Brighton is one of Piers favourite places in England. I would bet a fiver (£5 note) that it’s one of his top 5 places in the world. On 10th of October we headed south and east to the coast. There are hardly any traffic lights in England (it’s all those silly roundabout thingys – which I almost understand!); however, there is one on the way to Brighton that causes traffic to back up for miles. It was a lovely, lovely day (Manitoba had a snowstorm that day!) and I didn’t mind being stuck in traffic while there was so much beautiful scenery. This was exactly what I had pictured the English countryside to look like.
We whizzed by the Brighton Racecourse with its spectacular views of the Sussex Downs and the marina. I was fascinated that it wasn’t an oval track (North American perchance?), but rather oddly shaped with both left and right turns no matter which way they go! I even saw some steeplechase jumps! Piers has promised a day at the races, so stay tuned for that adventure.
Paul recommended parking at the marina (free!) and taking the electric train down to the pier. We missed the obscure path from the parking lot to the train, but caught the bus. When it was time to go home we purposely walked along the boardwalk which runs parallel to the electric train so that we’d know where to go on subsequent trips. Parking is awful and this was a nice way to overcome that obstacle to a perfect day.
Our first stop (other than for my incessant picture taking) was the Royal Pavilion. What started off as a modest farmhouse became the well-known magnificent vista of minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior. The gardens were glorious and I’m looking forward to exploring them at a later date (on a later date?). If the gardens and exterior are a 10, then the interior is off the charts! My mouth actually fell open upon entering the dining room. The chandelier is a dragon which would have had smoke from the oil lamps billowing out of its nose. If it was breath taking to me in the 21st century you can just imagine the impact it would have had at the beginning of the 18th!
Charles IV, while being the Prince of Wales, ran up huge debts financing his extravagant lifestyle. His physician recommended the therapeutic waters at the seaside. He rented, and eventually bought, a modest farmhouse (that’s the word that all the guide books used) in Brighton. His arrival with his friends made quite the impression on the sleepy fishing town. From the official Pavilion site:
Brighton suited George who was a vain and extravagant man with a passion for fashion, the arts, architecture and good living. He rebelled against his strict upbringing and threw himself into a life of drinking, womanising and gambling.
It’s thought that he married a Mrs. Fitzherbert, a catholic (heaven forbid!), and lived with her in the farmhouse. After parliament declared his father, George III, incapable of ruling, George IV became Prince Regent. He ruled for many years in his father’s stead. It was during this time that George Nash started to remodel (that word doesn’t convey the magnitude of what must have been accomplished) the building that eventually become known as the Royal Pavilion. He was very cutting edge for his time and the Pavilion boasted many modern conveniences and innovations. George IV was so proud of his home that he often took his guests on a tour of the kitchen. One such innovation was a mechanical spit that did not require a boy to manually turn the roasting fowl! The kitchen is very bright even by the standards of today and I can’t imagine what the guests thought!
No visit to Brighton would be complete without walking down the pier. Many of the shops were closed despite the unseasonal warm day. I imagine an October wind could be rather chilly (at least by English standards) on the pier. There’s a real carnival atmosphere on the pier, even outside the arcades. Piers told me about the wonderful times he had with his father and a few pounds worth of pennies for the games.
Brighton is known 3 things: the Pavilion, the pier, and shopping. And what shopping there was! I was very restrained and only bought a few trifles (a Christmas bauble and a poster) in the Pavilion gift shop, but my mouth waters at the thought of going again. The best thing about this part of the day was Piers stopped prefacing thoughts of return with “If we’re still dating…”
We ended day with a stroll along the beach while watching the sun set.
It doesn’t get any better than this.