Pairing Dublin and London means you get the best of two entirely different city experiences within an easy flight of each other. Flying from the US on Aer Lingus allows a stay in Ireland before continuing on to another destination at no additional cost. I took advantage of the easy non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Dublin, before going on to London, and the fare to London from Dublin was nominal.
From the Guinness Storehouse, and listening to traditional Irish music, to shopping at Harrods and visiting London’s museums, these two cities have so much to offer. Of course, hotel choice is a big part of the experience, and the Dublin Westbury along with the London Athenaeum were the perfect properties for my recent visits.
In Dublin The Westbury is walking distance to most major sights. As a 5-star property located in the Grafton shopping district, their great service began upon my arrival. From the doorman and bellman to reception, my arrival was seamless, and I received a very warm welcome. My Studio Suite was quite spacious, yet cozy. I loved the four-poster bed and Nespresso coffee maker. The marble bathroom was nicely appointed, including a heated towel rack.
The Westbury is a Leading Hotel of the World, and with the attention to detail it was obvious why. I had the continental breakfast on the terrace with a lot of delicious choices, including fresh fruit and fabulous pastries. Being one of TravelStore's preferred hotels, I enjoyed complimentary continental breakfast as well as a lunch at Balfes. The fish and chips I ordered for lunch was very tasty, and the bistro feel of Balfes provided a great ambiance.
From the Westbury I walked all over Dublin and especially enjoyed the walk back on Grafton Street, which is great for window shopping and people watching. From pouring my own pint at the Guinness Storehouse (savored from the Gravity Bar with 360° view of Dublin), to seeing the Book of Kells at Trinity College, I loved it all. Easily my favorite experience in Dublin was listening to traditional Irish music in a pub with a group of locals.
My sadness for leaving The Westbury and Dublin subsided once I reached the 5-star Athenaeum in the heart of London. This property has been around since 1850, as different residences and hotels. It was completely refurbished in 2016, and is better than ever.
Upon arrival, and a little bleary-eyed, I was met by Jim Burns, the most-friendly and helpful doorman you’ll ever meet, and an Athenaeum fixture for a quarter of a century. He set the tone with a warm smile. Inside I was quickly greeted, and while seated at a little table, no formal reception desk, I was checked-in. It felt as if I was at a friend’s home, and I was immediately invited to enjoy a complimentary signature cocktail at THE BAR. If London were not one of the most engaging cities in the world, I may never have left this home away from home.
By London standards my room was quite spacious, and it had a Green Park view. Again, I found my favorite hotel room apparatus, a Nespresso machine, and I was welcomed with a plate of fresh fruit and a bottle of wine. For those traveling with children, The Athenaeum has a family questionnaire you can fill out before your visit so they can make sure you have everything you and your tykes will want/need.
Once again, being a TravelStore preferred hotel, The Athenaeum includes breakfast, which was a full spread of tasty morsels. Dinner at Galvin did not disappoint either. With the Michelin-starred Galvin brothers partnering with The Athenaeum in 2016, all food and beverage offerings are carefully crafted under their direction.
A fun tradition The Athenaeum keeps is “guest cocktails” on Wednesday nights in THE SALON. Hotel staff mingle with guests, and delicious appetizers are passed with complimentary drinks. The staff eagerly share London tips and insights in a casual setting. I appreciated this gathering and was introduced to other hotel guests, which added to the homey feel.
The Athenaeum is on the Victoria, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines, which makes it very easy to access all of London by the Tube. It’s also walking distance to many great highlights, such as Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Natural History Museum. For those interested, the original (yes, original) Hard Rock Café is just two blocks away. I enjoyed walking to and from the museums and Harrods and saved the Tube for longer jaunts around the city.
I truly did not want to leave when my stay at The Athenaeum concluded, but my flight to Dublin wasn’t going to wait for me, so I made my way to Heathrow and Dublin. Going through US Preclearance at the Dublin Airport meant that arriving at LAX on my international flight was a breeze, akin to arriving on a domestic flight. At Terminal 2 at the Dublin Airport I went through US immigration, customs and the agriculture inspection prior to departure. Are the US agents any friendlier because they are working in Ireland? No, but it was a quick and easy process. Knowing how seamless it is to fly through Dublin, and knowing there are fabulous properties waiting for my return, I can’t wait to go back. And because Aer Lingus has such great connecting fares, I don’t have to choose between London and Dublin.