Time sure flies when you’re busy and having fun! For the first time since moving to Ireland, Diane and I went home to Canada for Christmas. So by the time I got back, it was already partway through January. This caused this post to be delayed quite a bit, since I had all the catching up to do when I got back. But! Even though this blog only manages a blog post a year, I still like doing my year in review! So it might be February already, but hey ... it's never too late right?
To kick off the new year in style, I was rewarded for my efforts at work with a trip to the Bahamas for the 10th annual Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure. The event is a signature event on the Pokerstars calendar, and one of the cool perks that the company offers is to send some of their employees on a "working holiday". They require three or four days of helping out with various tasks and then the rest of the ten days are a fun holiday spent at the ridiculous place called "Paradise Island". It was an incredible 10 days - Diane and I really enjoyed it. The sun, the beach, the ridiculous waterslides, and the huge aquariums. Now, how to get another invite ...
After returning to Dublin, Diane headed back to Canada for an extended visit leaving me to my own device for the better part of two months. I made sure that I kept relatively busy though. Our hockey team had a final hurrah at a little tournament held in Kilkenny. Amazingly, six different teams showed up for the tournament. Our team being pretty newbie-heavy didn't do very well, but did win one game at least!
In early February, our department had our delayed Christmas party (yeah, so what if it was more than a month late?). Part of the reason was the company had already thrown a relaunch party so throwing another open-bar shindig for the whole company was deemed slightly excessive. So instead, each department got a budget to have their own small party. For this occasion, the IT department went to a venue in town, and we had a nice dinner and drinks.
The company also threw a freeroll poker tournament in February with a bunch of cool prizes. Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away with the 3D home entertainment system. Oh well, maybe in 2014.
Finally, my friend Kepi from Canada flew over to Europe to join me and a colleague from work to go skiing at Cervinia in Italy. A week long of skiing with pretty darn good weather, snow conditions, and delicious Italian food was definitely a good time! Cervinia physically borders Switzerland and is on the opposite side of Zermatt, which is a famous ski resort known for the Matterhorn mountain. We had a comfy stay near the ski lifts in a hotel that served us delicious (plentiful) dinners every night.
Diane returned to Dublin briefly before the two of us headed over to London to visit our friends there and see Louis CK perform. You can watch a recording of a (different) performance of that show by grabbing a copy of "Oh My God" - you can get it direct from his website.
The big event in April was my decision to finally do something I'd talked about doing for years: go get my vision corrected with laser eye surgery. The experience itself was pretty trippy, and both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I'm happy to say that the surgery went very well, and a few months after surgery my vision was better than 20/20 (I haven't had it measured since). The surgery has improved my life - certainly making playing hockey or swimming much better experiences. I kind of wish I had managed to get around to it before the Bahamas trip!
We had been trying to get my sister over to visit us in Dublin for awhile, and we were finally able to make the schedule work out. Her plan was to return to school in the fall, so the spring was a good time of year to steal her over for a couple weeks. While she was here, we managed a fair amount of touristy things including a trip down to the Ring of Kerry. For the second time, Diane and I got really lucky with the weather and managed to see the Skelligs with incredibly nice sunny weather. We took my sister to a couple of our favourite restaurants from the last time we were down that way, and otherwise just enjoyed a rare chance to hang out.
It was a busy June. Our apartment we had lived in for nearly our whole time here was going to be sold so we needed to find a new apartment. We got a fairly lengthy notice period, and managed to find a suitable place to move into for early June. We hired some movers to help move our accumulated stuff the hop skip and a jump to our new place which went pleasantly smoothly.
Later on in the month, one of Diane's choir friends invited us to see her lock house. These old houses line the canals in Ireland, and would be where the guy lived who was able to operate the part of the canal that could raise or lower the water for the boats that went up and down the canal. These days, boats that use the canals have their own key to operate the lock so it isn't required to have anyone live there anymore. So these old houses are either falling into disrepair or used as the equivalent of summer lake homes in Alberta. So Diane's friend kindly hosted us there after a little bit of hiking around the area and a quick stop to pick up some delicious steaks at a small-town butcher shop. It was a lovely sunny day for a hike and then a fire-grilled steak dinner in rural Ireland!
The company social committee planned a fun event in the late part of the month. We went up to Phoenix park for an afternoon of driving Segways. I'd only been on one briefly at the University, and this was a much longer session which involved a nerf gun and water fun fight, and learning to play segway polo.
Although Diane and I celebrated our 5th anniversary in June, we didn't get to our own celebration for it until early July - we booked a dinner at Sabor Brazil. This is Dublin's top ranked restaurant on tripadvisor, and we managed to score two-for-one groupon-style vouchers for dinner there. It was a memorable dinner, and we enjoyed it immensely.
Later on in July, the company held a family summer party. The party was largely indistinguishable from previous summer parties the old company threw except that the venue wasn't quite as ritzy. But otherwise, there was plenty of outside ridiculous activities to participate in including an archery range, segway course, bouncy castles, and human foosball. Plus of course the BBQ lunch and open bar that stayed open until late into the night. The summer continued to bestow wonderful weather on us and this was one of several absolutely gorgeous weather days of the summer.
In August, Full Tilt sponsored the UKIPT stop in Galway. The company spent a lot of money building a "poker village" that had a fantastic players lounge. So a couple of my colleagues and I went down to Galway for a fun weekend of playing a bit of poker and enjoying Galway. We discovered a fantastic little restaurant called Rouge which had an incredibly good menu for astonishingly cheap. Definitely on the list to return to!
The big event of September was the wedding of my good friend and colleague. He had a destination wedding on the island of Vis in Croatia. It was quite a trek to get there: a flight from Dublin to Birmingham, an overnight stay at the airport hotel, an early morning flight to Split, and then a ferry to Vis. But it was a pretty magical weekend -- the weather was fantastic, and the happy couple had a full weekend of events for us. The wedding ceremony itself involved hopping in a speedboat to take us to the neighbouring tiny island. After the ceremony, we enjoyed a lovely sunset while sipping on a glass or two (or more) of champagne before returning to Vis for the reception. The reception was held in an open-air restaurant that served up an incredible many-course menu. The restaurant had a magical atmosphere: almost more of a garden than a restaurant. Tables nestled on patios linked together with steps, lots of greenery, and a lit fountain all added to the ambience.
The next day, we hopped aboard a boat that the couple had hired for the day and got a tour partway around the island. The boat operators sang for us, served us food, and gave us opportunities to hop into the Croatian ocean for some swimming! Diane and I were sad we hadn't booked a couple extra days off to enjoy more of the island. I guess we'll just have to go back!
After returning from the wedding, and all through October, work ramped up to crazy busy. It really didn’t leave much time for much else other than work and trying to relax from work in the evenings and weekends. So we didn’t get up to much, although there was a company social outing to do some ice skating at one of the holiday rinks that open up around Christmas time which was fun.
Just at the tail end of the busy work push was UKIPT Isle of Man. This was a special poker tournament because staff was allowed to play the main event, which was kind of nice. After Full Tilt was purchased, we weren’t able to play in the UKIPTs anymore. But an exception was made for the event on the Isle of Man. So we had a small office satellite to the main event and I was fortunate to win it. My prize was not just the main event fee (£1100), but also hotel and flights, so that was pretty nice.
I didn’t do well at the poker all weekend, but the trip was still pretty cool. I got to meet a fair number of the Pokerstars staff and met some poker players who were cool to hang out with and chat with. So it was a pretty fun trip overall.
It was a pretty busy December for me. Diane returned to Canada to help out with her mom’s knee replacement surgery that happened at the beginning of the month. While she headed off to that, work was busy as we tried to get some aggressive projects done before the Christmas break happened. In the middle of that, a couple colleagues and I went off to Latvia for a fun lads weekend away to watch some KHL hockey games, and enjoy some Latvian food and beer. We actually did a trip like this a couple years ago, and this was also quite a blast.
The company also threw a Christmas party which was pretty fun. It was held at the O2 VIP lounge, which was almost too small for the large number of employees that now work for Full Tilt and Pokerstars in Dublin. There was a live band, a magician, and as much as you liked to drink, which made for a fun evening.
Finally, I joined Diane in Canada for a few weeks over Christmas and New Years. This was the first Christmas we’d been back since we moved to Ireland, and man was it COLD! Yeesh, Edmonton sure wasn’t making a case for us returning in a future winter. But anyway, it was good to see friends and family for a good long visit. I did manage to see quite a few people, but not everyone. So I apologize if I missed you on this trip - I'll try and catch you on the next one!
2013 was a pretty fun year overall. We had quite a few fun trips, including more sun holiday trips than I've done in a year (Bahamas and Croatia). Let's hope 2014 is fun too!
As usual, here's a selection of some photos from this year: