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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ireland: Not Backward

I WAS ENJOYING Bill O'Brian's journey through the Dingle Peninsula ["Ireland's Dingle Peninsula: How Fetching," May 11], one of my favorite places in the world, until he asserted that Ireland "just 30 years ago was still backward and poor." To be sure, it was not in the 1970s the economic powerhouse it is today, but it was hardly backward.

Long ago, even before winning its independence from Britain, Ireland had an educational system -- primary through university levels -- that put a wealthy nation like the United States to shame. It has long outdistanced us in its care for the sick and elderly, and its citizens continue a decades-old policy of generosity toward the rest of the world. Ireland consistently gives a greater proportion of its per-capita GNP in foreign aid to the underdeveloped world than does the United States.

Perhaps O'Brian should focus his writing on scenery and friendly dogs until he does a little research into the reality of Irish life now and back then.

Mary Anne O'Boyle Leary

Takoma Park

Summer Travel Tips

WHY DO YOU quote Bob Sharak of the Cruise Lines International Association, who is not exactly a disinterested party, about his friend who spent $90 for a breakfast of omelets, coffee and croissants for two ["This Year, the Heat's Really On," May 11]?

I recently returned from Paris, where I had an excellent breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, a tartine, croissant, yogurt and cafe au lait for 8.20 euros (about $12.70) on Boulevard du Montparnasse. A full English breakfast was 11 euros (about $17).

Perhaps his friend took breakfast at the Ritz or the Meurice or on the Champs-Elysees, a notorious tourist trap.

It may be interesting to your readers to know that in that same area of Montparnasse, I had a three-course dinner for $29 with an extensive choice for each course.

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