When Ewe Find Yourself in Dingle

We’re excited to host a guest post on the Adroyt blog by world traveler, Darcy Brisbin. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a minor in English. After working for several years in the Big Apple she has resumed her place in sunny southern California where she works for real estate mogul CBRE Inc. Today’s tale comes from her stop in Ireland on a two-month tour of Europe.

My obsession with sheep started in Wishford, England, heading toward Salisbury to see the occult Stonehenge site. I had the strongest of urges to sink my fingers deep into their wool in search of a lamby scalp. But in the English countryside I never got close enough and the time quickly came to depart for the Emerald Isle. A few days later, I boarded the J.J. Kavanaugh bus from County Cork to Dingle when I found myself Googling “consequences of bear-hugging a wild sheep,” and knew I had a problem.

While I waited for my connection at Tralee I gazed up at the rolling hills chock full of those fluffy mallow-forms when, the next thing I knew, the bus ejected me at the last stop on the threshold of the Dingle Peninsula. I had yet to book accommodations here and after six weeks of traveling, the task beyond exhausted me. I grabbed my 82-kilogram suitcase and, with Dingle Harbor on my left and the town of Dingle on my right, began my search for a bed, sadly noting that this small fishing village didn’t seem a likely place for a shepherd to settle with his flock. There were B&B advertisements everywhere but a “no vacancy” sign dangled from most; it was off-season and the town was desolate. I curved along the harbor in search of availability, like Mary in search of an inn. My penchant for sheep not withstanding, I would have been wildly grateful for a back alley stable.

A peach palace

About two kilometers down the road, I wheeled my Samsonite up a long driveway to a peach colored abode. Before I was able to ring the bell a June Cleaver doppelgänger with craggy teeth opened the door. “Welcome,” she said, making room for the burdensome bag and myself to enter. The walls of the interior were the same peach color as the exterior; June sure did like her clingstone. She introduced herself as Vivienne and I responded in kind. It took me all of 12 seconds to deduce she was single, had never married, had no children, and probably had never left the Peninsula. Nonetheless, my room was meticulous: The bed was made comfortably in another cove of peach but views of the bay and the Kelly green hills beyond were stunning. I dropped my bags, recharged my MacBook and, nomadically hard up for clean clothes, began searching for a laundromat in Dingle. Grabbing my umbrella, key, a handful of Euros, and a backpack of bedraggled skivvies, I set out the way I came.

Dingle, Ireland

The town was unique in that every shop functioned as another shop. The teahouse was also a bike rental; Benny’s Bar doubled as a hardware store; the laundromat teamed up with the gas station. I dropped off my wash with a middle-aged man named Mike and though highly uncomfortable with a small-town-stranger’s alone time with my unmentionables, I had been told he cornered the laundering market. What was my alternative? In a thick Gaelic accent he warned me to return before half past six and if I was looking for a nicely pulled pint, to try Dick Mac’s Pub. I headed up Goat Street where the visitor’s center advised me I could find an old Abbey established by the Presentation Sisters with fabulous stained glass by Harry Clark. Seeing a flock of people headed in the same direction, I began to follow closely.

Literally on the coattails of some well-dressed biddies I entered a building, which I believed to be the Abbey, only to find myself paying respects to the late John Scanlon. But squeezed into a narrow church pew, I was unable to avoid it. Dressed in hiking gear with an Eddie Bauer backpack I stood out like a sore thumb but couldn’t find a respectful escape. I kept my head down and powered through memorials, hymns, and more than a few choking sobs when I eventually dodged out an emergency exit.

Eleanor Yeats

I finally arrived at my desired destination and followed the story of Nano Nagle in murals by an American artist named Eleanor Yeats. Slightly older than myself, Yeats was commissioned a few years back to paint the story of Nagle, an aristocrat-turned-humanitarian whose legend is renowned throughout the town. But sadly that is where all personal comparison ended; there were no further poignant parallels in our lives.

"With Dingle Harbor on my left and the town of Dingle on my right"

I retired to the Goat Street Café for a café Americano and to finish my traveling copy of the The Dubliners, the cover of which had been torn off to avoid platitude. While not as difficult a read as Ulysses—mainly due to brevity—Ol’ Jimmy had me confounded again with his deeply rooted Irish vernacular and prose. Fully immersed in my Gaelic experience, I headed over to Dingle’s pub, Dick Mac’s. About two heady crafts in, none other than launderer Mike strolled in. I pulled out my reading again to shield from further interaction and was quickly approached by another gentlemen, formally dressed in a suit, who inquired about what I was reading. Blushing, I dodged the question and asked if he was a local.

He was indeed! His name was David and he was a farmer. My ears pricked up immediately. Did he have any sheep that needed sheering or hugging? Though he owned a flock of around 300, he explained, it was not quite sheep shearing season. My childish disappointment revealed my torrid curiosity and, witnessing how heartbroken I was, he conceded his pet ewe, Andrew, could afford a haircut. I excitedly began plotting a time we were both available for a date with Andrew.
Somewhere around my fifth pint, I got around to finally asking why my new friend David was so dressed up for a farmer. “Oh, I’ve come straight from a funeral,” he said nonchalantly. “My father’s actually—John Scanlon—and a good man he was.”


Racing Through the Season

The Japanese theologian Awazuhara Atsushi once said, “Cherry blossoms and trees will remind of ambiguous images in which opposites make a pair.” Surely, the millennial tradition of cherry blossom viewing, hanami, is an exercise in duality. The trees’ brief blossoming period is cherished and mourned as its petals flutter to the grass faster than the winds change. There is a seeming race to drink in as much of the sakura as we can, before the leaves force through the buds and we’re forced to wait another 351 days for the next season.

But the definition of brevity has changed in today’s information age. When sakura represented the life of a samurai warrior, brief but brilliant, there was a legacy that kept the memory of the fallen alive, as well as a lack of technological distractions to keep a widow from dwelling on her loss. With the constant bombardment of information we experience today—the second-by-second Twitter updates that feed us fresh news and information without any break—how do we have time to thoroughly process a thought when as soon as its broken down for analysis, our attention is yanked to the next breaking headline?

Observing a tradition like hanami, quite literally stopping to smell the flowers, is a changing cultural practice, even in the nation in which it began. Kaori Kono, a 22-year-old living in Chiba, Japan, believes there is a happy balance of enjoying friends, family, coworkers, technology, and cherry blossoms. “[People] use their mobile phones, but if we go with our boss, Japanese people think that using it is not good.”

Cherry blossoms in Myou Park, Kitakyushu, Japan

Nao Mantani, a 39-year-old living in Kitakyushu, Japan, says she sees a lot of people admiring the blossoms with their mobile phones in hand, taking pictures. “Some of my friends put their sakura pictures on their Facebook; I am one of them. We take a few shots of them, and we go back and enjoy the party.” Hanami in Japan, she explains, is also about having a great time with families and friends, not just admiring sakura the whole time. As a child, she recalls plenty of people brought cameras to hanami parties at Kokura Castle, Mekari Park, and Adachi Mountain. “But at that time,” she reasons, “we weren’t bothered by the idea of sharing our sakura photos we took right at that moment with people who weren’t there.”

Traditionally in Japan, visitors spend hours, at the very least, eating and drinking with friends and family beneath the blossoms; a fluttering petal in one’s cup of sake is a welcome addition to an endless picnic. And when you’re sleepy from a full belly, it is acceptable to lean back against the tree’s trunk and gaze up through the blossoms. An occidental comparison would be similar to when we were very small, and would lay beneath the boughs of a Christmas tree, peering up through the needles, marveling at the sparkling lights and filling our lungs with the scent of sweet sap. Lounging beneath the cherry blossoms conjures a similar experience; the act of losing yourself in observations that lead to deeper reflections of the sensory experience.

To the left: Myou Park in Kitakyushu, Japan. To the right: The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

Today, at the National Cherry Blossom festival in Washington, D.C., the camera is king. It is a vexing challenge to find an observer who is not concerned with the color balance on their Nikon display, or finding a strong signal that facilitates an Instagram upload. What began as a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and Japan in 1935 has evolved into a crowded struggle that offers precious advantage over the race for a subway seat at rush hour, save for the fresh air. If a path of more than 50 feet is clear for leisurely strolling, the view is spotted with iPads and mobile phones reaching to catch a shot. Only off the beaten path does the crowd thin well enough to provide the time, and the space, to stop and smell the flowers.
Photos by Emily Hooper and Nao Mantani


Martin Brudnizki’s Guide to London 2012 Olympic Dining

The courtyard of Soho Beach House, Cecconi's is a Tuscan treat in South Beach.

It’s clever pitch time on adroyt again. The London-based public relations firm Camron sent us this pitch featuring restaurants in London designed by their client Martin Brudnizki. The 2012 Olympic Games begin on Friday, giving the pitch a convenient news hook. Adroyt had lunch with Martin during Design Miami/ Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 when he debuted his designs for the Soho Beach House in Miami Beach. We sat in the property’s courtyard amongst the graceful trees and dined in Cecconi’s, an Italian restaurant, which he designed as well. “I set out to create a place that would exude both grit and glamour,” said the Brit. “Nick [Jones]’ vision for the Soho Beach House was relaxing and informal, and I wanted there to be a timeless appeal to the design so I looked to the colonial roots of the club for the underpinning of my plan.”

The colonial roots of which he speaks lie in the building’s past as the Art Deco Sovereign Hotel. In order to achieve the calm he had in mind, he considered every detail, down to the pavers in the courtyard, which are new but look as if they were salvaged from a quaint countryside piazza in Tuscany. “Because this is one of those special places in the world where someone might want to check in and not leave until their stay in Miami is over, I paid special attention to materials and to comfort,” Brudnizki said.

And back to now, here’s his Olympic-inspired guide to London dining:


34: 34 Grosvenor Square, W1K 2HD

Situated around the corner from its sister restaurant, Scott’s, 34 is located just off Grosvenor Square. Part of Caprice Holdings, the design of this steakhouse took inspiration from the Edwardian up to the Art Deco period. Showcasing a bespoke charcoal grill imported from Argentina, the 100-cover restaurant was created to be luxurious yet informal, with aged and rustic materials exuding a richness and quality in keeping with the Caprice brand.


Côte: Charlotte Street, W1T 1RE

Côte is the modern interpretation of a classical French bistro. Created by Andy Bassadone, Chris Benians and Marcus Cloud, each site houses strong feature elements such as timber and cement tiled floors, mirrors on the walls and dispense bars. To date, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio has designed 31 units throughout the UK, this one being the most recent.

The Mount Street Deli

The Mount Street Deli: Mayfair, W1K 2TG

Martin Brudnizki Design Studio aimed to bring a combination of 20th century charm and modern sophistication to the heart of Mayfair with the design of Mount Street Deli – Caprice Holdings’ first gourmet retail concept. The interior was designed to reflect the history of the building, which dates to the early 1900s. The Studio retained key architectural features such as original paneling, architrave and skirting details in homage to the prestigious character of a street renowned for the highest quality in retailing.

Jamie's Italian Covent Garden

Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden

Martin Brudnizki has worked with Jamie Oliver and his team since 2007 to create numerous Jamie’s Italian restaurants within the UK and internationally. Conceived as an informal ‘neighborhood’ restaurant focused on honest, well-sourced food at reasonable prices, the ‘theatre’ of food plays a significant role as each site houses an open kitchen, antipasti bar and pasta making area on display. The Studio’s approach to the design of these restaurants is based on the use of natural materials and found objects to create spaces, which are uncontrived and contemporary.

Pizza East

Pizza East: Portobello

Martin Brudnizki Design Studio worked with Nick Jones to create his second Pizza East restaurant; this time located on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Consistent with the informal feel of Pizza East Shoreditch, vintage items such as the tin ceiling, glazed tiles, reclaimed timber paneling and a variety of found tables and chairs were sourced from New York. The result is a buzzy atmosphere in line with the lively neighborhood surroundings.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Gourmet Burger Kitchen: Westfield Stratford

The fourth restaurant to be designed for the GBK team was also the biggest – accommodating 200 covers and a separate satellite balcony seating area overlooking the food court at the new Westfield Stratford, minutes away from the Olympic Stadium. The theme was simple and understated, employing natural materials ranging from reclaimed oak to porcelain tiles, green and yellow leather upholstery to metal pendants and wall lights. To create a sense of ‘theatre’ and to lure passing shoppers, an open kitchen with a window through to the mall outside was specially designed.

Just as there are Olympic competitions of all persuasions, it seems there is an equally wide choice of award-winning Martin Brudnizki-designed dining venues; London is the place to be, brimming with opportunities for excellence in performance and indulgence. At which table would you like to sit?

Rumor has it our own Saxon Henry has an article debuting in Interiors Magazine next week. We’ll be sure to post a link to the clip so check back in!


Spontaneous Interventions


Image via http://www.gortscott.com/

The 13th iteration of the International Venice Architecture Biennale is about to swing its metaphorical doors open, welcoming visitors (170,000 last time!) for three months from August 29 to November 25, 2012. Considered the world’s most prestigious architectural event, it is held in alternate years with the renowned Venice Art Biennale, itself established in 1895. Fifty six countries will participate in the overarching theme “Common Ground,” chosen by director and British architect David Chipperfield, who will present the central namesake exhibition featuring 63 globally curated projects.

Joining the motif, the US Pavilion has been titled “Spontaneous Interventions: design actions for the common good.” Supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State, and organized by New York’s Institute for Urban Design, the pavilion will function for the first time as an installation rather than a straightforward showcase of projects. The interactive, temporal nature of the display is true to its descriptor, exploring self-initiatives to solve problematic urban situations.

Spontaneous Interventions

Spontaneous Interventions - the US Pavilion









The exposition is reflective of a broader cultural shift toward decentralized empowerment, epitomized by the worldwide web and digital technology in the hands of the citizen advocate. The US Pavilion has gathered examples of crowd-sourced, temporary, guerilla, improvisational, and participatory tactical actions intended to demonstrate creative answers to the pressing issues of livability in our cities. From the practical to the symbolic, and from whimsical to confrontational, the collected projects catalog a growing movement toward grassroots strategies and user-generated action.

Guerrilla bicycle lanes

Guerrilla bicycle lanes, a spontaneous intervention












From the Institute for Urban Design’s own press release: “Together, these projects offer an opportunity to examine the history of the American city, painting a critical and dynamic portrait of its most pressing issues today and a vision of its future. At heart, Spontaneous Interventions is a reflection of country’s complex attitudes towards civic participation, social justice, and the built environment.” A new paradigm for democratic empowerment is manifesting on many fronts, and as Paolo Baratta, President of la Biennale has said, “Architecture is the tool for realizing the res publica, which is the place of individuals but belongs to everyone.”

Stay tuned for another #TravelTuesday goodie next week as we bring you a post about fine dining in London by one of our favorite interior designers Martin Brudnizki, whom we had the great pleasure of meeting during last year’s Design Miami/Art Basel Miami Beach marathon. He designed the South Beach stand-out Soho Beach House and he’s provided those of you headed to the Olympic Games this summer with yummy restaurant designs.


Maine-lining Nature!

No loons at Basin Pond but true Maine natural beauty.

I’ve been whisked through the mountain villages around Bethel, Maine, for the past four days and it has been a feast for the senses. Wende Gray took me on a fabulous tour along Route 113 on Saturday, turned us south and had my toes on the shoreline of area ponds and lakes before I could blink! These included Crocker Pond in the White Mountain National Forest. We were on the hunt for loons, whose poignant calls I’ve always wanted to hear IRL.

Gray says of the growing ornamental escapade sprouting around the directional sign in Lynchville, Maine: “It’s got class and it’s all third!”

As I awaited my ride from the vivacious Gray, I sat beside another Crocker Pond, one scooped out of the sandy Maine soil by Stuart and Ellen Crocker. It was late morning and the birds were trilling, filling the air with crescendos of sound. A loan bullfrog belched his rubbery sounding blurt into the hazy air above the still oval of water and I marveled at its modulation.

Crocker Pond in the White Mountain National Forest, Maine.

I watched as the sun highlighted the water bugs skimming along the surface, turning them into pinpricks of illumination. A procession of motorcycles suddenly roared by on a nearby road causing the frog nation in and around the pond to speak up—some of them with deep-toned throbs, others with a noise that sounded somewhere between a cough and a bark. I surmised they were protesting the manmade version of their utterances as the sounds of the engines cut through the warming breeze.

Quintessential New England architecture; North Waterford, Maine.

A randy crow cawed from a distance but the echo effect above and beyond the water made it difficult to tell where its black wings had taken it—until it blasted out of a canopy of trees and glided away; off on an important adventure, no doubt. The pines gave voice to the wind when it kicked up a bit, a soughing I’ve always found to be truly comforting.

As Wende and I took off on our tour, we passed over the Androscoggin River near the town of Gilead. One of my favorite movies was attributed to that town: the Spitfire Grill. I have one disclaimer if you decide to watch it. Be prepared to weep!

Did you see our post about the documentary by Jake Gorst? He’s riffing about iconic architects who have built on Long Island, creating mid-century modern architecture and modern architecture. Thanks to Newsday for putting it on our radar. Coming up, it’s a #TravelTuesday post leading all the way to Venice Art Biennale. Spontaneous Interventions is debuting at the International Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy, and you’ll want to see the urban strategies its visionary creators from the Institute for Urban Design have dreamed up: it’s civic action IRL that helps everyone look for common ground. It truly is activism at its finest!


We Are Adroyt and We Have a Secret!

We have disappointing news for those of you who are combing the halls of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan today. The long-awaited guidebook Secret Milan is not being released until next month. We have had the pleasure of using other JonGlez Publishing guides when traveling—Secret Venice shed light on aspects of the drenched city we would never have noticed, like the tidbit below this image of columns flanking the Pescheria Nuova.

Here’s the publisher’s copy they’ve released to tantalize travelers looking to discover the lesser-known aspects of Milan: “Discover a canal lock designed by Leonardo da Vinci as well as the secrets of his Last Supper, find out where Mussolini’s hidden bunker lies, marry beneath frescoes by Tiepolo, visit artists’ houses usually closed to the public, see exceptional private collections, admire the sculpture of a young girl shaving her pudenda, look for the boxers carved on the roof terraces of the cathedral…

“Far from the crowds and the usual clichés, Milan goes unrecognized as one of the Italian cities with the greatest cultural heritage. Yet it only reveals its hidden treasures to residents and visitors who venture off the beaten track. An indispensable guide for those who thought they knew Milan well or for those wishing to discover another facet of the city.”

JonGlez (find them here on Facebook) is also releasing Secret New York: An Unusual Guide and Secret London: Unusual Bars & Restaurants, a follow-up to their Secret London: An Unusual Guide in May. Something to anticipate, intrepid travelers!

On Thursday, we’ll be bringing you news of an award Michael Bruno will be receiving from the Soane Foundation. The founder of 1stdibs will be honored during the Innovators Gala at the Sir John Soane Museum in London. Architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro will also be lauded for their design of the High Line in NYC.


Hemingway in Cuba: Thinking (Living) Globally

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One of my favorite moments in “A Movable Feast” is Ernest Hemingway’s reflection as to how a place can impact a creative being: “…in one place you could write about it better than in another. That was called transplanting oneself, I thought, and it could be as necessary with people as with other sorts of growing things.” He was writing this while spending time in Paris but the renowned author also loved Cuba. His former residence there is still intact, as this video proves. What a “home tour” that would be!

We’re going to mash-up social media platform advice with a bit of music in our next post: Bills James will share his philosophy; the Cranberries with give you an ear worm. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!