We took so much food home.  The portion sizes were huge!!

DSCF7098Best part?  There was free unlimited soft-serve ice cream ^^  There’s always room for dessert!

It was such a great event.  Sadly many of the events we really wanted to see were sold out.  Next time we’d have to make plans more than a few days in advance ^^  Now that I’ve gotten Halloween out of the way, I can finally get back into the Christmas mood!

Till next time~

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4 thoughts on “The Bram Stoker Festival

  1. Damn that looks like a really cool festival! Good to know there is historical presidence to getting drunk on Halloween too!

    I was in Slovenia for Halloween and they too have a different-yet-similar local tradition. It had to do with costumes and dressing up to ward off winter, though the costumes dos not tend to be scary.

    Awesome market too! There are some good ones here as well, and i feel your pain, I can’t buy anything that I don’t want to lug around with me 😦

  2. “fun” blog … and so interesting! … loved reading the bits on Mr. S. and his “voracious” appetite, brings to mind his earlier visit to Vancouver … looking forward to seeing everyone soon!

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