concerts, Ireland

Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part ten

Monday morning, we woke up bright and early for our trip back to Germany.  Bill had scheduled a wake up call for 7:00am, but we were already wide awake by the time the phone rang.  He’d also ordered a cab for 8:00am, but we were ready to go at about 7:30am.  In retrospect, I wish we’d had one last breakfast at the marvelous Merrion Hotel, even though it would have added another 60 euros to our bill.  I had forgotten that the lounges at the Dublin Airport are all purpose and kind of suck.  Our last visit to Dublin was in November 2016 and I had forgotten about the lounge, which is kind of grubby and crowded.

I had prepaid for the room with the plane tickets.  I booked the trip through Expedia and I think it came to about $3,000, including four nights in a five star hotel, business class flights on Lufthansa, and trip insurance in case we couldn’t go for some reason.  When we checked out, we paid another 438 euros for food and bar.  That was actually less than I was expecting.  Could we have done it cheaper?  Of course!  But I wanted this to be a really nice experience, and it was.  The Merrion Hotel certainly deserves all of the accolades it gets.  I’d stay again… if I can afford it, that is!  Seriously, if you’re going to Dublin and want to splurge, the Merrion Hotel is a great bet for that.

We had yet another entertaining ride to the airport with cab driver who told us he was one of eleven children.  He said back in the 60s, there was no TV, so what else were you gonna do with your time?  He was a very nice fellow who bid us a sincere farewell.  I think Ireland is one of those places where you have many friends you haven’t yet met.  It’s got to be one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever visited… and at times, I felt like I was back in the USA.  Lots of Americans were in Dublin, too.

Obviously, other people wondered if that all purpose lounge was seriously the only one…  Oh well.  It had free WiFi, fruits, cheeses, drinks, and limited seating space.  In the morning, there’s no beer to be had, but they do stock it later.  Don’t ask me how I know.

 

Our flight to Munich was populated with a lot of Italian teenagers.  I guess they were in Ireland for the same reason the Spanish teens were there– to learn English.  This, even though English is Ireland’s second language.  It’s easy to forget that Irish is a language, too.  The flight was trouble free and pleasant, complete with food…

The flight attendant seemed nervous about giving me this tray of food.  It wasn’t bad.  The cookies were extras from coach because she was afraid I wouldn’t like it.  There was burrata, a shrimp with asparagus slices, wurst with pickles, and some kind of vanilla mousse that was pretty tasty.  I also got hot bread and white wine.

 

We had a two hour layover at Munich’s fabulous airport.  Given a choice, I think I’d take Munich over Frankfurt.  It’s just a nicer place to spend time.  The guy who checked our passports at passport control seemed confused by the concept of the Status of Forces Agreement.  But, to his credit, he figured things out quickly and sent us on our way.  We hung out in the Lufthansa Business lounge for an hour, then got our rinky dink flight back to Stuttgart.  It took about twenty minutes and yes, they fed us.  Actually, it was a nice snack consisting of part of a wrap, a brownie with nuts, caramel, and cherry filling, and grapes.  Seems crazy to wait two hours for a twenty minute flight, but it is what it is.

A couple of sky shots I took.  I think I got these on the first flight from Dublin.

When we got to Stuttgart, our bags were the first ones off the plane.  We grabbed them, got to our car, and drove to Max’s just in time to hit Stuttgart rush hour traffic.  Zane and Arran were delighted to see us and Max gave us the lowdown on what we need to discuss with their vet.  He really does take excellent care of the boys and they love going to see him, although sometimes I leave his place feeling like a negligent dog mom.  But I’d rather it be like that than worry that my dogs aren’t being taken care of and I know he does take great care of them.

I don’t know when our next trip will be.  I’m hoping to visit Armenia in the fall, if we can get enough time off and Max has availability for the dogs.  But we’ll have to see if we can pull it off.  For now, I’ll get back to blogging about restaurants and local fun stuff.  Stay tuned!

Standard
Ireland

Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part nine

We decided to clean up for our afternoon tea.  I put on a dress, some jewelry, makeup, and a silk shawl.  Below is a reversed photo of my face, which didn’t look as good as the unreversed picture looked.

Someday, I’ll retire my black modal dress from Novica.  Not anytime soon, though.

 

Initially, we went to the Garden Room, which is not where tea is served.  Art Tea at the Merrion Hotel is served in the Drawing Rooms.

This was how our table looked when we sat down.

Bill checks out the literature.

Forks turned into stands showing the art pieces the pastries are modeled after.  These pieces are on display in the hotel.

 We opted for Champagne at fourteen euros a glass.  Champagne is totally optional and I noticed the server’s eyes danced when we ordered a second round.  Yes, sometimes we get carried away…  

Four kinds of sandwiches: Shanagarry Smoked Salmon with Lemon Glenilen Butter on Brown Bread, O’Donovan’s loin of Ham with Tarragon and Dalkey Mustard on White Bread, Cornfed Chicken with Truffle Mayonnaise on Sunflower Bread, Organic Cucumber, Smoked Paprika, Mint with Glenilen Yogurt on White bread, Duck Egg Mayonnaise in a Brioche Bun.  We skipped the truffle mayonnaise because I don’t eat truffles.  We also had plain and fruit scones, lemon bread, Portercake, Battenberg Cake, modeled after paintings in the hotel, and lemon curd, clotted cream, and raspberry jam.

Teas!  I had Irish Malt and Moroccan Mint.  You’re allowed to try as many as you want.  Bill had Pu Erh and Red Chilli Chai.

Very civilized!

These pastries are modeled after the paintings depicted on the cards below.

My favorite part!  We did have another glass of Champagne each, which bumped up the bill a bit.  All told, this set us back 170 euros, but we didn’t have dinner on Friday night, so we figured it evened out.  

You don’t have to dress up for tea, but I felt it was appropriate given how nice the drawing rooms are.

 

We figured we’d be really full after tea, and we did feel pretty full at first.  We even had leftover scones, which our server kindly packed up for us.  However, I did get a little hungry later, probably because a lot of what we had at tea was liquid.  So we went searching for dinner.  On my main blog, I wrote about an incident that occurred before we found dinner at F.X. Buckley’s.

F.X. Buckley is apparently a chain restaurant.  We stopped in because they were offering a Sunday roast, although we both ended up having steaks.  We didn’t have reservations, but they were able to accommodate us.

Interesting sign from days past.

Bill had a ten ounce sirloin with pepper sauce and fries.

I had a fourteen ounce rib eye with bearnaise and a side of mashed potatoes with spring onions.  We paired it with a dry red from Portugal.  I needed Bill’s help with the steak.  My eyes were bigger than my stomach, which seems pretty hard to believe…  

It was a great dinner!  I’d go back!

 

And… just so I could say I’d done it, I suggested a trip to Bar No. 23 at the Merrion Hotel for a nightcap.  It’s a beautiful bar.

The Chocolate Martini is an expensive winner…  

Bill had a Japanese whiskey.

 

And for me, he ordered a Chocolate Martini, which was as delicious as it looks.

 

Lots of nice art on the walls.

This bird was hanging out in the garden.  I think we caught her sleeping.

We turned in fairly early for our trip back to Germany on Monday.  I was sorry to be leaving Dublin, though I was looking forward to seeing our dogs.  And now I have reasons to come back, since there are still things we haven’t done or seen.  I would count our trip to Dublin as one of our best!

Standard
Ireland

Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part three

The first time we visited Dublin, Bill and I stayed at the Marker Hotel, which is a very nice business class accommodation located near Ireland’s Facebook offices.  The Marker Hotel was, at that time, Trip Advisor’s number one pick for hotels in Dublin.  I don’t think that’s why I booked it, though.  I think it’s because the Merrion Hotel was full during the time we wanted to visit.  When I travel without the dogs, I like to stay in nice hotels.

Super nice digs!

Bill and I liked the Marker Hotel fine, but the location wasn’t ideal for us.  It’s very close to the Liffey River, kind of away from all the pubs and sights.  The Merrion Hotel, by contrast, is right in the thick of things, off Merrion Square and close to St. Stephen’s Green.  It’s directly next to a street lined with restaurants and it’s also not far from the RDS Arena, which is where Paul Simon would be performing.  The Marker Hotel’s location is a bit more residential and not as convenient to non business related activities.

The Merrion Hotel is also just plain more to my liking.  It’s more of a traditional hotel, with more of a classic feel than the Marker Hotel’s ultra sleek modern vibe.  Both hotels are expensive.  Both hotels are very nice and offer excellent service and good food.  But my preference is for the Merrion, which our cab driver assured us is the best hotel in Dublin.  I believe him.  For readers who are wondering which one they’d like better– if you’re going to splurge, that is– I’d say choose the Marker Hotel if you like modern decor and want to be close to the river and/or Facebook.  Choose the Merrion Hotel if you like a more traditional decor with character and lavish service.  Either way, you really can’t go wrong.  They are both beautiful hotels.

If your preference is more for “interesting”, I’d recommend checking out the Charleville Lodge, which is run by a hilarious guy who is very active on Facebook.  I have not stayed at the Charleville Lodge myself, but I have a feeling I would enjoy it… if only I weren’t so posh.  The guy who runs the Charleville Lodge also runs the White Moose Cafe, which was all over the news a few months ago after the owner exposed a blogger.  Hmmm…  I guess that’s another reason I decided not to book there.  Seriously, if you like cheeky humor and don’t mind some ribbing, you might want to check it out.  Maybe we’ll stay there next time we go to Dublin, but only if I’ve given up writing by that time.

So, anyway, back to the Merrion Hotel.  I had prepaid for the room, but they took an imprint of Bill’s credit card for “incidentals”.  We knew there would be incidentals, too.  The Merrion Hotel has two restaurants, a pub, and a cocktail bar, as well as a beautifully equipped spa.  I never made it to a spa treatment, but I did try out the beautiful pool and took note of the well-maintained exercise room, which, of course, I didn’t use.

We were assigned room 333, which was a standard room on the “garden” wings.  The garden wings are relatively newly built wings to the original hotel, which originally consisted of four Victorian era townhouses.  While the newer rooms lack the character of the original rooms, they are still extremely well appointed and comfortable and even come with free chocolate and water.  Below are some pictures.

They gave us free Fuji water, which we never got around to drinking, and three chocolate bars, which we brought home with us.  Chocolate is definitely a plus.

The bed.  Not sure what that stripe down the picture is.  Maybe my iPhone malfunctioned.

A tray of amenities.  If you need dry cleaning or laundry done, they have you covered.  

A huge marble bathroom with a nice shower and tub.  It also had a scale in it, which I carefully avoided.  The shower was nice, although I preferred the one at Wald Hotel in Stuttgart!

Water by Oscar Wilde!  He’s everywhere in Dublin!

 

Our room also had a French balcony, free Internet, a mini bar, and a TV with lots of channels on it.  Every night, a housekeeper brought us ice and kept us stocked with water.  We only got turn down service on the night of Paul Simon’s concert because the other nights, we were already in for the evening when it was time for turn down service.

We were pretty tired on our first night in Dublin, so we decided to eat at the hotel.  They have a pub in the basement called The Cellar Bar (which I had originally misunderstood as “Salad Bar”).  It’s a really cool place, with lots of brick rooms.  Thursday nights, they have live entertainment.  Although we didn’t see the musicians who played for a short while, we did hear them.  It was a nice treat and, unfortunately, the closest I got to live pub music during our visit.  Maybe next time we’ll have better luck and want to stay up later.

Bill peruses the menu.

He had an open faced steak sandwich with mild cheese.

I went with half a chicken smothered with barbecue sauce.  This was a real treat!  While we certainly get chicken in Germany, it’s not usually prepared in this style.  It came with a salad.

A Hop House Lager, made by Guinness.

 

Service at The Cellar Bar was cordial and professional and the food was very good.  I would have liked to have gone there a second time, but we didn’t get the chance.  However, we did have three breakfasts in The Garden Room, which is one of the hotel’s restaurants.  Breakfast is 24 euros if you just want the continental stuff and 29 euros if you opt for a cooked to order breakfast.  If you want steak and eggs, it’s another fourteen euros.  I was a little tempted by steak and eggs, but that seemed too extreme.

On our first morning, we had a nice view of the courtyard garden.

And here’s a view of the continental island, which has the usual fruits, cheeses, breads, juices, and pastries.

Bill had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.

I went with Eggs Benedict.

The garden is very pretty.

It even has a fountain!

When the maid is cleaning your room, they hang these handy signs.

I liked the uniforms the staff in the Garden Room wore.  They had very nice tailored slacks and vests that appeared to be good quality.  Actually, everyone in the hotel wears very nice uniforms and they vary depending on what part of the hotel the person is working in.  We noticed at least one American working in the Garden Room. She was the chattiest of all the wait staff.  I think I overheard her saying that she was in studying in Dublin.  As a former English major, I couldn’t help but note that Ireland is kind of a paradise for former English majors…  or even well read geeks like my husband.

After breakfast, we learned more about Dublin’s rich musical and literary history.  More on that in my next post!
Standard
Ireland

Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part one

Going back to Ireland for a stop on our year of concerts…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Bill and I have dubbed 2018 as our year of concerts.  Bill and I aren’t usually concertgoers, but we’ll definitely drop some cash on tickets for certain shows.  On June 30th, we both saw The Rolling Stones for the first time and were absolutely blown away by the experience, obnoxious as it was.  Although the Stones was the first show we’ve seen so far, it was not the first concert I bought tickets to.  I think that honor probably belongs to Elton John, who announced his farewell tour.  Bill and I haven’t seen him either, but he’s coming to Stuttgart next year.  I bought tickets to his show, then got on a roll buying other tickets.

And then James Taylor announced on Facebook that he and Bonnie Raitt would be joining Paul Simon for a few dates on his Homeward Bound tour.  Now… as a child of the 70s and 80s, of course I like Paul Simon’s music.  I couldn’t get through my childhood without hearing his greatest hits with former musical partner Art Garfunkel.  My dad was a big fan of theirs.  I have always liked Paul Simon, although at least prior to Friday night’s show in Dublin, not quite as much as I did James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.  Of the three on the bill, I was the most excited about seeing James play again.  This was my third time seeing him play live.

The idea of seeing James, Bonnie, and Paul appealed, as did going to Dublin in the summer.  Last time we were there was my first time– back in November 2016.  The weather wasn’t exactly stellar.  We spent three nights there before we moved on to the west coast of Ireland.  The hotel I chose that first time was nice, but not in the part of the city most conducive to seeing Dublin.  Plus, our time there was eaten by trips to Kilkenny to see the Smithwick’s Visitor’s Center and doing the Guinness tour.  Bill had also never been to Dublin during the summer, although he has been to Ireland once more than I have.  With his blessing, I ordered us tickets in February… and promptly lost them by June.

We don’t usually lose things at our house because Bill and I are both hoarders.  But we’re also getting old and forgetful.  Somehow, the tickets to the show I was most looking forward to got misplaced.  I had to call Ticketmaster Ireland to get new ones issued.  Fortunately, that wasn’t as onerous a task as online reviewers had led me to believe.  We just called them on a Saturday morning and a young woman with a charming Irish lilt verified my payment details and sent duplicates.  I’m so glad we went to the trouble.  The show was absolutely incredible– as good or probably even better than the Stones’ show was.  It’s too bad Paul Simon says he won’t be doing any more big tours.

I decided I wanted this particular trip to be as comfortable as possible.  I used Expedia to book us a room at Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, which is reputed to be the best in the city.  I also got us business class tickets on Lufthansa with flights laying over in Frankfurt on the way to Dublin and Munich on the way back.  We booked the dogs for four nights with Uncle Max and Bill arranged for the time off, so we could leave last Thursday morning and come back today.  Four nights made for a nice break, and gave us the chance to see a few places we missed the first time we visited Dublin.

As usual, this will be a series.  That means there will be several posts, along with lots of pictures.  I hope those who read this first post will follow along as I write up the whole weekend, although I know not everyone will be interested.  My travel tends to be very adult oriented and full of stories about people we meet and things we see, rather than stuff we do.  However, if you’re interested in reading about the hotel, restaurants we tried, and our activities, I highly recommend staying the course.

This is a concert I will never… ever… forget.  It was just awesome.  As amazed as I was by The Rolling Stones, I was even more blown away by this show, for which tickets cost me significantly less money.

Standard