Brighton is only a 50 minute train ride from London, and it can be a wonderful escape from the crowded noisy city, especially on a hot summer day. I visited in Brighton in July when London was roasting in heat and humidity. The express train, full of families with the same idea as mine, only stopped once at East Croyden, then sped down to Brighton. A few miles before the town, it clouded up, and thus what was to be a sunny warm day, turned into a cool, windy one, but refreshing nevertheless.
As I followed the stream of daytrippers out of the station down to the sea, I passed by an interesting selection of shops, pubs and restaurants. Eventually I reached the old part of town, known as The Lanes. These narrow alleys and pedestrian streets wind around and pass by a wide variety of restaurants, boutiques, specialty shops, pubs, cafes and other interesting shops. I couldn't resist popping in a few, as most were advertising summer sales. I was quite surprised to see very reasonable prices especially after London's excessive premiums on merchandise and food. In fact the food in Brighton was priced almost half what you'd pay in London for similar fare. And the selection of cuisine was as varied as London's with a number of Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, Indian, seafood and several vegetarian restaurants available.
In fact what makes Brighton so attractive is that you can find much of the same kind of shops, entertainment and restaurants as in London, but in a much smaller area, easily walkable, rather than spread out over a metropolis.
And then there's the Brighton Pier. This relic of a bygone era is still a popular attraction, especially with kids and lovers. All those carnival games and rides are here, plus a whole slew of new electronic ones. A few sit down restaurants are supplemented by fast food stalls serving up the usual carny fare of ice cream, waffles, candies, fish and chips, sodas, coffee and tea. Benches and folding chairs are all around the boardwalk, with strategically placed windblocks to escape the breeze when necessary.
The rides are at the far end of the pier, including bumper cars, carousel, water flume, roller coaster, and sundry spinning, twisting, nausea enducing rides. There's not much of a viewpoint at the end, as you can't see 180 degrees, much less 360, so it's not worth the walk for that reason. Better views are found closer to shore. The pier has ramps for wheelchairs and prams so they can avoid the bumpy boards. And were there ever a lot of prams. Seems the new baby boom is in full force in England.
The beach at Brighton is pebbly, and the water, relatively cool even in summer, but refreshing on a hot day. If you venture out to the east side of the Brighton Pier, (the lanes are on the west side), you'll find fewer restaurants and more shops catering to the locals and those staying in the many inexpensive guest houses in the area. Grocery stores, used clothes stores, discount stores, takeouts, bars, clubs, etc can be easily found here. This is also the center to a thriving gay community and attracts gay travelers from around England and the world. For more info on the gay scene in Brighton check out http://www.gay.brighton.co.uk.
Another big attraction at Brighton is the Royal Pavilion. It's a huge palace done up a bit like the Taj Mahal on the outside, with a Chinese interior. There's a lovely public garden, full of flowers, where many young people were lying on the grass soaking up the sun, when it appeared.
Another building on the grounds houses the new Brighton Museum and Art Gallery which features historic furniture, decorative arts, body art, fine art and the history of Brighton. Like all museums in England it's free!
The Brighton Dome theater complex were formerly the riding school and stables of the Royal Pavilion. Now they are public venues for music and theater performances. The box office is on Church Road where you can find out the schedule.
Hours: Daily 9:30am-5pm (April-Sept.) Guided tours each day at 11am and 2:30pm.
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Hours: Tues. 10am-7pm, Wed-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2pm-5pm. Closed Monday (except Bank Holidays).
Check out http://www.brighton.co.uk/ for a lot more info on Brighton, maps, calendar, etc.
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