Couldn’t resist the title I’m afraid and have to admit that it wasn’t exactly a weekend, more like a midweek break. So a little artistic licence. No comment on the dirty part, I’ll leave that to your questionable imagination. It did rain though and our hotel didn’t have a washing machine so perhaps it’s true!
A Tale of Two Visits
Our trip to the south coast of England was the first time we’ve been to Brighton since we headed on down there as innocent 18 year olds nearly forty years ago. On that occasion we also took the train but had booked a little bed and breakfast rather than the Travelodge we checked into this time. We had only been dating for 6 months or so and it was our first time away together so you can imagine the excitement and slight trepidation as we made the huge step of going away together. I’m not sure if it was a sign of things to come but as we booked into the bnb we were registered as Joanna and Guest!
Incredibly Brighton really hasn’t changed a massive amount over those 40 years. Of course there are a few new buildings and many more bars and restaurants but the seafront and the lanes are the same and the character of the city has remained the same. We spent a lot of time reminiscing over our first visit and there were a hell of a lot ‘remember when‘ moments.
Brighton Seafront and the Pier
Our hotel was right on the front so it was easy to get onto the promenade and just stroll for miles taking in the sights and enjoy the fresh air. It was a bit fresh too as it was the end of January but it was dry and we just wrapped up. No problem with the cold. A few of the art galleries and crafty shops were locked up for the winter but a surprising amount remained open. How on earth do those guys earn a living when there are so few people around and I suspect hardly any looking to buy anything. No idea.
The focal point of the town appears to be the pier, the Palace Pier. It’s the place that everyone heads for and walks up and down enjoying views of the English Channel and back towards the beaches of Brighton and beyond. There are, or rather were, two piers in Brighton but the West Pier is just a shell of its formal glory now. It was closed in 1975 after over 100 years of use and gradually fell into disrepair until fires gutted it in the early 2000’s. It does actually look pretty cool now as it’s just the iron shell of the main pavilion along with several supports.
The Palace Pier is fabulous though with everything you would expect on a typical traditional English seaside pier. I won’t say too much here as Jo is working on a post all about it to follow this. So be warned. What I do have to mention though is her decreasingly desperate gambling problem!
Walking through the amusement arcades of the palace Pier through the hundreds of crazy light-flashing, music-blaring computer-based games there was only one that drew the ‘Cincinatti Kid‘ in. Her eyes narrowed as she increased her step and aimed for the object of her addiction. She turned from mild-mannered traveller to steely-nerved gambler in a second as her well trained eyes sought out the most likely winning machine.
She wasn’t interested in ‘Robocop‘ or the ‘Zombie Killers‘ shoot-em-ups. Nor the one armed bandits promising £500 jackpots. No, it was the high-rollers game of choice that drew her. The 2p Coin Pusher!
Armed with 20 pence worth of coins (Yes that’s a whole twenty pence, ten full two pence coins) she eyed up the various coin stacks working out the odds of coin-shoves and drops for what to me felt like hours before recklessly gambling away the entire fortune in a matter of minutes. I didn’t recognise the person she had become. Shocking.
I can’t begin to describe the scene as I forcibly dragged her from that den of iniquity before she had the chance to blow another twenty pence. I hope you never have to witness what it was like!
Brighton Seafront Travelodge
Now we often get a bit of stick for staying in Travelodges around the country but there are a couple of seriously important reasons that we do. Firstly the price. They are so cheap to book that you really can’t ever beat them. Secondly the beds. We’ve slept in close to 200 different beds since we started travelling and Travelodge beds are without doubt the most comfortable of the lot. Nice wide beds and really firm mattresses mean we get the best nights sleep ever. You know what you’re going to get with a Travelodge. They’re not luxurious or posh but they are clean with decent beds and showers. That’s all we really need.
Oh and they are often right in the middle of the town so easy to get to from the train station and everything is easy to walk to. The Brighton Seafront one is as it says right next to the seafront and a minutes walk from the promenade. Perfect.
Shopping and Restaurants
We’re not your typical tourists or visitors in that we don’t really like shopping and we hardly ever go to restaurants. So not great reviewers of places to visit really are we? But we don’t mind a bit of wandering and shop-viewing. Not sure we window-shop really as we have no intention of buying anything and aren’t interested in any products but we do give them a bit of a glance. So maybe ‘shop-glancing‘ should describe it? What do you think?
The most famous shops in Brighton of course are in The Lanes. These are a network of twisty-turny, winding roads and alleyways filled with independent shops and cafes and are chock-a-bloc with character. Lots of ‘shop-glancing‘ went on as we wandered around them before a pitstop for lunch at the Mock Turtle coffee shop. Sausage sandwiches all round did the job.
The Brighton Royal Pavilion
One of the most famous sites for visitors to Brighton is the famous Royal Pavilion. It was built between 1787 and 1815 and is known for its Indian style architecture. We didn’t go inside but nearly half a million visitors a year do. The pavilion was built by the Prince of Wales primarily for discreet liaisons with his lady friend Maria Fitzherbert. It was extended and redeveloped when he became King George IV and also subsequently by William IV. However, Queen Victoria didn’t like Brighton at all and sold the pavilion back to the city council to fund her new house on the Isle of Wight.
British Airways i360
Back on the seafront we walked west to the old pier where the brand new British Airways i360 observation tower stands. This is a 162 metre high tower that has a circular glass deck ascending what is currently Britains tallest moving observation tower. With its sleek stainless steel finish and cool design it really stands out. Unfortunately it was closed for maintenance whilst we were there so we couldn’t try it out. Pretty impressive though especially against the clear blue skies.
The area around the i360 and the West Pier looks like it’s undergoing some serious renovation so by the summer it could be the go-to part of the seafront. Even though a few places were still shut Jo still managed to get into the Fishermans Museum for a quick nose about. I got distracted by something shiny on the beach so went off the other way!
As we continued our lazy stroll along the seafront we kept passing whole families that looked a little out of place. With Dad in a suit and Mum in a smart frock following their son or daughter it got a bit surreal as we passed group after group dressed the same way. Only when one of the daughters skipped past in a mortar board and cape did we realise that it wasn’t Harry Potter auditions but the university graduation ‘do’ at the Brighton Dome. It took us back to when our eldest two sons graduated at Lincoln and Southampton respectively and we were the proudest parents alive. Great days.
Fish’n Chips by the Seaside
Is there anything more English than Fish’n Chips at the seaside? Surely not. Some other countries claim that they do better Fish’n Chips than us but that is obviously completely ridiculous probably just a cheap marketing ploy. You can’t beat English Fish’n Chips. That’s it, nuff said!
Our Dirty Weekend in Brighton
So a few days of walking our socks off and reminiscing about our first teenage trip made it a wonderful visit to the English south coast. I’m sure it’s nicer in the summer and lovely to sit on the beach in the sunshine but we absolutely loved wrapping up warm and just enjoying each others company in the brisk January sunshine.
We will definitely be back although it could be in another 40 years I suppose. Not sure anywhere will accept a booking for January 2059 will they?
23/01 – 25/01/2019