Thursday, March 7, 2013

Home Away from Home

In 2011, when I last stayed at Dublin’s Fleet Street Hotel, it was in the midst of substantial renovations. Walls were being demolished, everything was being reconfigured. I wasn’t sure what I would find. Grand new visions for old hotels can sometimes kill the spirit of the place. Sure, the old Fleet had become a little dowdy, worn carpets and such, but I had always felt at home there. The staff was always kind, the rooms had everything I needed, and the price was right.

The fire was on in the welcoming lounge when I arrived indecently early.
I needn’t have worried. Everything that was right about the old Fleet has stayed intact, and what was missing has been thought of and attended to: new carpets, better security, phones and WiFi in the rooms, a more comfortable lounge, and the return of the old in-house breakfasts. Also for the better, the entire hotel is now non-smoking, which given the old ventilation systems that come with such vintage buildings, is hugely welcome. For smokers, there is a comfortable outdoor patio on the 3rd floor, a pleasant place to hang out even if you don’t care to smoke.

The canteen is spacious enough, and the choices cover most bases: yoghurt, healthy cereals, fruit, as well as sausages, bacon, eggs - the usual Irish Fry. Odd duck that I am, I did miss the wheaten bread which they used to have, but I brought my own.
As always, it is the staff who make the place seem like home. On this visit, I had arrived after flying the red eye from Boston. The shuttle bus had dropped me off in downtown Dublin at 6AM. Not a great arrival time. After all, most hotels defend their right to drawing a line in the sand – a non-negotiable check-in time that is nothing like 6 AM. Thankfully, not this hotel. The desk clerk sized me up and said: Just a minute, He checked his computer. Perhaps he could sense that I hadn’t slept a wink, was fighting a cold, and indeed felt like a veritable piece of the proverbial. We do have a room that you could have now. Enjoy your rest.

I wheeled into my room, put out the Do not disturb sign, and sank into four hours of blessed sleep. This probably saved me from a much worse bout of whatever I was coming down with. Respiratory infections have never been my friend. Every time I get even the simplest of colds, it takes off its hat, hangs up its coat, and moves in for the duration. I must be one helluva a great host.

As it turned out, I still spent the next several days hunkered down in my room, alternating fluids and rest, but at least I had the comforts of my home away from home. Tomorrow, I have to leave for a few days, but I will return on Sunday. After all, why stay anywhere else?

The street-scape of the Fleet Street Hotel - it is at the quieter end of the famous Temple Bar, but if you want loud music, all it takes is a wee ramble down a cobblestone road and you are there in the thick of it.
Across the street, a Tesco answers all needs that the usual small but decent grocery stores can.
If you look at the brass plaques at your feet, you know that you are in the company of great writers - or at least in front of the pub that they used to habituate.
Still Life in Room 101. The 4 bags of green peas cost 4 Euros total, and were perfectly fresh. They and the McNamees soda bread - one of my all time fave raves - were bought at the Tescos across the street. The flask was a traveling gift from Zsuzsi Gartner, and the cookies and tea came from Marks and Spensers just up the way on Grafton Street. All in all, it is easy to decide that you don't always have to eat out.
Around the corner is a SuperValue which had been down at heel, but has recently done a retrofit. In fact the whole neighbourhood is showing considerable signs of recovery after the recent economic downturn.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it lovely to have your very own Irish 'hood and home? Sounds like they did all the right changes. Hope you're feeling better soon!