I have just left Italy with my family where I have been spoiled for the past three months. Being part of an art program (UGA Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, italy) meant a field trip each saturday to fabulous towns such as Rome, Florence, Siena, Pienza, Assisi and Lucca, to name but a few. The trips were planned with maps, organised tours and points of interest.
So when we decided to go to Dublin for the day I couldn’t help falling into the pattern I had gotten used to, and figured out what we would do down to the last detail. I know Dublin very well, but there were places I hadn’t visited in years, and now it was time to play tour guide and show my family around.
Getting to Dublin from Wexford was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. I had dreamed about taking a train from these two points all of my life, but somehow it never worked out (I grew up in a town on a different line, making it inconvenient and so it never happened). This two and a half hour train ride is touted to be one of the most scenic rail trips in Europe and this past Wednesday I got the opportunity to weigh in on the claim.
This train begins it’s journey in Rosslare harbor and runs up the east coast to Dublin’s Connolly Station just off the Liffey Quay. We boarded the train in Wexford town at 7.30 in the morning and made sure to snag seats on the coast side of the railcar. The train pulled out from the station and I watched the window in anticipation.
Don’t you just love when proud boasting falls short of the real truth! The real truth being that my eyes did not leave the cab window until we pulled into Connolly Station. I would have been satisfied to stay on the train and do it all over again, skipping my meticulously planned trek around the city streets (slight exaggeration, since that part of our trip was pretty darn wonderful too).
From Wexford the train left the coast and turned slightly inland, following the beautiful river Slaney. The Slaney wound it’s way around multi-colored green stretches of farmland where sheep, cows and horses seemed to be very contentedly going about their animal business. Being that the hour was early, we got to enjoy the whole scene through a thin vapor of soft mist, and streaky morning light. I felt at any moment Cathy would appear, gliding over the moist dewy grass in search of Heathcliff; yes really.
As we left Wexford and entered County Wicklow, the train headed for the coastline again. First we dipped close to the shoreline, and I watched the waves turning pebbles over as it made frothy contact with the beach. Brisk early morning walkers made their way along the sand in the company of their friends, or a dog, happy to be let loose to run in and out of the cold water, or bound foolishly after scavenging seagulls.
We then seemed to soar upwards and the train appeared to cling to the rock face. I felt as if I were on a ship with the sea swirling powerfully below me. We were so close to the edge I would have had to hang out of the window to get a sense of how close and high we actually were. There was no question of my doing anything remotely that brave, and so my camera only captured part of the awe I was feeling.
On a humorous side-note, while we were taking pictures and constantly telling each other to look at this and that, there was a couple sitting opposite us doing the strangest activity I have ever seen on a train. About ten minutes after boarding, the woman pulled a hair straightener out of a bulging knapsack, unwound the cord and plugged it into an outlet on the back wall behind her seat. I couldn’t help staring as she proceeded to straighten her hair, then give the device to her gentleman friend who continued to quaff the back strands for her! She was oblivious to everything else; the fact that she was on a train, the magnificent view, and all four of us sneaking glances when we could. It made my trip all the more interesting, and I was glad for the bonus entertainment!
After leaving the cliff face the train leaped alone beside an old wall separating the train line for the bay. The wall was covered from beginning to end in graffiti, letting me know that the gritty and interesting part of Dublin was still alive and kicking. The wall eventually gave way to the majestic Dun Laoghaire Harbor in Dublin. The picturesque and exotic view bordered on the feel of a more mediterranean resort town somewhere in France, rather than the rugged and gusty Ireland. We arrived in Connolly Station moments later feeling wholly spoiled but ready for more of the same.
The train line was the very first built in Ireland in the year 1834, and if you ever visit this beautiful country I strongly recommend you buy a ticket, sit back and stare out of your window. Feel free to bring your hairdryer or straightener. I know for a fact there is an electrical outlet in Car A!
*Stay tuned for my post on what we did in Dublin (coming next)*