On the busy periphery of Temple Bar, visibly equidistant to the south bank of the Liffey and the classical façade of City Hall, the two star Bridge House fills the upper floors of two neighbouring Georgian townhouses on the western side of the bar and restaurant lined Parliament Street. ARRIVAL A red door splits two entrances to the Bella Roma restaurant, rising to a small triangular sign and a larger blue and yellow board above bearing the name of the hotel. I press the buzzer, wait, skirt the 'Fresh Paint' sign and walk up a single flight of stairs to the tiny reception area. A small desk crammed into a corner guards the entrance to a diminutive lounge-cum-breakfast area with tables temporarily surrounded by departing guests' luggage, a portable TV playing quietly in the corner and a free newspaper folded next to pots of tea and coffee. A signature, a key, and it's up six more suburban house sized flights of stairs covered in foot sagging deep blue carpets to my room on the fourth floor. THE ROOMS The door opens at the first attempt to a view of a bathroom door, an off-white wall, a hairdryer on a twisting cord, a clothes rail in the corner and a folding chair stacked with fluffy towels underneath. Stepping inside, two crooked pictures hang above a pine headboard, facing a wall mounted portable TV in the corner and a window in the far wall which, swung open from the bottom, fills the room with the whir of engine noise from the street down below. A yellow lamp stands on a chest of drawers separating two beds, a remote control placed diagonally on top. Everything is spick and span like a newly furnished guest room in a leafy, lace curtained Victorian commuter town - conservative, respectable, clean, and familiar down to the radiator under the window sill and the British terrestrial channels I spend twenty seconds idly flicking through on the way to RTE, MTV, the Discovery Channel, Sky One and Sky News. The view from the window starts with streetlights on the Liffey as it flows up to the concrete edge of Grattan Bridge, the pale green dome of Penney's Department Store away to the north in the middle of Henry Street and a section of the city's sky high ring of cranes behind. Directly opposite, a copper brewing kettle stands in an upstairs window of the red brick, green wood Porter House pub, and the cobbled start line of Temple Bar stretches across the beginning of Essex Street East. Lights flicker on along the lower floors of the four-storey Georgian buildings, illuminating the front of a late night Spar, Zaytoon Persian restaurant and the Little Sicily eatery next door. Into the brightly lit bathroom, where spotless blue and white tiles surround a circular mirror, a slightly undersized sink and a basket of soap curiously absent of shampoo. Three sliding plastic panels open to a shower big enough to stand three people in comfort (not that I tried, honest) and a hot water control that requires just a few seconds of tweaking to get the best temperature. BREAKFAST At a quarter to eight in the morning the breakfast room is deserted as I take up my seat next to a window overlooking the bustling street outside. A table wedged between two corners of a back wall holds a big bowl of fruit, plastic containers full of Rice Krispies and cornflakes, a sliced loaf of soda bread, a small row of yoghurt pots, packets of butter and fruit jam, apple pastries, scones full of raisins, ring doughnuts crammed with custard and glass jugs of milk and orange juice. The quantities of each seem a little limited, and the choice is perhaps not as extensive as it could be, but complemented by a full coffee pot, a basket full of tea bags and a large hot water dispenser, it's a more than adequate start to the day. By a quarter past eight most of the guests - a few couples in their mid to late-thirties, a backpacker and a family of four - are milling around
the room, and with standing room only I forgo my fourth trip to the box of doughnuts and head back upstairs. DETAILS Bridge House. 24 - 25 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11am. Complimentary tea and coffee are available all day. The breakfast room has only four tables (one for six people, one for four, and two tables for two) so it's probably better to come down either very early or quite late. Reception is open 24 hours. Press the buzzer and state your room number. Earliest check in is at 2pm. The hotel has 20 en suite rooms, comprising 4 singles, 3 doubles, 3 twins, 9 triples and 1 quad. All rooms were fully refurbished in 1999. There is no lift as Bridge House is situated in a listed building. The lowest rooms (numbers 1,2 and 3) are on the first floor next to reception. Most of Dublin's major attractions are within a ten-minute walk of the hotel, including Temple Bar, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, O'Connell Street, Trinity College, Grafton Street, the Ha'penny Bridge, the Four Courts and the Bank of Ireland building. The Guinness Brewery, the National Gallery, St. Stephen's Green, Newman House, Merrion Square and the National Museum (Archaeology and History) are all but a short distance further. The nearest drop-off point for the Aircoach service from Dublin Airport is Trinity College (www.aircoach.ie). Follow Dame Street in a westerly direction for Parliament Street. Dublin Bus number 748 also runs close to the hotel along Wellington Quay. There are no parking facilities at the hotel itself. I stayed at Bridge House for one night on June 17th 2003. The high season room rate was £60 with Octopus Travel (www.octopustravel.com). OVERALL Bridge House is neither the cheapest nor the best hotel I've ever stayed in. You can definitely get lower prices elsewhere in Dubl
in - the guesthouses in Lower Gardiner Street being a good bet if you?re on a budget - but the location and cleanliness of the hotel, combined with the friendly staff, just about edge it up to a four star rating. WEBSITES www.hosteldublin.com www.dublin-hotels.net/bridge-house/ www.about-dublin-hotels.ie/hotelinfo.asp?hotel=1083 www.hotel-ireland.com/bridge-house/ http://dublin.city-centre-hotels.com/temple-bar-hotels.html www.visitdublin.com
I've stayed at this hotel many times on my visits to Ireland, it is very handy for all points of travel around Ireland as it is situated on the N7 approx. 1 mile from the M50. The hotel lives up to the Bewleys trademark of a quality product. The rooms are always clean and the staff are always very helpful. The bar area is very nice with service to your table. You have to book for the restaurant but I tend to drive into Dublin city as it is only a few miles away. The only oddity regarding the hotel is the instance of charging for every single item at breakfast - handy if you eat light but I find it a little perturbing first thing in the morning. This is one hotel I use as a base for my business travels in Ireland and usually only stay elsewhere when it is fully booked.
Going to Dublin in summer? - stay at Trinity College. Trinity college is a haven of peace in the midst of frantic Dublin. Its within staggering distance of the Temple Bar district and other major attractions and walking distance from bus and train stations. The Accommodation was a bit sparse - being empty student rooms it lacked homely touches but that was the only problem. Rooms cost from £34 pp. and include continental breakfast. Breakfast is cafeteria style with a good choice and plenty of it. For details see www.tcd.ie/ under accommodation. Each block of rooms has its own sitting room/kitchen where you can make tea etc and snacks but you have to bring or buy your own. I think it was possible to use the sports facilities too but it would be best to ask about this. The greatest attraction, however, is having such peaceful surroundings right in the very heart of Dublin. PS. If you want to take a tour I recommend Wild Wicklow tours, not only is it a very good tour totally full of blarney but Dennis also plies you with peppermints and Irish whiskey as you travel. See www.arantours.ie/