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Vintage Tea Tours

Karen Nixon - Vintage Tea Tours

Jeanne Quigley and friends enjoy Dublin’s latest (and most unusual) Afternoon Tea experience - on a vintage tea bus called Pauline

Afternoon tea on a bus driving around the Dublin streets? And not just any bus – a genuine 1961 Routemaster, a real vintage bus named Pauline.

It sounds like a crazy idea but it totally works.

The Vintage Tea Tour is the brainchild of Karen Nixon - the bus named after her much-loved granny “whose kitchen was always full of fun, love and honesty where the problems of the day evaporated into laughter over tea and cake”, and the venture a dream come true.

Teaming up with Italian chef Donato Romano, who creates the delicious goodies, she has given Dublin city a unique and exciting new outing.

On a Sunday afternoon, we find Pauline parked in all her glory beside City Hall. She’s an eye-catching dark green and cream painted venue for our Afternoon Tea. For those of us old enough to remember Dublin buses back in the fifties and sixties with the open platform at the back, going on board is nostalgic.

While Sophia ticks our names off the list, we relive memories of running after a moving bus and hopping aboard; coming downstairs in mini-skirts desperately trying to pull them down to cover a bit more leg; knowing every bus conductor by name on the school route. Bob, the driver, has his own separate cab – no talking to the driver please.

We have booked upstairs where there are five tables for four and three for two, the two at the front with the best city views. On each table there is a tiered cake stand with some delectable-looking cakes. At each place there’s a plate of crustless – what else would you expect - sandwiches and a slice of salmon roulade.

Pauline the Bus - Vintage Tea Tours

As Pauline begins her journey, we automatically put out hands to stop things moving around on the table. But there’s no need. Everything has been thought through and beneath each plate there’s a type of placemat that sticks to the table top. Jack and Sophia, our hosts for the day, bring tea and coffee in large specially-made containers. And there’s a deep hole in the table to sit this in to, avoiding any nasty spills.

At first we are so busy talking and eating, we almost forget about looking outside. We take photos of the food, ourselves, the interior of the bus. This has been given a complete facelift and is painted white, with white comfortable seats and the original windows.

But when we turn our attention to outside, it’s a beautiful sunny September afternoon and we realise that Pauline, not surprisingly, is drawing attention to herself as we drive through the city streets. Children wave and we wave back, parents smile as we sit and nibble.

And so to the food. Our sandwiches were one each of beef, egg and cream cheese. On the top section of the cake stand, there is lemon and blueberry drizzle cake. The centre plate has white chocolate velvet cake, Guinness brownie. There are fresh scones and …..but I won’t spoil the surprise.

Pauline brings us to the Phoenix Park, where we take in Aras an Uachtarain and the American Ambassador’s residence; we drive slowly through Georgian Dublin, and O’Connell Street where Jack tells us about the Rising.

Interior - Vintage Tea Tours

We see the tall ship, Jeanie Johnston, docked proudly at Custom House Quay. Who knew that in all the voyages the original ship made to the USA during the Famine, not one person died on this ship? A remarkable fact, just one of many told to us by Sophia.

Not for Pauline is there an automated commentary. Our hosts take turns to come upstairs to give us some of Dublin’s fascinating history. As my group comprised an English lady, an American, an Italian and two other Irish (but not from Dublin), we all learned something new. It’s a great day out, and perfect for entertaining friends and relations visiting Dublin or simply taking a wander back down memory lane.

Too soon, but with the goodies polished off - though I suspect some were taken home as there is a generous amount of food – we arrive back at City Hall. Sophia tells us that there have been many brides and grooms fresh from taking their vows in this historic Dublin building, who pose for photographs on Pauline. Without doubt, she is a bus destined for history.

VINTAGE TEA TOURS -THE LOWDOWN:

The Route: A trip through Dublin city takes in the Phoenix Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, Wood Quay, O’Connell Street, Trinity College, Georgian Dublin, St. Stephens Green and more.

Days & Times: Wednesday-Sunday, 3 tours per day at 11am, 1.15pm and 3.30pm. Pick up at City Hall on Cork Hill, Dublin 2 (arrive 15 minutes before departure time).

Tickets: €40-€50 per person (depending on seats selected); book online. Gift certificates available from €40.

Vintage Tea Tours 

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Jeanne Quigley is a freelance food and travel writer and a member of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild.

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