The first two days of my trip to Ireland were consumed mostly with travel. Getting here is an arduous journey. It involved two trains, a bus, two airplanes, and a backpack that despite my best efforts at packing light is a daunting beast.
In reality the two flights were flawless--the plane from Minneapolis to Atlanta was slightly delayed, not enough to be stressed, but enough that I boarded immediately when I arrived at my gate in Atlanta. The overseas flight is an overnight flight. Unfortunately, I'm cursed as a sleeper and did not sleep at all. The bus from the airport was a piece of cake and the train from Dublin to Bray was also easy; once I found the feckin' train station--it was hiding in plain sight.
It is my experience traveling in Ireland, that the Irish have a kind, albeit casual way of giving directions. Finding the train station went something like this: "I'm looking for Connolly Rail station." "Ah, it's just ahead and around the corner." I walk just ahead and around the corner, don't see a rail station, and ask the next person "I'm looking for the rail station?" "It's just there, up about and on the right." I walk, veer right, don't see a train station, and ask the next person. It goes on like this for several blocks and about ten minutes. The last lad I asked, a man unloading a truck, laughed and said, "You're goin' to kick yourself ye know." As he walked me down the block, around the corner, and pointed "It's just there. The big gray building. Up the stairs and your there."
Finding my hotel when I arrived in Bray was decidedly easier than finding the rail station. I asked just three people, each one getting me just a little closer, but none of them steering me in the wrong direction. My room was not ready when I arrived, I was early. But the hotel staff kindly held my backpack, fed me soup, and pointed me towards the sea.
After twenty-four hours of travel and being awake for thirty-something hours, this second day, the first in Ireland, was spent in Bray just trying to stay awake until a reasonable bed time so I could get back on schedule. I relied on the Irish Sea to keep me going, and spent the entire day wandering at the sea front.
Bray is a sad little town that reminds me a bit of Duluth, MN. It is a working-class town with an edge and a slight patina of grime. It's a commuter town on the DART. It was probably a grand resort town on the sea in its prime, but the tourist are mostly gone, and the exercise equipment on the boardwalk has begun to rust. And still, like Duluth, it has its charms. And just as Duluth has Lake Superior, Bray has the Irish Sea.
With a good night's sleep, day three was spent outdoors, where I belong. I hiked the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk and spent the afternoon in Greystones, enjoying the beach and the town. I had originally intended to walk there and take the train back, but the weather was so perfect I changed my plan and walked there and back. A total distance of 14k (9 miles) following the coast.
The walk was perfect, not too rugged, with some nice views of the sea. I sat on the beach with my journal in Greystones. I wandered the village and had a beautiful lunch at The Happy Pear. Along the way there were blackberry brambles, bumble bees, and three rooks that seemed to be escorting me back to Bray.