Nov232014

Irish dancers at Radisson Blu Athlone, Ireland

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this piece: Where the hell is Athlone, Ireland and why am I planning to go there? One of the comments on my article is, “An interesting proposition – letting hotel rates determine your destination/itinerary.”

People have many different reasons for choosing hotels. In the past month ThreadTripping had pieces on how people choose hotels with How to Milk a Unique Lodging Deal and This Hotel is Fantastic; Where Are We? 

One reason for visiting Athlone, Ireland in the midlands of central Ireland was the Radisson Blu Athlone Hotel was only 59 EUR for two nights on a 2-for-1 weekend rate as a Club Carlson Gold member (complimentary status for Club Carlson Visa card members). That is $37 USD per night.

I am a traveler of limited finances. I assume most travelers have limited travel finances, unless you are reimbursed by an employer for lodging. Finding the sweet spot between what I need (a place to sleep with a good bed and security for my belongings) and what I can afford (4-star hotels when they have two and three star room rates) dictates my destination and itinerary.

Athlone Castle in fog

What tipped the scale in favor of a visit to Athlone, Ireland was my desire to have a pint in Sean’s Bar, Ireland’s oldest pub.

Seans bar 10th century

This display in Sean’s Bar shows wattle-work, the type of building construction found in the walls of the pub. The letter is dated 1972 from the Director of the National Museum of Ireland regarding an inquiry about the age of this type of construction found in the wall partition. It states wattle-work was used extensively in Ireland and the UK from the 9th to 13th centuries. Beside the display is a Guinness Book of World Records Certificate naming Sean’s Bar as the oldest pub in Ireland for being “on the site of a tavern built in 900 AD”.

I had a pint in Sean’s bar. Destination objective accomplished.

Why am I in Ireland in the first place?

The first inclination of most American travelers flying into Dublin Airport is likely to visit Dublin. I have been to Dublin and I have spent a couple of months touring Ireland on previous trips. Athlone is a place I had never been before.

My wife wanted to spend her Thanksgiving vacation week in London and she had an $800 airline voucher to redeem. Her SFO-LHR ticket was $834. I bought a ticket on American Airlines from San Francisco to Dublin for $539 flying AA from SFO to LAX and British Airways SFO-LAX-LHR-DUB. I had two nights in Ireland before flying RyanAir back to London for $113. For me, I looked at the $280 savings of flying to Dublin via London and then flying back to London as a savings that would just about cover my expenses for a week in Ireland on top of our week in London.

Ireland for six nights on $300

My objective is to spend one week in Ireland for about $300. Therefore, I was looking for cheap lodging in Ireland for the two nights before flying back to London.

Transportation to Athlone is easy from Dublin Airport. Bus Eireann, the national bus line, Express bus to Athlone took 90 minutes and the round trip ticket was 12 EUR after a 5 EUR discount for joining their loyalty program. The same bus continues to Galway, another hour west of Athlone, on the east coast of Ireland.

Radisson Blu Athlone is a 500 meter walk from the Athlone bus station.

Radisson Blu Athlone

Radisson Blu Athlone hotel offers two restaurants and a bar. The unexpected happening was finding myself in the middle of an Irish step-dancing youth championship event. Most of the children looked to be between 8 and 12. Little girls with colorful curlers in their hair filled the lobby upon their arrival Friday afternoon, and on Saturday, there were dancing children all over the lobby with bouncing hair curls. They were adorable to see in their dance costumes.

Radisson Blu Athlone Room

The room was basic Radisson with some limitations.

Rad Blu -1

The hotel has an old style TV.

Rad Blu desk

Another oddity is the cabinet below the TV looks like it should have a refrigerator, but it is empty space.

Rad Blu Amenities

At the Radisson conference last year, they announced they were changing their bath products to This Works. This is my first Radisson hotel stay with the new products.

Rad Blu bed

Comfortable bed for sleeping. My only complaint about the room was the heat was turned on to insufferable setting and the window did not open. I turned the heat off and it cooled down after an hour. Another woman at the hotel, working as a judge for the Irish dance event, commented to me her room also had the heat turned way up when she arrived.

The hotel had dinner specials Sunday through Thursday. For example, Thursday was a steak dinner with a pint for 15 EUR. I paid 15 EUR for an Indian meal take-away by Sean’s Pub and off-licence Kronenbourg 1664 since I did not want steak.

There is a great view hotel terrace on the Shannon Riverbank, but it was closed off for the winter season.

St Peters and Paul

All in all, I am happy with my choice to visit Athlone. I had wonderful conversations with some people I met. I toured the castle as the only visitor in the museum rooms. A couple came in about ten minutes behind me, but they did not catch me until the end. Sean’s Bar only had three people when I arrived, then several more arrived while I was drinking my pint.

Seans Bar-2

I toured the small Luan Modern Art Gallery and spent 15 minutes in the Church of St. Peters & Paul as the only visitor. Luan

Athlone was like my own private piece of Ireland when touring the town. Then, back at the Radisson Blu Athlone, there were plenty of children around for a feeling of youthful Irish spirit around my temporary hotel home.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. Super trip report.
    Reminds me of the Rad Blu Stansted airport! One of my favorite F&F rate properties. I have family close by and like a good traveler, never stay with family.

    I took AA from W. coast then Aer Lingus business class JFK to DUB using AVIOS from the 100k CC offer a while back, Then Aer Lingus rev to LHR.
    80k R/t was a real value and no BA BS fuel surcharges.

    You’re brave to take on Ryan Air. I won’t do it, Easy Jet is bad enough.

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