Posted tagged ‘Royal Hibernian Hotel’

Day trip to Dublin

March 27, 2009

The first diary I ever kept was in 1966. And on March 27 that year (exactly 42 years ago today), I joined my mother on a trip to Dublin, from our home in County Westmeath. And in the diary I noted:

“1 hour 45 minutes each way. Car parked by man outside Hibernian Hotel. Switzers (boring). Golden Spoon for lunch. Dugdale, terrible. Pineapple sweets on Dawson Street. Home.”

This rather sketchy entry is actually still very meaningful for me, and prompts a lot of memories. The Hibernian Hotel was perhaps the most elegant of the traditional hotels in Dublin. It was located half way up Dawson Street, at the spot where the Royal Hibernian Way shopping mall now is. The hotel was demolished in the 1980s. One of my strongest memories of it is that you passed by a huge mirror as you walked past the entrance lobby. The reference to the man who parked the car is also interesting. As yet back then there were no parking meters or pay-and-display machines; I am not even sure there were yellow lines anywhere to restrict parking. Outside the Hibernian Hotel on every weekday was a man wearing a peaked cap who, for a little money, would take your car as you arrived and would park it somewhere for you (often double parked). On your return he would retrieve it – a kind of unofficial and probably technically illegal valet parking service that always seemed to work.

Switzers was one of the two Grafton Street department stores – the building now occupied by Brown Thomas, which in those days was on the other side of the street where Marks & Spencer is now. My mother was probably shopping for clothes, but in any case the shop was boring to me. The Golden Spoon was a fairly cheap restaurant on Suffolk Street. It was seventh heaven – I always ate a sirloin steak and chips there, and admired their truly wonderful plastic ketchup bottles shaped as tomatoes.

Mr Dugdale was our family dentist. These were the days before local anaesthetics, and a visit there was always likely to turn out to be very painful. In the front garden outside his practice (and I don’t recall where that was) was a huge monkey puzzle tree. Mr Dugdale himself had a set of light brown teeth, which seemed incongruous.

The pineapple sweets were, for me, in themselves a sufficient reason to come to Dublin. They were sold in a shop (whose name I no longer remember) on the corner of Dawson Street and Molesworth Street. They came in huge bars, a mixture of white sugary rock and orange transparent candy. To put it in a state that was more convenient for eating the shopkeeper would take the bar and smash it into smaller pieces with a hammer.

So there it was, Dublin as it appeared to me in March 1966. It was in many ways a quiet town, not the bustling metropolis you find today. I suppose I would visit it five or six times a year back then, and each visit was an adventure.