Brighton Up Your Day

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, October 16, 2010

I decided to escape one weekend to London's local beach in Brighton. Think of it as Savannah : Tybee Island :: London : Brighton, except that Brighton is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from London.  Either way, Brighton has been a luxury get away from busy city life for Londoners for centuries.  Brighton is just south of London, along the English Channel and has a population just under 500,000.

The first thing we did when we got off the bus was go straight to Brighton Pier.  We were there in the morning and most of the rides and games weren’t open just yet.  The pier was completed in 1899 replacing the previous pier that had fallen into disrepair.  The pier houses numerous amusements.  It has several restaurants and pubs, stores, ice cream parlors, and a small amusement park at the end with a dome full of arcade games.  They even had free chairs that you could put out on the deck and relax.  The roller coaster ride prices were a little steep (£4 for a ride through the Haunted House? Whoops.), but most of the other games were reasonably priced.

Off in the distance from Brighton Pier, the charred remains of the West Pier can be seen.  The pier was opened in 1872 and closed in 1975 before burning down in 2003.  Today, the "Brighton Eye" known as the i360 is scheduled to replace the structure.  The i360 will function similar to the Eye of London (and, in fact, is designed by the same team), and offer complete 360 views of the Brighton and Hove area.

From the pier, we made our ways to the Royal Pavilion.  The Royal Pavilion is a magnificent structure modeled after an Indian Palace on the outside, but, on the inside, the design is Chinese inspired.  The pavilion was built for King George IV in 1787 with subsequent extensions made in the future.  The interior is in the chinoiserie style which basically means that it was designed in the Englishman’s impression of China, since people rarely traveled in those days, especially to China.  The designers had to rely on tales, drawings, and sketches of those who had actually been to China to create their designs for the building.  As usual, photography was forbidden inside the pavilion.  This palace was especially unique though because it wasn’t full of the usual Victorian furniture that I was familiar with.  The interior was significantly more over-the-top than your everyday, run-of-the-mill palace.  Plush, thick carpets in every room, wood carved to resemble bamboo, intricate paintings directly on the walls, everything.  The dining room had the most extravagant chandelier I have ever witnessed in my life.  The domed ceiling was painted with the leaves of an enormous palm tree.  At the center a large bronze dragon was flying, and, in his talons, he held the chandelier that dangled below for thirty feet.  No, we’re not done yet.  As the chandelier grew wider, there were about six more dragons on the edges, each with their mouths pointed upwards.  Out of their mouths were large, frosted glass lotus flowers that, when lit, resembled flames arising from the dragons’ mouths.  Apparently, some guests were terrified to sit below it at dinner parties, and, frankly, I don’t blame them.

The other end of the palace contained the music room which had an organ installed in the walls, the pipes painted with dragons and mountains.  There was warning here for women to remove their heels because, in this room, the carpets were so thick that you would sink down into it.  The carpet there today is a replica of the original, and we were told that the original was twice as thick as the replica we were standing on.

Later on, when the pavilion fell into the hands of Queen Victoria, it was sold to the town of Brighton.  She disliked the Royal Pavilion, namely because Brighton gained access by rail in the 1840’s and more tourists began to flock to the area.  She sold the palace for £53,000, which will get you a lot less in Brighton these days.  Of course, she sold it after she stripped it down to the bare bones, taking all the paintings and furniture with her.  The pavilion had many purposes after it was bought by Brighton, including conferences, infirmary during World War II, and private parties.  Today, the furniture has been returned and is on loan from the Royal Collection.  The Royal Pavilion has been painstakingly renovated to appear exactly as it did when King George IV.

To the west of the Royal Pavilion is an area of town called the Lanes.  The Lanes is the oldest part of town and consists of numerous specialty shops and restaurants.  The Lanes is also part of the original town that evolved into Brighton so the streets are very narrow and wind between the buildings.  There were many great souvenir shops in the area, and a lot of chocolate and dessert shops.  Specifically, I struck gold at a cupcake shop called Angel Food Bakery that was really fantastic.  I purchased a peanut butter cupcake, since peanut butter is a relatively rare thing in this country.

North of the Lanes is an area called North Laine.  North Laine is more or less an extension of the Lanes and contains numerous shops, farmers markets, museums, and cafés.  North Laine is not spelled the same as The Lanes because “laine” which means “fields” which the area was until it was developed into the retail district it is today.

Our next destination was Devil’s Dyke which is about a 30 minutes bus ride northwest of downtown Brighton.  Devil’s Dyke is a valley that also offer spectacular views of the South Downs countryside.  The area has the Devil’s Dyke Hotel and Restaurant as well as paths for cycling, walking, and hiking.  There was even someone gliding in the area.  There are numerous stories as to how Devil’s Dyke was formed.  More or less, they all involved the devil attempting to carve down the landscape so that the sea could flood up into the South Downs and destroy all the churches.

I mainly wanted to visit Devil’s Dyke so I could steal some chalk from the ground.  England is basically a huge slab of chalk hills that run over the whole country.  You can pick up “rocks” off the ground and they will be chalk and you can write with them just as the chalk you buy from the store.  Devil’s Dyke has an old chalk quarry on the grounds and I swiped a bottle full of chalk to take home.

We returned to Brighton with some time to spare before the bus journey home.  The beach at Brighton is not sandy, but it has large smooth stones.  The only sand is at the volley ball court which is imported.  That didn’t stop people from lying out or playing games though.  As the sunset over Brighton Pier, I could easily see why this was London’s beach.

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