Take Me to the Seaside: A Sunday in Brighton
Whilst most people were cosied up, snug in their beds on a cold Sunday November morning, I was sat at Southampton Central railway station waiting for the 0830 train to Brighton. It had been several years since I had last visited the seaside resort, renowned for its colourful alternative scene, unique landmarks and of course, the long pebble beach! In fact the last time I was there I managed to injure myself on one of the children’s rides at the end of the pier. I was hoping for a less dramatic visit this time and one where I would not end up associating, with a knee wrapped in bandages.
The journey from Southampton to Brighton was a pleasant one, as we crept some way along the river Itchen and then made our way, first towards Portsmouth and then on to Brighton. We passed a number of small marinas, fabulous houses, great fields and we even spotted the impressive Arundel castle in the distance. Roughly two hours later, we pulled into Brighton’s train station and began our day of exploring.
From the station, we made our way through the town to our first stop – the ornate Royal Pavilion. We strolled through the gardens, which despite being rather bare and leafless, still managed to look attractive through the fine drizzle which had started. The unique architecture of the Royal Pavilion is certainly a dramatic contrast to that of the surrounding, old-English town houses. There is always a small part of me, which, when I see the Pavilion, feels as if it has been transported magically to another country; somewhere hotter and more exotic. An effect which I am sure was intended in the original design. After a few snaps from the outside, we headed on in, ready to walk in the footsteps of the Royals.
After paying the reasonable entrance fee (see here for admission prices), we were all provided with individual audio guides and began our tour. As we headed further into the building, the decor and furnishings became more and more impressive. We were on a journey to the Orient, and on our way the furniture and fittings took on various themes and the colours became more vibrant. As we arrived on the first floor we felt ourselves in need of some refreshments so we stopped in the Pavilion’s tea room which offered everything from tea and coffee, to cakes and even small bites to eat. After a short sit-down we were ready to finish our (audio) guided tour and so progressed through the rest of the rooms, taking in the lavish decor and absorbing some wisdom!
As we finished our tour we exited via the lovely gift shop where we had a good mooch around, stopping to admire the various knick-knacks on our way, We finally exited the Pavilion and then walked the short distance down to the sea-front. There in front of us was the pier’s entrance and wanting to relive my childhood memories (minus the injury) I was keen to explore!
We walked some way down the pier, past the various arcade games and stick-of-rock shops, dodging the swooping seagulls as we went. Unfortunately the weather was not getting any better, so we slowly turned ourselves round and headed back towards dry land!
From the sea front, we made our way back towards the town centre. It was coming up to lunchtime so when we found a nice looking Italian (Pinocchio), we decided to head on in and have something to eat. Lunch was really tasty and great value- I would definitely recommend popping in for a meal, should you find yourself in Brighton.
After lunch it was time to explore the narrow shopping streets, appropriately named ‘The Lanes’. The area, now filled with coffee shops, antique dealers, jewellery and fancy interior design shops, was once the heart of Brighton and this is particularly noticeable with the many maze-like alleyways. Not only are the lanes themselves quite charming, with examples of old fishermen’s cottages and old-world pubs, but there are also a number of modish arcades, boasting a number of designers boutiques, bespoke perfumeries and many delicious places where you can indulge yourself with just about any type of fanciful food.
We had a good wander around the Lanes, before heading north, to the once again appropriately named North Laines, where one could find a variety of watering holes and an interesting mix of small shops and eateries.
We walked up Bond Street, doing a spot of window shopping as we went, checked out some of the vintage shops on Sydney Street, before strolling down Kensington Street marveling at the fantastic street art.
It was soon time to reluctantly make our way back to the train station to catch our train back to Southampton.
“But the atmosphere of Brighton is more than any other English town like that of a Continental city, with a spirit of elegance and gaiety, and the promise of delight”
Clifford Musgrove 1951