Sunday, 25 November 2007

Dublin - A Room With A View and Beautiful Days

Wednesday 14th November 2007

It’s been nearly twenty years since I first visited Dublin, and I immediately felt at home there, I have some Irish ancestry maybe that's why. Or maybe it's a case of "It’s not where you’re born, it’s where you belong” lyrics written by Bono which ring true to me. Since that first trip I’ve visited Dublin at least once a year – I’m lucky, living in the UK makes it very easy to pop across to Ireland even for just a day. I still feel as at home as ever there and never tire of visiting, and, as I sat on the Newcastle to Dublin flight as it was descending into the city, I felt that familiar anticipation. This was to be a short visit, just three nights with my friend Debbi, but we were going to make the most of every minute.

Debbi and I met up at Dublin airport, it was great to see each other again and as usual we just picked up from where we left off the last time we met up. We went to pick up the hire car, a sign in the office window of the car hire firm caught our attention “Please leave rubbish in the car, thank you”!!!

We drove into the city and first went into Jury’s Custom House for brunch and had delicious fish and chips. Then we headed to Bewley’s Hotel in Ballsbridge to check in. We dropped our cases in room 211 and then headed straight back into town and Hanover Quay. By now the weather was miserable, raining and cool. There was nowhere to park along the street, so we parked in the nearby new Grand Canal Quay car park and walked the short distance to the studio.

We soon realised that the band were probably recording there as Adam’s car went in the garage and we saw Sam and Dallas. We waited a short while and then decided we would go, it was very wet and cold, enough is enough, the warmth and comfort called out to us! We decided we would come back and try our luck again on Friday.

We left the city behind and drove to Tesco’s to get our supplies for the next few days. Most importantly, we found some Moet champagne on offer so we got that for our night at the Clarence!

We went back to Bewley’s and settled for the night. We just took it easy, ate our snacks, watched TV, drank wine and chatted for hours before settling down for the night.

Thursday 15th November 2007

We got up at 9am and had breakfast then started getting ready for going to our next hotel The Clarence. We left the room at Bewleys at 12 noon, sat for a while in lounge, booked the restaurant for tomorrow night and then left. We’d decided to leave our car where we had left it last time we went to the Clarence, Lea Road, beside the apartment we stayed at last May, to save paying a fortune on car parking fees at Bewley’s Hotel. Once there, we rang for a taxi and it was there in ten minutes. The driver was a bit bemused when we piled out of the car with our luggage,

“What’s it like living in a car?” he joked.

It didn’t take long to get to the Clarence, the staff were very pleasant, our suite just needed checked to see if it was all ready so we were offered complimentary tea or coffee while we waited in the Study. Before the drinks arrived the suite was ready so we were taken up to the 5th floor and shown around the suite – our drinks were delivered to the room.

The Garden Terrace Suite was open plan with twin beds, and a raised area where there was a leather armchair and chaise lounge and table. There was a TV, and another leather armchair, plus a desk and chair. The bathroom was very nice but small, the furnishings were all of excellent quality. And the best part of the suite of course was the large terrace which had great views of Dublin in almost all directions. It is familiar to all U2 fans as being where they filmed the rooftop video for "Beautiful Day", it looked smaller in real life than on the video. There was a large wooden table, chairs and steamers there and along each side of the terrace were shrubs in large pots.

It was a world away from the penthouse, but still a lovely suite and we were detrmined to enjoy every minute . We settled in and enjoyed our complimentary cocktails as we tucked into delicious sandwiches that we had ordered from room service.

We started getting ready to go down for our meal in The Tea Room, and I must say we scrubbed up pretty well! When we arrived we were the first in, but later a few more people arrived to eat, though the restaurant was far from full by time we left. That’s a shame because the food is excellent and if you choose the Market Menu at 39 Euros, it is very good value. I had pumpkin and hazelnut risotto with a truffle froth to start. For the main course the beef which was absolutely delicious and very tender. For dessert I had the combination of 4 of the restaurants desserts which were all wonderful. We washed it all down with a very light South African Steenburg Merlot. Debbi enjoyed her meal as much as I did, and all through the service was first class.

We took the remains of the wine through to The Study and enjoyed a relaxing time in there with Andy Williams crooning in the background. We amused ourselves by watching one of the staff replacing the night lights by bringing them one by one on a tray.

Around 10pm we went back up to our suite and opened our bottle of Moet champagne, which was wonderful, we’re really getting a taste for it! We watched DVDs and chatted, and often went out onto the terrace to look out over the lights of the city, it was lovely sitting out there far above the hustle and bustle of the city. After the champagne was finished Debbi started on the wine, I decided to keep off it as because of my delicate stomach- I didn’t want to mix it with the cocktail and champagne. Before we knew it the time was 4am so we thought we'd better go to bed!

Friday 16th November 2007

Debbi did not feel too good this morning, she left her breakfast which is almost unheard of! I enjoyed my breakfast which we had in our room. As we were going back to Bewley's today, we decided that we would leave our cases at the Clarence and then get a taxi down to near Hanover Quay and later return to the Clarence for the cases and get a taxi to Bewley's. But the best laid plans are often thwarted, and so was ours - by efficiency. When our taxi arrived at the Clarence the staff came into the Study to tell us and off we went. When we got to our drop off point the driver popped the boot and there were our cases! After Debbi and I stared at them in disbelief for a few seconds we realised that the Clarence staff had been really efficient, they'd put our cases in the boot before telling us our taxi was there! I realised we'd have to change our plans quickly, thinking on my feet, I asked the driver if he could take us on to Sandymount, all we could do now was pick up our car and check in at Bewley's - either that or trundle down to HQ with our cases! The latter was obviously a no-go, so off we headed to Sandymount, loaded our cases into our car, and drove the short distance back to Bewley's. Luckily we were able to check in early so we dumped our bags in our room (212 opposite the room we had the previous day) and headed back into the city and HQ.

Luck smiled on us for the second time and we managed to get a parking spot on the roadside of Hanover Quay which saved us hefty car park fees as well as being handy. There were another couple of girls and two young men waiting at the studio.

Shortly after we got there Adam arrived and stopped to talk, both Debbi and I got good photos taken with him and were able to have a little chat. Debbi told him she wasn't too well and he asked why and she said about overdoing it the previous night, he asked where she'd been and she replied the Clarence. I then asked how the recording of the album was going, and after a short pause he said, with a hint of frustration, "Well, we haven't really started on it yet!" Not what we were wanting to hear. Debbi said she wasn't feeling too good, Adam asked why and where we'd been and smiled when Debbi told him. At this point a young man came and asked for an autograph and shortly afterwards Adam went into the studio.

Edge and Larry arrived shortly afterwards but didn't stop for us, three down one to go, Bono. It was dry and not cold so it wasn't unpleasant waiting and there is always something to watch at HQ. The area has changed beyond recognition, each time we come there are new blocks of offices or apartments, shops and restaurants. Misery Hill, Kilsaran Concrete, the garage with the German Shepherd guard dog all gone. And soon HQ will be gone too and it will be the end of an era for us, I feel a little sad about that.

A courier van drew up outside the studio and the driver asked us what we were waiting for and Debbi said "a bus", he laughed and said that this was a very "odd street". Around this time the two girls left, so now it was just Debbi and I left waiting.

I had my usually very reliable "feeling" that we'd meet Bono but time was passing and there was no sign of him. Then luck smiled on us for the third time - at about 3.30pm Bono arrived in a taxi, he waved to us as it pulled up outside the studio. He got out and after saying goodbye to someone who was in the taxi with him he came across to us. At this point I got that familiar, surreal feeling, as I watched him walking towards us. Unusually he wasn't wearing his glasses which was nice, he stopped in front of us and greeted us in his usual way,

"Hi how are you?"

We said we were ok and Debbi said,

"Fancy meeting you here",

Bono smiled and then he leaned forward and kissed Debbi and said he liked her hair (she's had part of it dyed dark pink), then he leaned over to me and kissed me. We both noticed he had no aftershave on. Before he had the chance to say anything Debbi spoke,

"Can we just say something to you," immediately she had his attention, he looked at her intently, waiting for what was coming next. She continued to thank him for what he did for us when we were in the penthouse in May. I added that it made our stay there just perfect.

"Did you stay up really late?" he asked.

"We stayed up all night!" I replied, Bono was very impressed with that and with a gesture said,

"YES, great stuff!"

He obviously approved! Debbi continued saying that we'd really enjoyed every minute there, going in the hot tub, drinking champagne..... Bono smiled as he listened. Then she said,

"Actually we were at the Clarence last night, but not in the penthouse".

"I should think not," he said emphatically, "what do you think you are, bleedin' rock stars?!"

We all laughed, he is so funny. Then Bono said he would have to go as he was an hour late, so we said our goodbyes and then he disappeared into the studio. It had been a very short but sweet meeting. We had so wanted to be able to thank him personally on behalf of ourselves and our friends Dianne and Julie, for his kindness in May, Debbi and I had agreed that if we met him that was our priority. So we were satisfied that we had been able to do that. It was great to have a kiss from him too! I'd like to say he looked well but he looked very tired and drawn. Later we found out that he had already been to a meeting of Irish Hunger Taskforce in Cork earlier that day. He really needs to slow down a bit.

We went to our car and were sitting getting ourselves sorted when four young and very beautiful Italian girls appeared from nowhere and came over to us. They asked if Bono was in the studio we told them he was and that he had arrived just a few minutes earlier. The girls were ecstatic, apparently Bono had told them yesterday that he would see them for autographs and photos at 6pm today. The girls were so excited shouting repeated thanks yous and blowing kisses to us over and over as they walked away. I'd have loved to have been there when they met Bono!

We drove back to Bewley's and relaxed for a while before getting ready for our meal in O'Connells restaurant in the hotel. The restaurant was very busy. Unfortunately Debbi had to send back her lamb shank because it was burnt! She quickly got another one which was ok. But the meal wasn't as good as in the past, the gravy was watery, the carrot and parsnip mash was sloppy, we were a little disappointed in it. This is the second time the meal has not been up to standard there, such a shame as for years we've eaten wonderful meals there.

After the meal we walked across the road and to the Four Seasons Hotel and went into their wonderful Ice Bar. It's an amazing place, done out to look like ice, white and cream, with atmospheric lighting. There was a lovely sculpture of a dancer hanging from a single cord in front of a mirror close to us, it was beautiful. The bar wasn't too busy and we were able to get a seat. I ordered a champagne cocktail called a tearjerker and Debbi ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail - which definitely is a first! She felt better now but didn't want to tempt fate. We enjoyed our drinks while we people watched before going back to Bewleys and our room.

Unfortunately I paid for the tearjerker that night as it gave me te rrible heartburn. It occurred to me that this was my fourth different bed in as many nights- home, Bewley's, the Clarence, Bewleys. We'd never been able to unpack properly due to moving from hotel to hotel so we lived out of our suitcases. The result was that we kept losing things which was very frustrating! One of our favourite phrases this trip was, "Where's my ......." followed by frantic searching in our suitcases.

Saturday 17th November 2007

We checked out of Bewley's at noon and drove through to Dalkey, we parked in the Church of the Assumption car park and went across the road to The Queens for brunch. The Queens has been re-decorated again, in a more traditional style, it's much better than the modern look it had, more in keeping with its age. They had coal fires burning and it was very snug and cosy in there. The food we had was delicious too and very reasonable and served quickly.

The weather was awful, wet and windy, we didn't really want to leave the warmth of the pub. Usually we would potter round the shops in Dalkey but due to the weather we didn't wander round the shops as we would normally do. We headed to the airport and dropped off our hire car, making sure we left our car parking tickets in the car - well the sign did say to leave rubbish in the car!

We had to wait a while before we could check in and I felt so tired as we sat, I think all the excitement, moving about and late nights were at last catching up with me! Eventually we both got checked in and went through security and found the Anna Livia Executive Lounge which we had booked into as a treat. It was small, but really nice, with lots of snacks and drinks to choose from, very peaceful and relaxing, I think we'll definitely book it again.

Eventually Debbi and I said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, hopefully it won't be too long before we meet up again, and I hope too that it won't be long before I visit my second home once more.

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