Staycation? Don't mind if I do

I never understood the appeal of ‘going to look at the planes’. My mother, who grew up in Ennis, talks fondly of Sunday drives to Shannon, where she and her siblings would be encouraged to watch the planes landing and taking off from Co Clare’s most cosmopolitan location. It’s always seemed to me like a poor substitute for a real treat, like being given a sugar sandwich instead of cake.

But there’s no denying that even going to the airport brings with it a little frisson of excitement. Like getting the train – which meant Dublin, visiting family, the zoo, or going to a panto – it meant fun (if you live in a place with adequate, usable commuter transport, you will never understand the thrill of getting the train). Going to the airport always meant either going on holidays or collecting a family member who would inevitably have brought presents.

When you’re not going away, airports are strange places. They are surrounded by business parks serving the kinds of business nobody has ever thought about (logistics, anyone?), and usually, by exceptionally bland, anonymous chain hotels.

This is where Cork has a bit of a hidden gem. The Cork International Hotel in the airport business park, is an exceptionally stylish, original hotel, that is very well located if you’re using the airport, but a bit out of the way if you’re not. It’s a well established conference and training hotel, but until I stayed there last weekend I was quite unaware of the number of Corkonians who use it as a bolthole for staycations. And why wouldn’t they?

After a slap up dinner in Nine Market Street in Kinsale – reasonably priced, very atmospheric and with the best gin-based dessert I’ve ever had – we checked into the International last Saturday night. As I checked in I realised what I’d assumed was Muzak was in fact a pianist at the entrance to the New Yorker bar, belting out the jazz. I didn’t expect that level of attention to detail, and it pays off.

The International has always had a bit of decorative flair – a remodel a few years ago got rid of a lot of the flying related kitsch (which I really liked), but they managed to keep it a little bit eccentric. It’s one of very few mid-price hotels I’ve been in where they bother to make the corridor look interesting.

It also has lots of thoughtful little touches; a cinema room for families, a ‘jogging station’ for visitors with a mapped route of a jog around the business park and towels; loads of reading material and complimentary printing for the forgetful flyer.

We were lucky enough to be staying in an enormous corner suite, which comes with a huge bedroom with a super king and a double bed, two bathrooms, a massive seating area and a kitchenette. It’s perfect party territory and a little bit me was sorry I wasn’t there with a gang of girls instead of my husband and baby (they are both very nice, but the baby just can’t handle his drink). A few bottles of wine and we’d have had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to use the expensive juicer proudly displayed on the shelf. I’d love to know if anyone has ever used a juicer in a hotel room. Answers on a postcard, please!

The hotel has Paul Costelloe toiletries, and nice big bathtubs in both bathrooms.

The best part of any hotel stay for me is the breakfast, and the International really didn’t disappoint. Unlike a lot of Irish hotels that tend to err on the side of the fry, there are loads of cereals, fresh fruit, nuts and pastry options as well as meats and cheeses plus a special egg station where a chef makes omelettes, pancakes and (squee) waffles to order. Complimentary copies of the Sunday Times and, to be honest, they were lucky I didn’t sit there all day.

If you’re looking for a self-contained staycation with good food, a decent bar (we spent a night there before a trip a number  of years ago and the people-watching was excellent!) and a really excellent breakfast, I’d recommend it!

The lovely people at the International have given me lunch for two in the New Yorker Bar for a lucky reader… competition details will be in another post. Stay tuned!


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