Ele­gance and deca­dence

EMMA CURRY en­joys a week in the lap of lux­ury at one of the finest ho­tels in Ire­land’s cap­i­tal

Accrington Observer - - TRAVEL -

I STARTED my ex­plo­ration of Ire­land’s cap­i­tal city the mo­ment I stepped out of the air­port. As the chauf­feur drove my hon­oured guest, my fa­ther, and me to the five-star Mer­rion ho­tel, our home for the next two days, he pointed out land­marks and talked us through the his­tory of Dublin.

We drew up at The Mer­rion, which sits on the edge of Mer­rion Square, face to face with Le­in­ster House, the home of the Ir­ish Par­lia­ment, and were greeted by the door­man in tails and a top hat.

The concierge swept our lug­gage up the stairs, open­ing doors and ush­er­ing us through, tak­ing every care pos­si­ble of their new charges.

Our room was a ju­nior suite on the first floor of the beau­ti­ful Ge­or­gian build­ing.

The ho­tel was orig­i­nally four Grade I-listed town houses – 21 to 24 Up­per Mer­rion Street – which were home to wealthy mer­chants and no­bil­ity, in­clud­ing the first Duke of Welling­ton. How­ever, busi­ness­men-cum- en­trepreneurs Lochlann Quinn and Martin Naughton pur­chased the build­ings and be­gan lov­ingly restor­ing them in Oc­to­ber 1995, com­bin­ing them to cre­ate the stun­ning Mer­rion.

They worked to re­tain fea­tures from the Ge­or­gian era, such as stucco ceil­ing work and mar­ble fire­places, open­ing two years later in 1997. As my dad and I en­tered our suite it was hard not to gasp, as ele­gance and deca­dence en­veloped us.

The sofa, arm­chair and beds – com­plete with a wa­ter­fall canopy span­ning their en­tire width, were dressed in bur­gundy and cream toile de jouy fab­ric. A chan­de­lier was sus­pended from the ceil­ing, drip­ping with glass crys­tals, and ev­ery­thing from the light fit­tings and the mir­ror’s edge, pic­ture frames and ta­ble legs, glim­mered gold. The whole room oozed se­duc­tive style.

The staff could not do enough for us, even pro­vid­ing us with tick­ets for the hop-on hop-off bus on which we con­tin­ued to ex­plore the city.

From the roof of the bus, my dad and I watched the sights un­fold. Around each cor­ner was some­thing new, as we passed Dublin Zoo, Kil­main­ham Gaol, and the fa­mous Guin­ness Store­house – fer­men­ta­tion plant of the world-fa­mous ‘black stuff’.

We plunged into the rau­cous heart of Tem­ple Bar, crossed the River Lif­fey, which di­vides the city in two, and drove out through the green ex­panse of Phoenix Park – where the rare sight of a deer caused much ex­cite­ment.

When we ar­rived back at our orig­i­nal stop, by the doors of The Mer­rion, we went on foot through the wide, open streets, mar­vel­ling at the build­ings’ curved Ge­or­gian door­ways and huge brass door knock­ers, to see St Patrick’s Cathe­dral.

In Dublin’s largest and tallest cathe­dral, the light winked through stained glass win­dows as we took a self-guided tour past the or­gan with its 400 pipes, the mar­ble plaques and stone ef­fi­gies.

Re­turn­ing to The Mer­rion, I soaked in the bath and then my dad and I both wrapped our­selves in fluffy, white dress­ing gowns to lounge on the sofa. It was re­luc­tantly that we later dressed in real clothes to head for din­ner in the ho­tel’s new restau­rant, the Gar­den Room.

That re­luc­tance van­ished, how­ever, as we were seated, en­chanted by the out­door ter­race on view through glass bi-fold­ing doors. The pa­tio was lined with shrubs, sparkling with white fairy lights, re­flected in the rec­tan­gu­lar slip of wa­ter run­ning through the cen­tre.

Our at­ten­tion was soon fo­cused on the ta­ble as our dishes ar­rived.

My dad chose a salad of av­o­cado, spring onion, aduki beans, duck egg, red chilli and baby spinach, fol­lowed by cit­rus Clare Is­land or­ganic salmon, while I opted for steamed Kil­more Quay lemon sole with or­ganic cu­cum­ber, shal­lot and co­rian­der brown but­ter. We shared a salt caramel tart with pop­corn ice cream to fin­ish, and felt, with a day of sight­see­ing and full stom­achs, we had been given a real taste of Dublin.

We packed as much as we could into our trip, head­ing off on the sec­ond day on foot to see the im­pres­sive Trin­ity Col­lege Cam­pus, then tap­ping our feet to buskers on Grafton Street. One young singer had a voice so sweet and melodic it could have melted the cob­bles.

We headed next for the Ha’penny Bridge, travers­ing the Lif­fey, be­fore head­ing for Dublin Cas­tle, where we acted like roy­alty in the grand rooms, twirling through the blue-car­peted ball­room and pre­par­ing for a feast at the heav­ily laden ta­ble in the din­ing room.

Then we walked through to the Ch­ester Beatty Li­brary, where we learned about this phi­lan­thropist who built a mu­seum in his name and do­nated his col­lec­tions of books and arte­facts.

Our fi­nal foray of the day was to the Na­tional Gallery of Ire­land, where an ex­hi­bi­tion of art­work by Turner – my favourite artist – was show­ing just for the month of Jan­uary. I felt so lucky and priv­i­leged as I walked through the rooms, fol­low­ing the changes in his work over time.

My dad and I fin­ished our day in this vi­brant city by head­ing into Tem­ple Bar, buzzing with the mu­sic burst­ing out of bars and pubs.

Af­ter mus­sels in a restau­rant by the wa­ter, we headed for the bar in a warmly lit pub, where we lis­tened to mu­sic from a gui­tar, banjo and tin whis­tle. We felt like they were ser­e­nad­ing us home.

The end of our trip came with break­fast in the Gar­den Room.

I or­dered blue­berry pan­cakes – com­plete with berry com­pote, cream, maple syrup and fresh fruit – and my dad chose from the se­lec­tion of ce­re­als, pas­tries, fruit, yo­ghurt and cold meats from the ex­ten­sive buf­fet.

Our chauf­feur talked us through the streets of the city as we headed to the air­port, and it was sadly that we boarded our flight back home. It was the per­fect week­end break.

Visit mer­rion­ho­tel.com for more about the ho­tel and to book.

The Mer­rion ho­tel and (right) The Ha’penny Bridge Emma and her dad’s suite at The Mer­rion ho­tel

Emma Curry and her dad An­drew in a cafe in Dublin

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