The Diary: Up and away for festive party with a difference
How far are you prepared to travel for a party? Normally I'm circumspect about going too far and I can count on both hands the number of New Year's Eve parties that turned into total damp squib because we lost each other in the crowd and waking up miles from home on January 1 is never good.
However, I didn't have to think twice about accepting an invitation to fly 3,690 miles for an party during Christmas week. And so off I took myself to Abu Dhabi for literally a flying visit to celebrate the unveiling of Etihad Airway's two new flagship aircraft, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787.
It was certainly an open door on how the other half live. I sipped an iced drink in the The Residence, which is the only three-room suite in the sky. The 125-feet suite onboard the A380 features a living room, ensuite shower room and bedroom plus your personal butler.
The launch party included a catwalk fashion show to reveal 21 new cabin crew uniforms, the first major uniform re-launch in 11 years. Our host was the affable, and genial, James Hogan, Etihad's president and CEO, but he made it clear he was not going to be taken off topic that day of new planes and uniforms so all enquiries about whether he planned to expand his 5pc investment in Aer Lingus were for another day.
And so I mingled with the other international guests and made myself busy investigating the new uniforms designed by Italian Haute Couturier Ettore Bilotta in a shade of warm chocolate brown with purple accent colour for cabin crew and lounge teams, and a burnt orange accent colour for ground crews and nannies.
The biggest applause was undoubtedly for the Butlers who are Savoy Academy-trained and wear long-tailed brown jackets and ties, ivory trousers and waistcoats and white shirt and gloves. The cabin crew's hat is 'aerodynamic' and inspired by the sweeping formations of the Emirati desert sand dunes.
I slowed up my mingling when I detected some Irish accents belonging to cabin crew Rebecca Young from Wicklow and Andrea Gantley from Ranelagh who looked very smart in their new uniforms at the launch.
The foodie part came later where, after changing at our hotel, we dined at a Lebanese restaurant and next morning, we were up at 7am to fly home with tanned ex-pats flying from the UAE with cases packed with presents.
There were fun moments attached to this flying visit, not least, the surprise of being approached as I checked in at the Westin Hotel by a teacher from Co Laois who is working in Abu Dhabi, and who keeps in touch with home by reading the Irish Independent online.
I was back in rainy Dublin last Saturday when Miami-based businessman and aviation enthusiast Gino Bertuccio became the first guest to book The Residence on Etihad's inaugural A380 flight from Abu Dhabi to London. He paid $20,000 one-way - though the fare would have also covered a guest. Bertuccio's company distributes Italian personal care and hygiene products internationally and clearly he is no stranger to special flights as he's traveled on more than 22 inaugural and final flights in premium-class cabins in the past 25 years.
Fans' High Hopes for Kodaline and Co pay off at New Year bash
New Year's Eve tends to get a bad rap with priggish killjoys moaning about the price of pints, the forced joviality and the pressure to find someone half-way decent to snog at midnight.
But I'm all for an old-fashioned knees up, especially before the puritanical January blues set in, and I was determined to make the most of the three-day festival.
This year, Failte Ireland declared war (sort of) on long-standing Scottish hooley Hogmanay by making our New Year's Festival three days.
"Dublin's a vibrant city why can't we take it on?" Orla Carroll of Failte Ireland asked. Thems are fighting words.
There were an abundance of arts and literary shindigs taking place, culture vultures dipped in and out of galleries as part of the Arts Trail before stopping by the artisan food market to load up on penny sweets and port (a lethal combo FYI).
I know it's been done before but I'm still a big fan of the trippy 3D light projections on Trinity College Dublin and Wolfe Tone Square.
But despite all the dazzling light shows, the evening was, for most of us, all about the music.
Shoegazing rockers Kodaline were the headlining act at the sold-out 3NYF Countdown Concert on College Green and the place was buzzing as they belted out their hits 'High Hopes' and 'All I Want'.
Backstage, VIP guests tweeted, snapped and instagrammed their hearts out while some of the other acts including James Vincent McMorrow, Walking on Cars and The Whereabouts.
When the clock struck midnight, there was an almighty cheer from the crowd as everyone grabbed their nearest and dearest and downed another shot. "Here's to January and one hell of a hangover," one reveller yelled.
'Sometimes the best way to travel is by hat'
Designer Paul Costelloe and his wife Anne spent New Year's Eve with friends at London's Chelsea Arts Club of King's Road where there was an Alice in Wonderland-themed party and Mad Hatter decorations everywhere. "We were 18 on Christmas Day and it was like a family reunion," said the dad-of-seven. "We also had my two nieces and my granddaughter Martha who is two. She ended up roaming onto the altar on Christmas Mass so my son Justin had to run up and grab her," said Paul, who has the perfect family model for his classic children's clothing range for Dunnes Stores.
Forever sketching and painting, Paul took out his drawing pad during the holidays and sent out a personalised 2015 New Year's card, which was a lovely surprise when we all arrived back to work on December 27.
"This illustration gives a little clue to my AW 15 collection which has volume and is slightly Edwardian in style. My resolution for the New Year is to lead a more healthy life, eat less carbs and exercise more," he said.
He also hopes to make time to see more of his friends, who, in London include Orla Kiely and her husband Dermott Rowan.
Celebs race ahead with tradition
Spending the weekend scurrying about a bright but bitterly cold Leopardstown Racecourse was the perfect way to blow-off those Christmas cobwebs.
The four-day festival attracted quite the crowd with designer John Rocha, President Michael D Higgins, TV pundit Eamon Dunphy and rising ingénue Eve Hewson all popping by.
Filmmaker Jim Sheridan made the most of some down-time before production begins on his next project, a film adaptation of the Secret Scripture starring Jack Reynor, Eric Bana and Rooney Mara.
While St Stephen's Day may have been something of a washout with rain bucketing down and winds howling, Ladies Day was a delight.
Designer Sonya Lennon was judging the best dressed and arrived in a glimmering Maleficent-style head dress.
"The biggest mistake Irish women make at winter race days is not wrapping up," she said. "So I have chosen women who look warm and wonderful. Thermals and wool insoles are a must for these frosty days."
Speaking of style and substance, legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne and his wife Kathleen Watkins were tucked up in the stands. "We have said goodbye to the grandchildren and are enjoying some much-needed peace," Gaybo said.
Ginger Jedi Domhnall talks the force while Aine Lawlor gets blue
Ginger Jedi Domhnall Gleeson arrived fashionably late to the Odessa Club for the Spoken Word Festival this week.
But the guest of honour had good reason for his tardiness; old Domhnall is in the middle of rehearsals for Enda Walsh's upcoming comedy The Walworth Farce which will also star his old man Brendan Gleeson and his kid brother Brian.
Gleeson chit-chatted about his career highlights from taking direction from Angelina Jolie to waving a lightsabre in the air like he just didn't care while comedian Jarleth Regan and actress Dorothy Cotter cheered him on.
Across town and in the exquisitely beautiful City Assembly House on South William Street, breathy songstress Lisa Hannigan and the ever-so endearing Dylan Haskins held a special recording of cultural Podcast 'Soundings'.
It was an eclectic mix of guest speakers with Fr Peter McVerry, Rory O'Neill aka drag performer Panti Bliss and RTE broadcaster Aine Lawlor all taking part. "They're certainly an unlikely trio to have a pint together," Dylan joked.
But the three kept the audience entertained with humorous ancedotes; Fr McVerry spoke about his mischievous Jack Russell terrior while Lawlor discussed receiving amorous fan mail from OAPs who listened intently to her dulcet tones while soaping down in the shower (who knew Radio One was so risque?). O'Neill closed the show with a tale about Madonna acting like a total and utter diva at a funeral. As if that wasn't enough entertainment, Lisa Hannigan plucked away at her guitar and sang sultry soundings of her own throughout.
Opera's coolest singer is coming to town
The world's coolest opera singer is headed our way which will delight Ireland's loyal circle of music fans and Danielle de Niese, has every excuse to bring lots of luggage and fab gowns.
The trouble with YouTube is everything is filmed these days, so you really "can't wear the same dress twice", explains the lyric soprano who has been described by the BBC as the "most sought-after singer on the planet". Indeed, the New York Times described her voice as "seductive enough to woo gods as well as mortals."
Chatting to her over the holidays, I discovered that Danielle's diary is booked up five years in advance and she is excited about performing with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra at Dublin's National Concert Hall on January 15.
Opera is such vibrant territory for great socialising in Ireland - just ask the legions who descend on Wexford - and you can expect lots of drinks' invitations to be going out this week, held to mark her return to Dublin.
This lady has the best fashion connections. Donna Karan designed the gown for her fairytale wedding to Gus Christie who is the third-generation boss of the famous Glyndebourne Festival. Danielle wears Vivienne Westwood because she loves the designer's mix of modern and baroque and says the gowns "feel as comfortable as pyjamas". If the soprano is escorted on stage by security, it's because she's wearing her Van Cleef and Arpels jewels. Off stage, Danielle likes to walk Caesar, her Portuguese water dog who is actually related to the Obamas' dog, Bo.