When you arrive in Dublin by plane, you see the bright green billboards promoting The Gathering as you walk through the terminal. The slogans are enticing and welcoming — “Everyone’s invited” and “Excited to get you home”. But what exactly is The Gathering?
The Gathering Ireland 2013 is a program launched last New Year’s Eve in Dublin to encourage Irish friends and family around the world to visit this beautiful country and experience its vibrant culture. Throughout 2013, gatherings from large public events to small family reunions are being celebrated and showcased via The Gathering website and other media outlets. It’s a “welcome home” campaign — whether you’ve lived in Ireland, have Irish roots, or just have a love of the Irish spirit.
My father was 100% Irish, but I wasn’t in Dublin for a family gathering. I was there to attend another sort of gathering – with my fellow travel bloggers and travel industry sponsors at TBEX Dublin, where bloggers from around the world were convening for education, entertainment and networking. The conference gave me my extra incentive to visit the land of my paternal ancestors, a return trip I’ve been longing for since Mr. TWS and I visited in 2004. This recent trip was only for a few days, but I relished it all — making new friends, visiting sites old and new, indulging in Irish food and drink, and enjoying Irish music while luxuriating in the comfort of the Four Seasons Hotel Dublin as my home base.
Céad míle fáilte at the Four Seasons Dublin
Update 2/3/2015: Please note that as of December 31, 2014, this hotel is no longer managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The hotel is now operated as InterContinental Dublin. My opinions and perspectives are based upon my experience with the hotel under the management of the Four Seasons.
The Irish have a saying that truly represents the hospitable nature of the people — Céad míle fáilte, meaning “A thousand welcomes”. That’s exactly the kind of welcome I got checking into the Four Seasons Dublin for my stay during TBEX Dublin.
Located on quiet Simmonscourt Road in Ballsbridge, an upscale residential area of the city, the hotel has warm, inviting décor and helpful, smiling staff accompanied with first-class service and luxury accommodations. Rory, who greeted me at the front desk, escorted me to my Deluxe Suite while we chatted about traveling and he offered his assistance with local information.
With the Four Seasons fine touches, I enjoyed some time catching up on business at my desk while nibbling on caramel corn and nuts, appreciating the quiet, relaxing atmosphere after a busy travel blog project and a day of travel from Bologna, Italy.
In my experience, the enjoyment of a business conference can be directly affected by the quality of one’s accommodations. The Four Seasons Hotel Dublin was ideal for me and it was a convenient 5 – 10 minute taxi ride (depending upon traffic) to the conference center, certainly in walking distance when weather and time permits.
A light rain was falling and autumn leaves were rustling on the tree branches above me as I took a late afternoon walk in the hotel courtyard with camera and umbrella in hand. I loved breathing in the refreshing and misty air.
Starting the day at Seasons restaurant
The full Irish breakfast and friendly service of staff (such as Reka seen in the photo below) in a lovely light-filled room looking out on the courtyard made Seasons restaurant a great place to start my day.
The dishes served in Seasons restaurant are created with locally sourced produce, meats and seafood from specially selected butchers, artisans and growers.
Out and about in Dublin
There was no shortage of entertainment provided by the conference sponsors — opening night party at the Guinness Storehouse, cocktails at the stylish Odeon bar ( located in the former Harcourt Street railway station), and tickets to the premier of Heartbeat of Home, a wonderful music and dance performance by the producers of Riverdance fame.
Enjoying the craic
A short taxi ride to the conference facilities and other venues gave me an opportunity to speak with the drivers who I found to be quick with smiles and the craic (Irish term for fun conversation and banter). They seemed to enjoy sharing their perspectives and helpful tips. As evidenced during one of my taxi rides, the Irish are very serious about political issues and exercising their voting rights. On my way to the conference with a companion, the driver was telling us about a vote taking place on a referendum that day and he shared his viewpoints. His eagerness to place his vote and have his voice heard was inspiring. While having chats with this gentleman as well as other drivers during my stay, I found that the rides seemed short and I often wished I could spend more time learning about the Irish and enjoying the conversation.
Rest and relaxation
The time at TBEX events, restaurants, the theater and just strolling around Dublin was great, but it was nice to end the busy days in luxurious comfort — perhaps with a little hot tea and peanut brittle or pizza and wine from room service.
Touches of art and flowers are tastefully displayed throughout the hotel.
I loved this lifelike sculpture I came across in the courtyard. In keeping with the intent of the sculptor, Between Appointments took me by surprise and made me smile. I recognized the name of the artist, J. Seward Johnson with whose work I was familiar. You may have seen my post about a large piece of his public art that I also came about by surprise in National Harbor, Maryland called The Awakening which evokes a much different reaction than this more ordinary scene in the courtyard.
In keeping with the hotel’s artistic flair, an art exhibition of Irish sculpture will be presented throughout the hotel from November 5, 2013 until January 2014 and the art will be available for purchase. There are sneak peeks of the exhibition at Sculpture In Context At Four Seasons Hotel Dublin.
The hotel’s florist, Catherine Forrest does a wonderful job with the arrangements from the Flower Room such as the exceptional orchid that was in my room, the colorful carnation bouquets in the lobby lounge, and the single white rose on my breakfast table.
Time to say goodbye
When I think of those few short days, the most vivid memories are of the warmth, hospitality, smiles and vibrant spirit of the people I met.
During the taxi ride to the airport, my driver and I talked about many subjects, including the lifelong friends he had made on a visit to New York City many years ago. We talked about the late Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, who is a hero in Ireland for her part in bringing to justice the drug lords of Dublin, at the cost of her life. We also talked about the negotiations to end “the Troubles”, the violence in Northern Ireland that had continued for decades. George put it very simply — the government and politicians put the agreements into place, but it was the people themselves who made the difference by presenting a strong public front to say that they weren’t going to stand for the violence any longer.
I mentioned that I was impressed that in these days of economic struggles in Ireland, the people seem to have such positive outlooks. He said, “Oh, we’ll always keep smiling. You have to be optimistic!”
I’m optimistic about more opportunities to return to Dublin.
For more information:
Disclosure: My accommodations in Dublin were hosted by Four Seasons Hotel Dublin.
I just love the Irish saying “a thousand welcomes.” What a great campaign to attract visitors to this idyllic country and to remind relatives to come and visit their families too. It’s all-inclusive and no one is left out! Looks like you had a great time in Ireland my friend!!
Had a super time, Jeff. Short, but sweet. Doesn’t that saying just make you feel like you are REALLY welcome. By the way, that was also the welcoming greeting on th TV screen in my room at the Four Seasons.
Sounds like a fab hotel, Cathy – especially like all the light and airy areas with views of the courtyard.
Seasons restaurant was such a pleasant place to start the day. I really felt comfortable, the food was great (especially a good Irish breakfast) and service was very friendly. Oh, and coffee was offered right away — one of my big things when eating breakfast out.
Sounds like you had a great stay in Dublin! The last time that I was in Ireland was when I was pregnant with my older daughter and I was really hoping to return for The Gathering this year and introduce my children to the country. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work with our schedule – but hopefully soon! The Four Seasons Dublin looks lovely – I have wondered about staying there but was worried that it would be too far from the city centre.
Hope you get a chance soon to introduce the children to Ireland. The Four Seasons is about a 10 minute taxi ride to the city centre and there is public transportation nearby. For me, it worked out perfectly for my needs. Easy to get to TBEX and city centre. Walking is also a possibility if you like to walk as much as I do when I’m in a city.
Cathy, we had the same experience wtih Dublin taxi drivers. Actually, the world over, if I can communicate with a cab driver (in my case, in English or Spanish), I find they usually provide an interesting viewpoint and perspective on their hometown. My first blog post about Dublin, from a trip last year, has an entire paragraph devoted to our first taxi driver:
(I hope you don’t mind the link. I figured it might be ok since you have CommentLuv enabled).
I don’t mind the link at all, Suzanne. Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I’ll check out your article soon.
What a fab hotel! I love the little touches of elegance and comforts of home. We were in Dublin in 1998 so we’re long overdue for a visit. My husband has cousins that live in Dublin too. I’m glad you had a wonderful time at TBEX and Dublin.
That’s great that your husbands have relatives in Dublin. That really adds a special dimension when we travel, doesn’t it? And yes, you are long overdue for a visit! 🙂
Cathy, you’ve made my itchy travel feet long for a visit to Ireland. Staying at the Four Seasons Dublin would be the icing on the cake. What a lovely property. I enjoyed reading about your time there.
Thanks, Donna. I do believe that your accommodations can really add or detract from the experience no matter where you are and the Four Seasons was definitely a big plus.
Beautiful understated luxury and such a bitter sweet goodbye… love your driver.
It was such a pleasure to talk to him — the taxi ride went so quickly because I was enjoying it so much. I left Dublin with a strong desire to return as soon as possible.
Very beautiful place 🙂
Yes, the Four Seasons is really lovely. As Maria said above — it has an understated luxury that makes one feel at home and that fits the Irish spirit of hospitality so well, I think.
Okay, I’m sold!
OK, book your trip and please let them know that I sent you!
I had told you before how much my aunt loved Ireland and was there the same time as you were. The Gathering sounds fantastic and being 1/2 Irish that definitely caught my attention! I’ve still have to make an Irish/English breakfast soon someday! The only 2nd language I speak is Golden Retriever but I agree with Suzanne. Taxi drivers can be like a conceirge on wheels and have a wealth of helpful information and suggestions! 🙂
Especially sine you are 1/2 Irish, I strongly encourage you to make the trip to Ireland as your aunt did. It’s amazing how much at home (and part of the culture) you’ll feel when you touch down on the “old sod”.
I love that guy on the bench sculpture! Looks like a fab hotel. I really need to get myself to Ireland!
Hope you get there sometimes soon, Jennifer. To some, that sculpture may have appeared to be just a quirky piece of art, but I recognized it right away as one of J. Seward Johnson’s pieces whose work I had seen in Maryland. he also has pieces at other Four Seasons hotels.
I love the idea of The Gathering, Cathy. The Four Seasons Dublin is fabulous.
One of these days, I’ll make it to Ireland.
Isn’t The Gathering one of the best names for a tourism campaign– and it fits Ireland in a way that it would not fit any other place — in my opinion! Marcia, I predict that you will LOVE Ireland when you go.
Now I understand why everyone is so fascinated by Dublin:)
Thanks, Mette. And I only gave you a little glimpse! Dublin is a great city and there’s much to see outside of the city, too. Wish I could have spent more time in Dublin and also taken one of the post-TBEX trip to the west, but I had other commitments. Next time!
This hotel is created for rest and relaxation
I could unfortunately not make it to TBEX Dublin this year but I for sure hope to make it to one of their conferences next year. The Four Seasons looks absolutely fabulous, I would have difficulty getting out of the hotel if I stayed there.