Travel Writing: Brighton

I didn’t realise just how lovely the weather could be in the South of England until I visited Brighton two weeks ago. Perennially grey skies and gales were the rather despairing standard in Glasgow, but in Brighton the skies were a cloudless, cerulean blue and the sun was so potent that I even managed to get my nose burnt (in September!).

I was down in Brighton to visit a friend who has recently moved there; with the exception of London, the farthest I’ve ever travelled in England was for a few school-trips to Alton Towers, so I was intrigued to discover more about the beautiful coast that has always captured my imagination. During my first day, I also had the added incentive of being able to explore Brighton on my own: while my friend was at work, I was free to roam the sun-soaked seafront and wander along the city’s historic lanes. After eating a delicious mini raspberry macaroon and pain au chocolat from Real Patisserie in Kemp Town, on a bench overlooking the mesmerizingly silvery sea, I decided to wander along the promenade and gaze at the breathtakingly lovely views.

brighton-beach

The buildings that line the seafront are exactly what you’d expect of a fashionable Georgian seaside resort: pristine, grand and quintessentially British. I strolled along to Sussex Square, the home of Victorian Prime Minister John Russell and ambled around the various imposing avenues that overlook the pebbly beach. Heightened by the extremely temperate weather and the fact that France was only a matter of miles away (France!), at times my stay in Brighton felt like I was venturing abroad, and its status as a daytripper’s paradise since the flowering of railways only served to confirm this impression in my mind. Crowded with multi-storey hotels and B&Bs, all much older than your average Premier Inn, it’s easy to imagine Brighton as it must have been like when the Prince Regent frequented the seaside resort.

brighton-buildings

Although the beach is pebbly and crunches loudly whenever you take a step, it’s generally a lovely place to sit and relax; to feel the brisk sea breeze on your face and bask in the glowing warmth of the sun. After a quick wander along the beach, I bought a delicious chocolate brownie ice-cream and decided to walk along the famous Brighton Pier. Note: this was a mistake. Despite the warning of the very kind attendant, I abruptly found myself being attacked by a very violent seagull, grabbing the remnants of my tasty ice-cream out of my hand. To be honest, I felt quite violated after such brutal swooping, but let it remain as a lesson: don’t get too absorbed in gazing at the beautiful view of the beach that you let your ice-cream go uneaten for a mere twenty seconds. Because seagulls will steal it.

brighton peir.jpg

The Brighton Pier was probably the most typically ‘seasidey’ thing I saw during my stay in Brighton, and I loved it. Later on my friend and I wandered along the Pier in the dark, playing a few arcade games and exploring the rides in the pitch black. It is a very spooky experience hearing the sea rustle all around you, and gazing at seemingly abandoned fairground rides. The pier itself is home to a number of rides and arcade games (everything from a multi-storey haunted house to very frenetic games of air hockey) and you can also hire out deckchairs for free if you fancy sunbathing with a spectacular view. Restaurants and bars line the seafront, and although I didn’t pop into any of them (much to my regret), their proximity to the beach make them an ideal stop for some appetising scran. At night, the blazing sunset transforms the burnt out West Pier into something magical and otherworldly; Brighton at night is something to behold.

After my extensive wander along the seafront, I headed into town to visit some of Brighton’s historic attractions. Usually I’m always excited to visit a new museum, but as the sun was so delightful I contented myself with wandering around the exterior of the Indian-inspired Royal Pavilion, built by the Prince Regent in the late eighteenth century, and the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. The Royal Pavilion shop and tearooms are excellent – I had to restrain myself not to spend £9.99 on a tea towel. My favourite discovery, however, was the Laines: a series of intersecting, winding cobbled lanes housing every manner of shops. Exquisitely arranged flowers and handmade crockery jostled with modern art galleries – a welcome reminder that not all modern art requires dizzying interpretation – and small jewellery shops, that looked untouched since the early twentieth century, stood next to the most amazing shop crammed with old engravings and maps. I splashed out on an engraving of Brighton, ostensibly from the 1830s; an alternate, and altogether more classy choice than your average postcard.

And, before I finish, a quick reminder of my literature geekiness: I spotted this, and just HAD to take a picture.

brighton-rock

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