Well, the sun was shining when I returned to Ohio from Dublin via Washington, D.C., Saturday. I’ll take that as a good sign for the new year ahead. And I’ll admit that I thought it was kind of sneaky that the Cleveland Browns waited until I left the country to fire Romeo Crennel. But I read about it in the International Herald Tribune. See it is a small, flat and connected world.
I enjoyed spending the holidays in Dublin.
It’s a very energetic city — with plenty of young people walking, shopping and spending time in the pubs. It’s also — like most cities in Europe and elsewhere — a very expensive city if you are unfortunate enough to live in a county where the national currency (such as it is) begins with d and ends with r. I generally don’t travel with cash these days and to get 300 Euros from an ATM translates into about 425 dollars. So it goes. And goes. And goes.
Still, that didn’t deter us from having a fantastic trip. We went to the No. 1 tourist attraction in Ireland: the Guinness brewery. We had dinner New Year’s Eve at Hugo’s, a small restaurant directly across from St. Stephen’s Square in the heart of Dublin. We spent a good part of New Year’s Day at O’Neill’s, a pub that like many in Dublin apparently hasn’t changed all that much in the past few hundred years. And we took the Literary Pub Crawl which mixes some literary history and humor with ample opportunity to guaff a few pints. Note to self: Wonder if Kent State and the School of Journalism would allow me to lead this pub crawl as an independent study course? There must be some connection there to public relations and journalism.
Dublin has experienced an economic boom during the past decade or so. You can see that in the new construction and in the general upkeep of the city. Still it is very European — liveable, safe and for the most part clean. Saying that, Ireland has really had a tough go of it economically last year — and things aren’t expected to get better soon. I first heard that from a tour guide as we were making our way from the Guinness stop.
The reason? She said it was a complete bust in the housing and real estate market — not unlike here in the U.S. — but worse. Homes have declined in value by 50 percent or more. She said the speculation in real estate was so wild that you considered yourself a failure if you didn’t live in a house worth Euro 500K or more — regardless of what you were earning, if anything. Go figure. Now the market has come to a complete halt, with the resulting economic death grip on everything else. The New York Times confirmed the tour guide’s analysis in an article yesterday.
If nothing else, being outside the United States gives you the perspective that we are in the midst of a world economic meltdown. And that represents the key challenge to President-elect Obama and other world leaders — particularly if the world really is flat these days. And it appears it is.
And I only checked e-mail once during the week I was in Dublin. I sneaked into an Internet Cafe one afternoon and waded through the 200 or so messages, alerts and tweets that didn’t take a holiday. So it goes. Now I’m back in the USA. Tethered to the BlackBerry. Wahoo.
Can’t imagine checking the BlackBerry while on the Literary Pub Crawl.