Join us for the experience of Dublin Horse Show 2017.
Despite the anticipation days one and eight are not the most exciting. They are for travelling.
This year I pick Ben and Steph up in Oakham at the crack of dawn. The usual game of boot-Tetris ensues but my Golf does me proud and we are soon on our way to Northampton.
Next stop is Shane's new house in Blisworth, where we unpack my car and repack her (rather larger) Discovery. My driving done for the day, it's time to settle down in the back and catch up some sleep, if I can.
The M6, for once, is quite nice to us. A small detour round a breakdown at junction 17 and we are onto the M56. But first we need another passenger, Naomi, for whom we stop at the Chester Services. This makes the last leg to Holyhead slightly more uncomfortable as Naomi doesn't travel well and sits in the front, leaving two six-foot blokes and a girl on the back seat!
A few years ago Shane and I had a scare at Holyhead. We were delayed by an accident on the M6 and only just made it to the port in time for the ferry. She has been extra cautious ever since. Luckily we are able to spend most of the time we have left before departure on the ferry because there is bugger all to do at Terminal 3 otherwise.
A good opportunity for lunch: cod and chips, which is excellent, if expensive, now that the exchange rate is basically 1:1. During lunch we are joined by Steve and Lorraine who have come separately. The girls try to sleep while the boys talk about tech stuff for most of the journey over to Dublin.
As we near the coast there is the usual flurry of text messages from mobile networks telling us how wonderful it is that they have decided to let us use our UK allowances in Ireland and we will no longer have to pay them extra for everything we do there. No mention of it being a legal requirement, thanks to EU legislation.
We send messages to Sarah, Gill and Keith. They travelled over on the earlier (and quicker) ferry with the van which contains the stand. We are delighted to hear that because we didn't go earlier the stand is now complete ("Bloody tight fit though, it's exactly six metres") and we can proceed straight to our accommodation at UCD, which is, apparently, excellent.
Our first taste of Irishness occurs on landing. Repeated tannoy announcements tell us (vehicle passengers) to stay put while foot passengers are disembarked. We wait patiently as the ferry appears to empty and finally decided to go down to the vehicle deck anyway. Good job we did as we are now holding up the cars behind us; the whole row in front of us have already driven off.
On our way out I spy Felix Parker Favor and girlfriend Lucy Robinson with one of the Fairfax and Favor trailers. It's their first Dublin Horse Show and I think their stand is very close to ours. I quickly tell him I will see him at RDS in the morning and run for our car.
As we navigate the rather circuitous route out of Dublin port we notice Felix has succumbed to his satnav and gone the wrong way. Not to worry, though, because he is soon back on our tail. I comment that I hope he isn't using us for directions, as UCD is not going to be where he wants to be.
Our directions bring us to one of the newest and ugliest buildings at UCD. We are reassured, though, by the branding which indicates this block was for officials' accommodation during the recent Women's Rugby World Cup. It is, in fact, amazing.
We choose our rooms, bewildered by the fact that (tiny) fridges are in rooms and not in the communal kitchen and eating area. No oven either. The spare room fridges are immediately seconded for essentials as they are the closest to the kitchen. A cold buffet supper is very welcome and Mars ice creams even more so. Thanks Ben and your sweet tooth. We are all in bed by about 10pm.