I had to go over to the U.K. for a wedding last weekend and, as it was near the South Coast, we decided to stay in Brighton for the duration of the visit.
I love Brighton – it has been in my life forever. When I was a child, we lived in South London, so it was our seaside daytrip destination of choice. I remember the feel of the rubber flipflops – sheer agony until you grew hard skin between your toes – dips in the sea and the tortuous return to the towels over stones which made everybody stagger and roll around as if they were walking over hot coals, which might well be easier.
As a teenager, we used to head there for ‘boy-watching’, the rides on the pier, the beach, the atmosphere. Brighton was where I had my first kiss.
Now, I love it for the North Laines where you can find individual shops (a rarity in the U.K. now), the South Lanes for the funny little antique places and unusual shops and the vast array of restaurants. I HAVE to have fish and chips when I go to Brighton and, my favourite place is on the pier itself where you can eat inside a tiled, glass-sided restaurant and be waited on by staff in black with white aprons, whilst surrounded by the sea. I go mad and have one of the specials which is Large Cod, chips, mushy peas, bread and butter with a glass of champagne for £12.95. Of course, I can’t possibly finish it all but it’s fun trying.
This time, I decided to do some more touristy things as you don’t tend to do that when you know a place well. So, we went on the Volk’s Electric Railway, Britain’s first and oldest electric railway which runs between the Pier and the Marina. The Marina itself is fine but the approach to it is very grisly. You have to go under a tunnel where you emerge in a sort of underground car park opposite an Asda supermarket. The ‘outlet shopping’ is a joke so I hope nobody bothers to go up there for that as they will be severely disappointed. There are a string of restaurants (in the vein of Café Rouge, Pizza Express, etc) along the walkway looking over the marina and that is pleasant enough but, in general, you feel like you are in a sort of half-forgotten place where the Council have made a sort of effort to make it worth a visit but only in a very half-hearted way.
We went to the Royal Pavillion and visited the Museum and Art Gallery there. The Gallery had an exhibition called ‘The American Scene’ from Hopper to Pollock and but we ran out of time so didn’t see that. Instead we wandered through a fixed (I assume) history of Brighton as a day trip destination, covering the building of the piers, the various entertainments that used to take place on them and the different sorts of people who visited. There is a film running all the time which shows different scenes in Brighton, including the mods & rockers riot in 1964, with the only soundtrack being the crashing waves. There is an interesting exhibition of furniture as you go into the museum which has some great modern designs – the influence of which you can see in a lot of mass produced furniture now – Ikea springs to mind.
Apart from fish and chips on the pier, we ate at two other lovely restaurants in Brighton, actually only a couple of doors away from eachother. The first was ‘Indian Summer’ which we found whilst looking for an ‘ordinary’ Indian restaurant, as that is another ‘must do’ when I go to the U.K. being unable to find one where I live in France. This restaurant, however, is not your usual Indian restaurant. A very elegant setting with an appetiser of cranberry and leek soup served before your meal and a lovely, refreshing drink which contained cranberry, mint, & vodka, amongst other things, served between the starter and the main course. One thing that I especially liked was that the menu stipulated only free-range chicken which is great as I usually avoid chicken when I eat out in case it wasn’t ‘happy’. The next night we ate at ‘Terre à Terre’ which is a scrummy, excellent vegetarian restaurant. If I could reproduce their gorgeous dishes at home, I would never feel the need to eat meat again. Always too stuffed to eat a dessert in this restaurant, which is a shame, as I believe they are also superb.
All good things come to an end, I spent all my money on the shopping, the entertainment and the eating and came back to France having had my fix of Brighton for another year (well, maybe 6 months). I have been to lots of beautiful places in the world and, it might seem strange that Brighton holds a special place in my heart but, it does and I guess that may well be because it has played a part in so many of my memories. Maybe I get nostalgic for British things because I live abroad – and Brighton seafront is definitely very British – I just don’t know.
Anyway, the wedding was very enjoyable too and it gave me a good excuse to go over and spend lots of money enjoying the delights of Brighton in a completely unexpected run of beautiful blue skies and sunshine which, of course, makes everywhere look even more fantastic than usual. I’m closing this post with a photo of a sign, which I found very funny, hanging in a shop doorway at night.
What are your experiences of Brighton? Do you love it or hate it?