When Grace Kelly came to Dublin, she always requested the same room in The Shelbourne Hotel. Today it is known as the Princess Grace suite, writes Vickie Maye.
IT’S not every day a little girl gets to sleep in a real princess’s bed. The room, with its sweeping views of St Stephen’s Green, is a shrine to a Hollywood icon who married a prince. Paintings, photos and beautiful coffeetable books adorn the walls and shelves.
My seven-year-old was enchanted by the real-life fairytale — and the beautiful woman at the centre of it all: Princess Grace.
We were staying in the Shelbourne Hotel in the room Grace Kelly always requested whenever she visited Dublin.
Three decades after her tragic death, it is still known as the Princess Grace suite. The Shelbourne is a Dublin landmark. It is as iconic inside as is it out, for its afternoon tea; for the Horseshoe, a meeting point for the who’s who of the capital; for its gleaming marble, its sparkling chandeliers.
And then there’s the history. It opened its doors in 1824, when Tipperary man Martin Burke set out to woo moneyed clientele who wanted the best accommodation at a fashionable address. He succeeded — it was the place for the upper classes to be seen.
During the Easter Rising, the hotel remained loyal to crown, but some staff were not. On Easter Monday, afternoon tea moved to the rear of the hotel as the Horseshoe came under fire. The Shelbourne was sandbagged and shuttered.
The constitution was drafted here in 1922 — two originals still sit in the Constitution Suite. In 2005, the hotel closed, and reopened after a complete renovation. Of the 262 rooms, 19 of the suites are named after famous guests — Princess Grace, JFK, Collins, DeValera. By reception, a TV screen flashes images of the celebrities who have stayed there. It is a ‘who’s who’ of Hollywood’s elite. I was intimidated as I pulled up at the entrance with my two daughters. Perhaps this wasn’t ideal for a family break. How wrong I was.
The Shelbourne’s location, in the heart of the city centre, is one of the hotel’s selling points — but unloading a car of the paraphernalia that comes with a 12-month-old is no mean feat at the top of Stephen’s Green, one of the capital’s busiest thoroughfares. But the men with the top hats took care of everything, taking my car keys, and ushering me into reception. Check-in was swift, friendly and efficient, but with time to soak in the majesty of the Shelbourne, a truly sophisticated piece of history. My bags were waiting for me by the time I got to my room.
Princess Grace stayed there first in 1973, and on her return visits to Dublin, with Prince Rainier, she chose the same hotel, the same room. It was her favourite — so expect nothing but the best.
There was a long hallway, full-length windows in the living room with a magnificent view of the Green, two beautiful bedrooms — including a real princess’s bed (so I told my daughter). The living room was vast, incorporating a boardroom table, two couches, a flat-screen TV — and still there was so much open space. Luxury.
We dined in the sumptuous Saddle Room, with its dark-oak walls and rich splashes of gold. It’s a steak-and-seafood restaurant, so I tried the panseared Dublin Bay prawn for starter, €19, and fillet of beef for main, €35.95. I was apprehensive — a five-star restaurant, a two-hour meal and a seven-year-old and oneyearold are not always the best combination. The staff had it all in hand, with ageappropriate gifts for the children: Building blocks for the baby, arts and crafts for the seven year old. They served the kids first before hunger and boredom set in. It was the most relaxed meal I have had.
Breakfast was also served in the Saddle Room, which had a more relaxed vibe by day.
Breakfast, always a gauge of a good hotel, was as you’d expect from a five-star: fresh fruit; pastries and a full Irish. The standout was the juice machine. You couldn’t get fresher OJ.
WHAT TO DO
You’re in the heart of Dublin. The city is your oyster. We went to Dublin Zoo in the morning, and spent the afternoon on St Stephen’s Green. It was the perfect family break. With a real-life princess to complete the fairytale.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With champagne on arrival, unpacking and packing of luggage, butler service, breakfast, return Dublin Airport transfers, valet parking, internet and daily amenities, the royal package costs €2,500 per night for up to four guests. Rooms start from €99.50 per person sharing.
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