On Sunday, Michael and I drove down to Dublin for one last trip of the summer. We started off early and stopped at Fiveways Diner in Newry for breakfast. Because it was Sunday morning in Northern Ireland, nowhere else was open!
Unfortunately our visit left a bad taste in the mouth. The espresso tasted terrible, and my order, an omelette, took twenty minutes. I think they actually forgot about my order, as by the time it came Michael had long finished his cupcake, and my coffee was gone too. But we hit the road again and our next stop was our accommodation, Phoenix Park Travelodge.
I booked the room back in June and got it for only €40. The hotel was quite easy to find, even without Satnav. Round the M50 ring road and exit on the N3. The Travelodge is on the side heading into Dublin.
We arrived at about noon, and I'm not sure when check in was, but they said our room was already ready if we wanted it. As it was we just checked in and asked directions to get a bus into the city. The car park at the Travelodge is a good size, and free, so we just caught a bus at the stop outside the hotel. Dublin buses aren't like Translink buses on a Sunday, we caught one within 3 minutes. There's a bus along so frequently that the longest time you'd have to wait would be about 9 minutes. Plus it only cost €2.20 for us both to get the bus, which took about fifteen minutes to get into the city centre.
The city was buzzing, and everything was open, not like a Sunday afternoon in Belfast which can be a bit like a graveyard. We tracked down the city centre branch of Yo Sushi! and were excited to see it was unlimited dishes from the train for €20 for adults and €10 for kids.
Usually we would be in our element, but this branch isn't owned by the same group as our favourite Belfast restaurant, and the sushi just didn't taste good. The restaurant was quite warm and I think maybe some of the dishes had been circling for some time. Between us, in the end we only ate four plates! That's unheard of! The final straw was when I picked a plate of raw salmon, opened it, to be hit with an awful plastic smell. I tasted it, spat it out and called the waiter. He apologised and said it was the garnish that smelt like that, but it doesn't smell like that when I get it in Belfast. We asked for our bill and left.
In Grafton Street we stopped at the huge Disney Store, it has three storeys & a big Disney Princess section. I forced Michael to pose with Anna, as you can see by the face!
From Grafton Street it's only a short walk to the national museums. As they are closed on Monday, that swayed our decision to do the city centre on Sunday and the zoo the next day. The museums are free, and the natural history one is heaven for me- the most taxidermy I've ever seen.
After the museum we did a bit of shopping, bought some massive cupcakes and snacks for back at the Travelodge, then caught a bus back there. We got back about 5pm, but we couldn't have kept going without being too tired to do the zoo the next day.
The restaurant & bar at the hotel opened at 6pm, so we went there to eat. The menu was basic and straightforward, with a kids' option for €6.50 for two courses. You can eat in or take the food back to your room.
After we ate we headed back to the reception to buy access to wifi. This is via a BitBuzz voucher for €5 which you'll need PER DEVICE, and which lasts 24 hours. This was fairly annoying, as I had reckoned wifi would be free. It was all the more annoying that my ipad couldn't find the network at all. I finally got registered with my iPhone, but found the wifi didn't work while I sat in bed, only when you sat at the table in the room, which made it totally useless. If you're going to charge for wifi, at least make sure it works in all the rooms.
The second problem was the noise. We were in an end room, on the ground floor. We fell asleep crazily early due to our busy day, and I woke up at 930pm to hear someone stomping about upstairs. It went on and on, to the point where I was baffled to what they were doing that you'd need to walk about so much and for so long. About 10pm I went to reception to complain. The receptionist apologised but said they had no other rooms we could move to, but that she would immediately go speak to the person in the room above. I told her it didn't seem like the person was making noise out of badness, or having a wild time, but that it was stopping us sleeping, even with pillows over our ears! The noise died down a bit and we fell asleep.
Until 230am, when the person was up and about again, walking and walking. Off to reception again in our pyjamas to ask the receptionist to knock their door again. The noise stopped and we slept.
The Travelodge we stayed in was the Phoenix Park branch, so in the morning it only took us ten minutes to drive through the park and to the zoo car park. We arrived about 1030am and because of the beautiful weather, it was already becoming quite busy. There was a very short queue for tickets, then we entered the zoo. A handy hint to avoid crowds, everyone heads off to their left when they enter the gate. We chose instead to head to the right and visit in an anticlockwise direction. It meant the first hour it was very quiet, even though the zoo was packed.
Dublin Zoo is a completely different experience to Belfast Zoo. The animals have bigger territories, more places to escape from the public eye if they wish to, and just a lack of moments where you think 'that poor animal shouldn't be in somewhere like that', which I'm afraid happens more and more often walking round Belfast Zoo.
Also there are barely any hills! To walk Belfast Zoo you have to tackle Cave Hill, which can be exhausting. Dublin Zoo also has more toilets, cafés, vending machines etc along the way. We stopped halfway around at The Cove Cafe and got two kids' meals of chicken strips, chips and a drink for €6.50 each. They were quite greasy, so if you want a healthy option I'd bring a picnic.
Another point to note is you'll need coins for the vending machines if you want to buy drinks on your way around. The zoo doesn't have any ATMs, but you can get cash back in the Meetkat Restaurant.
So we had a lovely time at the zoo, then around mid-afternoon we headed back out of Dublin and hit the motorway, stopping at Applegreen's for coffee of course. We also stopped in Dundalk at Marshes, then arrived home about tea time, tired but happy.