Over the Easter weekend we were really lucky to have tonnes of time together as a family. Matt had 4 days off work in a row so we managed to get some work done around the house, visit the Easter bunny, have a meal with my family and take a trip to Dublin. I have to admit taking a baby to Dublin during the Easter celebrations wasn’t one of our brighter ideas but we all survived!
Here’s some info about what we got up to and my tips for a very quick jaunt round a huge city with baby in tow.
We set off from Belfast at about 10 and headed for Matt’s family home, about 30 minutes away. Luisa had a quick nap in the car but she woke as soon as we arrived. She probably sensed the presence of her favourite friend – Molly the dog. Matt’s Dad is the undisputed king of Easter egg hunts and he couldn’t resist setting one up. L had a great time being zoomed around the house but it was mainly for the benefit of the three big babies (Matt, Sophie & I)
By 11.30 we were on the road down to Dublin. It’s roughly a 2 hour drive if you include a stop at our favourite service station. Some people hate this part of a trip but given that I’m always riding shotgun I feel like any holiday starts with the travel. I get excited from the minute we start packing and even love the airport stage of a bigger trip.
As it was the Easter weekend & a last minute trip we decided to stay out of the city for two reasons. 1) Dublin was absolutely manic as it was the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising and 2) City centre accommodation is really pricey. We used an app called Hotel Tonight to book a room in Tara Towers Hotel in Booterstown, close to Dun Laoghaire. The room was heavily discounted as it was a last minute booking and it suited us perfectly being close to the sea and only a few stops on the DART into the centre of Dublin. Unfortunately when we arrived there had been a problem with our booking but we managed to get in resolved pretty quickly and were upgraded to a larger room for the inconvenience.
The hotel itself is pretty nice, I would stay there again for a similar trip, but it is quite dated. Think of somewhere that would of been the height of executive luxury in the mid 80s. That being said the beds were new, large and very comfortable. The staff were helpful and the rooms were spotlessly clean. Another plus is that you can check-in from 2 and don’t need to check out until 12 which is pretty generous I think and certainly helps to avoid a mad scramble on your departure.
Once we were settled in we headed along the coast to Dun Laoghaire where the rest of Matts family were staying. They had organised this trip a few months previously and we had initially intended to just go down for the day on Monday. When we changed our plans at the last minute their hotel was already fully booked. They stayed in The Royal Marine Hotel which was seriously nice! There were a lot of families staying and small children running amok, in a middle class fashion of course. I would definitely go there myself at some point as it’s a beautiful location and seems really family friendly.
On Sunday evening we booked a table for 8 in a restaurant called Rage. One of Matt’s brothers, Philip, is a student in UCD so he had a bit of inside knowledge and recommended Rage. The early bird special gives you two courses for €22, about £17. This is a pretty good price for a well reviewed restaurant in the area and the portions are generous. I opted for penne in a white wine & spinach sauce to start and for my main I had sirloin steak with a salad and cajun potatoes. Most of the mains come with a standard side and you can choose an additional option included within the €22 deal. Given that most of our party opted for the steak I think it was a really good value meal.
The service was pretty good and they were accommodating of Luisa, supplying extra plates and telling us not to worry about the mess. That being said we did do a bit of damage control picking up the pasta and sweet potato wedges that she’d artistically spread across the floor. The changing facilities weren’t great due to lack of space but I appreciated the fact that they even had them as many restaurants sadly don’t.
On Monday morning we took the DART from Booterstown into Dublin, it cost €5 for a return journey – about £4. It’s a really nice journey with lots to see out the windows. We had our breakfast in a cafe in Temple Bar called Brick Alley Cafe. It was really cramped, as is typical of this area of Dublin, and probably not the best choice given we had a pram with us. Nevertheless most of our party enjoyed a full Irish breakfast. I went with the american option of bacon, eggs and pancakes. I really didn’t enjoy mine as I would have preferred the eggs cooked for longer and the pancakes were lacklustre. Of course I could of easily sent it back but as there was no highchair by the time I actually got to eat it most people were half done and Luisa’s patience was wearing thin. The coffee, however, was divine!
No trip to Dublin is complete without visiting Pennys (Irish Primark) We all trooped off there and lost an hour or so to retail therapy. Once we had finished our shopping it was early afternoon and the Easter celebrations I spoke about were in full swing. The crowds were growing and the atmosphere was a bit tense so we scooted off to a quieter area of the city. We spent most of the rest of the day mooching around and getting lost, such are the perils of taking a large group to a busy city. With the benefit of hindsight I wouldn’t recommend going into the city during a big public holiday unless you are going specifically to celebrate that occasion.
The afternoon got away from us pretty quickly and before we knew it it was time for dinner. We booked a table in the Dawson Street branch of Milano (Pizza Express) The restaurant is a real pandoras box, just when you think it’s over you’re down another small set of stairs into another room. Getting the pram to our table was a little challenging but such is life! I think it goes without saying that we had dough balls to start. Luisa of course, had to get stuck into these as well. Most of our party had pizza which was, as you’d expect of the chain, lovely. This branch of Milano is really rather swanky compared to some of the Pizza Express outlets I’ve been in. The service was good although you could tell they were stretched.
At this point it was time for us to head back to Belfast so we headed to the DART station and took a quick tour of Trinity on the way! Once we made it to Booterstown we collected our car and set off. There was virtually no traffic at this time of night so we were back in Belfast within 90 minutes.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Dublin I would definitely encourage you to go for it. Some practical things to bear in mind from my experience are:
- If it’s going to be a short trip with kids try and arrange it for a time when there’s not a national celebration on.
- If you have the option use a baby carrier as opposed to your pram.
- Stay outside of the city for a more relaxing trip.
Of course we were on a very tight time-scale so didn’t visit a lot of places. Some great attractions that i’ll be visiting on our next trip to Dublin include: