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Dublin: Closed for Christmas?

By Elissa Leibowitz Poma
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page P03

QOur family will be visiting Dublin over Christmas. We are stumped on what to do Christmas Day. In America we might take in a movie or find a Chinese restaurant. Do you have any suggestions?

Alison Bennett

Potomac, Md.

AA pair of friends spent Christmas Day in Dublin a couple of years ago. No restaurants were open. After a three-hour search, they found a tiny corner store where they bought their Christmas Day lunch and dinner: two sandwiches and a can of Pringles. No attractions were open, so they spent the day in their bed-and-breakfast room watching a marathon of "The Simpsons" on television.

Catherine McCluskey, public relations officer for Dublin Tourism, confirmed that, indeed, Dublin is shut down on Christmas. "All shops, pubs, etc., are closed," she said in an e-mail. "It really is very much a family day."

Church services are about the only activity going on. If it's not too blustery, you could take a walk through the empty city. Perhaps equip each family member with a disposable camera and go on a photo-taking expedition?

You'd be wise to stay at an inn or hotel that has Christmas Day meals and activities, however limited they may be. The Aberdeen Lodge and Merrion Hall serve traditional Irish breakfasts and Christmas Day lunches; have drawing rooms stocked with board games; and offer free bread for guests to feed the ducks in Herbert Park (which should tell you how little there is to do). The two-night minimum costs $309 per person double and includes breakfast and a mince pie and mulled wine reception. Info for both properties: 800-617-3178, www.halpinsprivatehotels.com.

At Clarion Stephens Hall (011-353-1-638-1111, www.stephens-hall.com), a personal shopper can stock the fridge in the kitchen of your suite if you're going to arrive after the shops close. Suites go for $154 per night, with a three-night minimum.

For details on Dublin: Dublin Tourism, www.visitdublin.com.

I'm interested in doing a cattle drive. While we want the beautiful scenery, horseback riding, campfires and sing-alongs, we want to avoid back-breaking labor. Can you recommend some ranches?

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