Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bray Summerfest Finale

I was looking for inspiration from the Dublin Event Guide this week, and it came through as it always does. The town of Bray in County Wicklow was finishing up its annual Summerfest with a fireworks display over the beach. Having missed the July 4 fireworks displays in the States this year, I thought I could check out how the Irish do municipal pyro displays.

Bray is about 10 miles from my neighborhood in south Dublin, so I had a bit of a cycle ahead of me. Looking at the new feature in Google Maps bicycle routes, I saw that I had a big spike in elevation between my place in Donnybrook and Bray down at sea level. Tragically, there isn't a smooth and scenic cycle trail following the entire coastline of Ireland. Would that there were.

I didn't know how popular these fireworks would be, so I decided to head down in the early evening to check out the festival and snag a prime viewing spot. I brought down some water, some in-shell sunflower seeds smuggled in from my trip to New York, a blanket, and two jackets. Yes it's August, but it's also Ireland.

I would be assisted with my night ride back by my new helmet-rigged bicycle light. The mounting bracket on my headlight broke a long time ago, and I didn't want to hold the light in my hand for a ten-mile midnight ride, so I zip-tied the light to my helmet. The angle of the light is perfect for an easy look at the road and to be seen by oncoming drivers.

Bike Helmet Light ziptied to a helmet
Bike Helmet Light

Down in Bray, the festival was like most other municipal summer festivals in Ireland and in the States. The standard array of carnival rides were cranking and screeching on Bray's seafront park. Many of the rides I had seen already at various Dublin festivals, including my favorite unlicenced airbrush art ride, The Superbowl.

Carnival ride The Superbowl in Dublin
The Superbowl: Just like the real Super Bowl!

A Chicago Bears helmet labeled Chicago Cubs in Dublin
Nailed It

The rest of the carnival was booming with kids and families. It looked to me like most of the over-18 crowd was in the seafront restaurants and bars, which is where I'd be if I had tween-age kids playing at the carnival. I walked along the seafront, checking out the rides and the park. Bray has a lovely gravel beach and a concrete "boardwalk" the length of the park. At the south end of the beach and boardwalk it the hulking mound of Bray Head.

Bray Head
Bray Head

For those non-coast-dwellers out there, the word "head" is used to describe a small outcropping of land on a coastline. Bray Head has a reportedly wonderful hiking trail going all the way to the top. I could see people walking the trail in a loop to the large cross at the top. I had time to spare, but I wanted to secure a comfortable bench seat facing the fireworks, and Sara and I have plans to take this hike together later this summer. Not wanting to spoil myself, I decided to wait on the Head hike.

I brought my Kindle with me so I could kill time and watch the sun go down. I was glad to have the fleece jacket, the rain jacket, and the blanket. Even in August, Ireland can be chilly.

Cory bundled up with a coat and blanket in August in Ireland
August Evening Attire

A saxophone-playing busker set up shop just down the boardwalk from my spot. I listened to him play through his set two or three times, only really noticing when he played three repetitive minutes of Ravel's annoying classic, Bolero.

As the sun went down (over the city, not the water) the beach and boardwalk filled with fireworks-watchers. Tracksuit-clad teenagers not-so-discreetly rolled cigarettes and took long pulls from cans of cheap hard cider right next to me, which really appealed to my inner "Get off my lawn!" self.

Sunset over Bray, Ireland
Sunset over Bray

The fireworks display, the reason for my visit, was nice, but nothing to write home blog about. The gathered audience seemed impressed. I'd like to watch the reaction of this crowd at the Independence Day fireworks display of any mid-sized US city.

After the fireworks, I hopped back on the bike and pedaled home over the same big spike in elevation. I accidentally took a longer route home, as one of the many roundabouts was missing a sign for the regional road that I needed. As I pushed on through unfamiliar empty streets at midnight, I thought to myself, "I should have expected this..."

I was never worried, though. After all, there are a lot more signs for Dublin than there are for Bray, so I knew I would find my way home... eventually. One more adventure in the books, and on the blog.

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