Monday, 28 July 2014

Travelling with children: Clarion Hotel, Limerick

The stunning view from our room
Last week we took a short break in Limerick city, to visit friends who have moved there recently. It was our first time there, and we had a ball wandering the pretty streets and exploring the parks and markets.

We stayed as guests of the Clarion hotel, a modern, spacious hotel built right on the Shannon river. Whoever planned the design got it spot-on, not just the slick exterior, but the family-friendly interior too. 

The Clarion hotel viewed from the promenade

When we go on holiday we dream of being able to recreate some of the romance from our pre-baby days. Nights out and dates as a couple are few and far between as we rear our young children, and holidays can sometimes seem like a continuation of our parenting life, just in a different location. I am delighted to say the Clarion gave us the freedom to enjoy a drink and a chat in a romantic setting while still keeping an eye on our children.

The ground floor has a spacious lobby with comfortable sofas, great for when we were waiting to check in. A staff member came straight over to us with kids activity bags- stickers, crayons and colouring/activity sheets which went down a treat with our boys. A bowl of fruit on the reception desk provided my hungry toddler with a "geen apple" which he had been asking for on the drive to Limerick (we only had red ones in the car which weren't to his satisfaction). The lobby opens on to the stylish Kudos bar, with window the length of it, overlooking the beautiful wide river. But best of all for us was the playroom at the end of the bar, a large glass-walled room with toys for all ages and interests, costumes, ride-on vehicles and everything clean and well-kept. Barry and I met our friends in the bar that first evening, and our children had a brilliant time playing together, coming in and out to show us things, while we relaxed with a drink and then dinner.

This would have been enough to make our stay a great one, but it got even better. At 6pm the playroom had a wonderful staff member arrive to supervise the evening until 9pm. Kellie was warm and funny, and the children instantly took to her upbeat manner. She painted their faces, played games with them, had them doing drawing games together and generally having a ball. After a gorgeous Asian meal for the adults and fish and chips for the kids, we moved our drinks outside to the  heated terrace to soak up the evening sun, while still able to see the children at play. The kids got extra excited when they saw the playroom turn into a cinema at the push of a few buttons (curtains remote-controlled and large screen appeared) and they were given hot chocolate with marshmallows and freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies. Seriously, they were in heaven!

We dragged them to bed in our comfortable room, with kingsize bed perfect for co-sleeping, and two single beds which pushed together to make the biggest sleeping space ever for our family. Free wi-fi in the hotel meant mommy could keep in touch with her friends with ease, and we relaxed and watched a movie on the tv as the kids slept. I found the fridge in the room really handy for our cheese and meat from the lunchtime picnic, and we ate lunch in our room the next day, saving a few euros.

The breakfast buffet the next day was gorgeous. Juices, fruit and yogurt for the kids, cereals and pastries for mama, omelette for dada and freshly made pancakes to order. There was the usual cooked breakfast too, which looked great. They've covered all options here, and the coffee is good too! I was delighted to meet another breastfeeding mama one morning at breakfast and we bonded over talk of slings and baby development. The second night we ate in the Sinergie restaurant with its beautiful views of the Shannon, and they had no problem accommodating one fussy vegetarian (me) and one clean-eating gluten-free man. The kids were dying to go play with Kellie again so we took our dessert out to the terrace. I celebrated my holidays with a strawberry daiquiri and really got the holiday vibe.

Limerick city may have a bad rap in the press, but we saw a cosmopolitan, friendly vibrant city. Georgian streets lead to beautifully-kept public spaces, a skate park, a gorgeous promenade along the river. Funky cafes, department stores and the gorgeous Milk Market gave us so much to see and do we ended up staying a third night and still not doing it all. That's without even getting in the car and sight-seeing.

The Clarion is in a perfect location, only a stones throw to the main shopping area, but out of the main traffic of the town. Our room on the 7th floor had a stunning view, especially at night with the lights strung along the bridge. Limerick is clean and inviting, and not over-run with tourists. We're hoping to return soon, and have to thank the staff for making us and our boys feel so welcome.

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