My 23rd Birthday

27 Mar

You guys all know how I’m all about the glee and the happiness and the cheerful stuff, right? Yes, that’s me. But some of you also know that I can be a little bit of a drama queen/spoilt brat/moody monster/grumpy pants sometimes. My birthday this year ended up being half-miserable and half-wonderful – and I won’t dwell too much on the miserable part (which was partly my own dig-myself-into-a-selfish-hole fault).

I started my birthday at midnight, standing next to a Europcar counter at Dublin Airport. It was not a pleasant experience. They essentially wanted us to place a €1,200 deposit – and I don’t know about you, but I don’t often have that huge a chunk of money in my bank accounts. Moreover, they would not accept a part-cash, part-card payment of the deposit, nor would they accept any of my money, since I wasn’t the driver (you have to be 25 years old to drive with Europcar. Ugh. Another reason to look forward to 25? Yes? Yes.). Anyway, we ended up paying off extra-extra insurance to reduce the entire excess to zero, which ended up meaning that we could totally trash the car (as long as we returned the key). So yeah, we weren’t too careful with the car while driving through woodland/on beaches/other treacherous places/etc.

Also, it was an awful rainy Irish night. It took a while to find our lovely host’s place, but finally we were all cuddled up and asleep for the night.

The next morning, I hadn’t had too much sleep, and I kept rolling over onto the floor during the night, so yeah – I wasn’t completely refreshed. BUT it was my birthday, and there were tonnes of messages on my Facebook timeline/wall/whatever-it’s-called, Twitter, my English phone, my Maltese phone, EVERYWHERE. So I was determined to be very smiley. My boyfriend gave me these ridiculously gorgeous jewellery items – a (real) glass and (real) gold necklace and bracelet set. They’re very colourful – very me. I wore them immediately.

Then, since it was Sunday, we had to trot off to mass, which is always amusing in a new country. I wasn’t used to Irish accents, so there was a lot of inward giggling as the priest seemed to be speaking in an exaggerated Irish accent on purpose (he wasn’t).

One definite good thing about my birthday was that 18 March 2012 was a gloriously beautiful day. A beaming sun in the bluest of skies. Lovely. Warm, even. (Okay, it got very cool very quickly later on as the weather got windier.)

We were all feeling famished so we popped into a EuroSpar (oh dear God why did I agree to go to a tacky supermarket on my birthday?) and my boyfriend chose some “special ingredients” for lunch. It turned out that he seemed to be having an off day, because lunch was cold, the bread he bought was brown (definitely not my usual choice – and it was rather dry as well), and the salmon he got smelled so bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to taste it. Anyway, I’m complaining. It just wasn’t a very good meal. Then we dillied and dallied for a few hours (inexplicably) until we finally hit the road towards County Limerick, where we would be staying for the bulk of our Irish Trip.

Even though it wasn’t my choice, we ended up taking the motorway (I usually dislike motorways – unless time is a priority, then I’m all for them). That meant that we only saw glimpses of “real” Ireland, although I was very pleased to reaffirm my belief that Ireland is the greenest country in the world. (I had visited about 9 years ago.)

At this point of the day there was a lot of moping, a lot of lethargy, and a lot of grumpiness. My boyfriend was quite worried about my sad state, and realised that the number one priority was to get some cake inside me. We stopped at Mitchelstown in County Cork, which is a lovely town. There was a lot of crying at this point, despite the loveliness of “rural” Ireland. I was probably having a slight panic attack and/or nervous breakdown.

Since it was a Sunday, oh-so-many places were shut, to my boyfriend’s despair. Finally, we (he) found a little Italian place and popped in. It was quite an odd little place – but it looked nice, it had cake, and it was open. We sat down at a table, and I ordered very random things (a starter, a piece of cake, and some ridiculously expensive fresh ginger juice). More crying. Finally, my juice and cake arrived. The juice was really good. I do not like to eat my dessert before my savoury food, so I let the cake sit there for as long as I could. Then, my starter arrived. I had ordered bruschetta. It wasn’t normal bruschetta – but it was warm and INSANELY delicious, and I bit down into it over and over, and as I did this more and more tears were streaming down my face until I was a slobbering mess. Then I realised that this was all mostly homesickness, and I was missing my friends and the Maltese air and sun. The taste of tomatoes was all it took to really open the floodgates.

We finished our food and left. My boyfriend lovingly paid (and also paid for my not-so-loved lunch in the morning).

Then I felt lots better! Hungry Claire is definitely Cranky Claire.

We drove to Ballylanders, a cute little Irish village in County Limerick, which was our final stop for the day. On our way we stopped to admire some very sweet cows. When we got to Ballylanders, our hosts weren’t home, but they walked over to us a few minutes after we got there. These people were so nice I can’t get over it. The most adorable Irish accents (including a proper Cork one – oh I love Irish accents). The sweetest home. The warmest welcome ever. There was an actual warm apple pie near the window. Made from scratch. Everything made from scratch in this glorious home. The cutest little dog called Sebastian. People popping over and showering us with even more amazing Irish hospitality. While our hosts prepared dinner, we popped out to an abandoned roofless church in the village to take some photos as the sun was setting.

Then we settled into what was possibly the loveliest meal I’ve ever had. Apple sauce. Gravy in a gravy jug. A proper wrapped/stuffed/amazing pork roast. Potatoes. Asparagus. Carrots. A knob of butter. Oh my.

Delightful conversation. Such a warm-hearted family. Suddenly, I felt like I was adopted into this circle of loveliness and warmth and delicious food.

I forgot to mention the deliciousness of the stuffing. Oh, that stuffing.

For dessert, I was treated to the best bit of all: a fresh, warm, amazing apple tart. With birthday candles. And a little birthday sign. And a huge dollop of really fresh cream. I got to blow the candles out. SO GLORIOUS. (Pictorial evidence above.)

It was all truly heart-warming and so happifying (how is this not a word?).

We got the comfiest guest room ever, our own bathroom, anything our hearts desired, and access to Mac computers (for Dave, that is).  The bed was incredibly comfortable, our night’s sleep was very restful, and we even planned out our next couple of days before bed with our very-knowledgeable hosts.

As a final flourish, I was given a fresh bowl of popcorn, salted and buttered. I just. I. I can’t. It was all too lovely.

So that was my birthday. It was a very strange one. It was the first one where I was away from my family and friends (apart from my dearest David of course). It was the first one where I was in a foreign country, and this was one with sheep and cows and amusing accents!

Overall: awesome birthday. Bits of it (as you might have deduced) were quite anxious for me, and there was a fair bit of crying, but the rest of it was very happy, very special. And the rest of the trip was such a splendid success – we had an absolutely fantastic time in the Republic of Ireland. Absolutely fantastic.

(I just realised that I wrote above that I won’t dwell too much on the sad parts… and yet I use the word “crying” multiple times, oops!)

Thanks for all your birthday wishes, and (again) for reading and enjoying my little blog. I hope that by sharing my glee (and occasionally, like today, my not-so-gleeful moments), we can all appreciate life a bit more every day.

(I can’t wait for my 24th birthday!)


6 Responses to “My 23rd Birthday”

  1. Mark March 27, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    The first birthday abroad is always the hardest… But it gets much much better from here on out! :-)

    • clairecommando March 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      :) Oh Mark, you should have seen me sobbing on that bruschetta. Hilarious (and probably a bit sad) :P


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