Yesterday was an absolutely brilliant day. St. Patrick's Day for the win!
So Kristina, my two new friends Mike and Dave, and I decided we would meet up at noon at Mike's place before the parade began at one. Another girl, Avril, was also there; she's a redhead, very nice, and a Brit. Amazingly, all of us were on time - even Dave, who had to drive into town from his home in Blarney.
When we walked onto Grand Parade (that's the name of the street - it never occurred to me before the coincidence there), the place was absolutely packed. Half of the county must have been crowded into City Center, and due to this huge number of people, we almost immediately lost Kristina, who had stopped to buy a green hat from one of the many vendors who had set up shop along the way. She found us again, though, and we actually managed to get decent positions along the parade route, towards the beginning. The parade, unlike everything else that is Irish, started smartly at one o'clock.
What surprised me was how quiet everything was. I mean, there was plenty of normal-speaking-voice level chatter, but hardly any of the floats or groups inspired shouts or cheers or even really applause from the crowd. Maybe it's an American thing to be noisy at parades? I don't know, but I was pretty weirded out. There were cool floats though - a huge water dragon whose head moved around, occasionally swooping into the crowd; a giant robot controlled by what I was told were Star Trekkies; and some random alien-shaped balloons. Most of the people were on foot - a few weren't even dressed up - and the whole affair was decidedly low-tech in comparison to what might be put on in the United States. I'm sorry to keep thinking in terms of comparisons, but I rather expected it to be like other parades I've seen... and it just wasn't. It wasn't bad, or not fun - it was just different.
The parade lasted about an hour, and then the five of us wandered off to find some food. We ended up at Four-Star Pizza, where we got a massive amount of food for 20 euro, and ate it in a green, grassy park I'd never seen before. It overlooked the city, which made for a completely gorgeous view. I can't believe I forgot my camera yet again... argh. But I could see the cathedral, and the bell tower, and a couple miles of residential areas and small businesses from the high spot on which we sat. We all sat happily for a good two hours, trading stories, "shooting the breeze," as they say. The sun was shining, and it was lovely, warm, and comfortable; I couldn't have asked for better company, either. What was interesting to me was the huge diversity of places the five of us came from. Mike is from California and goes to school in Maryland. Dave is born and bred a Corkonian, and was the only Irishman among us. Avril came from England, about 20 miles away from London. Kristina is from Michigan, and I of course am from Mississippi and go to school in Oklahoma. It's amazing to me how we all came together, despite our different backgrounds.
We finally left the grassy slope, and unfortunately Avril had to leave at that point to get homework done. The four of us remaining walked back to the City Center, to the courthouse, where Mike was meeting a few friends of his. The courthouse steps, oddly, were full of drunken college students - and Mike's 3 friends were no exception. They had greasy pizza boxes and some kind of alcohol wrapped in a jacket sleeve to hide the label. One of the girls was Mike's particular friend, and he seemed a little anxious to find her so trashed. We followed them into a different park, this one right in the middle of the city... which was also full of drunk college kids. It wasn't as if there were fights going on, but the majority of people there were dressed gaudily and had unpleasant expressions on their faces. I wouldn't have felt safe in there by myself, and I deliberately stayed close to Mike and Dave. When we were getting ready to leave, Mike decided to stay behind with his drunken friends; I guess he was still worried about the one girl. I don't blame him.
Dave, Kristina, and I, then, the only remaining members of the group, trotted off with a scheme in mind to feed the ducks and swans at the Lough near Kristina's place. We went to Lidl, bought three loaves of bread at 60 cents each, and then went back to Kristina's place to hang out for a little while before going back to the Lough. Well, "a little while" turned into a couple of hours, complete with making toast that I suggested as a result of staring at the loaves of newly acquired bread. We sat and talked for a long time, periodically idly debating whether we should get up again and go feed the swans and ducks. By the time we finally got out the door again, it was after eight o'clock and very dark outside. The ducks were totally disinterested in our bread, and it took us quite a while to find some swans who would take it from us. It was still a lot of fun though, and Kristina and I were giggling (probably a little too much, haha) at the grunting sounds the swans made as they ate.
We finally got rid of that massive amount of bread and called up Mike again, who'd eventually left the drunks and gone back home, only to find a huge, noisy party at his apartment. When we got back there, he was sitting outside looking gloomy. Fortunately, the day was not yet over. (Yeah, I know. You're telling ME it was a long day). We walked down the street, got some Chinese food, then got in Dave's car and went to yet another grassy area. This one was peaceful, dark, on the river, and nobody disturbed the four of us at all. It was also quite cold, and I wasn't particular dressed for the occasion, but that was all right. We had Chinese food, after all, and I was with people who were (and are) some of the most awesome I have met.
After we left, we drove back to the parking lot of Lidl, where Dave and Mike were going to drop us off, but when we got there, the whole place was filled with smoke. Dense, white smoke. It turned out that a chimney was blocked and nearly on fire, right next door to Dave's grandparents' place. We called the fire brigade after talking to the man who lived in that house. We also knocked on his next-door-neighbor's door, who seemed confused and peeved that we were disturbing him to tell him that sparks were flying onto his roof. (Go figure, right?)
It was only after this, and meeting Dave's grandparents briefly, that Kristina and I went back to her place. We studied for our exam, which was the next day, and went to bed around midnight. (I didn't much fancy walking back home 30 minutes in the middle of the night).
So yes. That was my sober St. Patrick's Day. I loved every minute of it. :D