Brighton is one of those coastal towns that looks like it hasn’t changed in decades. Jeff and I wanted to see this famed beach town, so we hopped on a train and took the two hour journey south. And when we stepped out of the train station, we wondered where everyone was. For a three-day holiday weekend, it was pretty quiet and subdued. With the streets to ourselves, we first made our way to the beach.
We are both drawn to water. We love the ocean: the peace, the beauty, the endlessness of it. It was hard to miss since squawking seagulls pointed us in the direction down the main street. The water was the definition of “sea-foam green” against a muted blue sky. The color combination was mesmerizing against the pebbled beach and stark white buildings lining the coastal drive. I felt like I fell into the 1960s with the technicolor atmosphere.
Most of the storefronts along the beach were not open yet. It was just barely 930a when we arrived, so we decided to see the museums and monuments first and then enjoy the warm sun in the afternoon.
We first went to the Royal Pavilion situated in the center of Brighton. Until I looked up things to do, I had no idea this building existed. With architecture mirroring the Taj Mahal in India, the building served many purposes since it’s opening, but most recently, it served as an army hospital for Indian soldiers during WWI.
Originally built in 1787, the structure was to be a seaside palace for George IV. He had never traveled to the Far East, but all of the interior and exterior was inspired by the style complete with dragon chandeliers, faux bamboo railing, and Chinese paintings. It is an interpretation of what someone who had never been would think of the Far East, as quoted inside the museum.
As history continued, George IV passed away and King William IV used the palace as a Brighton getaway, but it was when Queen Victoria came into power, Brighton purchased the palace. Queen Victoria found the palace too public for the seclusion she desired, so it changed hands and eventually became a hospital.
The palace has been restored to its pre-war glory with complete reconstructions of what it would have looked like based on paintings from 1820 or so. No photographs are allowed due to copyright and since the furniture is on loan from Queen Elizabeth II.
If you go inside the Pavilion, you can purchase a ticket that will get you in there, to the Brighton Museum, and to the Preston Manor on the north side of town all for £13.50 per person. This seemed like a bargain until we went inside the Brighton Museum. Situated right around the corner from the Pavilion, the museum is hard to miss, but trust me, you can. There is nothing inside that hasn’t been seen elsewhere from modern to medieval art, furniture through the decades, and even costumes and wardrobe through history (ending with Christian Bale’s batsuit from the Batman Trilogy).
The whole space wasn’t even that attractive as we walked through the halls. Water damage was apparent as was paint cracks in the walls. Overall, the museum felt like a place to take kids on a field trip rather than a tourist destination. So, if you’re in Brighton, feel free to skip.
The third place included in the History Pass was Preston Manor. A good mile and a half walk from downtown Brighton, this former manor house is a sprawling estate with dozens of rooms preserved in the early 1900s. Originally built in the 13th century, it has gone through extensive updated from the 1700s and again in the 1900s with the various owners. The Stanford family was the last family to own the estate before giving it to Brighton as a museum.
We walked through the halls and saw the upstairs and downstairs areas that are so common in royal homes of the time. We saw servants quarters, drawing rooms, and the kitchens. Designed much like the kitchy Historical Palace locations here in London, there wasn’t much to offer in this house except a lot of “things.”
After we left, just as they were closing at 5p, we walked back to the center of town to see the famous Laines. The entire area of the Laines is all boutique shopping with amazing storefronts ripe for tourist pictures. Bakeries, specialty food stores, jewelry shops, and clothing rooms cluttered the tiny alleys decorated with flags and streamers. It was a complete maze getting through all the streets seeing what we could see.
Several places were closing up at 5p or flat closed for the bank holiday weekend, but we looked around as best we could through the hoards of tourists doing the same. If only for entertainment purposes, you must check out the trendy and hip area. It’s a little claustrophobic, but worth the time.
The last place in Brighton we had to see was the famous and lit up pier. We weren’t completely sure what to expect from the historical wooden plank, but we were so mesmerized by the flashing lights, we were like moths to the flame. After walking through the throng of people, past an adorable elderly couple buying candy at a stand, and the plethora of loud amusement rides, we found ourselves in an arcade. Brighton Pier has everything!
What we learned while spending pound after pound on arcade games was the following:
- Jeff is really good at arcade basketball.
- Alison and Jeff are equally good at air hockey. We had a straight draw.
- Giving free prize tickets to random children is harder than it looks.
- It is extremely easy to drop £20 and not know what time it is.
But we had a blast acting like children for a couple precious hours. I can’t remember the last time I was in an arcade let alone playing some games in one.
I will take a quick second to shout out the two places we had meals. V Bites is a 100% vegan place right next to the Laines and beach. Healthy and mostly fresh food to order and for takeaway was perfect for lunch on the water. I had the black bean burger on a gluten-free bun with sweet potato fries. The staff were extremely helpful in making sure what I was ordering was in fact gluten-free. A perfect beachy treat.
For dinner, we went to Oki-Nami near the Royal Pavilion and other restaurants. It was a funky and fresh sushi place that had amazing cocktails, table origami, and amazing choices on the menu. I would highly recommend this place for a nice meal out in the bustling city.
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A forty-five minute bus ride east will take you to the Seven Sisters Country Park. We did not see this national park the same day we went to Brighton, but we regretted not taking the time so much, we made our way back last weekend.
Famous for the white chalk cliffs, Seven Sisters is a destination for photographers, hikers, and lovers of the ocean. But as we were taking pictures and admiring the surroundings, we realized we weren’t staring at the water. The water was bonus to what the real attraction was, the limestone rock faces. When figuring out your travel, you take a bus from either Brighton or Eastbourne to Seven Sisters. It’s pretty simple, and the day pass for the bus will cost you £7.
When you walk through the entrance, you have a choice to go up or stay sea-level. We chose up to get the views from above first. You walk through fields of grass and sheep. Beware not to step in too much animal byproduct, but after about 10 minutes of dodging every bit, you just give in and enjoy your surroundings rather than staring at the ground in front of you.
Once at the top, the cliff is a straight drop. You can definitely get a bit of vertigo looking around realizing you’re on the edge of the earth. But the views are worth every moment of dizziness. It is about 4 miles across the seven cliffs ending in Birling Gap. Some of the hills are straight up, so good shoes and plenty of water is a must.
We were lucky and unlucky in that we got there around 10a. The haze and clouds had not burned off casting a dull look over the cliffs, but it also meant there were not many people out. But by the time we made it down to the pink pebbled beach, the sun was just peaking out casting a blinding light on the white rocks.
We stayed for a couple of hours before catching the train back home. I would not recommend trying to do both Brighton and the Seven Sisters in one day. You would not serve either justice, but this corner of Sussex would be a great weekend getaway for anyone traveling around the UK.