Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: November 2014

Hotel Visit: Westin Dublin

October 2014                          Dublin

Some hotels trade on their history and others their location but few are able to boast both and the Westin Dublin is among them.

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The Westin was opened in 2001 after extensive reconstruction turned three 19th century local landmark buildings directly opposite Trinity College into a modern 160 room hotel. The façade of the three buildings and as much of the interior as possible was saved and repurposed in the project and nowhere is this more apparent than the Banking Hall, a soaring  Victorian space which used to be the main hall of the old Bank of Ireland.

Dublin 229I was able to enjoy this memorable space later for day-long meetings and while the acoustics suffered a little the sheer majesty of the room more than made up for it.

The entrance to the Banking Hall features intricate floor tiles with the logo of a previous financial institution, the Allied Irish Bank.Dublin 231


Below the Banking Hall is the aptly named Mint Bar which used to be the vaults of the bank and the sturdy pillars and low ceiling give the lounge a crypt-like ambiance to enjoy some cocktails and conversation.

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The rooms of the Westin Dublin while a mite smaller than North Americans may be used to feature all the modern conveniences plus a nod to the hotel’s location with colourful framed reproductions of pages from the Book of Kells housed at Trinity College.

This attention to detail is evident throughout the hotel and helps make the Westin Dublin as much a landmark as the buildings former tenants.

My tour ended with a visit to the hotel’s largest suite, the palatial 1700 sq. ft. College Suite which features two floors of Edwardian luxury. The lower level includes a living room, full dining room, bedroom with king bed and balcony overlooking Trinity College while the upper floor houses an office & library, private gym and steam room.

Dublin 220My polite Canadian reserve prevented me from inquiring as to the nightly rate for this sumptuous suite because as the saying goes, if you have to ask then you can’t afford it.

While the College Suite may not be within every traveller’s budget the Westin Dublin has a variety of accommodations available to suit almost everyone wanting an upscale stay in the heart of Ireland’s enchanting capital.

My thanks to the Westin Dublin’s director of sales Tom, a fellow Canadian, for his time touring me around this hotel that blends past & present to create it’s own timeless elegance.


Hotel Visit: Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel

October 2014            Edmonton

For once  I was fortunate enough not to have an early morning flight to start my recent journey to Dublin so seized the opportunity of an early afternoon departure to visit the new Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel as I was curious to see the hotel I’d literally been tracking for years.

It was back in 2010 that word came out that work was to start on an airport hotel that would be connected to the main terminal building at Edmonton International and the planned Courtyard Hotel would be open in 2012. Two years later however the news was plans changed and that the facility was a better fit for the more upscale Marriott brand Renaissance Hotel and a completion date was months in the future. Well, that date and many others that followed were pushed back until mid-2014 when a definite drop-dead completion date was given and after a soft opening in June the hotel had it’s grand opening on 12th September, 2014 and the delays serve as a reminder that good things come to those who wait.

The entrance to the terminal is at the north end of the building and a changing neon light scheme brings some colour to a monochromatic public space. A short stroll down a purple pedway brings you to past a Starbucks and the Halo restaurant and lounge into the lobby with it’s striking modern swirling blue couches watched over by mannequins dressed in frilly fashions. Dublin 013

In contrast to the cold and dark prairie Winter days the Renaissance rooms and public areas are warm and bright, especially the comfy retreat just off the main lobby known as the Library.  One alcove wall is dressed with black leather belts but it’s not until you are up close that your eye notices  that unexpected design detail.Dublin 006

The other public areas including the indoor pool, gym, and meeting rooms like the lobby all feature a modern motif that help give the Renaissance a unique identity

The kitchen yields a few surprises including the home-grown herbs the staff nurture to bring a little greenery to your plate. Nearby is a chefs table room where eager guests can dine feet from where their cuisine is prepared.

It is almost a slight to say the Renaissance Edmonton Airport is a good “airport” hotel as it is so much more than that and is an excellent hotel regardless of  its location. If find yourself with an unbearably early morning flight staying the night at the Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel before your departure is the perfect way to eliminate the unpredictable Winter weather worries and start your holiday early.

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Hotel Review: Maldron Hotel Smithfield

October 2014                         Dublin, Ireland

After reveling in another Dublin hotel that had the cool factor my subsequent three night stay at the Maldron Hotel Smithfield was cool more in terms of temperature than relative hipness.

My big attraction to this moderate three-star accommodation is the combination of outstanding value in a fairly central location and in those respects the hotel lives up to its billing as it’s within metres of local landmark the Old Jameson Distillery across the rectangular but barren Smithfield Square and can be reserved for as little as EUR67 per room per night.     Dublin 139

Room #111 is a Standard Room occupying a first floor corner of the hotel and includes a small balcony overlooking the square though the October weather proved a little too uncooperative to spend any time out on it.  A large double bed, table and chairs in an alcove beside the balcony, desk with an older and smaller 20 inch colour TV and bank of closets directly inside the door was the room’s furnishings and all worked well despite not being this year’s models or design.

A newer bathroom with tub & “power” shower and enough vanity space rounded out a room which while functional and comfortable is a little Spartan and lacking a few features which are missed when not available namely an in-room safe, mini-fridge and temperature control. The first two I would’ve gladly traded for the last were I offered a choice as over my short stay the temperature as shown on my trusty LL Bean travel alarm clock with both time and temperature display rarely broke 67F which after coming in from a cool, rainy day is several degrees cooler than I would’ve liked.   I understand these creature comforts would be almost impossible to include at this price point so when convenience is subordinate to cost compromises are made.

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The rate I reserved included buffet breakfast and there is a good selection of hot and cold items available in the restaurant just off the lobby and so offered a solid start to the day. It’s not cooked-to-order morning cuisine with an overwhelming array of  options but for as little as EUR5 above the room-only cost including the breakfast is something I’d recommend for those cost conscious travellers like myself.

In the lobby itself there a PC for public use with a coin operated pay system so it only cost a Euro or two to log on for 5 – 10 minutes to check flight status or send a quick email.

The 747 Airlink bus service is within a minute or two walk of the Maldron opposite the River Liffey and for EUR6 one way per person offers exceptional value with frequent service. Note the journey time given in the Airlink brochure hotel staff can provide as it can be up to 55 minutes with stops so budget your time accordingly.

One notable local site I would recommend visiting is called Crossroads and it’s directly across the street from the hotel and is the type of pub locals gather to listen to Celtic music and visit with friends & family. It wasn’t the more trendy tourist pubs of Temple Bar and for that reason was grateful and returned several times during my three night stay.

A few doors down there is a grocery store plus a decent selection of location restaurants but I usually walked across the Liffey to the South Side of Dublin, a walk that takes about 15 – 20 minutes depending upon where you’re going.

Overall while I would’ve liked a few more in-room conveniences you get what you pay for at the Maldon Hotel Smithfield and as the U.K. saying goes it does exactly what it says on the tin.

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Hotel Review: the gibson hotel

October 2014            Dublin, Ireland

In a world of conformity the increasingly infrequent occasion you do encounter individuality it’s appreciate all the more for its relative rareness and such is the case with the gibson hotel in Dublin’s Point Village.

The lower case spelling of the hotel is by design and hints at an informality and casualness that is a perfect fit for a hotel metres away from 3 Arena, the largest indoor arena in Ireland which regularly hosts big name music acts and has since U2 became the first band to play in the venue for a private concert in 2008. There is a modern musical mantra evident throughout the hotel from the name of the restaurant coda eatery to the adjacent hemidemisemiquaver bar, or hemi bar for short, to the conference and meeting rooms Stratocaster and Rickenbacker Suites and Broadcaster boardroom. Urban street artist Fin Dac is the gibson’s 2014 Artist in residence and has created a massive mural of local lads Bono & the Edge of U2 that adds a signature to a large landing between the second and third floors that also features a living wall and a spiral staircase.

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I spent 3 nights in room #574, a superior room with one large double bed, shower stall with rainfall shower head, ample storage space for clothes and luggage and a view of the neighboring Point Village buildings. The whole room is done in a modern décor that matches the public areas but it isn’t a contemporary design that can be cold and colourless as my room had nice warm earth tones that gave it an inviting appeal no doubt aided by some in-room natural plants. The large windows also featured blinds that could be raised or lowered from a control knob near the entrance and once lowered offered a nice dark room appreciated by this light sensitive sleeper. This is a nice touch rarely seen at hotels and helped make for a very pleasant stay in a comfortable oasis that is exactly as shown on the hotel’s excellent website. Dublin 115

The public areas are interspersed with whimsical statues of pigs and sheep that help offer new and unique encounters around almost every corner during the course of your stay.

While a little distance outside the historic city centre of Dublin it’s a compact immensely walkable core so a 15 minute walk would be all that’s required to the main thoroughfare on the north side, O’Connell Street, and barely 5 minutes more to cross over the River Liffey to Trinity College or Temple Bar. The Luas Tram line ends directly in front of the hotel so those not wanting to walk can as easily hop on the frequent trams that run on the route that runs parallel to the river.

I found time to try the relaxation area which is a 6th floor private retreat with sauna and steam room, loungers and two large copper tubs on an outdoor terrace with views over the Dublin Wicklow Mountains. The late afternoon October weather during my visit was clear and dry and pleasant if not warm so filling one of the deep tubs with hot water and letting the day of sightseeing melt away was very relaxing indeed. Change rooms and lockers are provided.

My room rate included daily breakfast and it was served in the coda eatery and as elsewhere around the hotel the staff were uniformly polite and attentive and even during the busier morning rush rarely had to wait more than a minute to be seated and offered a coffee. The selection of meats, cereals, porridge and eggs is good though the bacon could’ve been a little crispier for my liking. I enjoyed the restaurants view of one of two interior atriums with its greenery adding warm earth tones and natural light to wake me up each morning as much or more than the coffee. Dublin 067

I so thoroughly enjoyed my stay I was reluctant to leave the gibson and wished I’d booked it for my whole 6 night Dublin visit instead of only the original 3 nights I had confirmed. I did try to extend my stay but found it fully booked up months in advance so would recommend booking early to get the best rate. The overall value-to-quality ratio at the gibson is sky high as often rooms can be had for around EUR100 or CAD$140 per room per night so would definitely recommend it for anyone wanting a little modern luxury in a hotel that moves to its very own beat.


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