Brighton…looks like all there is to do here is shop, eat, and drink…?

18 Sep
2012
Posted in: England
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We settled into the train with a sigh of relief. We’d made it: woken up before noon, even gotten out of the house at 9am on the dot, navigated tube closures (damned UK planned maintenance, why can’t you let problems build up then fix them once they’re horribly broken, preferably a hundred years in the future, the way we do it in the US?), taken a double-decker bus, picked up pre-purchased train tickets at London Bridge Station, found the correct train with two minutes to spare, and gotten four seats together on said train. Nothing to do now but sit back, relax, and enjoy the hour-long ride through the English countryside to Brighton…and the endlessly screaming child across the aisle.

So, Brighton, you say. We’d meant to go to Bath, but tickets for four cost over a hundred pounds. For those keeping track, that’s $162.52 today, and, along with the hour and a half train ride, it just seemed a bit much. We expanded our search and discovered that, instead, we could all get to Brighton in just an hour for just 40 pounds. We could see the English Channel, discover exactly what a shingle beach is (spoiler alert: it’s gravel), eat some fish and chips, and have a pint in a historic pub or three.

I was expecting a quiet seaside town, but instead we found a little London packed with a wide range of English accents, something you hear less of than you’d expect in multicultural Big London. We walked and walked as Brighton blended into Hove but the shops and summer homes showed no signs of thinning. We found the beach huts I’d wanted to see, ate our fish and chips at one of the oldest seafood restaurants in Brighton, and stopped in for a pint whenever our throats felt dry. In The Lanes, a district filled with winding alleys, shops full of expensive watches, and pubs, we were passed by a raucous wedding parade on its way to the local church. Bongos, whistles, and tribal chanting bounced off the narrow brick walls and squeezed a huge smile out of every face. Brighton Pier, despite being crowded with tourists and dive-bombing seagulls, didn’t wipe the smiles from our faces. The mix of ice cream, kiddie gambling, roller coasters, the gaps between the deck big enough to lose keys or credit cards to the sea, the chairs from which to watch the endless human spectacle of a Saturday on the shore…all charming. From the end of the pier, you can even begin to spy some of the white chalk cliffs that rise from the ocean to the east of Brighton.

Sometimes I wonder why we do anything at all — like we’re just killing time while we try to keep ourselves mildly amused. But Brighton is amusing, at least. I think I just need to get back to a more structured life.

Sadly, a little bit of fuzz made its way into my camera and decided to put in an appearance in all my pics before I noticed. What a scene-stealer.

A wealthy man built this house -- now a restaurant -- so his wife could eat her favorite dish while staring out to sea. Yeah, I could get used to that.

A wealthy man built this house — now a restaurant — so his wife could eat her favorite dish while staring out to sea. Yeah, I could get used to that.

Fish and chips at The Regency.

Fish and chips at The Regency.

There's something about the way the light shines through these beach chairs -- it makes me feel warm and summery.

There’s something about the way the light shines through these beach chairs — it makes me feel warm and summery.

The beach is lined with grand old hotels but is totally public.

The beach is lined with grand old hotels but is totally public.

Looking east down the beach.

Looking east down the beach.

Stealth campers?

Stealth campers?

Can you see France from here?

Can you see France from here?

Hove's beach huts. Wish more hut owners had visited the shore this Saturday.

Hove’s beach huts. Wish more hut owners had visited the shore this Saturday.

The owners are required to brightly paint their doors.

The owners are required to brightly paint their doors.

Grand Victorian houses along the shore.

Grand Victorian houses along the shore.

Main streets off the coast are lined with shops for miles.

Main streets off the coast are lined with shops for miles.

But duck down an alley or through a courtyard and you'll find yourself in a quiet neighborhood.

But duck down an alley or through a courtyard and you’ll find yourself in a quiet neighborhood.

Bus stop.

Bus stop.

The Lanes, a cute area filled with twisting streets and shops.

The Lanes, a cute area filled with twisting streets and shops.

The irresistible Black Lion pub.

The irresistible Black Lion pub.

Paul in an even narrower section of The Lanes, where the streets become twisting warrens of jewelry shops and pubs.

Paul in an even narrower section of The Lanes, where the streets become twisting warrens of jewelry shops and pubs.

The wedding parade through The Lanes.

The wedding parade through The Lanes.

Brighton Pier.

Brighton Pier.

The entrance to the Pier; a shell-shocked family.

The entrance to the Pier; a shell-shocked family.

Great people-watching along the Pier.

Great people-watching along the Pier.

Some sort of ritual that we didn't understand but were sure was sad.

Some sort of ritual that we didn’t understand but were sure was sad.

Tourists soaking up the sun, sugar.

Tourists soaking up the sun, sugar.

Brighton from the Pier.

Brighton from the Pier.

A street near the train station.

A street near the train station.

Brighton train station.

Brighton train station.