I grew up on the prairie. Not only grew up on, besides a summer interlude living in the high desert and mountains of Northern New Mexico, I have only ever lived on flat expanses of grass in the heartland of the United States.
Of course, that statement is no longer true; Ireland is not the prairie.
Admittedly, I’m not here at UCD to study Geography, and there’s a chance I’m mischaracterizing Ireland—because it certainly does have pastures, and farmland, and rolling expanses of green that are browning a bit in the changing seasons—so you know, small disclaimer.
Where I live now, UCD is in an interesting location. Depending on time of day and traffic, I’m about 30 minutes from the busy city centre around Trinity and the River Liffey. I’m also 30 minutes away from my favorite place (so far) in Ireland.
See, while I travel north almost every day to tackle my mountain of readings in coffee shops and other locales for students in the busy city, I feel most clear when I take the same buses south instead to Bray. Even though it’s just on the other side of the line between County Dublin and County Wicklow, it feels like another world.
Bray is a former seaside resort town with a long rocky beach, and towering cliffs—both of which are constantly beaten down by waves and salt. I have hundreds and hundreds of photos in my camera roll of wave, surf, spray, rock, towering cliffs—sights so foreign from the prairie I’m used to seeing—I can’t get enough of it.
On my first visit, an early morning rainstorm gave way to blue sky and sun—and instead of continuing up on my planned hike, I shed my raincoat and boots, and sat on a rocky jetty just staring at the expanse of blue and the rocky cliffs that met it. It’s trite, but I had literally never seen anything like it.
All the Dubliners (Dublin Mitchells? Dublin Crew?) have places we always take visitors to, whether its Murphy’s Ice Cream, the Book of Kells, or Howth. I take everyone to Bray. My parents—also life-long prairie dwellers recently transplanted to the mountains of Switzerland—joined me on my second Bray excursion in a week where I planned to show them the beach and the Bray to Greystones cliff walk around Bray Head.
And while I’ve spent most of this essay detailing the ways Ireland feels so different from my home, Bray illustrates for me that it both is and isn’t.
In the middle of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk, while my step-mom, brother, and I were looking out over the sea and snapping photos of the surf and the blue, my Kansan father stopped in his tracks, turned, looked away from the sea and up the side of the hill to the top of Bray Head, sighed, and said “it looks just like the Flint Hills, doesn’t it?”
And it did.