First time in Dublin and hopefully won't be the last.
It all started at the Merrion, one of the top hotels in town along with the Shelbourne and the Westbury. Located in the heart of Dublin city center (unlike the Intercontinental, another solid alternative), it is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
Service was magnificent. Truly one of a kind. They made Covid testing a breeze (right in our room, how much easier can it be?). Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Rooms was quite pleasant, the scone original, although the pastries in general weren't quite as good as we would have liked. Of course, I was born in France, feel free to disregard...
Only hiatus, a last-minute reservation organized by the reception of the Merrion itself to the well-liked and probably best restaurant in town, Patrick Guilbaud (the hotel's very own restaurant), turned out to be a fiasco. We arrived right on time, only to find out that there was no table available. Annoying as it was, this, in itself, was not the worst of it. Incidents happen, after all, but the hostess's attitude at the restaurant's reception was one of near disdain, unforgivable, and a shame. We had the reservation in our hand (thank God we did!); but she was still trying to find fault with us, the Customer, rather than acknowledging the restaurant's blunder and moving on.
Let's be smart and laugh out loud.
Indeed, it would not be fair from us to grant the Merrion Hotel anything but a full five stars review! We had the most amazing time. The service was otherwise impeccable.
The property itself is filled with art. A beautiful garden and pool.
Breakfast is wonderful. The banana pancake is out of this world - refined, not too sweet, just delicious (and I'm no fan of pancakes). So is the lox, one of the best I've ever had. Actually, I remember it as the best ever.
While pricey, both hotel and restaurant fares are reasonable - a solid return on your spent dollar. Really, we've traveled to more than 100 countries, stayed at all sorts of great properties, but are hard-pressed to think of a much better hotel experience.
The Merrion happens to be very well-located on top - only a couple minutes' walk from The National Gallery of Ireland, a gem of a museum. Just The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio is worth the trip. Add Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by Vermeer and Ecce Homo by Titian and even an ocean should not stop you.
We enjoyed fish and ship at The Fish Shop more than at Matt The Thresher, but liked both eateries. Etto, which serves seasonal, locally sourced fare next door to the Merrion, deserves a visit, as well.
We enjoyed shopping and people-watching on Dawson St, Grafton St, and some of the parallel and perpendicular arteries. Don't forget to leisure-walk on St Stephen's Green and Merrion Square Park. If you have time to spare, explore Phoenix Park, where Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland, hides in plain sight.
For another nice breakfast or brunch or tea experience, try The Queen of Tarts, where the scones are terrific, and the vintage-style Cake Cafe, where the Coconut Toasted Granola & Yoghurt is delicious, but it's only one of many treats. The leafy courtyard adds appeal, as does the whole neighborhood, which offers more shopping and people-watching opportunities along Camden St Lower (R114). Had we not been time-constrained, we'd have pushed further to check out The high-rated Orange Tree Bakery. There is always next time.
Another highlight, the Guinness Storehouse, is well worth a visit to experience the history, heart, and soul of Ireland's iconic beer. In 1759 Arthur Guinness Senior signed a 9,000-year lease on an old brewery. Ten years later the first beer was exported. Enter the building and you will immediately see the atrium at the top, where your free pint and a panoramic view of Dublin (360 degrees, not one missing) await. Gravity Bar, it's called, and indeed it nearly defies it. The first floors educate, demonstrate the beer-making process, and explore the history of Ireland’s famous brew. I was no beer fan, but suddenly I wonder.
A long walk along the River Liffey is another must and muse. A visit to 47-acre Trinity College, known for its humanities, science & medical programs, may ignite new interests. Amidst the Georgian buildings, alumni Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, not to mention Abraham Stoker, best known today for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula, may even inspire the writer or director in you. The Book of Kells, one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures, and the Long Room, one of the world's most beautiful libraries, will create wonderful memories.
Back to the river, a humbling pause at the Famine Memorial obliges.
Not too far from the Irish Emigration Museum, which we missed but again can't wait to come back to pay a visit. We continued on N Wall Quay, took a left on E Wall Road, bare left on the same, stopped at Starbucks for a well deserved break and relief, checked out Fairview Park. Next time we come, hopefully soon enough, we'd love to explore Dublin Port and walk along the water on Clontarf Road (R807) to reach Saint Anne's Park and North Bull Island.
A beautiful city, with beautiful people. Welcoming too. We all deserve fun in our lives, and Dublin offers plenty of it, no doubt. Enjoy with total lack of moderation!
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