DUBLIN.

Gay Times Magazine - - TRAVEL - Words Stephen Un­win Rates at The West­bury start from €250/night. doylecol­lec­tion.com flybe.com

Bear­ing in mind Dublin has al­ways been the num­ber one eas­i­est Euro­pean cap­i­tal for me to get to, ge­og­ra­phy-wise, it’s a won­der I left it this long. I guess I thought it would be a bit be­hind the curve (divorce, abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage went through re­cently, hun­dreds of years af­ter ev­ery­one else in the civilised world, so it was a fair as­sump­tion). Also ev­ery pic­ture you ever see of a Dublin pub makes it look in a to­tal state of dis­re­pair. I as­sumed this would be a city-wide sit­u­a­tion. Then there’s the whole in­sis­tence on lash­ings of ‘craic’, which seemed a bit wear­ing, like the en­forced fun of New Year’s Eve ev­ery time you step out of the door. But it turns out Dublin has draƒed its charm­ing arse right into the 21st Cen­tury, not least be­cause it’s ditched all that ar­chaic crap. Mar­riage equal­ity, women’s rights, Toni & Guy sa­lons, they’re all there now, right up in your face: res­tau­rants that are not only good, but re­ally good, like Pa­trick Guil­baud, The Wind­ing Stair, Luna (which is as hi­lar­i­ously in love with it­self as many a fancy Lon­don restau­rant); a hi-tech hub just shy of the cen­tre where clever peo­ple with fancy de­grees pump lots of dosh into the com­mu­nity and spend it in the dinky bou­tiques around Grafton Street; street food and hip cafes à la Shored­itch in Phib­s­bor­ough; and a slinky tram sys­tem – the Luas - to whizz ev­ery­one around. And we love be­ing whizzed.

We’re stay­ing at The West­bury, the smartest ho­tel in town with all the glitz to prove it but none of the pomp to ruin it. Hav­ing just spent mil­lions zhuzhing up it­self (mostly on crys­tal chan­de­liers by the look of it), it’s swish on swish just off Grafton Street, where Af­ter­noon Tea in The Gallery is ‘a thing to do’, din­ing in Wilde (big up to Os­car!) is all 1930s glam­our, and cock­tails in The Side­car – dinky, glitzy, wait­ers with all the right hair – are Pro­hi­bi­tion strength. And it’s near­ness is de­li­cious es­pe­cially as we did a very clever thing and took the FlyBe from Southend Air­port, which is what is known in the busi­ness as a ‘dod­dle’ (check-in to gate in ten min­utes, much?), but it also meant the po­ten­tial for hens/ stags was off the scale. But winged-women with all the wrong lips and pished blokes in ‘com­edy’ drag were nowhere to be seen. Maybe they’ve all gone to Lis­bon. And yes those pubs are bro­ken down, in ex­actly the right way. But that’s the funny thing about Dublin; whereas in most cities the gay joints are the ran­cid ones, straight out of page 73 of the In­ter­na­tional Gay Bar Brochure while the straight gaffs get all the money spent on them, here we get the slick ones, while your av­er­age pub feels like it just stepped out of 1953 with paint­ings left to rot on the walls just to cre­ate an at­mos­phere for those peo­ple play­ing Ir­ish jigs (yes, they’re real!) which aren’t as grat­ing as you think. As for the gay bars, Pan­tiBar and The Ge­orge are where it’s at.

Smart, hand­some build­ings, smart, hand­some men, slick gay bars (with go-go dancers), nice food, good cof­fee... just goes to show, prej­u­dice is so 1973.

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