Wow, 2012 is coming to an end and I'm a little surprised. It was an eventful year for us - one which had us wondering a bit about what was around the corner, but still a reasonably enjoyable one all in all. Since we once again failed to post very much (okay, at all) this year this will once again be a fairly long post catching you up on what happened this year for us. Overhanging most of 2012 was the uncertainty around work. My employer was running out of money quickly since it had no income from about late June 2011. It made it difficult to make any really long term plans as we had no idea if we would continue to stay in Ireland or if the company would somehow find its way out of the hole it had dug.
In January, Diane returned to Canada for 6 weeks to help out her mother after she had knee surgery. 6 weeks is a long time to fill on your own … but I managed to fill in some of the time with a few trips. The first of these was yet another trip up to Belfast to take in an (ice) hockey game. A few colleagues and I took the train up and then had a nice dinner after the game before hopping on an after-midnight bus back to Dubiln.
A week later, pretty close to the same set of colleagues went on a lads weekend away to Riga, Latvia. The main purpose of the trip was to catch a KHL hockey match between Dinamo Riga and CSKA Moscow. One of the guys going on the trip is of Latvian descent and knew the language and the city pretty well. So for the rest of the weekend he showed us around. It made for a nice relaxing weekend away.
Things didn't slow down for exciting things for me at all in February. A group of four guys from work went on a week-long ski trip to a resort called Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. The same guy who showed us around Riga goes to this resort nearly every year and was happy to bring us to his 'home resort'. The weather was excellent, the food was fantastic, and the skiing was gorgeous.
A couple weeks later, it was time for UKIPT Galway. Our group of friends has done really well at this series of poker tournaments over the last couple years, and this particular event would be a fantastic one for our group. Not only would a couple of guys go deep in the main event including Nick who made his third UKIPT final table, but three of us including me would go deep in the €300 side event, which I eventually came 2nd in for a €11,800 score. To top it all off, Max won the high roller event. Our group took in over €50,000 in winnings that weekend!
Diane found a groupon-style deal for flying lessons awhile back, and on March 18, we finally got out to use them. One at a time, an instructor took us up in a Cessna plane and we were even given control of the plane in the air for a little while. It was a pretty fun experience that we're both glad we got a chance to try.
The other big event in March was the discovery of ice hockey in Dublin! A small ice rink had opened in Castleknock in Dublin, and a surprising number of people were attending weekly hockey training sessions. So a few of us went up to try it out. Despite the small ice surface, the guys training were willing for us to join them and so a few of started going every week. Eventually, Mike and I bought all the gear so we could play without fear of our shins getting hit by a puck.
My folks made their third appearance in Dublin in between a trip to Europe to see the family that lives in Austria. During their visit, we made a weekend trip to the fantastic Ring of Kerry. We basically repeated the trip that Diane and I did on our own back in 2010 - with a couple of small differences. One of this was a stop at the Gap of Dunloe - a picturesque area to do a little walking. We capped off their visit with a trip to the Merry Ploughboy - a traditional Irish music pub which does a touristy show and dinner. It was a pretty nice little evening.
Later that month, Diane and I went to Paris. Our main purpose of going to Paris was to see a trio of bands (Epica, Stream of Passion, and Xandria) perform there, which seems like a pretty good excuse to finally make it to Paris (Diane had been previously but this was my first trip). We arrived late on Friday night, and spent Saturday walking around in a drizzly day. We met up for dinner that night with the same friend of Diane's who hosted us in Lausanne, Switzerland. On Sunday we joined the queue for the Lourve and spent a good portion of the day wandering around there. I think my favourite part of the Lourve was the architecture of the building. It really is a pretty stunning place. The show on Sunday evening was fantastic -- the venue was pretty big and well laid out, and the sound quality was excellent.
As spring moved on into summer, we found ourselves not nearly as busy with trips as the prior months. Part of the reason for this was it was getting pretty obvious that the work situation was going to be sorted out one way or the other sooner rather than later. Up to this point we had constantly been promised that news on a deal to restore the site to operation would be coming soon. It often felt as close as a week or two away or at the very least not more than a month away. The mood and moral in the office was starting to get pretty bad as people seemed to be leaving for more stable employment almost every day or two.
Finally, at the end of July, the deal we were waiting for finally occurred. On the 31st of July, PokerStars purchased the assets of the company and formerly took over. Our sights were now set on a 90-day relaunch period in which we needed to get a pile of work done to ready the site to be used again by people. But my first order of business was to go back to Canada ...
Diane's sister was due to get married at the beginning of August. So Diane went back to Canada to help setup the wedding a few weeks before-hand. I joined up with them in Vancouver at the beginning of August to take part in the festivities. A few very warm days in Vancouver were quite enjoyable. The wedding itself was lovely, and the reception was quite nice -- including some bonus fireworks at the end courtesy of the Vancouver Celebration of Lights which they hold every summer.
After a few days in Vancouver, I flew back to Edmonton to spend some time with friends and family. Diane joined me a few days later after doing a quick road trip down to Seattle and then back up to Edmonton. It was good to see everyone that we did get a chance to see. Apologies to anyone we missed -- we'll get you next time!
A couple days after landing back in Dublin, the hockey team we'd been training with made a trip up to Belfast to play a late night hockey game against one of the rec teams up there. So despite being a little jet lagged, I drove up with a Mike and Andrej to go play. We lost by a few goals, but it was a fun contest… one where I scored a flukey goal off a defender.
The relaunch effort at work was very much in full swing by now. The pile of work looked insurmountable, and there just weren't enough resources to devote to all the things that needed doing. Our work days got longer and there wasn't too much time to devote to much else. Despite that, we did get out to a couple of fun things. The company threw a "Fresh Start Party", at which the staff were treated to a night out with an open bar and got a chance to mingle with other staff. Gus Hansen, a professional poker player and the first of our signed pros, made an appearance and we spent a fair amount of time chatting with him.
Diane and I also got out to see Dara O'Briain's "Craic Dealer". Dara is an Irish standup comedian who we've been trying to see for ages. I finally just decided to buy tickets as soon as they came out which was about 8 months prior to the show. So finally we got a chance to go see him and it was an excellent show. There's a DVD out if you're interested - he's very funny.
The relaunch of November 6th was looming at work, which made October a very work-heavy month. We did make it out for one quick weekend trip to London to see some friends there. While both sets of our friends had been there for more than a year we hadn't had a chance to get over there to see either of them … and one set was about to have a baby and would be moving away from London after the baby was ready to travel. So time was starting to get short to see them while they were still close! So a quick visit was in order which made for a nice weekend away.
Amazingly, despite the amount of work that needed doing, we managed to somehow get the site back up and running with very few problems. The relaunch day went way better than anyone really had any expectation of. Players flooded in and sat down to play on the site after more than a year of no action happening. It was an incredible day. A couple weeks later, the company threw a relaunch party. They booked out a night club, had plentiful food and drinks, and a good time was had by all.
Also in November, the Celtic Clovers (which our hockey team was called) made two trips up to Belfast to play games. One game against the Foxes, and another against the Prowlers. We lost both games by wide margins, but once again I managed to score a goal in one of the games. There's even a picture that Diane took for proof!
Finally, one of the groupon style coupons we got was for a significant discount at a fancy restaurant called L'Ecrivain. So Diane and I went out on a Tuesday night for a very enjoyable tasting menu. This meal capped off several excellent dining experiences we had over the last few months - including a tasting menu at Bang Restaurant and a couple of nights at the Dublin cookery school popup restaurant night. It was a very good year for trying some tasty meals.
This month, we went on another KHL hockey game trip, this time to Bratislava. Andrej is from Bratislava, and he proved an able guide around the town. He was also key in acquiring the tickets as there was a complicated auction process involved in getting them. It was quite a nice weekend where we enjoyed the local Christmas markets, had some good food and beer (Staropramen Black is very tasty), and walked around to see a few sights.
Just before Christmas, the Clovers made one last trip to play a quick hockey game against the Kilkenny Storm. This was quite a bit closer to Dublin as we didn't need to go all the way up to Belfast. The Kilkenny team only had about 8 people there to play for them, but they were a very strong side and we ended up losing by a significant margin. Still, it was an enjoyable game!
It's been an exciting year. Lots of trips and stories and pictures. I'm quite happy with how the work situation has resolved itself so far, and that means we might stick around Dublin for awhile yet to see how it continues to go. Early next year, we have a trip to the Bahamas to look forward to … and I'm sure there'll be a lot more to see and do as the year goes on.
I hope everyone had a good 2012, and here's to a better 2013! As usual, I'll leave you with a selection of some of my favourite photos from the past year.