I’d tried to go to Brighton twice before I finally made it down there a few weeks ago. Originally I wanted to go in summer to see all the umbrellas on the beach and people in old timey bathing costumes (for some reason I assume life is an Agatha Christie novel) but the more I travel the more I realise I much prefer to do so in the colder months. It’s much quieter, cheaper and the weather is more bearable.
It look a lot for me to drag my ass out of bed that cold Saturday morning. I had been out the night before and had seriously contemplated missing out on going to Brighton for a third time, but by some miracle I got out of bed at the last moment and even managed to make it to the train station with about a minute to spare.
The train trip down was nice, it was about 7am so there was hardly anyone onboard. I appropriately reread The Girl on the Train on the way there (and back). Just over an hour and a half later I arrived in Brighton and the sun was shining, although it was bitterly cold. Grabbing some breakfast I immediately headed down the hill to the beach. Nothing was open, and on the walk down the only sense I got of the town was one of tackiness, it felt like I was walking down a slightly beachy version of Leicester Square – full of chains and facades. The nightclub on the corner by the beach, Pryzm, totally ruined the waterfront for me, it was like being in Surfers Paradise.
But the beach itself in the early morning quiet was beautiful. I like the pebbles instead of sand, it’s much more colourful and challenging to cross. I walked all the way along to the ruins of Brighton West Pier, a skeletal husk of metal sticking out of the ocean. Here I was not alone, and in-between the ruins of the old boardwalk were about six photographers all angling for the same shot. Braving the cold water were a handful of paddle boarders, the surf life saving club and whatever the UK equivalent of kids ‘Nippers’ clubs are.
I headed back towards the famous Brighton Pier on the other side of the beach and waited until the gates opened. It was a lot bigger than I realised. I wandered around outside, loving the view and the quiet, none of the rides opened for another hour, and there’s nothing like the feeling of walking around an abandoned theme park. It was half peaceful, half creepy, as if I expected zombie clowns to burst out of the Helter Skelter and chase me down the boardwalk (I play a lot of zombie video games, can you tell?). I left through the games hall, but didn’t play anything as I didn’t have any cash. As soon as I walked outside, those clouds which had looked so gorgeous only a few minutes earlier had finally burst and it had started pouring down.
I made my way to the middle of town, where things were finally starting to open and tourists were coming out of the woodwork. I took refuge in a few different shops, browsing knick knacks I couldn’t afford until the rain let up enough for me to make a slightly longer trek to the Royal Pavilion. Once again my lack of research into what was actually in Brighton worked in my favour, because it was a total shock to see an Indian themed palace in the middle of a hippy paradise.
It had started to rain again, so I decided to pay the expensive entry fee, and I’m so glad I did. It was absolutely stunning on the inside, an Asian-themed dream commissioned and created by people who had never even been to Asia. The palace had originally been home to various kings since the 1800’s, with Queen Victoria being the last royal in residence, but she had thought it was too public and moved to Buckingham Palace instead. Since then it’s been used for just about everything, including a home for wounded troops and now it’s a tourist attraction and events venue. I couldn’t take photos inside, but look it up online because it’s absolutely beautiful.
After the Pavilion, and a failed attempt at having a fancy cream tea there, I had lunch and a couple of margaritas at a Mexican restaurant, then headed home on the train as the hordes of tourists headed into town. That was definitely my cue to leave.
Listening to: Lazarus (Original Cast Recording)
Shows this week: Dead Funny (Vaudville Theatre)
Reading: Girl on the Train
Current man-crush: Michael C. Hall