Saturday 17 March 2018

Queenstown stay ticks all right boxes

Hugh Farrelly

WHILE previous visits to remote New Zealand outposts have proved controversial ('Newtownshamblesgate' will be revisited next week), Queenstown has been an unexpected joy.

Even aside from the stunning views, this charming resort oozes Utopian vibes, full employment, a negligible crime rate and happy, attractive people everywhere.

No haggard women in pyjamas buying John Player Blue, no streams of alcohol-fuelled urine running through the streets, no litter, no skobies, no worries.

Indeed, Queenstown is almost too perfect to be true and, as you stroll around the quaint, pedestrianised streets full of enticing cafes, restaurants, shops and bars, there is a distinct 'Truman Show' feel to it all -- as though the minute you turn a corner, the local 'extras' switch off and light up a cigarette waiting for the next scene to shoot.

Declan Kidney has had a rough August but his decision to kick off Ireland's World Cup campaign in this bastion of beauty reminded us exactly why our coach is the master of mental preparation.

It has had a recuperative effect on the Irish players, who have been floating about town apparently jetlag-free. Such was their enthusiasm, Kidney admitted he had to hold his players back at their first training session, which was intended to be nothing more than a limbering-up session but elicited a 'Jeez, lads will ye slow down a bit?' entreaty from the concerned coach.

However, before it all gets a bit too touchy-feely, it is prudent to point out a few down moments. One occurred at an otherwise upbeat press conference when a local radio journalist asked Kidney: "So, Declan, are the Irish cheats?"

It was an attempt at tongue-in-cheek humour following the furore surrounding similar allegations levelled at the All Blacks but, given that the Irish party had missed the relevant hoopla, it had the comedic impact of pleurisy.

Other negatives include hotel eggs with the consistency of tears and being told by a bouncer that, rather than entering what looked like a vibrant, hip establishment, to consider going to a bar down the road that played "60s and 70s music, and not too loud".

Living the dream.

Irish Independent

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