Thursday, 13 November 2014

Five Star Treatment

Five Star Treatment

Who doesn't love free stuff ? How about winning a two night stay in Dromoland Castle, with dinner for two people ?  All for the price of a text message to Newstalk Radio (shameless plug).  It doesn't get much better than that now, does it ? Last weekend, we headed off, with the schmancy gift voucher under our oxters, children in the back seat. Dromoland kindly allowed the two children to come along for no extra charge for accommodation (more free stuff !).

It appears that I will never learn from the past and always pack at the last minute, with two over-excited children giving me the Just-a-Minute-Quiz round of questions. Mithered I was. I packed the opposite of a capsule wardrobe for myself. I wasn't exactly sure of the dress code in Dromoland, so I packed four pairs of trousers, three dresses, sparkly shoes and an even more sparkly waistcoat, and yet packed feck all tops to wear with them. And no toothbrush for me. (I confess, I used the kids brushes - don't sound so horrified. I grew the children in my tummy, a little exchange of saliva isn't going to do us any harm).

The road trip on Friday evening was wet and dark.  It was a classic 'are we there yet, are we there yet ... ?' trip. The only way to stop the questions, was to play some annoying songs on repeat. Like the one in this link !

The stressful journey was soon forgotten as we drove up the meandering driveway. The children started to laugh with excitement as the lights of the sprawling castle appeared between the trees.  Dromoland do hospitality so well.  From the moment we arrived, we felt like the staff cared. They were willing us to enjoy our stay.

The bedroom, with two queen-sized didn't disappoint. The children almost needed a ladder to climb onto the beds.  There were two teddy bears on the beds, 'for us Mam ?, the little ones said in surprise. In the wardrobe, robes and - my favourite - slippers to take home !  Opening the wardrobe, the children said simultaneously, in true twinnie fashion, 'Look ! A microwave !' 'Eh, no darlings, it's a safe'.

Down to the bar for dinner. It was a busy spot. It was hard not to feel like an ethnic minority among the American visitors.

Back in the bedroom, staff had left chocolates for the grown ups and jellies for the children. They really felt like all their Christmas's had come at once.  Too disorganised to have thought about booking a babysitter, I was happy enough to have an early night, watching TV in my plush surroundings.  But the children were so excited, there was no chance of sleep. Jumping between the two beds, wrestling on the floor and generally making sure that I didn't see anything on TV.  They eventually dosed off at 11pm. Surely that means a lie in the following morning ? Surely ?

Ha ! 6.45 am call. 'Mam, can we go to the swimming pool now ?' 'Pretty please ?' Why is it always me that gets the 6.45 am call ?  The pool in Dromoland doesn't allow children until after 10am, which is fine ... Except for Leon, the boy with no patience. He could barely eat his rather magnificent pancakes in case the clock struck 10 and we hadn't noticed (even though the pancakes were served with Nutella).  The breakfast was pretty impressive, with lots of options for us vegetarians and healthy foodies.

The other grown up brought the children to the swimming pool while I had a long bath and read the complimentary copy of Social and Personal.  Okay, I didn't actually READ it, I just looked at the beautiful people at the lovely events. Of course I didn't bring hair conditioner with me - an essential if you have two gals with manes like myself and Mya, especially when the chlorine in the swimming pool dries it out. The hotel bathroom had proper conditioner. I was beside myself.  (Did I mention that I don't get out much ?).

The pool is a little walk away from the hotel reception, but there is the option of getting a golf buggy ride there. It is no surprise that Leon and Mya opted for the jaunt. Could life get any better ?

We have elderly family friends who eat their dinner in Durty Nellies, a pub beside Bunratty Castle every day.  We took a chance that we would find them there and voila, there they were.  I joked that they would be easy to assassinate as they were such creatures of habit. An American man, who had been sitting at an adjoining table, leaned over to me as he left and told me that the look on our friends faces when we landed in had made his day.

I abandoned ideas of attending anything remotely cultural in City if Culture or visiting friends and went to TK Maxx. In my defence, I was looking for a particular birthday present (that was so nice that I wanted to keep it for myself). After a painful trawl of the toy aisles for pocket money toys, I managed to pick up a TOTAL BARGAIN tailored top for myself (and totally justified, given my sparse top packing).

Back to Dromoland for dinner. The top I bought in TK Maxx had a small rip (hence the bargain price, I guess). Of course, the bedroom had a sewing kit, so I was soon zipping myself into the new purchase. Leon was a little anxious about dinner as the dining room looked quite formal, but the staff were so nice to little people that he soon forgot about that. Meals arriving under silver cloches had their eyes on sticks. The brown bread ice-cream was a highlight for myself and Mya.  I'd like a bowl of it now actually ... The castle presented huge adventuring opportunities for the children, such as a mini golf putting area and an outdoor chess set.

I made it to the leisure centre on Sunday morning. The jacuzzi was to die for and I was sorry that I hadn't given it a go on Saturday to ease my persistence back pain.  Of course, with lil uns, most of the time there was spend with the water babies. 'Look at me Mam, look at me !'

Dromoland is a great place for just lounging around, on huge sofas you could get lost in and nooks and crannies to hide in. My sister in law joined us on Sunday and we did just that. The grounds are fabulous and thankfully the weather was mild enough for a long stroll. The go carts on the tennis courts had all the little visitors very excited.

My overall impression of Dromoland was very positive. The 15% service charge which was added onto all bills seemed very steep though and put you off tipping staff personally, which I would prefer to do. Having said that though, the service was super. The staff made the children feel very important and all of their little requests were accommodated.  I came away feeling refreshed and relaxed - two words that I don't associate with me.

We stopped on the way home for something to eat in the Barack Obama Plaza. After being in the Dromoland, feel the love experience, it as surreal an experience as the name of the place suggests. Queues of people, all on the way to somewhere else,waiting for fast food in a huge, bright, shiny space. Our order took forever as the staff couldn't find me. Eh, I'm the one in the huge fluffy blue cardigan ... I'm so glad that I made an impression ...

Back to reality with a bang.

Thanks Dromoland for a fabulous weekend. It really is the little things that count ....

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