This was it. The reason for my entire trip! Two Christmases ago I sat opposite Kimberley at the table and said 'Do you have any plans to be in Dublin for St Patrick's Day 2012?" 'No', she replied, 'Do you?'
And thus, the trip was born. We both planned our entire holidays around the fact that we would meet up in Dublin in the middle of March, in time to see the parade on the 17th. And we totally pulled it off like bosses. We were up more or less when our alarms went off this morning, in time to make breakfast and get ourselves greened for the festival of all festivals. There really is nothing like it in Melbourne. NYE comes close, but it's worldwide and of an enormous scale everywhere. St Paddy's feels like one big NYE in daylight, that stretches for a couple of days - and everyone is in costume. We used facepaint, temporary tattoos and big green hats to doll ourselves up before heading to O'Connell St, along with what felt like half the population of the world. We weasled our way into spots as close to the barrier as we could get and planted ourselves there for the next two and a half hours to wait for the parade. We met a gorgeous Irish woman who was so cheeky and entertaining. She stood with us the whole time and chatted to us about all things Irish and Australian and the time flew by much faster. We watched various Irish TV and sporting personalities walk past, and our new friend pointed them out to us. One very bright and bubbly TV presenter was impressed to learn we had come all the way from Australia just for the parade (I didn't mention the other 14 weeks...).
The parade began with a convoy on bikes and a car dropping off the Irish Prime Minister at the Grandstands, which we were steps away from. Then there was a marching band and after that I really couldn't tell you what came when. The next hour and a half was a huge flurry of colour and costumes and music and puppets and bands and dancers and flags and floats and fire-twirling and stilt-walking and all manner of cool things carnival. My feet and hips and legs and back were so sore by the end but I hardly noticed it because the spectacle was so enthralling. We were pretty much in the second row, pressed against the barriers with a wonderful view. I took heaps and heaps of photos and about two-thirds of the way through the parade my memory card filled up and my battery started to die so I had no choice but to ignore the camera and just absorb as much as I could of it.
When it finally finished it felt a bit bizarre, like, okay, where do we go now? First things first: back to the hostel to grab a warmer jacket. We had in fact been blessed with rare Dublin sunshine (and one brief, but heavy, rainshower), but it was now starting to get a bit colder. We sort of collapsed for half an hour or so while our feet slowly throbbed back to normal, and then we set off again, grabbing a kebab after a half-hearted check to see if there was any room at the pub. There was, in fact, none. We headed back to O'Connell St where we met Aaron and Katie, Kim's mates, and their friend, also named Aaron. We took a long walk down O'Connell St and then south of the river until we found a slightly less crowded pub. There was still no room to sit, so we stood again for the next couple of hours while we had some drinks and chatted more. Our limbs protesting fiercely, we finished the drinks and stepped outside to find somewhere to sit, but ended up just standing on the sidewalk and talking more! Great company and conversation meant that we didn't notice the pain in our legs too badly until we finally said our goodbyes and headed back. We stopped in briefly at Eason's, a huge bookshop on O'Connell St, but they were about ten minutes from closing time and we couldn't stay. We bought some groceries for dinner and headed back to the hostel, and I pretty much have not moved from the bed or the couch since. It was a wonderful, wonderful day and I am so glad it worked out so well. I don't think I have the energy to go out again tonight, but neither does half the city by the look of it!