Today I bring you a post from my personal travel planner, my boyfriend Damian. This is the first of a number of posts that will chronicle the planning for our trip in Europe this summer, including tips and tricks for planning a trip on a budget. Enjoy!
As soon as the Republic of Ireland secured their place at the 2012 European Championships, my plans for the coming summer were set. From the moment Bjorn Kuipers blew his whistle to signify the end of Ireland’s playoff victory over Estonia in Dublin on November 15th, I knew I had to be in ‘Polkraine’ to watch the boys in green in ruffle the feathers of some of the more fashionable European football nations, as is generally our wont! The only question that remained was, which part of Eastern Europe exactly would I be dragging the @craftytraveler around come June 2012? That fate would be decided by a bunch of past-their-prime men in Kiev rummaging around in a bag of balls.
Fast forward to December 2nd- the draw for the group stages of the finals. Two main things occupied my thoughts. Firstly, I was hoping beyond hope that we would be drawn in Poland and secondly, I wondered, would Ireland be drawn in the same group as our old foes, England?
The ideal scenario was to be drawn in Poland’s group. The co-hosts were generally regarded as the weakest of the top seeds and by drawing them Ireland would be guaranteed to spend the group stages in Poland, rather than the significantly more distant Ukraine. From my own point of view, this was important as my original plan was to drive from my home in Chester, via the channel tunnel, to Poland for the championships (more on this in my next post). Google maps told me that I had a 22 hour drive to Warsaw, the drive to Kiev, however, was around double this! Considering that we intended to make it to the tournament and back in our ’99 Honda Civic, an 88 hour return-journey squeezed into 2 weeks of annual leave seemed a tad unrealistic! Imagine my relief, then when ‘Zizou’ (French legend, Zinedine Zidane) drew the Republic or Ireland in Group C, meaning that we would be stationed in Poland and that the trip was ON! My relief was palpable – almost enough to forgive Zidane’s compatriot Thierry Henry’s indiscretion of two years previous. I said almost.
The second question was whether the powderkeg possibility of an England V Ireland match would become a reality. I was torn on the prospect if I’m being honest – it’s the match I always look forward to in the Six Nations rugby due to the passion and emotion involved, so a meeting at a major football championships would be the highlight of the summer; but, of course, memories of the last meeting between the teams in Dublin in 1995 tempered the anticipation somewhat. As the draw came to a close there were only two teams left in the pot – Croatia and England, and the next team drawn would be in Ireland’s group. It all looked set up for that dramatic meeting… until Croatia were drawn to complete Ireland’s group and that was that… for now. If the match is going to happen it will now be in the second round where the first-placed teams of Ireland’s and England’s groups will meet the second-placed teams of each other’s group. So bring it on Spain, Italy and Croatia, we have a date with our old neighbours across the Irish Sea to keep!
In my next post I will discuss the clamour for tickets and the constantly-changing (but now finalised) route plan for the grand European adventure!