Monday 24 July 2017

Weekend Away: Travelodge Rathmines Dublin 6

Travelodge Rathmines
Travelodge Rathmines
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

First impressions

Even in these tough times, a €19 room sale is sensational news. I first spotted the rate, offered by budget chain Travelodge, at the beginning of March. When I went online to book a few days later, the lead-in had jumped to €25. Calling its Rathmines hotel, I was told the €19 rate still applied, “as long as you can find a room that’s available”.

Okay, I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over €6. But when I trawled the sale dates on Travelodge.ie, I couldn’t even find any €25 rooms in Rathmines before October 31, when the sale ends.

By the time I checked into the hotel, which hulks over an Aldi supermarket on the Lower Rathmines Road, I had walked past a sign in the doorway advertising €19 rates, and paid €79.10 for my room. Bah!

The room

I wasn’t expecting to be spoiled at a Travelodge. But it is a three-star hotel, so I was hoping for a clean and comfortable hotel room close to the city centre.

Opening the door to Room 220, the first thing I clocked was its size. It was surprisingly large, with loads of space between the bed, wardrobe and a desk sparsely furnished with an old tube TV, a kettle, lamp and two mugs containing sachets of Maxwell House coffee.

The second thing that struck me was the heat. It felt overbearing, and dialling an elderly thermostat right down to five degrees didn’t change things either. Reporting the problem to reception, I was advised to open a window or to look for a button to turn off the heater. Eventually, that sorted it.

The twin beds were each dressed with a thin duvet and single pillow. I could feel the springs throughout the night, but the windows did a reasonable job of muffling the street noise outside.

The pamper factor

Budget hotels are pamper-free zones, focusing their pitch on price. Nevertheless, the receptionist on duty in Rathmines was polite and helpful, talking me through the setup and inviting me to phone down with any questions. The manager is also full of tips on TripAdvisor, a sign that he cares.

But even by budget standards, the services are basic. There’s no bar or restaurant, late check-out costs €10 and Wi-Fi is charged, though guests can avail of discounts at a new swimming pool across the street.

Travelodge is a fresh and funky brand, so it was a let-down to find spots of flaking paint, loose tiles and grouting, and a cracked toilet cover in my bathroom, too. A soft refurbishment has been ongoing in Rathmines, but even new carpets in the corridors and a fresh lick of paint in my room couldn’t save it from feeling like a place to put up with for the night, rather than a comfy city base.

The food

Four Star Pizza delivers free to Travelodge Rathmines, but with no eating area in the hotel, the only inhouse breakfast option is to order a continental tray to your room for €7.

A small pot of coffee, glass of apple juice, two slices of toast, an apple, satsuma, a pot of yoghurt and a 22g box of Rice Krispies was delivered to me on a plastic tray. It’s frugal, and the coffee brought back memories of the school canteen, but the fruit was fresh. I got what I paid for.

What to do

Rathmines is one of the south side’s quirkier inner ’burbs — a mash-up of old Victorian buildings, charity shops, student barns, the Swan shopping centre and restaurants. There’s also a fine new swimming pool and multiscreen cinema.

It’s a 10-minute walk from the city centre, Dundrum is on the 14A bus route, the Aviva and O2 are €10-€15 taxi rides away, and the bagels are brilliant at the Bretzel bakery on nearby Lennox Street.

The downsides

Parking is another palaver. I was asked to sign a terms and conditions sheet outlining the overnight fee of €6, together with instructions to display a permit “at all times wile [sic] using the car park facility”. The receptionist also warned me not to park over the lines, “or they’ll clamp you”. I was then given a remote control, which opened the gates to an underground lot. Keep it close — it costs €100 if you lose it.

The damage On the Wednesday before St Patrick’s Day, my bill with breakfast came to €86.10. That’s a big jump from the €19 that sucked me in, and a rate for which I can book a better three-star hotel in Dublin. Going to press, I priced rooms at Travelodge Rathmines for Friday, April 8, and was able to find cheaper rates at both the Mespil Hotel and Bewley’s in Ballsbridge.

The details Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6. Tel: 01 491 1402; travelodge.ie.

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