Blog: Dave LeggettIrish break

Dave Leggett | 6 April 2004

I’m back at my desk this morning after a mainly restful and relaxing four days of holiday in Ireland that began with a wedding (see below blog - I was 'best man') and ended with a race against time to catch a flight from Dublin Airport. The wedding itself took place at The Old Inn at Crawfordsburn – on the coast near Bangor and just north of Belfast, in Northern Ireland (still a part of Britain, for those that don’t know). Delightful part of the world, I must say. Cheap flights meant that we flew into Dublin to the south (in the Irish Republic – not part of Britain), rather than Belfast, hired a car from Hertz and drove north.

One thing that struck me was the high proportion of upscale cars – especially BMWs and Mercedes-Benz - on the road on both sides of the north-south border. The Irish Republic has seen strong economic growth over the past ten years (GDP per head growing rapidly and now in excess of Britain's) and that has clearly led to higher levels of affluence. The calmer security situation these days in the north has also helped the economy there, but relatively low house prices (in a British context) and relatively high wages have always created the conditions for high disposable incomes and a large proportion of household spending devoted to motoring.

There wasn’t a lot to differentiate driving conditions on either side of the border, although fuel is quite a bit cheaper in the republic. There was the odd bit of politically inspired graffiti in the north – but a lot less than you might expect - and road signs in the south were sometimes in both English and Gaelic. In fact, the border itself isn’t marked or controlled – you just notice that the road surface changes abruptly. And there’s the slight inconvenience of realising that currencies are different: British pounds in the north and euros in the republic.

Our Fiat Stilo hire car lacked sat-nav (obviously useful when you are in unfamiliar territory), so yesterday involved a slightly hairy trip to Dublin Airport approaching from south of the city – we’d spent a few days in the seaside resort of Bray. We intended to take the ring road highway (M50) but ended up in the centre of Dublin in the heavy morning rush hour traffic and totally lost.

We were down to asking for directions as the clock ticked away. Nerves were fraying. At a set of traffic lights we wound the window down and asked the driver in a silver Renault Laguna in the next lane for directions. Not only did he give us clear directions, but he also led us most of the way to the main road to the airport, gesticulating with his arm out of the window to make sure we got the final junction right. It was the sort of thing that restores your faith in the human race and we made the flight just in time. Friendly people the Irish, but it’s a pity the average hire car doesn’t come with sat-nav.


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