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, 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 adventure.
On Sunday afternoon, Pauline is parked in all her glory beside City Hall. She’s an eye-catching dark green and cream painted venue for Afternoon Tea. For anyone 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 names off the list, many passengers relive memories of running after a moving bus and hopping aboard; knowing every bus conductor by name on the school route. Bob, the driver, has his own separate cab – no talking to the driver please.
Upstairs there are five tables for four and three for two, the two at the front with the best city views. On each table a tiered cake stand offers delectable-looking cakes, a plate of crustless sandwiches and a piece of salmon roulade. The hosts bring tea and coffee in big bespoke containers that fit into a deep hole in the table, to avoid spills.
At first the passengers are so busy talking and eating, they almost forget to look outside. It's a fun atmosphere with everyone taking photos - of the food, themselves, the interior of the bus, which has been given a complete facelift and is painted white, with white comfortable seats and the original windows. But when they finally turn their attention to the outside, they find that Pauline, not surprisingly, is the centre of attention as Bob drives her through the city streets. Children wave and passengers wave back, parents smile as everyone sits and nibbles.
And so to the food...Sandwiches (one each of beef, egg and cream cheese, perhaps) and, on the top of the cake stand, something luscious like lemon and blueberry drizzle cake. On the the middle plate there may be white chocolate velvet cake, Guinness brownie, then there are fresh scones and …..a surprise.
Pauline's route goes through the Phoenix Park, taking in Aras an Uachtarain and the American Ambassador’s residence; she drives slowly through Georgian Dublin, O’Connell Street where passengers hear about the Rising; they see the Jeanie Johnston sitting proudly on the Liffey. Who knew that in all the voyages the original ship made during the Famine to the USA, not one person died on this ship? A remarkable fact, just one told by Sophia.
Not for Pauline is there an automated commentary. The hosts take turns to go upstairs to give the passengers some of Dublin’s fascinating history, and even the Dubliners on board learn something new.
All too soon, and with the goodies polished off - though some may well be taken home as there is a generous amount of food – the tour arrives back at City Hall. Hostess Sophia tells the group 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.