5-star stays, stadium tours and Italian cuisine - who needs New York when you've got Limerick?
Deciding to stay at home for a much-needed weekend break over somewhere a bit more exotic was always going to be a gamble.
Raising the stakes considerably was the fact that my other half, Lucia, was celebrating a very significant birthday.
Since Christmas subtle hints had been dropped like cluster bombs about "The Big Apple", "a carriage ride around Central Park" and one specific piece of expensive "jewellery".
Unfortunately, a threatened snowstorm and secondary school commitments (big exams next year) put paid to our transatlantic dream jaunt (for now) - so it was time for plan B.
A delicate situation you'll agree, but with a bit of luck and meticulous execution - I might just pull it off.
Now, being a "surprise", the destination would have to be somewhere that neither of us had ever been, it had to be steeped in culture and, most importantly, be noted for its shopping.
It didn't take long to figure out that Limerick was the spot. The ancient city is indeed an eclectic mix of history, art and endless retail therapy.
For our stay we booked into the sumptuous five-star Savoy in the heart of the city. From valet parking on arrival (expertly taken care of by our concierge, Christy), staff at the lavish boutique hotel with 92 rooms and suites have only one objective - to utterly pamper their guests.
The three weary travellers (did I mention that this was a romantic trip for three?) were shown to the McCormac suite where a complimentary bottle of bubbly and an enormous flat screen TV mounted on a clever centrepiece swivel (so you could watch the box at either end of the spacious room) awaited. Bliss.
Those in need of further relaxation can avail of indulgent spa treatments or maybe a dip in the private pool.
Replenished by a couple of lengths and a session in the Jacuzzi, we decided to hit the shops with a vengeance. One can do some serious damage to the plastic as O'Connell Street is home to Brown Thomas, Debenhams and Timberland to name but a few. We had a particularly fragrant time in BT when her good self discovered that they now stock her favourite scent (Molecule 01), and the iconic stripey bags were loaded up with everything from shower gel to the new Escentric range.
Feeling a little peckish, we headed for the legendary Da Vincenzo's on Shannon Street - home of the finest Italian cuisine in the city.
Greeting us there was the man himself - an infectiously passionate Neapolitan who strives for taste excellence - be it with pasta, pizza or the 200 fine wines he currently stocks.
After a dough tossing lesson with Ireland's very own Gino D'Acampo, the master explained with great pride the origins of the Margherita (named after the then Italian Queen in 1889) and topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil - to replicate the Italian flag.
The hungry students then tucked into a magnificent calzone (a folded over pizza topped with the most spectacular parma ham) and smothered in dandelion green salad.
To wash it all down we sampled a flight of fine wines (the three glasses for us; a Chianti Classico, a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and a Valpolicella) - all delizioso.
A good walk was needed after all that grub so we headed to the must-see attraction in Limerick - King John's Castle.
The 13th century fortress sits on the banks of the Shannon and was built by the brother of Richard the Lionheart - he of Robin Hood and Knights of the Round Table.
Transport yourself back 800 years and relive early Gaelic society, the Normans landing in Ireland to the grisly Reformation.
Visualise the bustling courtyard where more than 3,500 natives lived and died during the many battles.
Most brutal of all was the attack of the Williamites after King Billy's victory at the Battle of the Boyne which led to the Treaty of Limerick.
Being Game Of Thrones fans Cameron (13) and I (48 and a quarter) had a ball with an array of armour, shields, swords and muskets.
The courtyard is also home to a blacksmith, a chapel, a siege shelter and a humiliation and torture area, complete with gallows. Within the surrounding five towers one can visit the armouries (both 13th and 17th century) and of course the legendary mint where the king's coins were made.
Giant 3D digital screens with interactions from actors playing various roles (soldiers to jailers) really enhance the experience as do the discovery drawers containing replica uniforms to wear from that particular era. Tickets cost €12 for adults and €6 for children.
Just a stone's throw away (in fact you can see it from the castle roof) is the home of Munster Rugby and a must for all sports fans - Thomond Park. The full stadium tour consists of a museum visit, entry to the home and away dressing rooms, plus visits to pitch-side and the Red Army dugout - adults €10, children €8.
For dinner that night the three amigos headed to the New York-style Hamptons Bar and Grill where the last pieces of the birthday puzzle would slot into place.
We were welcomed by maitre d' Rob Russell who hails from Holywood in Co Down (same county as herself) and who organised a little treat for dessert. After a starter of duck spring rolls x2 and spicy Bang Bang chicken followed by two juicy rib-eye steaks and succulent tempura monkfish with chilli dipping sauce, came the sweetest of all treats.
The entire waiting staff gathered around our table and sang Happy Birthday to the special lady and presented her with a candle-laden cake.
A very scundered (northern slang for embarrassed) but equally impressed girl won't forget this special, erm... 50th birthday.
Who needs New York when you've got the Savoy and Limerick?
Sunday Indo Living