I recently returned from London, Belfast, and Dublin – a trip hosted by the president of Waterstone Marketing who represents a collection of truly distinctive, luxurious, and charming hotel properties.
I started in London at the Royal Garden Hotel, an independently owned contemporary hotel with an unsurpassed level of service. This is a wonderful hotel for families as it offers great access to leafy Kensington Garden, while close to all the hustle and bustle of the city. Children are welcomed with backpacks full of goodies to keep them busy while parents check-in and complimentary scooters with helmets and pads are available for kids to enjoy while they explore Kensington Garden.
Don’t miss the extraordinary views of London’s skyline at Min Jiang, located on the 10th floor of the hotel and voted “most authentic” in London.
While in London I attended a tear jerking performance of Miss Saigon in London’s West End, took a private tour of Kensington Palace (we just missed Kate!), and rode a “Vintage London Bus Tour” which offered a great way to see major sites of the city including a close up viewing of the “changing of the guards” at Buckingham Palace. Your Avenue Two Advisor can help secure the best seats for any London performance and arrange tours to Kensington Palace before it opens to the general public!
On to Belfast…
The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast offers contemporary design, a superb location next to Grand Opera House, outstanding service, and warm Irish welcomes for all of its guests.
The city of Belfast is up and coming and is a bit raw and edgy. I was pleasantly surprised by the vibrant restaurant scene where chefs created dishes using the freshest local ingredients from the land and sea. I could sense how proud and passionate the chefs were as they described their creations. Your advisor can arrange private cooking classes and demonstrations.
A couple of things you need to see:
· The Causeway Coast (Giant’s Causeway) of Northern Ireland is an area with about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, a result of a volcanic eruption. You have to see it to believe it…
· A visit to the coast is not complete without a visit to The Bushmill Distillery to sample some Irish Whisky
· The Titanic Experience is an interactive museum that takes visitors through the history of Belfast before, during, and after the time the Titanic was built.
Another option for a truly authentic Irish stay is the Bushmill Inn. Since its reopening in 1987, it has come to epitomize the true spirit of Ulster hospitality. The oldest part of the Inn dates back to 1608 while the main hotel was built in 1820’s. The Inn’s restaurant offers dishes with wonderful local ingredients, while the bar an authentic ambiance.
A two hour drive led me to more warm Irish welcomes in Dublin. It was a drizzly day, and after a visit to Book of Kells and St. Patrick’s Cathedral I warmed up with hot soups and sandwiches at the Cafe in Avoca, a family run store that offers beautiful gifts for the home and their own food label with delicious products.
I had the best night’s sleep at the surprisingly quiet Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin which is well located in the heart of the city, half a block from the main shops of Grafton Street, and overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. (Did I mention they have the softest Egyptian Cotton Sheets?) Thorton’s, the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant is number 25 of the top 50 restaurants in the world. If you don’t have time for dinner you can enjoy an aperitif and canapés in the restaurant’s Canapé Lounge.
A visit to Powerscourt, a large country estate known for its house and landscaped gardens, is a must. The drive takes you through quaint towns of Dalkey, Killiney, and Enniskery each with adorable shops and restaurants (I would recommend Caviston’s for fresh sea food). Powerscourt was magnificent even on a chilly day in November – I can only imagine how amazingly colorful it must be in the spring.
My visit to all three cities was extremely helpful in learning the “insider tips” for my client’s future travels. I cannot wait to return with my own family to explore more of Ireland – I would love to drive from Northern Ireland down the coast to the south and play golf at amazing courses along the way, ahh – that’s a nice dream…