Brighton by the Sea
Brighton by the sea.. a city sandwiched between the South Downs and the English Channel—a city that is colourful, quirky, cool and tacky !!!!
Top of the tacky list is the Brighton Pier… a very long pier enabling all to soak up the tackier side of Brighton …tons of kitsche, noisy arcades, games, lights, fish and chip shops, bars…and at the far end, an old fashioned carnival style amusement park.. horror house to roller coaster to an old style merry go round. And at night lit up like a grand old dame.
My favourite part of the pier, are the great chairs to sit in and soak up the sun.
The Brighton Pier opened as a pleasure pier in 1899. In world war II the pier was closed… clearly it was an easily identifiable landmark at night.
Just down from the Brighton Pier is the rival West Pier. It was closed in 1975 and having been severely damaged by fires and storms, today is just an iron wreckage rising out of the sea. I think I prefer it to the tacky main event.
Top of the quirky list is the Royal Pavilion…the exotic extravaganza commissioned by the equally quirky Prince Regent.
Designed by John Nash, the architect of London’s Regent Street, the Royal Pavilion is a a rather unusual, extraordinary building, boasting minarets, pagodas, twirling domes, balconies and Indian and Chinese motifs. George IV, was a huge disappointment to his straight laced father George III. The Prince Regent was anything but straight laced. He devoted his life almost entirely to pleasure….gambling, heavy drinking, dining, mistresses, racing, fine clothes …and clearly extravagant lavishly furnished homes..and in the process running up huge debts for the royal family.
George IV’s love with Brighton started in 1783. Introduced to him as a health retreat, George IV made it his “London by the sea”. Here he settled his mistress, Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert, whom he secretly married, and later disavoved when his father forced him to marry Princess Caroline of Brunswick . This marriage did not last as Princess Caroline shared his father’s views about George’s lifestyle. Nevertheless having set up in Brighton , the Prince’s royal followers followed and made Brighton fashionable and racy. He died in 1830 at 68. By this time he was king, morbidly obese, often caricatured by the press as completely out of touch with his subjects, who following the Napoleonic wars suffered famine and high unemployment. The times summed up his passing as follows “ there never was an individual less regretted by his subjects than this deceased king”.
Interestingly, he clearly left a strong mark on Brighton. I had always planned to visit the Royal Pavilion but was always waiting for a rainy day.. as i barely had any rain when I was in Brighton, I never did go in to see the interior extravaganza..I will probably live to regret this.
Top of the Colourful Cool List …Brightons eclectic vitality Today Brighton continues to have a bohemian vitality. It comes from artists,writers, musicians and other creatives and a thriving gay community. During my month there, it was the comedy festival, so regrettably I was not able to participate as fully in the musical cultural events.
Brighton has a charming inner core —known as the Lanes and North Laines. Generally car free, it is a maze of little alleyways crammed with shops and boutiques—lots of jewelry places. I loved to wander the Laines, check out the shops, pop in to a coffee or wine bar and quite lovely restaurants. My favourite was Riddles and Finns, a champagne and oyster bar which also served fabulous sea food. If you are in Brighton check it out. There are two one on the beach and one in the Laines. I loved the one in the Laines. Tiny venue, open kitchen chandeliers, candelabras on long tables where you are seated family style—a great way to meet people —and sure enough in Brighton, of the artistic sort. One evening my guest and I met a heavily tattooed and pierced young woman from Australia who was a producer of electronic music and her friend a film producer.
Another favourite walk was of course, the one along the seaside on the promenade. Brighton has a long wide pebbly beach ( which is actually very comfortable to sit on—who knew? ) you can walk for quite a distance along the coastline. People flock to the beach in the summer…but even throughout my time there in October it was well populated with people taking in the fall sun rays and simply strolling or cycling along. Lots of places to stop for coffee, a snack or wine or beer. In the first few weeks it was still quite warm and I loved to grab a comfy couch at the outdoor bar, with glass in hand sit in the sun and listen to a wonderful female singer singing jazzy tunes.
I lived in the area of the Seven Dials. Lovely homes, nice pub nearby ( The Cow) and a great Coffee place ( Small Batch Coffee) . My flat was really wonderfully decorated…french provincial country style. Again I booked through AirBnB…my go to place for great flats. The owner was a british airways stewardess and clearly an experienced home decorator. It was a cosy and delightful spot to come home to after a day in Brighton or on the downs.
All in all I enjoyed my time in Brighton on the Sea. A part of which was the hiking in the South Downs, which will be the subject of my next blog.