It was in a room the size of a small football pitch in Dromoland Castle that it came to me. It was not a flash-bang revelation, more a “hmmm, so that’s it” sort of moment.
We had decided to treat ourselves to a weekend of luxury in “Quiet Man” territory, and here we were, calling to each other across the echoing vastness of the bedroom, exclaiming with each new discovery.
“The bathroom is the size of BT’s cosmetic hall,” my then-girlfriend called to me from a westerly direction.
“Have you seen the size of this TV?” I said, before switching it on, locating Sky Sports and immersing myself in Bundesliga highlights.
My girlfriend, who had draped herself across a chaise longue and was awaiting some hurly-burly, was not pleased.
And that’s when it dawned on me: men and women are completely different when it comes to hotel rooms, hygiene standards in developing countries, flights, maps, packing. In fact, it seemed to me as I basked in the glacial stare of the woman who was to become my wife, that the sexes differ on virtually everything to do with travel.
My vague musings on travel and women hardened into something more thesis-like when we went down to dinner.
“How could you have forgotten a tie?” my wife-in-waiting hissed.
I was quite pleased with the tweed number they had dug out for me at reception. It was the sort of tie John Wayne might have worn when dragging a recalcitrant bride over the Mayo countryside.
But I could understand her bewilderment, for it was the sort of omission she would never have made. For this particular weekend away, she had packed a wide variety of day and evening wear, enough outdoor kit for as assault on Everest, a selection of vitamin supplements and a small travelling library.
I had to pack and repack the car several times as she came down the drive with yet more luggage.
“What’s in this one?” I asked of a small but especially heavy number.
“Oh, nothing,” she said sweetly. “Just my yoga blocks, mat and tingsha meditation bells.”
Either she had never read any of those magazine articles about capsule wardrobes, or her capsule was about the same size as Apollo 11’s.
For men, packing has a certain hierarchy: golf clubs, general sports equipment, Frisbee, Cds, DVDs, laptop and, em , clothes.
Some men don’t even bother with the clothes. They just wear lots of layers on the journey, then peel down and store the outer garments in drawers when they get there.
Others just decide they’ll buy what they need when they get there. At least that way, they don’t have to worry that they packed the wrong clothes for the weather. And that’s also why I have about 20 pairs of swimming trunks, ditto sandals and a museum-quality snorkel collection.
Packing, of course, it just the foreplay of travel. The real fun starts when you arrive at your destination.
I remember spending a holiday in Greece with a woman who brought a full range of cleaning products in her carry-on luggage and proceeded to clean the apartment from top to bottom before she would deign to come into contact with any of the surfaces. She then produced a full set of bed linen from her suitcase and remade the bed before retiring.
When it comes to holiday accommodation, women want something authentic, but not if that involves any indigenous insect life.
Younger men may believe that killing that creepy-crawly in the bathroom will be enough to soothe their partner’s nerves. Those more experienced among us have rung down to reception to check out almost before the scream of “COCKROACH!” has died in the humid night air.
The differences in attitude, expectation and approach between the sexes are already evident, and that’s before we even broach the topics of map-reading, asking for directions in a foreign language, sun-bathing regimes and the desirability of golf resorts.
When things go wrong on holidays, men may sulk or rant, but no one of the male persuasion can equal the withering distain of a woman who has just heard from her partner the words: “Passports? I thought you had them…”