It's the summer of 2026 and the Chinese-made Boeing 808 hyperplane is touching down at Shannon, one of only two hyperplane spoke end points in the European Union (EU), and just a short 3-hour hop from the New England air hub in New Hampshire, at the former Pease AFB. The other EU air hub is on the shores of the Black Sea near Bourgas. Pease and Perth are the worldwide hubs of the hyperplane hub and spoke system.
These two access points put businesspeople down right in the super economic zones that the EU has set up to try to regain some semblance of relevance to the world economy, not including the leisure travel industry. Even the leisure travel portion of the EU economy is suffering because of the global climate change that has been ongoing since the 1990s. Global climate change has made Europe so cold eight months of the year that most people will only visit in the May-August timeframe. The zones are like the late 20th century maquiladoras in Mexico.
On the other hand, if you've come to Europe for pleasure, Shannon and Bourgas are great places to begin or end a vacation because you use the old-style transportation to get anywhere in between. The rest of Europe is like a full-scale Epcot. Of course, Shannon is not the Shannon you remember because the EU has had to level everything from the Bunratty to the Rine up to SixMile Bridge to put the air hub here. As usual, the people in the West got... (can't say that on a public blog post).
I am almost 80 and this will probably be my last visit to Europe where I came often to live, work and play between 1970 to 2005. For a variety of reasons, I have not been here since 2005. After the dictatorship began, Europe no longer mattered from a business point of view and as great as Europe is as a "destination," for its museum quality, its historic sites, etc., everyone said it was too depressing. Even after the euro settled in at about 2 to the dollar after 2011, Europe was a hard sell.
But everyone should go at least once... sort of like everyone should see the Grand Canyon.
I had been warned but it was still shocking. I had a little bit of the strange feeling I had been warned about at the airport. But I assumed it was just the typical "another country" feeling, that back-in-time sensation I remember from sitting on the siding in Hendaye in the 70s as the SCNF cranes lifted the WagonLit to get it on to the Spanish train tracks. You remember how important everyone says Open Standards (always upper case) were and are in Europe?
The first time I really realized what people were talking about was while watching the hotel clerk huddled over a screen. The screen displayed an application that looked vaguely familar but I couldn't recognize it. I asked if I could look closer. My god! It was Microsoft Office 2003.
Then I realized what caused the feeling I had had walking through the air hub. Everyone there was using Microsoft Office 2003 too. It was like those pictures of Cuba you see 50 years after dictatorship began. Just as many people that had to deal with the outside world in Cuba were still using old Chevies and Fords 50 years after the dictatorship began, in Europe 20 years after the dictatorship began, everyone that has to deal with the rest of the world is still using Office 2003.
What was going on in the rest of Europe I wondered, in the tourist backwaters such as London and Frankfort? I bet the Open Culture (always upper case) zone that Holland had become probably used more up to date technology. No wonder Russia didn't chose not to join the EU when invited in 2013.
And was Gene Kelly still "Singing in the Rain" every Sunday night on French government television?
(Travelog of my 2026 return to Europe--to be continued)