I walked around St Stephen's Green, Europe's largest garden square, to the Shelbourne Hotel, which is managed by Renaissance, a division of Marriott. The hotel opened in 1824 and it's slogan since has been "the most distinguished address in Ireland." George Moore based his novel, 'A Drama in Muslin', around the hotel, while Ireland's famous writer James Joyce referred to the hotel in his epic novel, 'Ulysses'.
Past guests include Elizbeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Princess Grace, Peter O'Toole, Laurel and Hardy, James Cagney and Woody Allen.
I walked up the steps, through the revolving door, to a concierge desk on the right, a large lobby area, and an afternoon tea room, or club room off to the right. I ventured on through to the reception area, and passed a distinguished bar on the way. Up at the front desk, the receptionist welcomed me and quickly located my reservation, which was made that morning. I had checked the hotel rate on Metrostar.com, and had telephoned the hotel direct, where I was able to obtain a better rate. Metrostar.com had quoted 169 euro room only, whereas the hotel had a rate of 165, which included breakfast.
I was booked in smoothly and provided with a cardboard 'passport', a small folder which included a key card to Room 166. I was directed to the lift in the corner, and proceeded to the first floor. Through a double doors gateway I went down the corridor to Room 166. The old wooden door was in door jams which were about 18 inches thick. The carpet in the hallways was royal red, with a white diamond type pattern. The walls were painted an off-white which highlighted the mahogany timber joinery. There was also a series of modern prints on the wall. Inside the room I could see it was not overly spacious, but a good size hotel room nonetheless. The furnishings again were mahogany timber, there was a queen size bed backing on to the windows, which looked out on to a courtyard of other hotel buildings, not particularly appealing. The windows though were decked with a see-through curtain, and a rug-like light brown patterned drape, which had down lights shining on to them as a feature. The walls were nicely wallpapered in a light tan finish, and on each side of the bed was a 3 foot wide by 1.3 foot desk/dresser, with a large drawer, laps, power points, and lighting controls, and one had a phone. They also had very large mirrors, which reached up to the ceiling. I looked for a high speed Internet access port, as the hotel had indicated it had the facility on it"s Web site, but I couldn't see one. The bed did not have a cover but was enclosed by white striped pattern sheets. There were four pillows. The headboard only extended to the height of the pillows. At the foot of the bed was a round quarter-table. There were two picture frames on the wall, each containing objects, which I can't tell you what they were. The rear wall was entirely timber, made up of the door and jams, set into a cabinet which came out about 18 inches from the door. The right hand side was purely ornamental, whereas the left hand side comprised a series of cupboards and open shelves, one of which housed a TV, another a set of light switches and power points. There was also another cupboard containing a mini-fridge, packed with mini-bar items. There was also a two-door wardrobe, which contained plenty of hanging space, a trouser press, and bathrobes. The bathroom had a tiled floor, and was tiled around the combined bath/shower area. There was a good size vanity, with reasonable bench space, and a separate shelf, and a large mirror. The toilet sat inbetween. There were plush guest amenities, and a note saying that if you had neglected to bring shaving creme, tooth brush, etc., the items could be provided on request. The back of the toilet, the mirror frame, the vanity table, and the door frame (which enclosed a glazed glass door) was of mahogany timber.
The accommodation was classy, not overly expansive, but sufficient. There were two chairs in the room, one facing each of the bedside tables. There was no armchair, which is probably a negative, but then again it would be difficult, given the configuration, to find a place for it.
Having settled in I went back downstairs to check with concierge on parking arrangements. I was informed there was limited parking in the hotel, and the park was presently full. I could check back in half an hour or so. Alternatively there were paid parking stations in the neighbourhood. I elected to leave the car at the front, where there was metered parking, and check back, otherwise I would move the car to a parking station. About an hour later I called past concierge again, and was told there was space. I just need to wait for Jimmy, who was a porter come parking attendant to hand my keys to so he could park the car. I did so and moved back on to find out about this Internet access situation. I called down and told the receptionist there was no data point for access. He informed me they have a wireless system in place, and if I had a LAN card I could buy a pass for an hour at a cost of 10 euro, or a 24 hour pass for 20 euro. I went downstairs where the receptionist again went through the steps, obtaining information from a brochure. It seemed easy enough, so I purchased a 24 hour card. I was told if there were any problems to ring the number on the brochure, alternatively I could contact the hotel Business Centre.
Well I went back up to the room, and pretty soon established that although I had a LAN card there was special software required named WLAN. I then tried to ring the Business Centre, but there was no answer. I then rang the providor of the service, 02, however I was put on hold for about 9 minutes I think. I then tried to put that call on hold on the hotel phone, so I could try the Business Centre again. Whilst I did put the call on hold, when I tried to get it back again the phone wouldn't allow it. The call kept flickering away, but I couldn't access it. I eventually managed, in a minute or so to terminate the call. I then tried the Business Centre again, but still no answer. I then contacted reception, who said they would try and find out where the Business Centre person was. After a couples of minutes she reported back that she could not locate the person, but he or she would have only stepped out for a few minutes, and to try again. I kept trying for the next hour, but no answer. Whilst passing the time inbetween I played with the TV remote control, and accessed hotel information. I then took a look at the bill and noted that for the 10 minutes I was on hold with O2 I had been charged 20.42 euro. My 24 hours Internet access was already running down, it had cost over 40 euro by now, I still didn't have a connection, and couldn't get any answers. I did note on the brochure of O2 that they charged 74 cents per minute for their 'customer care' line. I couldn't blame the hotel for adding a surcharge to this, but it was annoying that 02, a reputable mobile phone operator in Ireland was actually charging you 74 cents a minute while keeping you on hold. I don't know how long I would have been kept waiting, and at what cost, but I found it odd that such a situation could occur, and the telephone company was in fact incentivised to keep you waiting as long as possible-which of course it did.
In any event I then contacted reception again, and spoke to Ryan who had provided me with the 02 card. He promised to locate the Business Centre attendant and have them contact me in 10 minutes, and without prompting said he was reversing the cost of the on-hold call.
One hour later I had not heard from Ryan, or the Business Centre. I phoned reception and was told Ryan was finished for the day. I then had to relate the story to somebody else, who informed me the Business Centre was not manned that day. I should come down to reception and they would provide access to the Business Centre computer, which had high speed Internet access.
I went down to reception and spoke to the receptionist I had spoken to. He said just go up to the Business centre and see the person up there. I said I thought there was no-one on duty at the Business centre. He said there sometimes isn't in the evening, but during the day there is. Obviously I was confused. In any event I went up to the Business Centre, and sure enough it was staffed, and there was somebody else there using the Internet, so again I was out of luck.
I then recalled there was a computer shop near the hotel. I went out and bought a wirless turbo PC card, which the attendant assured me would enable me to connect to a wireless network. The cost: 89.99 euro. When I got back to the hotel and unpacked the package there was the card, and a CD which required installation through a CD-Rom. How many people have a CD-Rom when on travel? Not me.
Back to square one. I went back to the Business Centre. This time the person using the computer was finishing up, so soon after I was away doing the work I had set out to do some hours before.
After completing my work I then showered and dressed for dinner. The shower worked perfectly, with good water flow, and consistent hot water. There were separate controls to regulate the water flow, the heat. One oddity was I noticed there was no tissues dispenser in the bathroom. In any event it was time to move on and explore some of the hotel's facilities.
I went down to the Shelbourne Bar near the lobby area, Described as a comfortable Georgian style bar, it generally operated from 11am to 11pm each day. On this occasion it was very crowded and noisy, so I elected to find the The Lord Mayor's Lounge. This was almost adjacent, and housed magnificent furniture, drapes and chandaliers from times long gone by. The room is a place for guests to relax and enjoy light lunches, coffee and in the afternoon, a tradition of a century-and-a-half, that of Afternoon Tea. I saw on the menu hot scones with jam and creme, and a host of various teas. The room is open from 8:30am to midnight every day. Afternoon Tea is served from 3 to 5:30pm. I sat down in one of the large lounges, and was soon after offered table service. I ordered a pint of Harp, which came soon after. I noted later the charge was 4.75 pounds.
After catching up on London papers, The Times and The Financial Times (provided by the hotel), I went off to No 27 The Green, a magnificently decorated, and very elegant dining room, done in long drapes, chandaliers again, and Victorian style furnishings. The room was a treat. Dining at night was a table d'hote menu. Several courses for an all-inclusive charge of 56 pounds, to which was to be added a 15% service charge. I selected a seared scallops salad, potato and leek soup, roast lamb, and finally and Irish pudding. All the meals, along with a chef's sampler, were delicious, of modest size (which suited because of the number of courses) and served in a good, friendly and professional manner. The room was not widely in use, signalling a fall in popularity for fine dining, but the experience was a very pleasant and memorable one.
The next morning I was back at No 27 The Ggeen, not because I was hungary, but because I neeeded to sample the Irish breakfast there for the review. A very large assortment of cereals (6), yoghurts, freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice, an energy drink comprising fruit, yogurt and honey, fresh fruits (Water melon, rock melon, strawberries and mixed fruits, cheeses and grapes, cold meats, salmon, trout and a couple of other cold fish dishes, pastries, breads and rolls greeted me. Regrettably there was no bircher muesli (at the time) so I settled for my own mix of muesli and yoghhurt. I was offered tea or coffee, but declined. Shortly after I was bought four half slices of toast. I usually like toast with the hot meal, but this seemingly is the tradition in both England and Ireland, that you get served toast in advance of your meal, usually along with tea or coffee. The breakfast room opened at 7am and I was on deck just a few minutes later. Regretably, just as I finished my cereal and yoghurt, out came a dish of bircher muesli, covered with fresh strawberry pieces. The time was 7:23am. Hot dishes included the bacon, sausages, only one type of egg (scrambled), black and white pudding, mushrooms, and cooked tomatoes. No hash browns, or any type of potato, and no baked beans, which I found unusual. In fact the array of hot dishes was somewhat limited, particularly for a hotel of this calibre.
After breakfast, with all the eating of the previous 12 hours, it was time to try the Shelbourne Club, which you can access from the second or third floors. I soon found the club, and a great array of facilities, including sauna and steam rooms, a jacuzzi, 50 piece C.V. area, resistance training weights, an aerobic studio, and an 18 metre pool (fopr which you need to wear swimming caps, which can be purchased at the Club reception). Towels are provided on a complimentary basis, and there are shower and change room facilities. The Club provides personal trainers by request, massage and therapy treatments (including aromatherapy, Swedish massage, reflexology, Indian head massage, polarity and kinesiology). There are also fitness classes.
The hotel met, and exceeded in some cases, my expectations. It is a truly first class five star hotel with a history dating back to the 1800s, and but for the fiasco with the high speed Internet access, would have provided a more than memorable stay (which it did, but for the wrong reasons).
Having said all that, my visit was in early 2004. The hotel, which was then part of the Le Meridien chain, closed its doors shortly thereafter for redevelopment.
It re-opened in March 2007 still as The Shelbourne Hotel, but managed by Renaissance on behalf of the Marriott group. The hotel retained the same telephone and facsimile number.
The 5-star hotel has been redeveloped over eight floors and comprises 246 rooms and nineteen suites. The renewed property has 11 meeting rooms comprising 1,000 square metres of meeting space. The new dining venues and bars consist of Innovative, a steak and seafood restaurant. It serves fresh local produce, a full a la carte menu, and other delicacies, and offers a breakfast buffet. It has an open kitchen and the Executive Chef is John Mooney. There is the Lord Mayor's Lounge which opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and specialises in afternoon tea, morning tea, and evening cocktails. There is the No. 27 Bar & Lounge which is open for lunch and dinner, and features 200 wines and champagnes. It has an innovative and creative cocktail menu, and serves communal style food all day. Then of course there is the Horseshoe Bar, in the shape of a horseshoe, which is said by some to be the most famous bar in Dublin.
All in all, I'm looking forward to returning to Dublin some time in the future to again sample the hospitality of this famous, nearly two centuries-old hotel.
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