Classic English Summer Holidays: Brighton
What a few months it's been.
This summer was packed with more adventures than I possibly could've hoped for, and while it's not quite over yet, I've finally come to a point where I have enough time and space to sit and reflect on some of what we've been up to.
Chiefly, Lia and I spent two weeks in the U.K. My place of birth, and my spiritual home, even if by the time we left it was only becoming more and more apparent how little I felt I belonged there.
As usual, we made more than the most of our time to explore, and after paying an eye-watering fee for a rental car — which was thankfully all squared away when we arrived from our 10 hour red eye flight — I sat down to drive on the opposite side of the road for practically the first time ever, and we set off.
Before I get any further, I should mention about our flight: Virgin Atlantic is the move. We may've been in cattle class near the back of the plane for an overnighter, and there may have been two babies alternating their screaming from the front and back of the cabin from the minute we sat down until we touched down, but we got free alcohol. Yes, that's right, free alcohol. Not just a gin and tonic early in the service, but a small bottle of wine to accompany dinner too. I'd never had any alcohol served to me on a plane before because I'm cheap, but here I was double fisting over international waters.
Once we touched down in England — entirely sober at this point, I should add — and were masters of our own destiny, on the road in a Volkswagen Golf we ultimately named Suzy, our first stop was Dad's hotel nearby to freshen up. Feeling mildly more human again, we were off to Brighton.
Our first impression of Brighton was that parallel parking is tricky. Not only were the roads outside our Airbnb narrow, but I'd never had to reverse into a spot from the vantage point I had in the car. Our second impression was that it was hot. Both days we were in Brighton, the temperature hovered around at least 90 degrees. Better than rain in a beach town, but combined with the jet lag and general fatigue, we spent most of our 24 hours there in a bit of a haze.
But a stretch of the legs was finally and mercifully in order, heat be damned. There was a holiday to begin to enjoy. And so we did, by heading to the Lanes.
Brighton's Lanes are a neighborhood of narrow, old high streets filled with independent shop after independent shop after hip coffee shop after independent shop. There was plenty of tat and tourist trash, but in amongst it all we found an excellent paper goods store, some vintage troves, and of course, plants.
The plant store in particular we liked was three stories high, the first floor being a vintage clothing shop, and plants taking over the top two levels. However with the heat, the floors became increasingly intense in temperature, and with the increasing plants as you ascended the staircase, increasingly humid. By the time we got to the top floor, we nodded our heads at the sauna and turned around.
We continued meandering our way through the Lanes until we hit the waterfront, and picked our way between sunbathers leathery from the 6 week heatwave down to the water where we got our first taste, or rather touch, of that sweet English Channel water!
The boardwalk was very busy despite the heat as fellow holiday makers holiday-made the most of the sunshine and locals took advantage of all the amenities which helped make the place so lively and enjoyable.
Beginning to get uncomfortable in the blazing sunshine and wanting to save the pier for the next day, we began to head back to the Airbnb for an early night, but went via the Royal Pavilion, a truly stunning building which looked remarkably like the Taj Mahal, slap bang in the middle of Brighton. We'd arrived too late to look inside, but the outside alone was fantastic.
My dinner that night was half a box of Mr Kiplings apple and blackberry pies I picked up from Sainsbury's while I was giving Lia a tour of all my childhood favorites at the supermarket, but our breakfast the next morning was slightly more sophisticated.
We went to a popular spot in town called Bill's, which was converted from an old bus depot. The building was really cool, lots of plants (duh) and the food was... fine. It was fairly unremarkable brunch fare, except for the raw tomato — billed as a roasted tomato on the menu, something I adore — served as part of the meal. Some of the nearby graffiti in the Lanes was more enjoyable, thankfully.
We didn't have much longer in Brighton before we needed to head out, so we head for the Pier, aiming to get there before the temperature got too unbearable to see one of the most famous British entertainment strips.
I convinced Lia to go on a rollercoaster with me to say that we did it, a mere snip at five pounds sterling for one 30 second ride, and a bashed ear for Lia whose head was at the height of the harness, and rattled around with every sharp corner the carriage took.
Well I would've done the helter skelter, but it was closed :(
By the time we finished getting iced beverages, we'd left it pretty late to get back to the car before the meter ran out, and I wasn't really trying to get a ticket on our first full day in England, so we marched double time back to the Airbnb, heat be damned, and very sweatily arrived at our trusty steed, Suzy, right on time.
Once aboard, and with the GPS loaded, we set off for our next stop, Romsey, and began what would come to be known as "The Drive of a Million Roundabouts".