Pubs, Rambles & Rain

I swapped the north of Germany for the north of England last week, in a trip that was the first time I got on a plane by myself in … years? I spent the first half of my twenties travelling by myself or with girlfriends, the second half with my now husband, and the first couple of years of my thirties will go down as those spent studying the worst ages to take a child on a plane (my pick: 18 months, what a shocker). It was rather bizarre to sit in the departure lounge with a mediocre white wine and absolutely nothing to watch or wipe or feed or change or warn or, really, do.

The trip that ultimately led to my moving to Europe after my studies was a round-the-world-backpacking-without-a-backpack situation, with two of my oldest, dearest friends. I still, every now and then, as I go about my days inhabiting and travelling around this part of the world, get jolted by memories of that trip, prodded to the foreground of my conscience by a scent or a particular coloured light. Especially the light. It’s different up here, warmer in autumn, duller in winter, whiter in spring.

It was then, I suppose, rather fitting that the first solo trip I have taken in a while, was one to attend the wedding of my backpacking-without-a-backpack buddy, as a bridesmaid alongside the third point of our travelling trio. I left the kids at home – for the first time since having them, oh the emotions – and hopped a bus to Hamburg, a (delayed) plane to Manchester, a train to Sheffield and a small Ford Focus (driven by one friend, directed by another, and filled with the voices of three friends catching up after a few years apart) to a village in the middle of a very beautiful nowhere.

When one is in storybook England, one must partake of such things like rambles and high teas and pub lunches. We only had a few days, but we gave it our best shot and probably spent around 50% of our time in the pub across the road from our B&B. Indeed, there was a very long pub lunch that slid seamlessly into a pub dinner, all of it washed down by bottle after bottle of Pinot Noir. But it was necessary – how else does one write a bridesmaid speech?

It was only periodically sunny and cool enough to have the Aussies in boots and leggings. The only comfort I drew from such bleak end-of-July weather was the fact that clearly this summer has been a bust for other parts of central Europe. The nice thing, I suppose, about this part of the world is how everything seems to suit the rain. The old trees and houses, the corner pubs, the wildflower and green gardens, they look as pretty in the drizzle as they do the sunshine. And it’s not like one ever really leaves the pub anyway – you can go from the morning pot of tea to your evening pint (or generous pour of wine) without ever actually moving.

Back home, the kids seem bigger, the garden greener from its summer of rain and I’m off the prosecco and Pinot Noir for a while. The next trip will be out to Oz with both kids during which  I shall look back on my glass of mediocre wine in the departure lounge and laugh hysterically.

Dublin in the Spring

Last Friday we left Germany and went to Monisteraki, Athens. This week, we’re going to Dublin. Why? It’s Friday and as of last week every Friday I’m taking you out of Germany and depositing you elsewhere, until I run out of places I’ve visited (at which point I may just start making it up). Plus I wanted to give you the chance to read about the worst hangover I have ever had.

In 2010, as I was shivering in Münster and learning the ins and outs of German governmental procedures (not in pursuit of further education, merely to remain in the country legally) a friend of mine was doing the same thing in Dublin. We had previously spent the summer (of our lives) together working and drinking cheap wine on Santorini as a prelude to setting up shop in the colder, greyer parts of Northern Europe.

In March of 2011, after a very long and very hard European winter, I jumped on a plane and flew into Dublin to visit my friend and to see Dublin for the first time. What followed was a long weekend that encompassed one of the single worst hangovers I have ever had, a lot of heavy, moorish food, a tantrum in Primark because nothing fit (nothing to do with the moorish food, obviously) and crashing onto a live music stage after my jigging got a bit out of control. The jigging and the hangover were connected.

You can read about it here:

194 Euros: Part 1

194 Euros: Part 2

194 Euros: Part 3

(I recommend a single sitting, just to get a feel for the pace of the weekend.)

Now, enjoy a few snaps of Dublin waking up from a nasty, bitter winter.
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40 Hours in London

I am of the belief that when the opportunity to revel in a lovely hotel arises, one should not waste it. One should revel from check in to check out, employing all the necessary tools to do so; robe, slippers, pillow-chocolates, TV, mini toiletries and large bath tubs.

This is why, for the brief period I was in London, much of it was shamelessly spent perched in the middle of my large bed, wearing my luxurious robe, watching The Only Way is Essex. And why, even though my time was brief, I squeezed in a good bubble bath before departing.

Courtesy of my horribly generous parents who have, I assume, missed me terribly, I languished in The St Pancras Renaissance which sits atop, you guessed it, St Pancras/Kings Cross station. It was the reception of this imposing establishment, where a man greets guests at the door wearing tails and a bowler hat, that I dragged my bedraggled self into after The Friday We Will Not Speak Of.

From the hotel, London – well, part of it –  was marvellously accessible. On Saturday morning – after a very bright and early phone call from my Mum … ‘we’re here!’ – I rolled out of bed and down the road to a Costa, where I bought a latte the size of my head as a means to feel alive once more. I promptly returned to bed with it and watched a Made in Chelsea marathon until my jetlagged parents recovered their senses. Sitting up in a cloud of bedclothes, with a huge coffee and shitty English TV, I hit a new height of contentment.

We convened in the lobby at midday and, courtesy of the hotel’s aforementioned great location, trotted around quite happily, no tubing or cabbing needed. My mother was intent on tracking down the hood of her Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-I-Don’t-Know-How-many-Great-Ancestor, Martha, who had been a prostitute in London before being popped on the First Fleet and shipped off to Australia. She had been popped on the First Fleet because she was caught selling stolen goods and the pawnbroker who dobbed her in had his shop on Dyott Street, which still exists today. So we wandered down there and tried to imagine what it was all like hundreds of years ago, when Martha was making ends meet by plying her trade and selling the stolen petticoats of wealthier women.

And then it was time for a drink and the all-important business of catching up. We had long ago decided catching up was going to be privileged above all else. Mum wanted a traditional pub – ‘not too touristy’ – and so we chose a sticky-tabled place that looked adequately ramshackle enough so as to be ‘not too touristy’ and had a cider. My father pasted his map to the pub table by spreading it out with both hands with a touch too much force for the paper to withstand months of gummy beer residue and we rolled on, leaving half the map behind. To another pub, as it transpired, because, as we strolled, it was decided we wouldn’t return to the hotel, rather bridge the gap between late afternoon and dinner with a wine. In the second pub, my father, when he went to inspect some pictures on the walls near the women’s bathroom, attracted the attention of an ancient dog who has apparently been guarding the Ladies’ from male patrons for twelve years. Dad upended a chair in a strange sort of battle tactic and bolted back to our table. Mum and I laughed uproariously.

A couple of wines later, Mum and I had sorted out life as we know it and Dad was getting hungry. I had voted Indian because I have been desperate for it for months, and we chanced upon one on the walk back towards our lodgings. And what a chance it was. The food was absolutely exceptional. I can’t tell you what it was called – I was too full of food and wine to have my wits about me – all I can tell you is it is on Judd Street and, should you be in the vicinity and desperate for a good curry, you need to go there. Traipsing down Judd Street and back to our hotel, my mother realised that we were on the very same street her sister lived on when she lived in London in the haze of the 70s. It was clearly a real family day for Mum.

I left the next day, after an uneccessarily large breakfast – never give me a breakfast buffet, I have no self control over the pastry table. Following an embarrassing display of face-crumpling tears as I hugged Mum and Dad, I hopped into a black cab and was whizzed away, bound for Victoria Station, where the Gatwick express was waiting. I cried the whole way. My sniffing and snorting staved off the cab driver chatter for the first fifteen minutes, but the moment he sensed an in, he took it.

‘You’ll never guess what I forget to turn on.’

I sniffed. ‘What?’

He tapped the meter and invited me, via the rear view mirror, to roll my eyes with him. So I did. And he was off. Many wives back, he had a mother in law in Germany. He has a good friend in Australia, who has a new wife, but doesn’t seem very happy there. But he’ll get all the gossip on a golfing trip in Spain next year. English money is better than American money – he once had a stripper give him the cold shoulder for giving her only $1 bills, and he was genuinely surprised she could tell the difference.

And then, as if the weekend had been but a dream, I was back in Germany.

The Deutsche Bahn and Me

* And a little bit of London.

This past weekend, I went to London. My parents are currently in Europe and we decided London was a central place for us to meet and so I booked a flight out of Germany  for Friday at 2.30pm. The plan was to have two nights and almost-two-days in the city of black cabs and Pret a Manger, the bulk of it spent in a pub somewhere catching up with Mum and Dad, and return to Germany on Sunday afternoon, refreshed and ready for the week ahead. In other words, do the European-jaunt-weekend thing of jumping on a plane and an hour later jumping off, to find myself knee deep in another language, another culture.

It wasn’t to be. And let it be known it’s never that bloody easy.

It was, really, a weekend of firsts. The first time I flew into Stanstead (not as bad as I thought it would be). The first time I flew out of Gatwick (a seamless experience). The first time I flew with Easyjet (remarkably pleasant despite my reservations). The first time I had seen my Mum since last Christmas. And the first time I have ever, in all my 26 years, missed a flight (remarkably unpleasant).

It was also, and this had a lot to do with the aforementioned flight-missing, the first time I have ever really hit a travel wall. At around 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon, as I stared, aghast at a po-faced Lufthansa woman with clickety-clack fingernails, somewhere deep inside, I spat the dummy. I didn’t want to play anymore. If I could have, I would have sat down, folded my arms and said, ‘I want to go home.’

But let’s go back to the beginning. The day actually started quite well. By 10.50 on Friday morning, I was smugly standing on the station with a large coffee and a new crime novel, and let me tell you, there is no better way to greet a day with the Deutsche Bahn than with a large coffee, a crime novel and ten minutes to spare. With about three thousand other people, I crammed into the teeny thoroughfare that acts as a storage space for the seatless (where I spend a lot of time when travelling with the DB) and, after a minor incident in which I lost my footing, twice, as the train took a swift bend, twice, settled in for the trip to the Cologne/Bonn. Because that is where I needed to go. The Cologne/Bonn airport.

In retrospect I was perhaps a touch too smug. I blame the coffee. I always feel smug when I am holding a take away coffee. It’s why I buy take away coffees, to have that smug rush as I prance down the street holding it. Anyway, two hours later, my coffee well and truly finished and my novel heating up, I sailed past the station I was supposed to change on. And when say the station I was supposed to change on, I mean the one I was supposed to know I was supposed to change on, despite the only warning possible being a printed itinerary I hadn’t printed. As the countryside whipped past, the ’Next Station’ names on the screen became far too southbound for my liking. A little while later, feverishly hoping the train would magically stop at the Cologne/Bonn airport because my flight was due to depart in 45 minutes and I was sweating with anxiety, I noticed the scenery begin to resemble what it had a few weeks back, when I had been on the train to Frankfurt. Scenery as one heads south in old Deutschland is remarkably different to scenery one might spy in the North-West. By this point, as the hills began to roll, there was just me and a very talkative soldier in the thoroughfare and I had no choice but to engage him in conversation – something I had been trying not to do, because I found his German very difficult to decipher – and ask him if the flughafen would magically appear as the next stop. He looked at me and said, ‘Frankfurt?‘ and I knew, sitting against the toilet wall, the air redolent with urine, this wasn’t going to end well. I slumped further against the toilet wall and wiped my brow. As I felt sorry for myself and tried to formulate a plan of action (get off, get off, get off the train now, before you end up in fecking Bavaria) the kindly soldier was frantically searching for my train options on the DB website, his laptop balanced precariously on his pile of enormous army bags. I caught a glimpse of a naked woman on the screen before he called me over and told me what I had to do. I nodded seriously, absorbing his encouragement, and readied myself for action.

I jumped off at Koblenz, shrieking into my phone, ‘I’m in fucking Knoblauch,’ which happens to be German for garlic and clearly not at all what the city is called and sprinted for the information desk. I was directed back onto a train to Bonn, where I would have to change and catch another train to the airport. I avoided buying the ticket from a machine and reasoned if the ticket man checked for tickets, I’d just buy one off him. I was in no mood to part with an unnecessary 30 euro for an hour’s train ride. On the train, I happened upon the bar and sat there for an hour and fifteen minutes with a mini bottle of red wine. The ticket man came, the ticket man left. He, bless him, banked on the innate German logic that if we all play by the rules it’s better for everyone (eg. if we buy train tickets, we pay for efficient infrastructure) and expected new passengers to give him their tickets. I kept drinking my wine. The innate Australian logic that if wriggling out of a rule makes it better for me, then wriggle like hell and smile whilst doing it, prevailed.

I made it to the airport. Easyjet had a flight out at 5pm, but no one selling tickets. The lady next door, manning some other equally as empty booth, told me pointedly, she doesn’t ‘deal with Easyjet.’ Air France, as it turned out, did. But the woman there told me, in clipped tones, everything was booked. ‘Try Lufthansa’. The lady at the Lufthansa counter tapped a few keys and said, ‘400 euro.’ And this is when, somewhere deep inside, I spat the dummy. My bag was heavy, my pants were falling down (why does denim stretch so) I was grimy, thirsty, had already missed my flight and spent 4 hours on a train and there was a crone behind the counter telling me a one hour flight to fucking London cost 400 euro. I snapped, ‘400 euro. To London.’ I told her I’d think about it. We both knew I meant ‘fuck off.’

I staggered to the Germanwings counter and lost my composure. The man at the desk allowed his pursed lips to soften somewhat and gently asked if I had any evidence of my missed flight. I gave him my passport and stared, glassy eyed, at the disconcerting Germanwings marketing campaign that sports a red head, a blonde and a brunette, in very tight cabin crew uniforms, blowing kisses at the camera. He had a ticket. At an additional 160 euro. I didn’t care. He asked me how I was paying for it, I said, ‘hopefully with this’ and gave him the credit card I suspect the bank is now hunting me down for.

I flew into Stanstead, completely forgot to fill in a visitor’s card, ran back to get one, gave it in return for a grilling from a gormless immigration officer and booked a mini bus into the centre of London. The same mini bus a trio of loud, annoying Dutchmen with machine-gun laughs had booked, and they machine-gunned the whole hour and ten minutes it took to get to Baker Street. From Baker Street is was 4 pounds to go three stops on the tube to Kings Cross, my final destination. 4 pounds. London, were do you get off.  And don’t tell me to get an Oyster Card.

I checked into my hotel (I suspect the concierge thought I was a homeless woman who had wandered in for warmth, so wild and dishevelled was my appearance) at 10.30pm. I had a scorching shower, revelled in the bath robe (a particularly good one) and the hotel slippers (still wearing them now) and switched on my large, channel-full TV. There is no better balm to the travel-wearied soul than a good hotel. I ate the chocolates on my pillow and slept.

Since moving to Germany, a decision that had a lot of basis in the country’s geographical centrality, making it a prime location from which to explore Europe, I have spent a lot of time on my old pal, the Deutsche Bahn. I have jumped on board trains bound for Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Kiel and Belgium. Trains that would bring me closer to Dublin, London, Denmark, Holland and Greece. And it has been – just like all of my travels over the past four years – completely exhilarating. A collection of wonderful experiences that comprise the very reason I upped sticks and moved to Europe.


Deutsche Bahn and I are taking a break. I think we need it. We’re arguing more than we should be. It’s not as fun as it used to be. The spark has gone. I think we need some space.

194 Euros; Part 3

Day 3

Worst. Hangover. Ever.

Prone in bed, Tam and I try to look at each other through dry, red eyes. Neither of us can speak for a little while, as the room rights itself. Slowly, we croak through the inventory of alcohol, as if in bewildered search of why we have ended up like this. There is no need to act surprised. This hangover was on the cards from bottle number 1.

I stick my head under the shower. Breakfast is calling. That desperate, bodily plea that stems from the instinctive reasoning that shoving something down our gullets is the only way of preventing anything coming up.

We breakfast at Hobart’s which has a meal dedicated to our state of distress on the menu. The Hangover Cure. A bap stuffed with egg, sausage and bacon. As I wait for it to emerge from the kitchen in all its salty, greasy glory, I rest my eyes by gently and continuously focussing them on another patron’s large, full Irish. He notices my ongoing gaze and offers me a piece of toast. I politely decline, even though I want to snort it through my nostrils, I am do desperate for food. He insists, placing it tenderly on napkin on my table. I eat it obediently.

‘Whilst I am mortified to be eating your breakfast,’ I tell him, chewing slowly to avoid any rapid jaw movement, ‘I am not mortified enough to stop. Thank you. These are desperate times.’

We spend the rest of the day on the couch underneath a blanket, watching episodes of Take Me Out and Anything to Declare, the Australian Border Patrol rebranded for the Pom audience. The Australian accents of the over zealous customs officials are harsh and soothing as they coax a French tourist to remove a joint from his bottom.

We move only to order pizza.

Before bed, I ask Tam if it was a big fall the night before, because my arse is really hurting. She looks at me and says ‘the music stopped. You nearly crashed the stage.’

Day 4

Fresher, ready for a coastal jaunt, the mane and crop re-emerge into daylight. The day sparkles – we managed to avoid the lone day of rain by spending it prostrate on the couch – and we skip once more to fetch a coffee from Moda.

Howth blows away the last of the cobwebs with its seaside air and sunshine. We stop in at a little food market that is home to a total of about 6 stalls, all bearing home made produce. We buy sun dried tomatoes in garlic and parmesan, a huge jar of fresh pesto, bread, brie and strawberries and enjoy our lover’s picnic in the sun.

The day oscillates between strolling in the sunshine and sitting in the sunshine. We say hello to the Howth seals who loll about in the water waiting for someone to throw them fish and then take a seat with a bunch of Spanish tourists at the end of the pier. When we decide we’re too tired to continue the stroll/sit oscillation, it‘s a matter of choosing a café.

We go with Panorama, the baby of an Aussie and an Italian business partnership. The Victorian owner heckles us for being Sydney-siders and gives us a Caramello Koala. We buy a packet of Tim Tams to have with our coffee and end up staying for two glasses of Australian white. This is despite vehement proclamations that, post Johnnie Fox’s, I would need some time away from alcohol. That lasted a day. Will power.

We dine that night at Green 19s and I wedge in a burrito and another couple of glasses of white. This is despite the recent 9kg revelation. Will power continues.

I farewell Dublin in fitting, farcical style, but getting in the shower at 3.35am. It pays to change the time on one’s mobile phone if they are setting an early alarm with it. I am alerted to the fact I’m an hour ahead of schedule by Tammy who rouses herself from her toss-and-turn slumber to say, ‘dude, what the fuck are you doing?’

‘It’s 4.45 Tram, my cab arrives in 15 minutes.’

‘It’s 3.45.’

‘Fuck off.’

Waiting for the Air Coach, I read a sign that forbids cabs from soliciting passengers from the Air Coach stop. Moments later I am solicited by greasiest cab driver alive, who, as it transpires has given himself a route that involves driving around to all the Air Coach stops on a schedule that runs exactly 5 minutes ahead, poaching passengers. Mixed with my instinctive good-girl guilt that I allowed myself to be solicited despite the sign clearly saying it was forbidden, I have a moment of paranoia that he isn’t going to take us to the airport, that he’s actually a serial killer and I have just done what my mother has always told me not to, gotten into a car with a stranger, albeit a car with a Taxi sign on the roof. This could be a rouse. A horrible rouse. My eyes dart around at my fellow passengers. They all look as uncomfortable as I do. It’s either the cabbie’s hair, or they read the sign at the Air Coach stop and are suffering from a similar surge of guilt.

The plane is devoid of beautiful horse riders and I sleep with my face smushed against the wall. It’s sunny at home and it feels good to be back.

Tam texts me and thanks me for an excellent night’s sleep. I tell her she’s welcome.

194 Euros; Part 2

Day 2 brings with it the sun and a blue, blue sky. A couple of cups of tea and a good shower later and we’re out amongst it, skipping down the sunlit paths, heralding the end of winter and congratulating ourselves that we survived the winter. We feel so, so fresh. Life is wonderful.

And so Friday becomes, essentially, a day of indulgence. We kick off with a coffee (2.20 euro, brilliant, Europe‘s most expensive city is actually home to good, cheap coffee) from Tammy’s local, Moda and continue to the park, along with half of Dublin who have rolled up their sleeves, proffering their pallid flesh to the sun. We lunch, with a friend from Germany who makes a cameo, at Lemon Jelly and I reignite my love affair with the classic tuna salad after a long winter of far more hearty foodstuffs. Feeling virtuous – and ignoring the number recently attributed to my weight gain … 9 – we attempt a Spring shopping blitz at Penny’s. It doesn’t go to plan and I am reminded of the correlation between age and my shortening temper. And that shopping, an act which lost its lustre for me a while back, with an extra 9 kg can be even more of a disheartening process than usual. I am depressed by the slaggy shoes sold en masse to 15 year olds with spray tanned legs, depressed by the queue to the change-room, depressed by the full-body mirrors which offer views of me winching myself into sausage skin clothing, I do not want to be privy to.

Obviously, we seek refuge in alcohol, licking our wounds with a couple of mojitos, margaritas and strawberry daiquiris at Alfies. And a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. We watch drunken English tourists in their name-emblazoned jerseys stumble down the path. They’re here for the game tomorrow (in which England will be smashed) and one in particular, takes a nasty tumble and is helped up, tenderly, by his mates, Smiffy and Badger. We don’t know it at the time, but the tumble is an eerie premonition of what’s to come.

Next on the agenda is Johnnie Fox’s – the highest pub in Ireland – and we loiter outside our designated pick-up hotel trying to guess which mini bus we will be alighting. The guesswork ends when a novelty bus sporting a massive Johnnie Fox’s paint-job rounds the corner. We alight and begin our ascent.

Or descent. Depends on how you look at it. Already abuzz from our wound-licking-wine-and-cocktails session, we take our seat in the middle of a party of 43 Norweigan men, and order another bottle of Savignon Blanc. We are in a celebratory mood. It’s Spring, we like food and we are about to witness some good old fashioned Irish jigging. Cheers.

We tuck in to our three course meal and second bottle of wine, denouncing esteem smashing shopping trips and demanding who needs new clothes when goats cheese and mussels in garlic and white wine sauce are the alternative.  We’re spun and whirled around the floor by towering Scandos who are all, oddly, wearing a variation of a checked shirt. We’re on fire. We’re high on life. We’re untouchable.

Then Tammy gets beer thrown in her face. It’s inexplicable and a cruel smackdown seeing as it happens as she is being romantically dipped on the dance floor. Shrieking that her eyeballs are burning, she is whisked off by the waiter, leaving me to seek retribution. The culprit is sitting down – hence the ease with which he beered Tammy, mid-dip. I stalk over, full of wine-laced outrage. My first beer catches him in the face. He beers my chest back. I pick up a beer and tip it onto his head. He lazily gets my chest again. The farce could have continued, had I not been beseeched to stop by an apologetic pal of the original beerer. I acquiesce, only because we weren’t getting anywhere and it was largely unsatisfying, and retreat to the bar.

Later, taking a final turn on the tiles – tiles, which, by the way, comprise a 4 foot squared thoroughfare the Norwegians turned into a dance floor – I perform my final trick for the night, a classic mid-jig fall. In my head, it’s a simple melt to the ground and an equally as elegant rise back to normal height.

Apparently not.

194 Euros; Part 1

It’s an early morning rise to get down to the Dorf by 8.45am. The coffee goes on, I stumble around, narrow of eye and wild of hair. My bag is packed – I travel light these days, no longer having a wardrobe that can actually lead to over packing – and I’m out the door into the crisp morning in no time. I am, to be honest, quietly smug at my own proficiency.

In the cab rank, two drivers are chatting. It escapes my narrow eyes that one has moved into the passenger seat and so I simply walk to the driver’s seat, which, to be fair, is the passenger seat where I come from. Driving is one of those instincts that never leaves you. We all guffaw together, the two drivers and I, as the cabbie slides across to the driver’s seat and directs me to the still-warm passenger seat.

‘In England, that side, yes?’

‘Yes. And Australia.’ I don’t mind being mistaken for a Pom, the go-to race as soon as I open my mouth, but it’s a known fact Germans prefer Australians to English people, so I try and slide it into conversation when I can.

‘Australia! Beautiful!’


For once, Deutschebahn runs on time and I’m at the Dorf with time to kill. I glide through passport control as an honoury German and weaken at the Italian café. No Panini (any bread roll type foodstuff has been booted from the diet because it is no longer okay to be 9kg overweight) but I do get a muffin with my coffee. Do not question the logic. Booting bread is hard enough in Germany without booting cakes.

I sit by the window and watch a parade of novelty green hats stream onto the plane. It is St. Patrick’s day and posses of German men are all wearing their best (potentially only) green tee shirts and talking excitedly. Clearly they have plans. Then something amazing happens. An extraordinarily handsome man sits down next to me. This never happens. It is a universal rule that if one is flying solo, their neighbour will be offensive or odd or a loud child. But no. This man is tall (German) and wearing a neatly pressed shirt beneath his casual knit and is, frankly, one of the best looking men I have ever clapped my jaded eyes on. He is also holding a horse riding helmet, which he tucks lovingly into the overhead storage. A tall, handsome, German horse rider. I need to tell my mother. The flight attendant, hair generously back-combed to disguise the fact he is going bald, and I are beside ourselves. He sashays past with the duty free cart, his female colleague on the other end, and manages to seamlessly weave the spotting into his chant. With barely a change in pace or volume, he sings,

‘Duty free, perfume, cosmetics, look at the one on the left, in the middle, hot, perfume, duty free, perfume, cosmetics …’

Later, the same flight attendant unwittingly snags the attention of the beautiful horse rider by attempting dialogue with a baby behind us.

‘Hallo. Hallo. What is your name? Wie. Heisst. Du? Does she just speak German? Or German and English?’

The child, as it transpires, doesn’t speak at all. It’s 1.

I tune out his tinny attempts at conversation with the child (’bye bye … tschuss … auf wiedersehen‘) and consider the fact that we are cruising above the clouds and all I can see is blue. It is nice to be above what has shrouded the past 5 months.

We touch down and I turn my phone on to text Tammy. Except the stupid thing needs a PIN and stupid me doesn’t know it. Who remembers phone PINs these days? I curse my horrid little 12 euro mobile with its clicky keys and belligerent demand for a PIN and find a public computer to Facebook her instead. Tammy alerted, I head for the Aircoach. When I ask for a single to Dublin city, the ticket men who is not a day under 70, asks if I am single. Suitably bolstered, I board the coach.

St. Patrick’s day, like any day where the aim is to dress up and get drunk, inspires the worst in people. Spray tanned youths have rifled through their wardrobe and come up with the most scanty, lascivious, preposterous outfits they can, under the guise of national pride. They have also plastered their faces with enough slap to fuel a car. Most people are not in possession of something the precise Irish green and so all shades of green that probably don’t need to be showcased, have hit the bottle littered streets. Teal, khaki, snot, vomit, pea. I am in a tide of phlegm. Drunk, chanting phlegm. I am about to throw a shawl around the shoulders of a fourteen year old who is so cold her hot-panted thighs are mottled, when Tammy and I seek refuge in a café. We decide to wait it out until the worst of the mid afternoon crowds are over and then venture into the city a little later to put our own stamp on St. Patrick’s.

That stamp ends up being bed by 10pm. The first pub we walk into, a student haunt with wooden floors and no furniture, we walk out of forty seconds later. I, personally, have done that dash of feeling self important and knowledge drenched, like I can save the world, cheap beer in hand, Nana’s dress on back, vintage hat sourced from a dumpster in India (where I was learning about poverty) on head.

The second pub we give a better crack, until it becomes apparent people suspect we were lovers in our nook and the curious but ultimately disapproving looks become uncomfortable. The third pub loses us to the lure of food. That and the need to escape the middle aged patron repeatedly pointing at Tammy and booming, ‘now who do you look like? That singer, that singer with the short blonde hair … from the 80s.’

Annie Lennox.

We gorge on Eddie Rockets, home of the most exquisite, juicy burgers with the perfect sauce ratio and go home, rationalising the fact we are not lying in a gutter with the rest of Dublin.

‘I’m tired. You’re tired. We may as well get a good night’s sleep and go out tomorrow night, when it’s not so gross.’

‘Besides, everyone knows even the locals are home and hosed by 8pm on St Patrick’s day. It’s just the tourists left out, right?’

The next day, post burger, I weigh myself and note I have gained 9 kilos since leaving home. It ends here. Pass me the ricotta cheese.

* The title of the blog stems from the cost of my ticket to Dublin and consequently the budget we allowed ourselves for the 4 days. How successful I was in sticking to it is unclear.