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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Tuesday 12 February 2008

On Bray's Way

Only one living creature took offence while I fished out my Carey, sitting on a park bench at the seaside in Bray, County Wicklow, this evening.

And feeling somewhat nonplussed too, at that.

The posh black poodle wearing glossy red ribbons growled fiercely, worried that my dog-eared copy of His Illegal Self, Carey's latest offering, would steal its thunder.

Not that I would fancy giving myself airs of course, but 'prestige' barked the poodle - just in case I had entertained the notion - was a condition reserved solely for the snooty mandarin ducks, a family of swans and a party of gulls. Masquerading a goodwill mision, they splashed about arrogantly near a towering stone ledge; secretly demanding sole ownership of the raging indigo-faced Irish sea.

And if I would so dare expand on this thought perhaps too, the catch that came with it! After all, it's every feather for itself when it comes to wrestling up a supper of juicy fish.

The sporting village of Bray doubles up as a colourful bustling seafront, nestled in Dublin's greater south. Sports enthusiasts and hobbyists jolly on with a lively stir for activities comprising bowling alleys to tennis lawns. For the sedentary, consider those lush and expansive golf courses. Then there are the dozens of luxury motorboats parked on the marina although gay bobbing yachts on the cold sea, are visible far and wide.

Of course, the half-hour train journey from Connolly Station in Dublin city guarantees you a scenic ride along the way with anything from hillocks and breathtaking beach properties to a tranquil canal - one of the passing stations is called Grand Canal Dock - and sharply-turned inlets where you may walk barefoot in the icy rivulets and squelchy black sand. The train terminates its route right on the beachfront. Be prepared for children in the carriages high on excitable chatter - a trip to the sea is always a novelty - and impatient tantrums.

Dogs rule in Bray. Be warned that collies and spaniels don't cause you to trip as they run helter-skelter along the nearby parkland in a frenzy; what with a kind touch of sunshine and the number of happy babies for a cooing audience. The army parade of nifty "dog poo" dustbins, all along the waterfront, may have just added to the merry scene.

Feeling piqued by the poodle's misconjecture - although I was ravenous at the same time - I adjourned to the chic Palazzo restaurant on Strand Road, for an Italian omelette, a bowl of potato wedges and a Chilean wine. I was unable to resist the Red for its unusual black pepper ingredient. My serving turned out to be a drink so light on the palate, one could gulp it all down in a single breath. The omelette was dressed with mild spices and served on request with ketchup or different sauces.

The restaurants along this stretch of road are slightly expensive but if it is any consolation, the diner is treated to stunning views of the sea, courtesy of tall, glass windows.

There are hardly any cafes. However, it is inconceivable that already, one would picture hundreds of picnic hampers, come the summer.

The greatest attraction turns out to be an elongated promenade that is partly straight, somewhat jagged and finally, made up of a curly maze that snakes its way onto the piers and surprises the first-timer with breathtaking alacrity.

It's seen as fashionable to stroll along the promenade. Many people hurry on briskly, grabbing the chance of an excellent workout. Both the young and old, either solitary or in noisy jocund groups, share an ebullient enjoyment. I loved the gentle sea-breeze brushing against my face and the way it mischeviously proceeded to untangle my hair.

The Irish as always stay friendly, if not sometimes a little bashful, in a warm-hearted homey way.

And now, perhaps the poodle may be kinder that I have finished Carey and am eyeing Henrik Ibsen' famous play, A Doll's House, for my next read.