GOING TO THE DOGS...
Monday, 10 January 2011
Dublin still makes a great weekend break destination, says FIONA WALSH, who included a visit to Shelbourne Park for the greyhound racing
AS a regular commuter from Portadown to Belfast, I am familiar with the ease and comfort of rail travel. It has, however, been a while since I travelled in the other direction and took the Enterprise to Dublin.
I have personally experienced many different trips to the city and truly believe it caters for every visitor. From getting a Bewley’s breakfast with my granda, to taking a bus tour to discover the city’s historical past, Dublin is a place you will not tire of. Most recently I spent a weekend with friends over from Germany who loved the tourist sights and the vibrant and buzzing Temple Bar area.
With a constant barrage of press coverage informing of Ireland’s economic woes, northern travellers may be put off knowing their precious pounds may not go very far if they travel to the south. Undeterred, my friend Anna and I decided to take the enterprise for an overnight trip.
Travelling in first plus, the two hour journey from Belfast Central station to Dublin Connolly relieves the stress and strain of driving and parking in the city. I have always thought the train to be quite expensive but one cannot deny it is a more luxurious way to enjoy the scenic mountainous landscapes and the beautiful seafront at Malahide. A glass of orange juice was brought to each first plus passenger and many took advantage of the food and drink available. The hen party sitting beside us certainly enjoyed their journey down with Ulster frys and champagne. We quite happily sat back in comfort with a cup of tea reading the complementary newspapers.
We were staying at the four-star Herbert Park Hotel close to the new and impressive Aviva stadium. The hotel is a manageable 20 minutes walk away from the city centre or a short journey on the DART. The lobby of the hotel is incredibly spacious with large windows allowing light to permeate this busy area. The open space also incorporated diners and remained busy at all times during our stay. The elegant and modern rooms are comfy and the staff were very attentive. The only thing I could fault was the lack of a kettle to enjoy a cup of tea in the room.
We chose to avail of the dinner offer at the hotel which offered three courses for 35 euros. Despite the terrace lounge being filled with guests, we were the only diners in the Pavillion restaurant when we arrived for our booking at half past six in the evening and only a few other couples arrived as we ate.
The portions were definitely generous and I was well filled after my starter of melon and parma ham. Anna said the same with her smoked Irish salmon. For the main, I chose the duo of chicken and prawns in a creamy coconut sauce. The dish arrived attractively presented and the chicken was wonderfully tender. The sauce was lighter than expected which was a pleasant surprise.
Anna selected the steak which she claimed was cooked to perfection. The chips were presented in an unusual small deep fat frying basket. Despite being totally full, I could not resist the hot chocolate fudge cake and ice-cream which was deliciously naughty.
I have never been to dog racing but eager to try new things, we decided to experience the Shelbourne Park greyhound racing located close to our hotel. The racing began at five to eight and there were a total of 10 races. With no knowledge of how to even place a bet, we decided the best way to proceed was to simply pick a number and put two euros on it. We soon became more aware and by the end of the night were placing reverse forecasts predicting two dogs to come first and second in any order.
Be aware, it can become quite addictive, even if you are only getting four euros back when you win! The upstairs restaurant overlooking the terrace was lively with people keen to get a return on their bets. This area had a perfect view of the track but there was also the option to brave the cold and stand outside.
Each race was over very quickly but most of the fun was trying to get tips on which greyhound to support and collecting our winnings. The night was still young after the final race finished so we opted to treat ourselves at the Ice Bar at The Four Seasons Hotel.
Luxurious surroundings, dim lighting and a bottle of champagne made this the perfect way to end the night. Truthfully, there was no expense spared on this overnight trip and our main extra expenditure involved taxi trips back and forward.
Although talks of bail-outs and politics were on everyone’s lips, the craic was still great and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Roll on my next weekend break to Dublin!
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Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick.
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