“I love cities above all.” Michelangelo I really want to add an exclamation point and a heart emoji after that quote, but something tells me that Michelangelo wouldn’t approve of that kind of thing. Regardless, I want to say that I couldn’t agree more. But I’ve also come to realize that the best cities are the ones from which you can easily escape, if only just for the day. Dublin offers many day trips, but my favorite is the coastal cliff walk by the Irish Sea from Bray to Greystones.
And just like most things in life, it’s so much more fun if a friend comes along. I met my friend Helen in June at the Irish Writers’ Center on Parnell Street. She made me a cup of tea before my class began, and then a few days later I ran into her again at Grogan’s. Sometime later she emailed me to tell me about an international book club that she was starting. So this past Sunday she and I met at Cafe DiNapoli on Westland Row for a cappuccino because all good trips should start with a drink and a chat. Afterwards we walked over to the DART station for the thirty-minute train ride to the seaside town of Bray.
The walk starts by the promenade where the stoney beach, the sea, and the sky melt into each other. A few people brave the rocky beach with dolphins and sharks swimming somewhere beneath the placid surface before them.
The cliff walk was originally built during the construction of the first railroad – a railroad that ran through the hills of granite, making it truly a work of “heroic engineering”. Today the walk takes about two hours with the coastline perpetually on one side and the rise of the fields and hills on the other. The path is rough and muddy now, and the clouds in spots are deep brownish gray and then seconds later grayish white.
Helen and I stop to talk to young women from Norway and an older woman with her newly rescued collie along the way. The scenery is everything that is Ireland – the meeting of land, water, and sky along with seabirds, wildflowers, and rusty fences.
We arrive in the town of Greystones rejuvenated and hungry, so we eat at the Happy Pear, a famous cafe started by two brothers David and Stephen Flynn who wrote a cookbook by the same name. The beetroot salad and the carrot salad come with hummus and soda bread, and of course everything tastes delicious after our long walk.
The Bray to Greystones walk is known by everyone here, but to me it remains romantic and exotic, and I love it even more because I know that the musician Hozier is from Bray. Yes, he was born there and lived there, “Like Real People Do”, one of my favorite songs of his. And while I only managed to have lunch in Greystones, Hozier was able to record a hauntingly beautiful song called “Cherry Wine” live outdoors one morning at six not too long ago. Wow, fantastic stuff. I can imagine him here.