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When I first moved into Mountaineering Man’s apartment, he was very forthcoming about the unfortunate realities of his neighborhood. He insisted I never go out on my own after dark – even to the corner shop – and be very aware of my surroundings when walking around during the day.

The area, known as The Coombe, does have its dodgy aspects. But lately I’ve really warmed to the neighborhood and its surrounding districts and have even discovered a few gems. About a month ago I started walking to my gym, which exposed me to a little nook in the area full of bustling shops and street vendors I’d never seen up close before. Now, instead of noticing the abandoned buildings and strung-out junkies I see the beautiful cakes in bakery windows and the sweet old Polish ladies who warm the shop stoops sharing gossip over tea.

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Walking down Meath Street is always a sensory delight; there are aproned butchers hauling whole carcasses on their shoulders, smells of fresh-baked bread wafting down the street and the sing-song sales calls of the ladies hawking a variety of cheap accessories at tables along the footpaths. Get your Flossies here, now half-price! they call out, referencing the colorful cotton shoes that are a hot item among the local street vendors right now. On the same table there is an odd variety of items including chocolates, candles, toothpaste and greeting cards – all at bargain prices.

The businesses here are all small mom-and-pop type places. There’s the Chinese hair salon, which is always packed with petite, lavender-haired grannies. There’s a Polish food shop that has a million types of pickled cucumbers and dry-cured sausages, and there are a few quirky clothing stores that specialise in cheap, frilly frocks – especially over-the-top sequined numbers. It’s fun to window shop and there’s always lots to see.