Reclaiming the Territory – A Day in Bray Part One

Xavier here. Sorry for that last post, folks. Brillo tends to be a bit… abrasive. In any case, I’ve reclaimed the site, and Brillo promises he’ll be nicer next time. I made him sign a contract and everything. He has the cutest little signature.

In travel news, we went to Bray the other day. The train ride from Dublin passed through several very different landscapes, all within a relatively small amount of time. Don’t let anybody ever tell you Ireland is just grass and sheep. It’s only, like, mostly grass and some sheep.

The train runs between towers at Google's European headquarters, which are in Dublin.(Photo via Bloomberg News, because I forgot to take one myself.)

The train runs between towers at Google’s European headquarters, which are in Dublin.
(Photo via Bloomberg News.)

Brillo also enjoyed the changing scenery.

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Bray (Bré in Irish) is a town slightly over 30,000 people, just south of Dublin. It used to be a thriving seaside resort, with tourist spots, hotels, and amusements for weekending Dubliners and Englishfolk. When travel to the continent became more accessible, however, the town fell out of vogue, and many hotels and restaurants were turned into living space for the elderly. Sections of the town feel like Del Boca Vista from Seinfeld, but with accents and less geriatric backstabbing. Irish people are polite, dammit.

Like, really polite.

“So the other day at the pub, I meet some American tourists. They ask me where the Royal Hotel is, I tell them, and they thank me. Overall, it was a very pleasant exchange. And how are you?”

This is not to say Bray is dead (or dying of natural causes). Just the opposite. It’s the fourth-largest town in Ireland after the nation’s five cities, still receives a respectable amount of tourism, and is gorgeous both in and (I assume) out of the fog.

A clear day in Bray, Ireland.

A clear day in Bray, Ireland.

Among the attractions Bray has to offer is a fantastic hike up Bray Head, the hill at the edge of town. The town’s name actually means “hill” or “rising ground,” though locals often refer to the feature as a mountain. As an avid skier and backpacker, I speak from experience when I say Bray Head is not a mountain.

It's like sawing a ladder in half and calling it Everest.

It’s like sawing a ladder in half and calling it Everest.

Despite its status as the footstool of foothills, Bray Head is the most gorgeous and memorable hike I have ever been on. True, I was still new to Ireland, and may have been looking at the climb through rose-colored glasses. But even with the magical feeling you get on your first few days in a new country – before you’ve discovered enough irritations to remind you of home – this was a phenomenal hike.

There's even a patch of blueish-grey sky.

And the weather held out for almost the entire shutter click.

We decided to take the longer, more gradual path along the face of the hill.

Bray Head gets more cloud coverage than most clouds.

Bray Head gets more cloud coverage than most clouds.

Shortly after we set off, a light rain began to fall.

“Oh, it’s raining,” I said.

“Yeah, it has been for a while,” someone else replied.

“No, I’m pretty sure it just started.”

“How sure?”

“I am almost 45% sure.”

Possibly the most bizarre experience thus far in Ireland was realizing that none of us could remember if the rain had ever stopped.

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Coming up in Part Two: The world’s best bar, worst bathroom, and most not-lived-in former Viking house. Oh, and some strange signs, too.

And, of course, more Brillo.

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